Tunes to Develop Left Hand on the Piano

For some reason, piano pupils tend to pick up reading the treble clef more quickly and easily than the bass clef. Actually, I suspect there are two reasons. Firstly, as children, when schools introduce us to the world of music notation, they go with instruments that use the treble clef – the recorder, for example, or […]

DIY Guitar Pedals

I spent this summer building a number of guitar effects pedals, both for my own education and for my pupils to get an idea of what various effects pedals do. It’s been great fun working with schematics and layouts shared on various internet sites – it’s also been frustrating at times trying to suss out […]

New Studio Policy for 2017-18

It’s that time of year when I try to catch up with all the stuff I keep putting off, most of which is paperwork. One item in particular is now complete – the new Hall Music Studio Policy. The policy comes into effect in September and goes as follows: TEACHING & LEARNING The teacher (that’s […]

What Guitar To Buy When You Start Lessons

Whether you’re an adult or a child, if you’re thinking of starting guitar lessons please don’t make the mistake of rushing out to your local charity shop or Argos and buying the cheapest guitar you can find. Because that’s exactly what it is: a mistake. It’s a mistake because that guitar is almost definitely going […]

Open Mic Night – July 2017

Thanks to Jilly – one of my guitar pupils – for organising the Open Mic Night at the Alton British Legion at the start of July. It was a great evening and, despite my dreadful migraine, I was pleased to be able to play a couple of songs on the keyboard. The first is a […]

The Bees Are Back

For those of you who don’t know, the roof of my studio is an apiary, aka a place where I keep bees. Or rather a place where I used to keep bees. Sadly my hives suffered in the long 2015 winter and I emerged into 2016 no longer a beekeeper for the first time in […]

Piano Pedalling Exercises

One of the piano’s great assets is the sustain pedal, allowing you to let go of keys without the notes being cut off. Other, older keyboard instruments, such as pipe organs and harpsichords, had no way of doing this (nor are they touch sensitive, another thing that sets the piano apart!) In traditional pianos, depressing the pedal […]

Broken Chords for Piano

As those of you who take exams as part of your piano learning will be aware, broken chords tend to die out after the first couple of grades. Arpeggios come along and – like the red squirrels around here – those poor broken chords are superseded, never to be seen again, unless you go to the […]

Open Mic Night Video

Here’s a little video from the last open mic night at the Secret Garden in Alton. I performed a couple of songs I’d written on the guitar. The first is called Out Here In The Country, which is kind of love a song, until you know what the background to the song is. I wrote the […]

ABRSM and RGT Exam Dates for 2017

Somehow it’s almost April already and the Spring terms is nearly at an end… and I’ve not yet posted the dates for the ABRSM and RGT exams. There are two dates you need to know if you’re looking to enter an exam. The first is the closing date, which is – surprise, surprise! – the […]

Practice Chord Progressions for Piano

If you’ve been learning to play the piano for a few months, you will probably have started getting to grips with a number of scales and their triads. C major tends to be the first one, as it consists entirely of white notes. Expanding out from this, you’ll cover G major (one sharp) and F […]

Nursery Rhymes for Guitar

I would be the first to admit that, when reaching for my guitar, the first thing I think about playing is not a nursery rhyme. That said, here are three good reasons for giving them a shot. Firstly, most nursery rhymes are generally well known, which means you don’t have to worry too much about working out […]

Major Pentatonic Fretboard Images

How’s that for an exciting title! A while back I posted the five patterns (C, A, G, E and D) that can be used to play pentatonic scales on the guitar. Since then a few people have asked me how these patterns link together and how to work out what key they are in. In response, I […]

An Introduction to Piano Accompaniment

Once you are familiar with the C major family of chords (those made when playing the C major scale with a series of root triads as follows: C major – D minor – E minor – F major – G major – A minor) it’s time to start working on accompaniment. When playing a chord […]

Swing Rhythm Strumming Patterns for Guitar

Swing rhythms aren’t only found in Jazz. They turn up all over the place – from children’s songs like Humpty Dumpty and Half a Pound of Tuppenny Rice, through to popular songs like When I’m Sixty-Four and She’s Electric. In fact, they can be found in every genre of music. As such, it’s an important […]

A Selection of Chord Progressions for Guitar

Pretty early in your guitar lessons, you’ll start learning chords. At first, there will be simple open string chords, such as E major and A minor, but it won’t be long before you progress to more complex chords, like Cmaj7, and barre chords, like F#m7. To help memorise the different shapes involved, you can search sites like Ultimate Guitar […]

“Fake” Classical Exercises for Piano

What on earth is a “fake” piece? Instead of the music showing every note the composer put down, “fake” music strips out the melody only and labels the relevant accompanying chords throughout. For example, if we did this for Erik Satie’s Gymnopedie No. 1, the original looks like this: And the “fake” looks like this: A […]

Guitarist’s Guide to Sharps & Flats

When you start learning the guitar, it’s not long before you come across the musical alphabet: A B C D E F G. Having played a few tunes using these notes, you’ll soon notice that some frets are missed out. Take the high-E string, for example. Fret 1 is F, then you skip the next […]

A Brief Guide to the Ukulele for Guitarists

So you play the guitar and fancy having a shot at the ukulele? Of course you do! Who wouldn’t? Ukuleles are great. Not only that, but if you’re a guitarist, the transition is fairly straightforward. In fact, the most tricky crossover is learning to hold the ukulele. Unlike the guitar, the ukulele doesn’t rest on your […]

