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Piano • Keyboard Tuition

at Waltons New School of Music

‘Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is never enough for music.’
– Sergei Rachmaninov

‘Life is like a piano. What you get out of it depends on how you play it.’
– Tom Lehrer

Tuition Offered

Our Programme

Piano TuitionThe New School’s approach to piano and keyboard tuition, for students of all ages and skill levels, is to encourage the development of both technique and musicianship, fluency and musical communication. We welcome students learning for pleasure, and grade examinations are not a requirement at the school – although our faculty prepare numerous students for exams from preliminary to performance or teaching diploma level.

Piano and keyboard tuition can also include preparation for Junior Cert. Music and Leaving Cert. Music practicals, and it counts as the ‘personal skill’ challenge area for Gaisce – The President’s Award.

Specialised tuition is also available in jazz piano (see following tab).

Jazz Piano

Jazz PianoAlthough many students currently studying jazz piano at the New School already have some classical training, jazz improvisation has often been neglected in the teaching of classical piano. A common misconception is that improvisation is either something you have or you don’t. Jazz piano lessons at the New School prove that it can be learned, and teach a number of surprisingly effective and easy-to-apply techniques for the composition and decoration of music.

Entry into jazz piano lessons requires only a basic knowledge of musical notation (treble and bass clefs, key and time signatures) and piano technique (around Grade 2 or equivalent). Improvising at the piano can be split into two main areas: improvising on a given theme (or within a given song) and free improvisation. Lessons generally concentrate on the first, providing students with a wide variety of melodic, harmonic and rhythmic techniques that they can use to make a song their own. Students learn:

  • how to approach a melody, distinguish its main notes from its less important ones and improvise on those;
  • how to move from one chord to the next by building up their harmonic vocabulary;
  • how to vary a song through accent and rhythm.

In addition, many people who have taken lessons in ‘classical’ piano find that while they can imagine an improvised line, they can’t actually play it. One aspect of the lessons is familiarising students with hand shapes and fingering patterns that help students to create their improvisations directly at the piano.

Jazz piano is taught at the New School by Darragh Hennessy, Darragh O’Kelly, Johnny Taylor and SoYoung Yoon.

We also offer a Jazz Piano Basics group course for intermediate students. See Intermediate Course tab.

Tuition Options

Our options for piano • keyboard tuition include:

  • Weekly private (one-to-one) lessons, 30, 45 or 60 minutes in length.
  • Group lessons, designed for students at the same level of proficiency who enrol together, and available as 30- 45- or 60-minute ‘partner’ lessons, as well as 60-minute lessons for 3 or 4 students.
  • Single 1- or 2-hour Intensive Lessons.
  • Two group courses for beginners, Introducing Piano/Keyboard for Adults and Introducing Piano/Keyboard for Children.
  • Jazz Piano Basics, a group course for intermediate students.

See Tuition Options for more information on private, partner and small group lessons, and Enrolment • Fees for tuition fees and enrolment forms.

Group Courses for Beginners

Introducing Piano/Keyboard for ChildrenWe offer two courses for absolute beginners, both taking place in our Digital Piano Lab:

  • Introducing Piano/Keyboard for Adults introduces students to the fundamentals of keyboard technique – as well as basic music theory, sight reading and chordal accompaniment – while progressing through a varied and interesting repertoire ranging from classical to pop.
  • We also offer a summer version of the course above, taking place in July or August.
  • Designed for children aged 6-8, Introducing Piano/Keyboard for Children is a lively and enjoyable first experience with keyboard instruments.

‘A perfect course for beginners. I’ve already recommended it to a friend and she’s starting next term. I highly recommend Waltons for anybody who always wanted to learn to play an instrument but never had a chance. It’s never too late, and once you start you won’t regret it!’ [Piano/Keyboard for Adults]
– V. de Almeida

‘I am writing just to let you know how good an experience we had with the Waltons New School of Music last year.
   Our then six-year-old son did the [Piano/Keyboard for Children] course last year, and his progress throughout the year was way beyond any expectation we had.
    I have recommended the school to a number of people and will continue to do so. I believe my son’s experience with the school may well have given him something that will enhance his entire life.
    Thanks and well done to you all.’
– P. Woodfull

Intermediate Course

Jazz Piano BasicsTaking place in the New School’s Digital Piano Lab, Jazz Piano Basics is a hands-on course designed to give classical piano students of at least intermediate level (Grade V or equivalent) a solid foundation in jazz piano.

The course explores the unique rhythmic, melodic and harmonic aspects of jazz music and provides some basic approaches to playing in the genre, including:

  • Formation of chords and common chord progressions
  • Understanding and memorising ‘charts’ for standard jazz tunes
  • Improvisation – both melodic variation and soloing
  • How to accompany and play with a group
  • Voicing techniques
  • Aural training, intervals and chord recognition

‘An excellent introduction to jazz piano and improvisation. Playing with other jazz musicians at the end was a great experience!’
– C. O’Brien

‘Great foundation for a jazz beginner. Johnny has a very positive, open and encouraging approach.’
– S. Malin

Other Courses

Introducing Music TechnologyBeginning piano students should also consider taking Music Fundamentals, designed to supplement private tuition with the basics of music theory.

