City Lit Blog

Choosing a piano class at City Lit

Story added 28th Jul 2016

Choosing a piano class at City Lit

Choosing a piano class at City lit

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.

Group Learning

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.

Digital or acoustic pianos?

  • Piano/keyboards classes are taught in our digital piano suite with one keyboard 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.

You will need to buy your own music books (due to copyright) so please budget for an extra £12 (approx.) per term. And if you go to our local independent bookshop, Foyles, as a City lit student you will get a 10% discount: just show proof of your course enrolment at the music checkout counter. 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.

Buying a piano

Many students ask us advice on buying a piano. Here’s a quick guide:

An acoustic piano is best. We like Yamaha and Kawai pianos but there are very 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 fine 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 piano keys) and 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. Music Room [external website] is on Denmark St where you will also find several other music shops. And Yamaha [external website] have a showroom close to Soho Square with lots of digital pianos to view. Jacques Samuels [external website], Rose Morris pianos and Peregrine’s Pianos [external website] are also close by.

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 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 learning grade 3 standard repertoire. If you look at ABRSM exam pieces you will get an idea of what each level is learning to play. 

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.

Changing classes

If you choose the wrong class you may transfer immediately to a different course; just contact our enrolments team on 020 7831 7831 or log into your citylit 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 (from September 2019)


The very first year of piano at City Lit: from complete beginners to simple hands-together pieces, including basic music-reading (formerly: Piano foundation)


The second year of piano at City Lit: from simple hands-together pieces to grade 1 level repertoire (formerly: Piano Level 1)


The third year of piano at City Lit: achieve fluency at a grade 1 level and then begin some grade 2 studies


The fourth year of piano at City Lit: achieve fluency at a grade 2 level and then begin some grade 3 studies


At this point you may like to move to Piano workshop 3 or to stay in the digital keyboard room to consolidate your grade 3+ skills further (formerly: Transition workshop)


Also – check early bird options for early morning classes which are just 1hour long and intensive classes (2 hour evening sessions).


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


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


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.


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

Professional Development


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.


Professional Development

Please also consider our programme of Professional & Personal Development For Musicians to find courses such as:

Courses for teachers:

And music technology courses such as: