Archive for category Cardiff

Music Exams – an Open Letter to Parents

Another post on exams! (I know, I know, but the number of times the subject of ‘but, but, EXAMS!’ crops up with new or transferring students is, sadly, increasing.) This post originally comes from a private email I wrote to a parent, but has been edited to transform it into an ‘open letter’ to all parents and students.



Exams really are quite useful things, and many (if not most) of my students enjoy preparing for and sitting them, but they are far from the learning method that they are often used as.  To give you some idea, at the time of writing, I have nearly 50 students on my books, and only three of them are currently working towards a practical exam (with a further one working towards sitting his Grade 4 Theory in March).  The other students are learning repertoire, and developing their skills in this way.

I should mention at this point, that it is not necessary to take every grade exam.  Again, with my long term students, you would find that the vast majority of them skip grades (in order to spend additional time learning different styles, genres, and technical skills).  It is also worth bearing in mind that, should a student rarely work at music away from an exam syllabus, once they have passed grade 8, most of them haven’t a clue how to work towards anything from that point forward, as their only method of progression has now gone.  You may be interested to know that I work with a great many post-grade 8 students who have only rarely learnt non-exam pieces, and they are, without exception, wholly unprepared for how to cope at this point.  I appreciate this is not a way of learning that you are used to, but learning repertoire and understanding music is the key to not only progressing, but realising full potential, and perhaps most importantly, really enjoying the piano.

With this in mind, we are really looking at a minimum of 1 year after sitting a grade exam before even beginning work on the next one.  It is possible that once this time has passed, a student may be past the level of the next grade up, in which case, we would either begin the one following that, or spend a little more time developing skills to get him or her to that point.   A typical progression ‘through the grades’ for my students is often – grades 1,3,4,6 then 8, with the remaining grades skipped.

As a good guide for you to refer to, a student should be completing an absolute bare minimum of one entire book of repertoire ‘between exams’.  Bear in mind that for students who skip exams, this doubles.  However, this volume of repertoire is rarely taken from one single book, as this, also, is too restrictive.  This means that most students have 1 or 2 books on the go at once, and they roughly complete half of each book before moving on.  This guide also includes duet books (duets are particularly important for piano students as it is often the only time they learn any collaborative playing skills).  For example, I would anticipate that a student who has just taken grade 4 would need to learn roughly half of a compilation book (ABRSM compilations or Lenehan KeyNotes are good for this), and roughly half of something else (possibly a Microjazz volume, or the Walton Children’s Pieces for Duet, which are excellent and great fun to play) before looking at the possibility of grade 5, and more so if we decided to skip this.  I appreciate this is very new to you, but once they are over the initial shock of learning non-exam pieces, my students all massively enjoy playing ‘normal’ repertoire, and they learn far more in terms of musical understanding and technical skills than if they were to work towards exams with only brief moments of respite.

I appreciate that parents often wish for their children to sit another exam as soon as possible after their previous one, but if I can draw your attention to other methods of measuring attainment, which you may not be aware of, this might ease your mind.  I hold a yearly concert for my students (in the Summer Term), which all students are invited (but not pressured) to perform at, with many students who are not confident about performing choosing to perform a duet with me instead of a solo piece.  Last year, this concert was held at Cardiff University concert hall, and was a great success, with nearly 250 students / parents attending.  There is also the opportunity to perform at the South Glamorgan Festival for Young Musicians which is held every May bank holiday.  Here, there are both competitive and non-competitive classes available.  At the risk of repeating myself, attainment can also (indeed it should be) measured by completion of a new piece, by a technical difficulty surmounted, or a new understanding of a musical problem.  [Edit… colleague and friend, Phil May, made the additional (and rather brilliant) suggestion that with so many people owning iPads, laptops, and smartphones, parents could record their children performing each finished piece, not just for posterity, but perhaps to send to relatives.  This would help in creating a tangible way of seeing progress without the need for exam certificates.]

Unfortunately, the world we live in now has become very much an exam-oriented one for children, with graded music exams being a not-insignificant part of this.  But focussing too much on exams in music is hugely detrimental to students, and leaves a great many young musicians, even gifted ones, without necessary technical skills and musical understanding, and often leads to a loss of enjoyment in learning music (which is heartbreaking to watch).

I am happy to answer any questions you may have on this topic – it is one which I discuss frequently so I genuinely do understand parental (and students’) concerns!  You might also be interested to know that having students staying away from exams does not mean they perform badly when they do sit them.  I have a 100% pass rate for grade exams (theory and practical), and my students have won awards from the ABRSM in the past for achieving exceptionally high marks (my most recent being a young boy of 12 years’ old who achieved the highest Grade 8 mark in Wales for the year, and also won a 4 figure scholarship award from the ABRSM to pay for his studies).

