MM Piano Tuition has been using Rockschool Piano to inspire students for over 5 years. Based in Banff, Aberdeenshire, Michael lists his favourite keyboardists as Tuomas Holopainen (Nightwish) and Jordan Rudess from the Prog-Metal masters, Dream Theater.

"I’ve found that teaching has made me a better musician overall. I have many students who enjoy music from a range of different genres, and embracing their own influences not only helps to keep your students interested, but it also improves your own playing by forcing you to explore music that you may not have found otherwise."

How long have you been using Rockschool, and why has it worked for you?

I’ve been using Rockschool for about 5 years now. Rockschool's selection of popular styles of music makes it very appealing for myself and my students – particularly the most recent syllabus. Having both solo and accompaniment performance pieces mean that students get a more complete experience of what it is to be a well-rounded piano player, which is all you can really ask for.

Rockschool Piano 2019: featuring popular hit tunes from pop, rock, electronica, soul/r&b, funk, musicals and film scores

What’s your favourite performance piece to teach, and how does it improve your learners?

From the 2019 syllabus, I particularly enjoy ‘All Of Me’ by John Legend from grade 4. It’s a beautifully arranged solo performance piece, which is great for building hand and finger independence. It has a challenging, yet satisfying pre-chorus which is followed by the flowing arpeggios of the chorus itself. Great stuff!

Please Note: this is not the composition found in Rockschool Piano (Credit: Rousseau)

What’s your favourite test to teach, and why is it important for your learners?

I enjoy teaching the improvisation component as it helps students find confidence in playing music without relying on sheet music. It allows them to be creative and explore the different sounds they can make. It’s also a great way to reinforce their knowledge of scales, chords and key signatures and how to use them.

Made the Grade! All smiles from a selection of students after receiving their Rockschool results

What’s your favourite learner success story?

A young teenage student of mine had been given piano tuition previously but hadn’t enjoyed it as they expected. They transferred to me and we took a new approach that I hoped might suit them better. we focussed on building their confidence by introducing new ways of learning and playing pop music that they currently enjoyed listening to. Fast forward a few years and they’ve now passed several Rockschool exams, performed at school events and enjoys regularly playing and singing with friends!

Inspiration: Keyboardist, Tuomas Holopainen, plays 'Ghost Love Score' with Nightwish

What musician(s) inspired you to start playing, and why?

I’ve always had a keen interest in music, but I can’t say I was inspired to start playing by any particular musician. However, I’ve continuously been inspired by keyboardists such as Tuomas Holopainen (Nightwish) and Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater). Their ability to use a wide range of sounds from a single instrument to create such a huge variety of music shows how versatile the keyboard can be as an instrument. From using simple combinations of piano and strings for a ballad to using heavy, gritty lead sounds for those heavier tracks is really inspiring.

Jordan Rudess: The Dream Theater keyboardist takes you through his incredible live set-up

If you had to choose a track or album from one of your favourite players what would it be?

For Tuomas I would probably choose the Nightwish album ‘Once’. A great album which contains one of my favourite tracks “Ghost Love Score”. When it comes to Jordan, I would choose the Dream Theater album ‘Octavarium’ as it’s the first DT album I owned and the one that got me hooked. Also, the track ‘Octavarium’ for the same reasons.

RSL Teacher Reg: Sign-up to our teacher registry like Michael and advertise your own music teaching services

How would you encourage other musicians to use their talents to teach, like you have done?

I’ve found that teaching has made me a better musician overall. I have many students who enjoy music from a range of different genres, and embracing their own influences not only helps to keep your students interested, but it also improves your own playing by forcing you to explore music that you may not have found otherwise. Music can be a powerful form of expression whether you're listening, playing or writing. To be able to introduce this to your students and help them express themselves through music they really enjoy makes teaching a very rewarding experience!

ENTER NOW! UK & Ire students can enter for their next exam anytime before the 17th Jan 2020


A big thank you to Michael for taking the time to speak to us. If you'd like to enquire into how you can learn Rockschool Piano at MM Piano Tuition in Aberdeenshire, you can click on the image below to get started now!

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