Image of piano keys

Choosing a piano class at City Lit

1 July 2022
Posted in: Courses

So you’ve decided to learn the piano? Or maybe you’re returning to playing after a break of many years? Either way, welcome to City Lit! We have a full range of piano classes and so there’s sure to be a class that’s right for you here in the heart of Covent Garden or online.

How will I learn?

All our classes are taught in small groups

Learning in a group is great fun. You will find lively discussion, theory quizzes, individual exercises and good company in your class.

Piano/keyboards classes have a maximum of 15 per group and piano workshops have a maximum of 12 per group so it won’t be too crowded.

You will have access to digital or acoustic pianos at City Lit

  • Piano/keyboards classes are taught in our digital piano suite with one instrument per student (and headphones for private playing)
  • Piano workshop classes take place on Yamaha or Steinway pianos. Repertoire is specified in advance and you will play in turn in front of your class
  • Online classes: use your own piano or keyboard at home and meet with your tutor and classmates via Zoom
Yamaha grand piano at City LitYamaha grand piano at City Lit
Our Yamaha piano room 212

Do I need to buy anything?

Books to buy

You will need to buy your own music books (due to copyright) so please budget for an extra £12 (approx.) per term.

You may also borrow music from local libraries. We recommend Barbican Library for a good selection of music.

Where possible the relevant books are listed on each course outline. Please read this carefully before you book.

Student discount: Get 10% off at our local independent bookshop, Foyles. Just show proof of your course enrolment at the music checkout counter

To see the lists of piano repertore and textbooks required for each course this year click here: City Lit piano repertoire books [Google Doc]

Buying a piano

Many students ask us advice on buying a piano. An acoustic piano is best and we particularly like Yamaha and Kawai pianos but there are good deals on all sorts of second hand pianos.

Why not visit Piano Auctions [external website] or Piano Warehouse [external website] to see what is on offer.

Make sure you ask about moving fees before you buy the piano as you may need a specialist company to deliver it to your house.

A keyboard or digital piano is also great for beginners up to about level 4. You can use headphones to play in private and they’re smaller and easy to store:

  • Make sure the model you choose has full-size keys (not toy/mini piano keys) and, if possible, it has a full-length keyboard (88 keys long).
  • There are several local keyboard/digital piano shops with showrooms close by to City Lit college.
A Yamaha baby grand piano in a City Lit classroomA Yamaha baby grand piano in a City Lit classroom
Our Yamaha baby grand piano room 211

Which piano class is right for me?

Classes for absolute beginners

If you are an absolute beginner, new to playing the piano and new to reading music notation, then it’s easy: just start at the very beginning with our Piano/keyboards 1A and work through each of the classes in the order listed below.

We have courses at many different times and extra piano courses for beginners will be added through the year. There is a drop-down menu on our website so check this is set to your preferred time/date for you before you enrol.

Once enrolled you must attend only the class you have chosen: for example, if you miss one of your classes you cannot drop into another instead. If you have any questions please email us and we’ll be happy to help.

Choosing the right level for returning pianists

If you have existing piano skills you don’t need to start at the very beginning: just join us at the correct level for you. Each Level corresponds (roughly) to an ABRSM grade. So for example, Piano workshop 3 classes are preparing to learn grade 3 standard repertoire.

Please check the individual course outlines for more details of the books you are requested to buy for each class as this will often give you the most clear indication of the level of a class.

If you are unsure of your current level, please email us and make an appointment to come and play to us for some advice. We also have a special Piano: return to playing class for pianists between grades 4-6 who seek to grow their confidence.

Changing classes

If you choose the wrong class you may transfer immediately to a different course; just contact our enrolments team on 020 3871 3111 or log into your City Lit account and request a transfer online. NB: Transfers may only take place in the first three weeks of a course.

If you begin to find the level is unsuitable later on in your course then don’t panic, there will still be plenty to learn but you can choose a more appropriate module the next term. That’s the idea of the short course modules, they allow flexibility because everyone learns at different speeds.

If you have any doubts at all: please contact us to arrange an advice session. Bring some music, play us a piece and we’ll help you choose.

The full sequence of piano classes at City lit

Our piano/keyboards room 207

Beginners-intermediate: piano/keyboards classes

Our Steinway pianos room 101

Advanced Piano Workshops

Classical piano workshops function like a ‘masterclass’. Everyone prepares a piece to play in front of the class. Repertoire is set by the tutor.

Once you can play at an approximate grade 5+ standard please consider: Keyboard harmony courses, or Pop piano, Jazz piano, Latin piano.

Advanced classes (post grade 8 standard)  are taught on a Steinway concert piano. Many of our students repeat these classes to keep their skills sharp, to enjoy meeting other pianists and exploring new repertoire.

  • Piano Repertoire: three modules per year
  • Piano: advanced workshop:  three modules per year
  • Piano masterclass: Short, occasional courses hosted by a visiting expert. A superb chance to get together with other pianists and explore a specific part of the repertoire in detail. You must prepare your chosen piece in advance.

Short courses for July / August 2023

Pop, Latin and Jazz piano: please read each course outline carefully as some of these courses require previous knowledge of the style.

  • Pop piano 
  • Jazz piano 1

If you are interested in learning Jazz, please read our blog post: Why learn Jazz? Embracing Transformation, Musicality & Expression

Musicianship and music theory

Why not take a complimentary course to enhance your understanding of musical skills and musical notation. Please see our Musicianship and music theory programme for some ideas