Our Jazz Blues Ensemble Workshop is an excellent introduction to blues and jazz ensemble playing and improvisation for those new to the forms.

Introducing Music Technology is a practical, hands-on course designed to teach absolute beginners how a PC and inexpensive home studio technology can be used to record and produce virtually anything at home.

Our Songwriting Workshop will help you to develop your creative ideas – in any musical style – and turn them into finished songs.

‘This course is perfect for anyone with an interest in music. It starts with the very basics of theory and the information is made easy to understand. There is a good atmosphere in the class, being with people who share your passion for music.’ [Music Fundamentals]
– I. Colgan

‘Great introduction to playing in an ensemble!’ [Jazz Blues Ensemble Workshop]
– B. Byrne

‘Very enjoyable course, with all details well explained by a knowledgeable and friendly teacher.’ [Introducing Music Technology]
– B. Clancy

‘This course gave me great confidence in songwriting, and to have the guidance of a professional songwriter was so helpful. The course helped me both lyrically and musically to realise my songwriting potential, and I am now constantly writing new material.’ [Songwriting Workshop]
– A. Bradley

Jazz EnsemblesStudents of jazz piano may be interested in joining one of our Jazz Ensembles:

  • Jazz Ensemble I is a beginner-intermediate level ensemble designed for instrumental students with little or no previous experience with jazz.
  • Jazz Ensemble II is an intermediate-advanced level ensemble designed for students with previous jazz experience. Jazz Ensemble II performs regularly at the school and at several Dublin-area venues.

Piano • Keyboard Faculty

New School Stage System

Piano and keyboard tuition at the New School is designed to work within our Stage System, a comprehensive methodology for assessing student progress, from absolute beginner to a professional qualification (diploma).

New School Stages, ten in all, are roughly equivalent to the ‘grades’ of graded music exams offered by widely recognised exam boards (ABRSM, RIAM, Trinity Guildhall, Rockschool, etc.) and progress from beginner to performing or teaching diploma level. Stages and their grade equivalents are:

  • Stage 1 (1 term of lessons or an Introducing group course for beginners, equivalent to Preliminary Grade)
  • Stage 2 (1 year of lessons, equivalent to Grade 1)
  • Stage 3 (equivalent to Grade 2 or an intermediate group course)
  • Stage 4 (equivalent to Grade 3)
  • Stage 5 (equivalent to Grade 4)
  • Stage 6 (equivalent to Grade 5)
  • Stage 7 (equivalent to Grade 6)
  • Stage 8 (equivalent to Grade 7)
  • Stage 9 (equivalent to Grade 8)
  • Stage 10 (equivalent to a Performing or Teaching Diploma)

Students who successfully complete a stage can be issued with a certificate of completion. Please let the school office know if you would like this certificate.

See About Our Stage System for more information.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for private, partner and small group lessons are listed in the Enrolment • Fees section of our website and depend on the length of lessons as well as the duration (number of terms) of enrolment:

Group course fees are listed on individual group course pages.

Enrolment • Booking

Enrolment for piano and keyboard tuition at Waltons New School of Music requires a completed enrolment form and, except for those students using payment plans, full payment of tuition fees.

Intensive Lesson booking requires a completed booking form and deposit.

Private and Partner Lessons • Ensembles


Group Courses for Adults • Teens


Introducing Piano/Keyboard for Children


Intensive Lessons


Gift Certificates


Your Feedback

Have you studied – or are you studying – piano or keyboard at the New School? We would appreciate it if you could take a few moments to give us your feedback in a brief online questionnaire about your experience here.


Other Information

Martin A. Walton Memorial Scholarships

Scholarships • PrizesTaking place in late May or early June each year, the New School’s annual Martin A. Walton Memorial Scholarship Competition awards full-year tuition scholarships in three categories:

  • Young Student of the Year (students aged 18 and under)
  • Mature Student of the Year (students aged 19 and over)
  • Most Promising Beginner (students who began studying their chosen instruments within the same academic year)

New School Ensemble Prize

This prize is awarded for the best performance in our scholarship competition by an instrumental, vocal or mixed ensemble made up of two or more students, as well as for progress over the school year.

New School Songwriting • Composition Prize

This prize is awarded for the most creative original composition or song for solo instrument, voice or ensemble, performed by the composer or songwriter alone or with ensemble for our scholarship competition.

See Scholarships • Prizes for more information.