Lastly, I’d like to direct you to my soundcloud account. I have uploaded various repertoire for students.  The eventual idea is that this database covers the ‘core’ repertoire books which my students use, but it is very much a work in progress as recording and uploading takes a huge amount of time. and

Very best wishes,



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Lesson Vacancies

Latest Lesson Vacancies for September entry can be found here:

Monday 4.00pm – 4.30pm

[Potentially available but waiting on confirmation: Monday 6.00 – 6.30pm]

Wednesday 6.30pm – 7.00pm

Thursday 3.30pm – 4.00pm

Friday 3.30pm – 4.00pm
Friday 4.00pm – 4.30pm
Friday 4.30pm – 5.00pm
Friday 5.00pm – 5.30pm

For more details about my teaching practice, including prices, vacancies, and information on learning piano as a beginner, intermediate, or a post-grade 8 student, please go to

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Current Vacancies

The 5pm slot on Mondays has now been filled.  Remaining after-school hours vacancies are as follows:

Monday 4.30pm (temporary until Sept 2015)
Monday 7.45pm (due to the lateness of this vacancy, this is reserved for secondary school chidren or older)
Tuesday 5.30pm (temporary until Sept 2015)
Wednesday 6.30pm
Thursday 3.30pm
Thursday 5.30pm (temporary until Sept 2015)

To keep up to date with lesson vacancies and articles on teaching and learning the piano, please sign up to this blog via the email sign in button.

For more details about my teaching practice, including prices, vacancies, and information on distance theory marking, or learning piano as a beginner, intermediate, or a post-grade 8 student, please go to

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IPPG Charity Student Concert for Nepal

Due to the recent earthquakes in Nepal, my 2015 collaborative local community and RWCMD Junior Conservatoire student concert will have a charitable focus.    One of my adult learners, Dr. Emma Mason, is a trustee of the International Porter Protection Group, (  The IPPG is a small charity which is working closely with a number of other charities in Nepal (Community Action Nepal and Porters Progress UK) to provide not just emergency aid to the remote, mountainous areas in which they operate, but also to continue with their long term projects providing medical equipment and personnel and other support to the local communities.

Milly Earthquake

My private and Young RWCMD students all work very hard throughout the year, and this concert is an opportunity for them to perform in front of a small audience, and to raise some much needed funds for the Nepal disaster.  Performance time and seating space permitting, I have also asked other piano teachers if any of their students would like to join us to make this event as successful as possible.

I am charging a very small entrance fee (£2.50 each) to students and their friends and family, which could raise as much as £500, but IPPG desperately need as many donations as possible during this extremely difficult time.  You can donate to them online via or by cheque made out to the International Porter Protection Group.  Please give as much or as little as you can; every penny helps.

I am extremely grateful to Cardiff University School of Music, who have very kindly donated the use of their state of the art concert hall in Corbett Road for the occasion, and are also paying to staff the building with their very friendly and helpful security and portering staff.   The University Concert Hall seats 200 and houses two concert grand pianos (a Steinway and a Bösendorfer), one of which will be used for the concert.

Although this is a fundraising concert, due to the amount of children taking part (some of whom are nervous about performing) the concert itself is a closed event. This means that tickets are not available to the general public.  The students are all aware, however, of the effect that their hard work and musical achievements are having on the appeal for funds, and Drs. Emma and Nick Mason, both of whom are trustees of IPPG, will be present at the concert, along with their daughter Milly (pictured above) who will hopefully be performing.

Also in aid of these three charities is the Kendal Mountain Film Festival, which is held at the New Theatre in Cardiff on Friday 10th July.  Please buy tickets and come along!

Kendal Film Festival’s-on/kendal-mountain-film-festival/

Thank you for all your support,

Lynne and students

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New Lesson Vacancy

A new lesson vacancy has opened up; Wednesdays at 6.30pm  (30 minutes)

To keep track of all vacancies as they happen, please sign up to this blog via the email sign up.

For more details about my teaching practice, including prices, vacancies, and information on distance theory marking, or learning piano as a beginner, intermediate, or a post-grade 8 student, please go to

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Open Access Days 2015

Open Access 2015 coloured

Open Access Days in Piano, General Musicianship, & Music Theory. 

If you are looking for a little extra tuition without worrying about committing to a secondary teacher, Open Access Days are the ideal option for you.  For one week in July and one in August, I am opening my home studio in the Fairwater area of Cardiff to all local young pianists and other instrumentalists, and with no obligation to book more than one lesson (and at my standard hourly rate) you can have additional coaching, support, and tuition in any of the following areas:

For Pianists:

General Musicianship at the piano (fluency & musical flow, stylistic awareness, control, colour, and musical narrative) 

Technique (including scales & arpeggios) 

Sight Reading

Upcoming Performances (including ABRSM exams) 

Practice Techniques

Problem Solving (spend a dedicated lesson addressing any specific problems you have, and discover useful strategies to resolving them) 

For All Instrumentalists:

Aural Tests (ABRSM Grades 1-8)

Beginner’s Theory 

ABRSM Theory (Grades 1-5, including exam technique)

Rhythm (support with how to navigate awkward rhythms, or for students who sometimes find rhythm challenging) 

You can book 30 or 60 minute lessons for you or your child, with absolutely no obligation to continue with lessons once the Summer break is over.

Please see here for further details, and contact me on or 07903 500901 to discuss further or book lessons.


For more details about my teaching practice, including prices, vacancies, and information on distance theory marking, or learning piano as a beginner, intermediate, or a post-grade 8 student, please go to

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