Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I book a consultation piano lesson?

Yes, if we have any spaces available at the time you contact us. Email us at carolinetyler@gmail.com. Before you do this, please consider whether you are willing to invest in a piano (see below) and whether you are able to commit to practising on at least 5 days out of 7 per week (this may only start at around 20 minutes or so for a total beginner; again for more information please see below). In your email, please give a brief summary of any experience you may already have had of the piano and music, along with a contact telephone number and your availability for a given week. If we can match you up with a free time slot, we will book you a lesson and send you directions to the studio.

Q: How much does a piano lesson cost?

A: Click here for full information regarding fees.

Q: Can the lesson be at my house?

A: All students come to my studio for three reasons. Firstly, it is a chance for them to play on and enjoy a superb instrument. Secondly, there are too many students to fit in to the schedule to allow for travelling time between lessons. Thirdly, when students play on a high-quality instrument they can be shown them more in-depth techniques and get a true picture of how they are really playing.

This map shows the variety of locations students of our piano school travel from. 

Q: How often will I have a piano lesson?

A: In order to make any kind of progress, you will need to have a piano lesson at least once a week, unless you have progressed beyond Diploma standard, in which case single lessons can be arranged. Fortnightly lessons have been proven to be a waste of time due to lack of study being done between those lessons and lack of continuity in the learning process. 

However, at some points in the year we need to take a break! The piano school runs every week during state school terms (for dates, please follow the Term Dates link on the home page). Extra lessons can be arranged at mutually agreed times for those who wish to have them, for example extra support leading up to a performance. We also offer one-off performance consultation lessons for people who have their own weekly piano teacher but want extra input, e.g. just before an exam or concert, or just to have some fresh insight on their repertoire.

 Q: I have booked my initial consultation lesson. What do I need to bring with me?

A: If you are a total beginner, just yourself and the fee for that one lesson. If you have played before, also bring any music you have been playing recently. It's not a test, so don't worry! It's just for you to get the best idea you can of what our teaching is like. Then you can go home and think about it before committing to any more lessons. We will also reflect on the lesson and consider whether our style of teaching is right for you. We also expect a reasonable level of commitment and practice (see 'Terms of enrolment' page for further information, and the question and answer below). 

Q: Do I have to practice? 

This is a great and inspiring article about PRACTICE! All About Practice

A: If it doesn't appeal to you to play the piano outside of lessons, then you should ask yourself why you want to have them. You don't have to do hours every day, and it shouldn't be a punishment! You should be interested in playing in your own time enough to make some progress and try out the things we suggest to you in lesson time. Practising every day is a good aim, but failing this we suggest a minimum of 5 times per week. If you are a beginner your practice time may only last for 15-20 minutes or so. As you progress, there is more music to learn and more techniques to practice, so this should increase little by little. If you do not practice, it is unlikely that we will continue to teach you. We enjoy teaching students at every level, but not teaching the same lesson week by week. We also feel responsible for your piano playing showing progress. If this is not happening due to you not taking any of our advice, which really is what you are paying for, we will discontinue lessons. However, we will be in constant discussion with you about this and can help you with time management and specific timetable and practice planning if required. 

Q: Do I need to have a piano at home?

A: Yes. You need a piano. Not a keyboard, organ, digital instrument, harpsichord, kitchen table, or any other instrument (see next question). We teach piano lessons, so you will need an actual piano, in your own home where you have daily access to it (not one at your Granny's house that you go to once a month!). To get the most out of your lessons you will need to be able to practice the things we teach you. 

Some complete beginner students have friends, neighbours or another place with a piano where they can practice regularly while they are still 'trying out' piano lessons (i.e. they have only had one or two lessons and are still deciding), before investing in a piano themselves. Sometimes upright pianos come up on the website Freecycle. It's worth taking a look at a piano that's going for free, but if the piano is badly damaged it's best to go to a piano shop to try out some of their new or nearly-new pianos. Lots of piano sellers also operate rent-to-buy schemes (typically you can rent for 6 months or so and then if you do choose to buy, all of that money can go towards the purchase of the piano). 

Q: Is it OK to practice on a keyboard instead of a piano?

A: The short answer is: No. On the bright side, the price difference between an electric instrument and a good second-hand upright instrument may be less than you think. You can also hire real pianos while trying out lessons and then use that money towards the purchase of the piano later should you decide to go ahead. 

It doesn't matter how high-tech the electric instrument; all of the following points still apply. Please remember that the people trying to sell you an instrument do not necessarily have an objective view of the pros and cons of electric and acoustic instruments. Someone selling an instrument to you in a shop probably won't be a concert pianist/good piano teacher in their spare time!

I have updated this section as time has gone on, after more experience with students who only have electronic instruments, and various disappointments and realisation later about the kind of results they produce.

