LEATHAM MUSIC

Piano Lessons in Albury

About us

Piano lessons WITH YEARS OF EXPERIENCE as music teachers in NSW and Victorian high schools as qualified music teachers we offer the best possible start to your music education.

We are happy to prepare students for formal exams and will cover advanced keyboard technique, general knowledge of classical music, aural training and the public performance skills necessary to make strong progress in the AMEB or ANZCA system.

However, it is unlikely that we would consider preparing beginners for an examination in the first few years of lessons. It is more important that children love playing music first. Our main focus is building comprehensive music skills that allow our students to enjoy music as a lifelong pursuit.

Our emphasis is in developing strong sight-reading ability, building a large repertoire of short concert pieces rather than just a few difficult ones each year, and giving students much more than instructions on how to pass an exam.


Your home piano

LEARNING THE BASICS of music reading and using both hands takes several months. A small electronic keyboard to begin with is sufficient. As you develop your skills you may need consider a full sized keyboard or piano, depending on the type of music you wish to play.

Electronic Keyboard

Electric instruments are lightweight, easy to move and offer a wide range of voices. They have a headphone socket if noise is a problem in the house, and often include a built-in metronome and multi-track recorder which can be useful. Listening to your own playing is an excellent way to improve your performance style.

For classical music a valuable feature is the availability of a harpsichord voice that can really open a student’s mind to the playing style needed for music written before about 1780.

Better quality instruments will allow faster progress and more confident piano technique. If you decide to purchase a digital instrument then our preferred model would have 88 wooden keys and a strong fixed pedal assembly.

Acoustic Piano

The best way to learn classical music is on a real piano, one with felt hammers and strings. A key condition however is that it must be tuned and regulated twice a year. A budget of $1 a day should cover all maintenance on a good quality upright piano.

More control over the sound is possible on acoustic pianos, the volume range is wider and the tone cannot be matched by even the best electronic instruments.

Good quality second-hand uprights in smaller sizes start at around $3,500. New medium sized uprights such as the Kawai K200 start from around $6,000 or for the same price you could buy a large second-hand upright.

Tone quality in uprights is dependent on the height of the instrument. A piano at least 1.2m tall such as the Kawai K300 or Yamaha U1J for around $7,000 would be an excellent choice.

If you are serious about becoming a top class musician you will eventually need to consider a grand piano. This is definitely recommended if you are studying for examinations at Grade 8 or higher. The sound quality and keyboard response are in a different world to even the best uprights.

Grand pianos shorter than 1.7m (5′8″) are not recommended as the sound quality and tuning are generally no better than a full sized 1.3m upright. High quality professional grands are at least 2m long (6′7″).

Small 1.8m grands start at around $30,000 plus GST. There are often bargains to be had for instruments around 10 years old from $10,000 depending on the size.

Our experience is that a real acoustic piano is ultimately better value. A good quality instrument will certainly last longer if regularly tuned and regulated.

We have a Steinway grand built in 1888 and it is still a joy to play! The complex sound and power of an acoustic piano allows sensitive musicians to create complex tone colours that are impossible with electric pianos.


Learning Resources

BEGINNERS CAN BENEFIT by using the following downloads, books and apps, beginning with a simple map to keep near the keyboard.

>Download the Keyboard Map.

Learning the note names in each clef is not difficult if you avoid the trap of making up pointless poems to help you remember. When you learned to say the alphabet as a child you did not recite Alpha Bravo Charlie Delta Echo Foxtrot Golf. Instead you learned the alphabet as a series of letter sounds. Do the same with music and things will go much faster.

Hint: The name of the note on the first line of the treble clef is E not EVERY. You will never be a musician if you have to stop and recite a little poem before every note you play!

Download and print these images. Use the sheets with the Piano Notes! app until you can remember all the notes. A good score is 50 with 90% accuracy on the 60 second timer.

Treble Notes Bass Notes

>Purchase Piano Notes!

At Leatham Studios we use the Faber Piano Adventures. These are carefully researched tutor books that present new ideas clearly and address many different facets of piano technique in a short time. The CD backing tracks are well produced. We continue using these books as our basic teaching program for at least the first two years of tuition, supplemented by other material as required.

You can buy an app that will play tunes from the Faber books. This allows you to hear one hand at a time so you can play along with the other hand. You can also change tempo and turn the accompanying band part down if you wish.

>Read more about the PA Player.

You can also watch performances here:

After a year or two of lessons when students are gaining confidence in note reading and finger coordination we ask them to begin collecting the excellent series of repertoire books and CDs by Australian teacher Elissa Milne.

These contain a wide range of piano styles from classical to modern, some written by Milne herself. Students wishing to sit for examinations will also find the technical work for each grade plus sample aural tests. In our view these books constitute a fundamental music library for all pianists in their first five years of tuition.

Since CDs are readily available with the purchase of Elissa Milne's books I will not be posting her own recordings online. Please purchase the editions that contain her CDs. I buy from the local store Blackline Music in Albury.

You should listen to a new piece several times while following your sheet music before you start to practice. As well as the CD for each book you can watch some performances by a different pianist.

>View Getting to Grade 2 videos.

Video performances from the Faber series plus a good selection of AMEB material are available at The Ivory Times. You will also find videos of some books by Elissa Milne.

>Visit The Ivory Times.

More advanced pianists study basic classical repertoire with us through the excellent graded series by Diane Hidy and Keith Snell.

>Get MP3s from the Anna Magdalena Notebook and Two-Part Inventions

All serious pianists should watch the online lessons by John Mortensen and Graham Fitch. These cover important ideas for improving your technique.

>View John Mortensen videos.

>View Graham Fitch videos.

Parents may wish to read the excellent music education articles from The Piano Teacher magazine, available free online.

>Visit The Piano Teacher website.


Five-finger exercises

Such things are not taught here. Music students have over 400 years of music to explore. There is more fine music available than can be learned in several lifetimes. I will not ask students to waste a single moment plodding up and down the keyboard repeating the same finger patterns over and over.


Our studio instrument

ACCLAIMED BY DISCERNING CONCERT PIANISTS around the world, the Australian designed Stuart & Sons 2.9m Concert Grand may well be the finest instrument ever created. Larger than a traditional Steinway, our piano has a wider pitch range, a smoother keyboard action, and the ability to play louder or softer as required without sacrificing the tone quality.

Wayne Stuart hand crafts each piano, spending 12 months fashioning the various components. The finest materials and most advanced design and engineering methods are used, and all instruments are finished in superbly matched Australian timber cases.

From the pouring of molten iron to cast the frame of these 97 or 102 key instruments to the exquisite cabinet making, the hand sawing of the keys, the winding of the stainless steel strings and the thousands of individual adjustments necessary for every piano action, Wayne insists on perfection at every step.

Stuart and Sons piano

For inspiration!

Russian pianist Valentina Lisitsa.

Chinese pianist Lang Lang

Polish pianist Rafal Blechacz

Austrian pianist Friedrich Gulda

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