How you actually learn…

I received an email yesterday from someone who has decided to sign up to online piano lessons after trying out the service for free. I decided to share some today, not as an advert for the site, but because it is a brilliant snapshot into how people actually learn and improve. “The live streams are great as well on a Wednesday and even though a lot of it is still above my level of playing I find that you still manage to occasionally answer a question I have when you’re explaining an answer”. “My finest achievement yet was getting the key of this weeks song right after sitting at the piano for a half an hour trying to figure out the first chord”! “Thanks a million again for giving me the first month free as I learned loads from learning just a few of the songs on the page. It’s given me a good foundation in places, especially now that I’ve

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The Teenage Theme Night Video Library…

Details of where to find videos of almost 450 adult theme night performances were shared with readers last Monday, but out of all those performances, I’m not sure we could have found a picture with the raw energy in the one below. There’s something special about the attitude that the teenage theme night performers bring to their shows – and if you want to check it out for yourselves, all videos from the last three end-of-year showcases, as well as the current series of the Teenage Theme Night Sessions are now available here. With thanks to Conor Bastible for doing the much of the heavy lifting on this…

Theme Nights: The Complete History

So today I’m delighted to present the results of a project on which I and some colleagues have been working for a number of years. As of today, you can see almost the entire library of theme night performances, dating back to June 2014 and Theme Night #10, all the way up to Theme Night #26 which took place last month. I say almost because unfortunately the videos from Theme Night #18 remain elusive for now but we have not given up hope of finding them. You can however you can relive your pick of almost 450 performances from 16 theme nights by choosing the appropriate link from this page. I must at this point acknowledge Kris and Dominika Manulak, whose trojan recording and editing work over the years has enabled us to have these wonderful memories. And indeed some of the theme night crew who helped me upload this mammoth number of videos and especially James McManus who has

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Unfair judgements

I have written in these pages before about the dangers of comparison. And more specifically here about how it can stunt your development as a musician – and a person. I heard something along these lines again only yesterday. ‘She can do things that I can’t do – I know she has been doing this a lot longer than I have but still I feel I should be able to do those things’. But we don’t judge a baby for not being able to walk. Or a young sapling for not being as big as a much older tree. Or a puppy for peeing where he shouldn’t. These are where they are along their path of development and we accept that. And likewise with our endeavours, we should have a similar acceptance of where we are. It’s probably down to a combination of our aptitude for what it is we’re doing and the work we have put in. And we

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Normal People

During filming of the surprisingly realistic schools GAA match in one of the early episodes, director of the show Lenny Abrahamson and the lead male actor Paul Mescal had devised a move which would leave the fictitious Sligo native one-on-one with the opposing goalkeeper. Mescal’s character Connell would score the winning goal and be the hero of the hour in his school. The only problem was that the opposing goalkeeper pulled off two amazing saves to ruin the narrative and prolong the filming process. The Oscar-winning director eventually had to have a word with him, which is why in the take that made it into the show, he looks rather flat-footed as the ball flies past him. He is Adam O’Connor from Blanchardstown and Gaelic Football isn’t even his first sport. But he was the centre of attention this week when previously unused footage of these outtakes was released by Abrahamson, showing off his prowess to the world. One of

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Free LIVE piano lesson tomorrow…

An extra Tuesday blog for you this week – just to let you all know that at 6pm tomorrow (Wednesday) I will be going live on my Facebook page with a piano lesson for you all. Specifically, I’ll be going through the answers to the questions in yesterday’s blog, and the questions in this week’s Weekly Challenge – all based on the iconic song – Billy Joel’s Piano Man. I’ll be going through the melody, the chords, and famous piano parts from the song including the intro and the solo with clear visual demonstrations of how to play everything. So please tune in tomorrow – I’d love to see as many of you as possible, but be advised that you will get more out of the lesson if you have a look at the above questions first and try to answer them.

Ok let’s see what you got…

So – here are ten questions on Piano Man – you’ll have to listen to it to figure out the answers. Some knowledge of music is required, though not for every question. Submit your answers (see below) and the winner gets a free one-month subscription for a person of their choice to my online tuition website. And there are no trick questions! Assuming there are 3 businessmen, how many people feature in the lyrics of the song? How many verses in the song? E.g. – Verse 1 is this length – It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday, the regular crowd shuffles in. There’s an old man sitting next to me, makin’ love to his tonic and gin. How many choruses in total in the song (Sing us a song you’re the piano man etc)? How many instruments feature in the song? Can you name them? What was unusual about this song being a hit? The lyrics of Verse 2 (and

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Little Richard

The man who influenced so many died last week. Here are two great articles about his life, career and legacy, and below is a bit of fun I had with one of his songs today – including an iconic guitar intro that was stolen from the horn line from this song.


I put out a call for a running buddy a few months ago. I did so because I know after years of trying to motivate myself that I find it easier to exercise regularly if I have someone by my side, someone to whom I am accountable, someone who will miss me if I don’t show up. Without this someone I find it hard to stay motivated, to get myself out of the house for a run, despite my best intentions. It’s like the dozens of people who signed up for my free online piano lessons when this crisis began two months ago. Everyone started with a bang, full of motivation to improve but if I look today, I will probably see that most of these well-intentioned students haven’t visited the website since March. No judgement here – it’s the same the world over with online (and other) courses. Many of those who do still regularly engage with the website

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