I’m listening to things I never thought I would, and I’m playing better and more than I have in years. — Senior record executive from one of the
Big 3 record companies
Here's how my lessons work:
- you email me a list of the 15 songs/tracks/pieces you'd most like to play
- I'll find arrangements of them that suit your level or arrange them myself (beginners very welcome!)
- I'll then teach them to you using specially developed teaching techniques, detailed lesson notes, and personalized practice videos
I've uploaded over 2.200 tutorial videos to YouTube so far.
Students include signed artists, senior record executives, and other industry professionals. (Read my testimonials.)
My rates are £50 per hour lesson for home/studio visits in Notting Hill, Holland Park and Kensington, including preparation time and follow-up.
The conventional approach
Imagine you wanted to learn French. You go to a teacher and in the first lesson they teach you how to pronounce the letters. In the second lesson they give you a French nursery rhyme to read out, and eventually you can recite poems by Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Rimbaud, etc. without knowing how to ask the way to the nearest train station.
That is how music is usually taught.
You're taught how to read music first, and then are given progressively more difficult pieces to learn without knowing why they sound the way they do. The result is that you might be able to play a few party pieces but if someone sings you a simple melody you can't play it back to them.
Music is a language. Jazz musicians are fluent in music. A good jazz pianist listens to what his saxophonist is playing, works out what the notes are, composes a response in his head, and then plays it in real time. That's what it means to speak music, but it isn't limited to jazz.
Anything. Put anything on your list you really love, regardless of what instrument it's written for or how difficult it sounds. Even if your dream is to play Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto and you're a complete beginner, I can teach you how to play the opening melody in your first lesson. That's a much better motivator than being told that you'll have to wade through music you don't love for 6 months first.
Of course, you need structure, but that's why I ask for at least 15 pieces - it's so I can select the 4 or 5 that are most appropriate to start with, which I'll use to teach you the fundamentals (hand position, note names, legato, rhythm, coordination, sight reading, etc.).
I've worked as an official transcriber for Béyonce, Josh Groban, Paloma Faith, Michael Bublé, Regina Spektor, and others. The arrangements I'll write for you will often be better than the ones you can find in a shop, which are frequently written in a rush, and with artificial constraints (I should know as I've done it).
Sound before sign
Did you learn to read before you could speak? No, neither did I. So why learn to read music before you can play it? Aside from being disheartening (you didn't come here to learn music theory, you came here to play!) it's also more difficult: you have to think about how to decode what you're seeing on the page as well as think about what your fingers are doing.
I'll make sure that you've mastered hand position, fingering, legato, phrasing, and coordination before I teach you how to sight read. This
sound before sign approach has been repeatedly shown to be more beneficial for a student's long-term musical development (e.g. by G.E. McPherson).
When I do teach you sight reading I'll use my own reference note system that's much faster than the traditional
All Cows Eat Grass method. This usually allows students to recognize any note quickly within two lessons, whereas the traditional method is less comprehensive and can take several months to become fluent in.
Playing by ear
Playing by ear is one of my specialities, and I teach it by applying my own version of the input hypothesis from languages to music.
In the grade system students are required to practice scales that never appear in the repertoire, such as minor harmonic scales in contrary motion, and yet are never required to practice such commonly occurring patterns such as a 9th arpeggio, which makes up the left hand of Chopin's
Revolutionary Etude, for instance. So I use my own repertoire of technical exercises that target the technical challenges the student is most likely to encounter.
My approach to teaching composition is descriptive rather than prescriptive, so instead of imposing my own tastes on you by telling you what you should and shouldn't do, I'll just show you how your favourite music works and how you can use patterns from it to make your own.
I don't teach
theory by itself – i.e. isolated from practice – since patterns stop making sense when you take them out of context. However, if you learn how to play by ear you'll understand everything about scales, chords, and chord progressions, etc., you need to know.
I can also teach university-level music. That includes stylistic composition:
- Baroque fugue
- Classical string quartets
- Romantic Lieder
And theory and analysis:
- figured bass notation
- Schenkerian analysis
- pitch class sets
- modes of limited transposition
Plus I can help with Oxbridge entrance, having read Music at Cambridge myself.
The way I listen to music has completely changed. Benedict is a truly gifted teacher and a talented musician. I highly recommend him. — Alex S, student
Benedict has that unusual combination in a teacher: a considered, pupil-focused approach, alongside overwhelmingly evident pleasure in playing and teaching the piano. It's infectious in the extreme. His self-developed methods avoid dry techniques and repetitive methods of dusty old piano teachers — but the exercises and worksheets he provides slowly unlock the mysteries of the instrument in a truly personal way. ... I wouldn't go to anyone else. — Adam S, consultant
Benedict has been teaching both our teenage son and daughter piano and music theory on a weekly basis for two years and we have found him to be both a great teacher and very easy to get along with, which make his lessons a pleasure. His genuine enthusiasm for his subject and for teaching is inspiring and has solicited keen engagement from our children who always look forward to his lessons. ... I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending him to others. — Georgia H, parent
Benedict has helped me on several occasions with musical analysis projects, harmonization, orchestral reduction and piano playing. He is a talented teacher with a solid knowledge of music theory, an easygoing student oriented approach to his teaching and lots of patience. Whether you are a student struggling with the theoretical aspects of music such as I, or simply someone who is curious about how music works Benedict is what you’re looking for. — Rebecca B, trainee opera singer