Teaching Philosophy

I believe that boundless enjoyment can come from playing the piano, and I consider it a privilege to be in the position to teach those who wish to learn. As well as teaching all ages and all styles, I also perform regularly, and I constantly review my teaching and apply insights gained from my performing life. I enjoy teaching a variety of pupils in different genres, from classical to jazz to pop and rock songs. Each genre has its own attractions as a teacher.

The most important job for me is to give my students the tools they need to develop their capacity and enthusiasm for music-making. I aim to do this by setting students at ease with a friendly and positive manner, so that they might feel comfortable to make mistakes. I use a multitude of techniques, all applied with patience, to help my students find their way through a new or recurring problem.


My approach to teaching is based on a very important core principal: to start where the student is. With a young beginner, I would help to increase their comfort at the piano (finding notes and familiarising them with hand shapes) or finding the right workbook for them to progress through.

With a more advanced student, I would work with them in the manner most appropriate for their goal: relaxed and conversational for a casual player who wants to be able to accompany themselves singing pop songs; or intense and demanding for a student who is preparing for an upcoming competition or exam.

Flexible approach

A student-centered approach means having a flexible approach to lessons. As well as using scales and some technical exercises, I work with the student to pick an aspect of a piece that is less secure and turning it into an exercise for them to practice.

For example, if a piece calls for a certain interval to be played in one hand that hasn’t been played before, I would ask the student to play a scale using that interval. My students enjoy doing the new exercise as I create it on the spot for them, and then they can use it in their piece.

Holistic teacher

Aural skills and theory are integral to the skill of playing piano, more so than almost any other instrument. That is why I incorporate the teaching of these valuable skills into the lesson. There are aspects of music theory that apply to all styles – note intervals and key signatures, for example – but my emphasis will differ based on the style of music.

A classical piece may have an unusual time signature or ornament. In a pop song, I might explore different ways of playing chords. I also teach sight reading in lessons, as learning this important skill will give my students the independence to learn music by themselves.

Incorporating creativity

I am a strong believer in exercising one’s creativity. I like to include elements of creativity in a lesson, even if the main focus is not on improvisation or composition. I might ask the student to use different articulation or dynamics to the written directions, or to invent a response to a phrase in the music. Some students will enjoy improvisation more than others, and with them I explore a variety of structured improvisation exercises. 

Encouraging passion

When I work with young students especially, I always phrase whatever comment I have about their playing in an encouraging way. Whether or not they make a mistake, this avoids making them feel self-conscious, and spurs them on to play better without the need for negative feedback.

With all ages and levels, I give great significance to maintaining an attitude of kindness, and I do my best to infuse my students with a passion for music and for learning that will last a lifetime.

Lessons with me

I teach students in and around Guildford and Godalming, and also online on video platforms. To arrange a call with me to discuss your lessons, please send an email to contact@duncanappleby.co.uk.