1. An electronic keyboard, even a weighted one, is a different instrument to the piano. Keyboards work by producing a pre-recorded sound someone else has made on a real instrument. Real pianos respond in many ways to the way you touch the keys, which is what makes piano playing an art form. Even thinking in certain ways can help you to make new sounds on the instrument because of the way your hands respond to your mind, and the instrument is sensitive to what you are doing. Keyboards cannot respond to you personally. This is because someone else has already made and chosen sounds which are then recorded onto the, essentially, 'computer' you are playing. You need to learn how to produce different sounds yourself, not through someone else, to experience piano playing as an art form. 

2. Keyboard playing usually hampers the piano technique. The keys respond in a different way to your muscles as they are generally physically lighter and easier to play (even 'weighted' electronic instruments).  This means that when you return to an acoustic instrument after playing a keyboard, you will find that your fingers are not working hard enough and responding in a totally different way. 

3. The key surfaces of keyboards and digital instruments also feel different and are generally more plastic in feel and have a shallower depth.

4. Keyboards are totally different instruments to pianos, in the sense that keyboards can do things pianos can't do, and vice versa. I have had electronic keyboard lessons since I have been teaching the piano, and I have learned a great deal. If you want to play the keyboard, I can recommend a very good keyboard teacher! There is a whole different skill set, which does mainly involve pressing buttons at the right time (which is a lot harder than it sounds) and making choices about what digital effects to apply to different pieces of music. It is fun and takes a lot of concentration at the higher levels and it can also get quite complicated. But it is totally different to piano playing.

5. It is impossible to know whether you are producing a good or bad quality of sound due to the illusion created by the pre-recorded samples of the keyboard. You may discover that what you thought was producing a good tone was just a recording, and in fact what your hands are doing is not the way to produce a fine sound on a real instrument. 

6. If it is the idea of having to have the piano tuned which is putting you off, the reality is that you can generally get away with one tuning a year at a cost of around £50. If you're having piano lessons they're probably costing you at least £20 a week. Seriously - if you can afford piano lessons, you can afford a piano, and have it tuned.

If you are a beginner and not sure yet that you want to continue with lessons, and a real piano is not a realistic option for you financially, you can use a keyboard for a very short time, although better still, hire a real piano and as mentioned before, the cost can go towards the purchase of the instrument later should you decide to go ahead with piano. Keyboards can be a false economy as far as piano lessons are concerned; they can only be used to familiarise yourself with the basics of note-learning and rhythm until you reach a slightly higher standard of playing. Please be aware that this will probably happen within a matter of months, or even weeks. You will need to be playing a piano relatively soon after beginning learning in order to get the most value out of your lessons. 

A piano is an investment, as are piano lessons. If you are anywhere above a beginner, (sometimes the progress in understanding will mean your skills will outstrip an electric piano within a month or two) you will need to hire or buy an acoustic piano. A mediocre, second-hand acoustic instrument can far outstrip a good electronic one. 

Q: Can I take exams?

A: Yes, I am registered with the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (see Exam Results page if you are interested in how our students are faring in these exams). This is the most commonly used and recognised exam board for standards up to Grade 8. There are options post-Grade 8 level for different exam boards; I am open to students taking any exams from other established boards if they have a particular preference at any level.

Q: Do I have to take exams?

A: No, you don't. They are your lessons and it is entirely your decision whether you want to work towards an official qualification. Although lots of students like to do exams because it gives them a goal to work towards and a sense of achievement, there is no pressure on those who prefer not to.  However, as mentioned before, we are committed to a certain level of progress, so whether exams are taken or not, practice is essential for lessons to be worthwhile. 

Q: I'm a beginner - when can I do Grade 1?

A: I cannot answer this question until you have had a few lessons. It completely depends on the individual. However, to give you a general idea, it takes most complete beginners at least a year to be nearing Grade 1 standard. This is because "Grade 1" is not a beginners' exam (there is a Preparatory level exam before this which many students take if they wish). The various skills which need to be mastered in the context of easier pieces (before Grade 1 level) include: the basic musical skills of fluently reading and playing the correct notes and rhythm; a good hand position and posture; clear control of the keys; the ability to create a good quality of sound and tonal variation with dynamics; the application of balance, phrasing, shaping and articulation. (Then the "x-factor" of performing and total commitment to communicating the music; we teach as much as we can to help with this but some of it has to come from you!) All of these specific tools then need to be applied in ways appropriate to different moods and styles in music. Hopefully you will enjoy learning all of these things, because they are key to helping you to make beautiful-sounding and meaningful music at the piano. Once you have mastered these at Grade 1, the level of difficulty of the music can gradually be increased and then a number of other techniques can be learned! If you don't learn the basics properly at the beginning, it can make things much more difficult later on. For example, people who have had a bad start with an under-qualified teacher (private music teaching is completely unregulated) often hit a 'wall' with their playing and come to me at a later grade asking for help. It can take a while to undo bad habits, but it is sometimes possible with a lot of patience and commitment. 

People who have already experienced reading music by playing other instruments, people who take unusually naturally to the instrument, and people who do a very intensive amount of practice can sometimes take less time to progress than others. However, if you do very little practice, you can take longer, and if you do no practice, you'll take forever!!

Q: I have another enquiry this page has not addressed; can I contact you?

A: Yes; please click here for my contact email address.