More Than Music Lessons

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Merlin B. Thompson (shown above) is a forward-thinking music educator with over forty years teaching experience in private studio, conservatory and university settings. His career has taken him around the world, and podcast enthusiasts may know of his excellent series, The Music Educator’s Crucible.

Subtitled “A Studio Teacher’s Guide to Parents, Practicing, Projects and Character”, Thompson’s book More than Music Lessons was published a few months ago by Rowman & Littlefield, and is one of those books which could prove to be a game-changer for any instrumental teacher who takes time to absorb and apply the author’s key messages.

According to the author’s introduction,

More than Music Lessons shifts the focus away from established music curricula to something of equal importance: the personal and interpersonal dynamics of students’ own musical life. This book demonstrates what can happen when music teachers take an interest in and have an ongoing appreciation for their students’ home life, sense of self, musical interests, personal and world views, culture and spiritual individuality.”

The book has a four-part framework with sections on Parents, Practising, Projects and Character. In this review, I will touch on the content and give a general overview of the publication itself, hopefully enticing teachers to take a closer look for themselves…

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Paul Harris: Unconditional Teaching

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Many readers will already have benefitted from Paul Harris’s numerous and superb teaching and learning resources, and perhaps also read one or more of his best-sellers written to support teachers. His seminal The Virtuoso Teacher, Improve Your Teaching! and Simultaneous Learning books have established themselves as essential modern classics.

New from Faber Music, and presented in a similar format to those previous books, Harris’s latest publication is called Unconditional Teaching. And it is undoubtedly one of his most provocative and thought-provoking yet…

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Take a Bow! How, When and Why…

Expression • Fluency • Understanding
Written by Andrew Eales


As the pianist releases the final notes of the piece, the audience bursts into enthusiastic applause. The player stands and takes a bow. It’s a code of conduct that we tend to take for granted, but one that should be taught and practised as part of performance preparation.

I try to cultivate a friendly, non-competitive, informal atmosphere at my student concerts, but it’s still important to teach new performers the importance of more formal “stagecraft”, etiquette, and the essential place of taking a bow to receive and acknowledge audience applause.

I often give students a “mock performance” experience in their lesson, including teaching them how to bow. Here is a quick summary that supports that practice.

Continue reading Take a Bow! How, When and Why…

Playing the Piano “for Fun”?

Supporting teachers • Promoting learning
Written by Andrew Eales


I recently asked the members of an online piano teaching forum the following question:

“I want to learn to play piano for fun…”
What do you think when pupils/parents say this to you?

Perhaps it’s no surprise that answers ranged from “Get a trampoline!” at one end of the spectrum to “Great – that’s the best reason!” at the other. And the constructive debate that followed proved to be very interesting and enlightening. 

With this in mind, I would like to share a few of my own views and hope this will encourage further thought and ongoing discussion within the teaching and piano community.

Continue reading Playing the Piano “for Fun”?