Should Piano Teaching Be Regulated?

Supporting Teachers • Promoting Learning

Please note: this intended audience for this article is UK educators. The regulation of music teaching in other countries may vary considerably, and is not discussed in this post.

The thorny question of whether piano teachers should be legally required to have particular qualifications before “being allowed” to teach cropped up online this week. Sadly, I once again found myself consoling able teachers who felt invalidated by the comments and hubris of others.

It is surely obvious that gaining qualifications should be a basic goal for all professionals. However, it seems equally evident that here in the UK, music teachers enter the profession via many different but complementary routes. A background in performing, the knowledge and skills developed in other professions and through our lived experience all contribute to who we are as teachers, and that’s a virtue which many rightly celebrate.

I believe that it is a mistake to conflate good teaching with qualifications. Consider the point that most of us can remember qualified teachers from our school days who weren’t very good. Similarly, most of us have met truly inspiring music educators with little or no formal training.

Minimum qualifications could only be mandated in a context where the music teaching profession becomes a regulated one, in which private teaching is monitored and many excellent professionals are shut out. I would hate to see this happen, and in any case very much doubt that politicians have an appetite for imposing regulatory monitoring of private tuition or musical activity in the community.

That said, for the benefit of those colleagues who are more interested in the idea, let’s consider what a regulated music teaching profession might look like, and how that might impact educational opportunity and community music making…

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A ‘Call to Women Composers’

Some months ago I was approached by Rose McLachlan, a gifted pianist who is currently studying at the Royal Northern College of Music. Rose wanted to discuss an idea she was developing with EVC Music founder Elena Cobb

’22 Nocturnes for Chopin’ would be a new collection of piano miniatures written in the spirit of the great composer’s works, suitable for players at advanced level (around UK Grades 6-8), and to that end Rose and Elena would extend a “call to women composers” around the world, inviting submissions for consideration.

The eventual selection would be performed by Rose and published by EVC Music. Some half dozen pieces would be commissioned from established composers, while the rest would be previously unpublished.

Rose and Elena were keen for me to help with the selection process, and I had soon agreed to Chair the Selection Committee, which came to include the concert pianist and teacher Kathryn Page, recording artist Anna Heller, and ISM President Vick Bain.

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Welcome to Pianodao!

Welcome to the piano education website and online blog of teacher, published composer and author ANDREW EALES.

Andrew provides regular lessons and personal consultations at his private studio in Milton Keynes. Through his innovative Video Feedback Service he also offers affordable, detailed written advice to players everywhere.

Pianodao features more than 600 articles and music reviews, all written to inform and support players, teachers and enthusiasts, and free to access thanks to the support of readers.

Keeping Your Own Piano Journal

Supporting Your Piano Playing Journey

In my book How to Practise Music, I wrote the following to suggest adult learners keep a piano journal:

“Older learners often like to keep their own journal in which they write a more reflective account of their practice journey, which may or may not be shared with a teacher. These can be excellent tools for structuring practice sessions, probing for solutions, or looking back on previous work.”

It is a suggestion I unpack a little in the book, but in this post I want to explain the concept and potential benefits in more depth, as well as offering some practical tips to help you get started…

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The 2022 Top Twenty

Looking back at the most popular posts of the year …

Each year as December arrives I look back and take stock of which posts struck a chord, a nerve, or otherwise gained traction over the preceding months. And it’s not mere vanity to do so. Understanding the data that a busy site such as Pianodao can offer (albeit with caveats) casts some light on the bigger picture of what is trending in the wider piano education community.

Many of us have noted that the internet has become a little quieter since the height of the pandemic. Understandably so. But nevertheless, in a year of rapid change Pianodao still succeeded in welcoming around a quarter of a million visits, and from well over 100 countries.

Such figures would be considered modest for a commercial organisation, but Pianodao remains my independent, personal blog site, 100% my own work, supported by occasional reader donations (yes, that’s a hint!). I am constantly astonished and truly humbled that so many look to the site for information, advice and enjoyment.

As a writer I could focus on my immediate community, telling readers “what is hot, and what is not” in my piano studio. That would have its own value. But analysing the interests of a wider readership helps me to provide content with broader relevance, address issues that players, teachers and enthusiasts around the world can relate to, and review music which has importance and interest beyond my immediate personal orbit.

