I teach many different styles on the piano, and I also feel it’s important as a piano teacher to consider and take note of the current music scene, and try to keep up with modern music as well as previous styles.
The various different styles I teach are classical, blues, boogie woogie, popular music, rhythm and blues, swing, jazz, ragtime, gospel, country and western, and many more.
A lot of styles cross over with each other and can be very closely related, so it’s not always difficult to move from one to the other. Some styles however are very different to teach – like classical and blues for instance. I was taught classical from a fairly early age and practiced this for many years. I eventually moved over to learning the blues and boogie woogie, and I found it a completely different ball game. Finger positions are a lot different and can be very unorthodox when compared to classical for example.
So if you come across a piano teacher that is predominantly a classical pianist, they may struggle to teach you other styles as the classical way of playing can be very rigid in its approach. Playing the blues on the piano for example requires the method of bending the pitch of the notes by quickly playing the black and white notes with the same finger. Learning to improvise is also important when playing the blues.
So my approach to teaching these styles are also quite different from each other. For example, when learning classical you will typically need to practice lots of scales and routines in order to quicken the fingers. However, this may not be needed when learning to play the blues and my approach to teaching has to adjust and accommodate these differences.
Having played hundreds of gigs in a blues band for many years, I’m also aware of how these styles are meant to be played and performed. There are a lot of piano teachers that can teach you the basics of these styles, but you don’t always truly know how to play them until you’ve performed live in front of an audience.
As a piano teacher I also feel it’s really important to keep up with today’s music scene, and try to follow the different styles that are out there now. So whenever anyone approaches me and wants to learn the latest Rhianna or Coldplay song, I either already know how to play it or can very quickly learn and pass on this knowledge to my pupil.
I am always open to suggestions, and I often ask my pupils what they want to play so I can include it in the lessons. For me, it’s vital that the pupil chooses the song they want to learn, so that I know 100% that I’m teaching the right music, and that the pupil will easily be motivated to learn and practice.
If you are looking for a piano teacher and you want to learn classical, then there isn’t anything to worry about. However, if you are looking for a piano teacher to teach you the blues or boogie woogie etc, then it’s important to find out there background and how long they’ve been playing this style. Have they played in bands, and have they performed this music? Although it’s not necessary vital for them to say yes in order to teach it to you, it is however important they are not just looking to show you the basics as that may be all they know.
Most classically trained pianists can play lots of other different styles, but they may not always be willing to teach them, and might not have the flexibility you are looking for. So my advice would be to check with them before you commit to the lessons, and find out what and how they are looking to teach. Will they be providing the pieces for you? Are you able to choose?
These types of questions were not really very important a few years ago, but since I started my journey as a piano teacher I’ve noticed that times have very much changed. My teacher for example would give me the pieces, and I had to learn them. I may have had a choice if I’d have asked, but it just didn’t seem like the normal thing to do.
However, I actively promote my flexibility when it comes to teaching different styles, and I think I would struggle to take on pupils if I didn’t. Not everyone wants to learn classical piano, no matter how amazing and wonderful it is – so as a teacher I need to accept that music must first and foremost be fun and enjoyable to learn. Isn’t that ultimately why we learn to play the piano in the first place…?