Five Major & Minor Pentatonic Patterns for Guitar

Soon after you start learning the guitar, you’ll come across the term ‘Pentatonic’. It’s one of those things guitarists spend a lot of time working on and talking about. The word literally means five tones, so it won’t surprise you to find out that pentatonic scale (both major and minor) consist of five notes. For the […]

Scales, Arpeggios and Triads for Piano

While scales, arpeggios and triads may not sound like the most trilling of subjects, if you’re serious about learning the piano, they’re essential. Not convinced? Let me try to persuade you with a few handy bullet points: Playing scales is a great work out for your fingers – especially if played with a firm steady action rather than raced through, […]

Single Page Guide to Reading Music for Piano

Most music pupils, when faced with the challenge of learning to read music, seem to view it somewhere between witchcraft and learning a foreign language – either of which is somewhat daunting! Thankfully, learning to read music is nothing like either of these… or anything in between. Musical notation is a simple and logical system used to write […]

Learning Traditional and TAB Notation for Guitar

Not long after starting to learn guitar, you’ll come across music written in either traditional notation or TAB – most likely both. While it’s possible to play chords without being able to read music, everything else, from scales and arpeggios to riffs, melodies and pieces requires you to read music. Thankfully, the concept is very logical and […]

A Guide to Major and Minor Chords

Not long after starting to the learn the guitar or piano, you’ll find yourself faced with chords – A major, C major, E minor and so on. On the guitar these are learned as chord shapes, such as a D major chord shape or G7 chord shape – the notes that make it up aren’t […]

20 Strumming Patterns For Guitar

Just as beginner cellists have to spend time working on their bowing technique, beginner guitarists (all guitarists, in fact!) need to develop their strumming skills. People tend to assume that playing the guitar is mostly about the left hand, but the right hand is arguably just as important – after all, if you don’t pick or strum your guitar, you’re […]

Your First Six Chord Exercises – Piano

Everyone wants to play their favourite songs. Even if we don’t want to do it in front of anyone else, we’d still like to be able to sing and accompany ourselves on the piano in the privacy of our own homes. The first step along this path is understanding how chords work. On the guitar, things are […]

Your First Five Piano Scales & Arpeggios

Scales and arpeggios get a rather bad press – one of the things that are blamed for pupils giving up the piano (and other instruments) in the first few years. Partly, this has to do with people’s expectations of what learning the piano will involve, but mostly it’s due to a lack of understanding about why scales and arpeggios […]

Your First 10 Guitar Chords

There are few greater pleasures than picking up a musical instrument and playing one of your favourite tunes. But when you’re just starting out, the beginner ‘stuff’ you have to go through before you can do this is rather frustrating. This is especially true of the guitar, as it’s an instrument people tend to take up with […]

First Steps in Reading Music for Guitar

While most instruments make do with a single form of notation, we guitarists have to contend with two. Firstly there is the traditional music notation, with treble clefs and a host of crotchets, quavers and the like. Then there’s the tablature, showing strings and frets. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Traditional notation is great for learning […]

Composer of the Month: Erik Satie

Most composers have an air of eccentricity about them (think Schumann’s finger mauling and Beethoven’s hair), but none so much as Satie. For example, he founded his own one-man church, the Metropolitan Art Church of Jesus the Conductor, he bought 7 identical suits, then wore only them for 10 years, only ate food that was white, and permitted […]

RGT Acoustic Guitar Scales – to grade 5

Following my post on Grade 1-8 Scales I’ve put together a PDF score of the scales required for RGT exams from preliminary to grade 5. Enjoy! RGT_Acoustic_Guitar_Scales PDF I offer acoustic guitar lessons in Alton, Hampshire and online, so if you need help with your scales etc, feel free to get in touch.

RGT Grade 1-8 Scales

For those who have acoustic guitar lessons and want to take graded exams, you may have found that the ABRSM only offer classical guitar exams. All is not lost, however as the RGT – Register of Guitar Tutors – offer graded exams for acoustic guitar in association with the London College of Music Examinations. For […]

Yamaha CP-300 Review

If you’re looking for a good digital piano, I can definitely recommend the Yamaha CP-300. My current teaching and gigging instrument is a CP-300 and so was the last one. Having tried out a vast amount of other digital pianos over the years, this still remains my number one choice for piano lessons. For more information on […]

Why Digital Pianos Are Best For Piano Lessons

Back in the 90s, when I first started piano tuition, digital pianos were generally frowned upon by the music world – the musical equivalent of offering Dairylea triangles on an after dinner cheese platter. And to be fair, I played on many of the digital pianos that were around at the time, and they were […]

Music Term Flashcards – up to grade 8

For anyone taking music theory exams, I’ve put together a set of flashcards to use on your computer or mobile device – for free, of course. Download the set here. To use these flashcards you’ll need to install the free Anki Flashcard software here. Enjoy! And if you are looking for someone to get alongside you as […]

Ranges of Common Orchestral Instruments – Written & Sounded

When composing for orchestral instruments, it’s important to know what notes they are capable of producing… and whether or not they are transposing instruments. For example, the lowest note of the Bb trumpet is E3, but on the sheet music, this is written as F#3, a tone higher. Hopefully the PDF below will help with this […]

Orchestral Instrument Names in English, Italian, French and German

As the title suggest, here is a list of orchestral instruments with their English, Italian, French and German names. Though these rarely come up in the normal course of music lessons, this information is required for music theory exams from grade 6 onwards. It’s also usual for reading orchestral scores as, for example, Beethoven scores use German […]