So what did readers find most interesting? As usual, it included much of the Pianodao archive of 600+ older posts. Topical though many of these remain, the countdown which follows includes fresh 2022 content only.

Of more than 100 new articles posted over the last 12 months, let’s find out which ones made the strongest mark…

Continue reading The 2022 Top Twenty

Season’s Greetings

This is a personal announcement and message to all Pianodao readers, friends and students.

As some will know, I have recently been having problems with my eyesight, and this week I was diagnosed with a retinal detachment, for which I am having surgery this afternoon.

At present I have lost much of my sight in my left eye. The procedure I am having is called a vitrectomy, which I am told is a complicated but routine operation under local anaesthetic, and involves removing vitreous gel from the eye and replacing it with a gas bubble that holds the retina in place while it heals.

The full recovery period is usually between 6-12 weeks, by which time my usual sight should hopefully have been fully restored.

During the first 2-3 weeks of recovery however, I will need to spend much of the time lying down and may be unable to see at all with my left eye.

I’m sharing this news because it means I will probably be unable to add new content to Pianodao until early in the New Year. Submissions to the Video Feedback Service will also need to await my return.

Happily, there are more than 100 articles waiting in my drafts folder, ready to be completed and published on Pianodao as an ongoing gift to readers over the coming months. I am also looking forward to announcing further publications that I am working on.

I hope that in my brief absence you will find time to enjoy the existing content on this site, which now includes hundreds of articles about Playing, Teaching, Living, and of course the huge archive of reviews in the Pianodao Music Library.

The present year has been a challenging one for most of us, and the coming months promise to remain difficult for many. My thoughts are with you at this time, as I know yours will be with me. In Daoist cosmology, the present Year of the Tiger will soon give way to the Year of the Rabbit, and I can’t wait!

In the meantime, I want to thank you all for your support, and especially those who have shared Pianodao articles with your friends, and who have made donations to support the Pianodao site.

Thank you so much, and I will “see” you again soon!

Wishing you all the Very Best of the Season, and a Peaceful New Year.

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How to Practise Music: The Reviews

A highlight of 2022 has been the release and positive reception of my first book for Hal Leonard.

Published worldwide, How to Practise Music is a practical handbook for musicians of all stripes, described by the publishers as:

“The essential, pocket-sized companion for every musician. Accessible and authoritative, How to Practise Music is an ideal guide for anyone learning to play music. Suitable for instrumentalists and vocalists of any genre, this comprehensive handbook will give you a better idea of how to practise music, good reasons for doing so, and the confidence to succeed. “

The book is now available in both UK and US versions (Practice/Practise!):

The book is also available digitally for Amazon Kindle and Apple Books.

The book is also now available from the RNIB Bookshare, which aims to open up the world of reading to those with a print disability, including dyslexia, partial sight, and blindness. Titles are made available via the RNIB Bookshare website in a range of accessible formats that can be read electronically or adapted to suit the personal needs of readers.

Over the course of the last few months I have been truly thrilled and touched by the many wonderful comments I have received, and glowing reviews that have appeared in the press and online.

Here is an updated selection…

Continue reading How to Practise Music: The Reviews

ABRSM to update their professional diplomas

Supporting Your Piano Playing Journey

Leading exam board and awarding body ABRSM have just announced their intention to replace their entire range of diploma assessments in performance, teaching and direction with a new set of qualifications by 2024.

Among the headline points, they plan to scrap the DipABRSM altogether (seemingly elevating the existing ARSM as its replacement), and replace their LRSM and FRSM diplomas with new assessments which candidates will be able to take digitally, online. We are not told whether the opportunity to take a live, face-to-face diploma exam will remain at all.

These basic points may understandably perplex some readers. For my own part, I regularly teach and prepare candidates for both ARSM and DipABRSM qualifications, so (as with many of ABRSM’s recent changes) this news will directly impact my own students and ongoing professional practice.

Continue reading ABRSM to update their professional diplomas

Why do we play the piano?

Supporting Your Piano Playing Journey

The question of why we play the piano would seem to be both an obvious one to ask and an easy one to answer. And yet it rarely is.

In this article I consider four “types” of player, while recognising that many of us combine aspects of most or all of them.

Continue reading Why do we play the piano?