As a child I showed early signs of musicality, so my parents decided to send me for piano lessons. I didn't get very far as I learned the pieces by ear and had great difficulty reading music notation due to undiagnosed learning difficulties. (During that era, people had barely begun to acknowledge learning difficulties in the way that we do today.)
The teacher was quite tyrannical, and I felt an enormous sense of unease during the lessons. I finally got 'busted' when the teacher realised that I was playing by ear. "You either learn the notes, or we discontinue lessons." was the message.
My parents initially seemed disappointed, but my mother - also being musical, who was a trained opera singer and sang in the local church choir, encouraged me to continue with music and bought me a second-hand guitar.
I began to flourish - playing by ear and naturally being able to pick up and reproduce most of the pop music I heard on the radio.
To cut a long story short, I played in various bands, and briefly had a songwriting contract (total royalties from one album track about £5). :)
Age 30, fate brought a very talented jazz guitarist into my life and we soon became not only a songwriting team, but also good friends.
When we started playing together, I would present him with ideas on the piano, and he would say, "Wow that sounds great - do you know what you're playing, and why it sounds so good?" I embarrassedly confessed that I didn't know the 'why' - I just knew that the chords sounded colourful to me.
He proceeded to teach me the rudiments of jazz harmony - which were actually simpler than I thought. (If they hadn't been simple, I think I would have given up due to learning difficulties!)
Because it was simple, this encouraged me to look a little more deeply into it and it improved both my songwriting and ability to interpret songs in a way which made them sound richer and more interesting.
Something else that helped me enormously, which I have used both in my own life and in the lives of students, are various stress-management techniques which I taught while working as a tutor at Bromley College.
If a student gets stuck in their progress or perhaps lacks confidence, there are a variety of simple techniques that can be employed in the moment to release these blocks.
Now, my speciality is tailoring lessons to suit students' specific needs.
I am a strong advocate of the idea that music should be fun, and that an immediate hands-on approach is both vital and easily accessible. We learn by doing, and the 'doing' during a lesson involves either choosing a song that the student likes which I then create an arrangement for which is workable for the student, or helping them write their own song. This can be highly therapeutic - especially if the lyrics are an expression of something that is close to the student's heart, or is on their mind.
Fortunately the vast majority of popular songs have only 3 or 4 chords, so you can start playing in next to no time!
I also encourage students to sing. Singing is very therapeutic, and several studies have shown that singing can improve our health on all levels.
If you would like to find out more about how I work, I'd love to hear from you.