Friday Casual Concerts

Our Friday Casual Concerts are a great opportunity for students to perform in public, in a relaxed and supportive setting, before friends, family and other students. These brief concerts take place once a month on Friday evenings at 7 pm in the school and allow individual students and ensembles to show off their skills and learn how to cope with nerves. They are also highly recommended for students preparing for grade exams.

End-of-Year Concert

End-of-Year Student ConcertOur End-of-Year Student Concert takes place in the National Concert Hall’s John Field Room each June and showcases some of our best students and ensembles, of all ages and in all music genres, as well as scholarship and prize winners in our Scholarship Competition. Performers are selected by their teachers and the school administration.

See School Concerts for more information.

Student Benefits

Currently-enrolled students (and parents of students) are entitled to several useful benefits, including:

  • Discounts on Waltons World Masters Series Events
  • Discounts from Waltons Music
  • Discounts on Ensembles, Sessions and Music Theory Courses
  • Discounts on Practice Facilities
  • Discounts on City-Centre Parking

See Student Benefits for more information.

Piano Tuition FAQs

Do I need a real piano at home to take piano lessons?

Although ‘real’ (acoustic) pianos or digital pianos with weighted keys are always best, they are not necessary to start. Some of our students have started with electronic keyboards and moved on as they progressed to acoustic or digital pianos. The most important thing to know when purchasing a keyboard is that it must have full sized keys and should have at least 60+ keys, or four octaves, so that you don’t outgrow it too quickly (a regular piano has 88 keys).

What is the best age for a child to begin lessons?

That depends on the child. Some children are ready for lessons as early as age five, and most are ready at the age of six. To start with, we offer both 30-minute private or partner lessons as well as a group course, Introducing Piano/Keyboard for Children. Children beginning piano lessons should be reading or in the process of learning to read, and be able to understand easy addition and subtraction. They should also be able to keep attention throughout a 30-minute lesson.

How can I help my child to progress more quickly?

Supporting your child’s musical development can seem daunting, especially if you haven’t played an instrument before yourself. But children have a natural desire to please, and the best way to help them progress quickly is simply to take an interest. Practice can be a lonely occupation, and children thrive on company. So sit with your child while he/she practices, and listen, comment and encourage. See also our Practice Tips page for more suggestions.

Do you teach adult beginners?

Yes! We teach students of all ages, and have many adult beginners at the school. Adults can start either with 30-minute lessons or our group course, Introducing Piano/Keyboard for Adults.

Do I / does my child need to practise every day?

Practice is an essential element of music learning, and spreading practice over the course of a week is far more effective than cramming it into the day or two before your next lesson. If it simply isn’t practical to practise every day, try to aim for five days per week.

How long should I / my child practise?

Many teachers tell their beginning students to practise for 20-30 minutes a day. Some students are not able to sustain productive practice for that amount of time. If this sounds like you, start with 10-15 minute sessions and see how you do. If you can work up to thirty minutes without feeling tired, then go for it. (Of course, more advanced students will need to practice more than this.)

In any case, more important than the length of time spent practising is the quality of practice, and the practice techniques used. Your teacher will show you the best way to practise certain passages involving particular technical skills. One of the first things a student learns is how to isolate more challenging passages, and to begin practice time with those passages, rather than starting at the beginning of the piece each time. For more information and suggestions about practice, see our Practice Tips page.

What method do you use?

Our piano teachers use a variety of methods and method books, supplemented by outside repertoire, scales and exercises, sight reading and ear training. Every student is unique, and the course of study will not be the same for any two students, but rather tailored to individual needs and goals. Students preparing for grade exams are also encouraged to learn pieces outside those prescribed for the exams.

What genres/styles of music do you teach?

Piano students at the New School receive a well-rounded education and are encouraged to explore different musical genres/styles. Although much of the best teaching methodology is classically-based, students can explore a wide range of repertoire, from blues to pop/rock. We also offer specialised tuition in jazz piano and a Jazz Piano Basics group course.

Can I learn about music theory?

Theory work is generally incorporated into piano lessons as required, but we do recommend additional theory study, if possible (see Music Fundamentals). The Associated Board (ABRSM) requires that students pass a Grade 5 theory exam before they can proceed to the Grade 6 practical exam.

Can you prepare me / my child for grade or practical examinations?

Piano tuition can certainly include preparation for grade examinations with several exam boards. Our teachers can also help prepare for Junior Cert. Music and Leaving Cert. Music practical exams.

Can you prepare students for diploma exams?

Yes. We have prepared students for associate and licentiate performance and teaching diplomas with several different examining boards. See Tuition Options – Performance • Teaching Diploma Preparation for more information.

Do I need to cut my fingernails for playing the piano?

Piano students do need to keep fingernails short to allow for the correct hand position. The proper playing technique is for the fingertips to attack the keys at all times firmly, with fingers curved. If the nails are too long, they will get in the way. They’re too long if you can see them when looking at your hand with the palm facing you.

Piano • Keyboard Tuition
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