A Different Piano / Keyboard Teacher

A Different Piano / Keyboard Teacher

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  • Ben Berry

    Sean has introduced me to Piano and Organ in a sensible way that allows me to learn in the musical sandbox I love to play in. I am a beginner but am gaining a much stronger understanding of chords and structure than I would have using traditional methods.

About this pro

Anyone can sound great on the piano!

Every time I start teaching a new student is an adventure.

There are many types of music, and approaches to learning and developing musical ability. I would be happy to help you go in whatever direction you want to, musically -- in whatever ways that I can offer.

I teach a variety of students, ranging from young children to adults. I teach a variety of music, ranging from simple folk melodies, pop songs, classical repertoire, and Jazz-influenced (Impressionistic) Modal music.

It can be easy to play rich-sounding music -- particularly sophisticated-sounding harmonies -- on the piano keyboard. Sophistication can be achieved without complexity; and sophistication doesn't necessarily require difficulty. It can be easy and quick to sound great on the piano. The goal of music-making is to create music that is enjoyable for others to listen to.

I want to make learning music as rewarding as possible with the least difficulty possible for the student. One way this can be achieved is by learning by ear and establishing an intuitive sense of music, and focusing on facility -- before introducing any theory, analysis, and notation reading - which can come later, once an intuitive musical foundation is established. Introducing reading from the onset is analogous to making a new student drag 6 carts up a hill, as opposed to just 2 or 3, at a time. However, if you want to learn musical notation, I'll happily teach that, as well as theory concepts. What I teach, and how quick the progress is depends upon the individual student.

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I have made some keyboard harmony instructional videos. Here are three examples. These are easy to follow along with.

"Rock 'n Roll three chords dorian mode - draft" http://YouTube.com/watch?v=y2O7rokQgCY David Crosby actually drew from Modal Jazz influences. The harmonic structure can be thought of as alternating between 'F' Lydian, and 'D' dorian modes, which are relatives, by the way.

Here's another 3-chord song, that was popular in Brasil (and covered by Sergio Mendes): "Ye-Me-Le III and IV" http://www.Youtube.com/watch?v=8MOZn-95R8Q

and:

"For Absolute Beginners : sound like a Jazz pianist, easily and quickly (draft)" http://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=VmjXDY0OReQ

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Those videos feature, mostly, a Modal approach to harmony. One idea I have for teaching piano is to present Modal harmony alongside Tonality. For example, for a beginner, I can start the student with "Mary Had a Little Lamb" "Twinkle Little Star" and "Lightly Row"  alongside "Scarborough Fair" , among other things.

I also have some simple transcriptions of arrangements that students can work towards playing:

http://Flat.io/sean_lewczyk

also: http://MuseScore.com/user/11498661

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I personally feel that it is best for a beginning student to avoid reading notation, as well as learning theory -- at-first. Instead, the initial focus should be on hearing and feeling the music -- as well as the facility and co-ordination aspects of playing. Once these aspects are well-established (with that well-established foundation) , the student can learn how to be a musician on other levels (learning notation, theory, etc.).

Many composers, songwriters, and arrangers use the piano keyboard to help create, refine, organize, and arrange musical ideas -- particularly the harmonic aspect of the music -- because the pitches are all laid out in a linear fashion on a piano keyboard. Those musicians have varying degrees of actual playing ability (facility) with the piano keyboard and don't necessarily perform/play the instrument. But it is useful as _keyboard harmony_.

I have played piano / digital-keyboards for over 20 years. I took Suzuki lessons for a number of years, in my childhood years.

Later, I graduated with a B.M. Music and Technology from Radford University.

I enjoy helping walk students step-by-step. I get great satisfaction from helping my students develop musically. I get the most joy from seeing my students progress. Myself, personally, I get great joy from rich-sounding musical material.

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Herndon, VA 20172
2 years in business
1 employees
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Q & A

What is your typical process for working with a new student?

I ask what the student wants to learn, musically. I'll play some examples of simple figures and chords. This will give the student some of idea of what s/he can sound like after practicing the materials that I teach.

The first thing the student should learn is to visually identify the pattern (sets) of 2, and 3  black keys on the piano keyboard. In relation to this visually-identified pattern, the letter names of the white keys can become familiar.

Simple figures and concepts are introduced, which the student should practice and gain familiarity and fluency with. Additional things are added, incrementally. I think it is best to practice one hand, at a time -- and then combine hands , simultaneously, later.

The first step in music education is listening to music! YouTube makes this easier than ever. I can point my students to posts (audio) on the  YT platform.


What education and/or training do you have that relates to your work?

Besides over 20 years of playing piano keyboard, I have a Bachelor's degree in Music & Technology (B.M.).

I have years of experience providing tech support, and I have taught some web development courses, as a volunteer. I enjoy helping teach and coach and mentor (tutor) people.


Do you have a standard pricing system for your lessons? If so, please share the details here.

I am flexible. Currently, my rates usually are around $40 per hour.


How did you get started teaching?

My start was unusual :  An image came to my mind of an on-screen piano keyboard.  I followed that vision to create instructional videos showing compositional / keyboard harmony ideas that I had been working on for years. I published those videos to YouTube on my channel called "Intuitive Jazz." I have received good feedback from viewers. Some of this feedback  included questions, as well as even an offer for paying me for an online lesson. You can find these videos by searching YouTube for "Intuitive Jazz" , as well as "Intuitive Music."

A piano teacher that I knew encouraged me to teach and I have gotten many students around the area lately using websites like this one.


What types of students have you worked with?

I have worked with a variety of children, teenagers, and adults. Most of them are beginners. But every beginner is different. A number of these students had taken lessons with another teacher before me.  

I also have experience with special needs children.


Describe a recent event you are fond of.

I have gotten great satisfaction from helping my online adult student learn how to play (mostly chords, of) compositions that we both love, by The Soft Machine, as well as Egg, and some John Coltrane quartet modal Jazz things ("My Favorite Things" + an earlier chordal-based (non-modal) composition called "Like Sonny" , as well). Those mostly make use of dorian and phrygian modes. Those are very rich harmonic pallettes to use, in addition to Major and minor.

I get satisfaction and joy from being able to figure out music by-ear.


What advice would you give a student looking to hire a teacher in your area of expertise?

Even though every student is different -- and the best method / approach for teaching may vary from student-to-student,

I personally feel that it is best to avoid burdening the beginner with having to learn musical notation from the on-set. At first, the beginning student is presented with a great deal of struggle with the other (more central and crucial) aspects of musical ability. It's better to have to drag only 2 or 3 carts up a hill at a time, rather than 5 or 6 - so to speak.


What questions should students think through before talking to teachers about their needs?

Ask yourself what music you'd like to learn how to play.

Do keep in mind that learning harmony (chords) on a piano keyboard can be beneficial, no matter what instrument(s) you end up pursuing, years on down the road. 

Piano lessons should not be limited soley to those who want to have lots of keyboard chops and be performing keyboard players.

I think that the best teachers are patient and flexible.

Also consider how much time and energy you are willing to put into developing your musical abilities, as well as exploring music and ideas.