Frequently Asked Questions

Fees & Studio Policy

How much do lessons cost?

Full information on tuition fees can be found on the Tuition Fees page.

What does the tuition fee cover?

Your tuition fee covers:

  • Regular contact time in the weekly lesson
  • Lesson planning and preparation
  • Timetable reviews, correspondence and re-scheduling of lessons if needed
  • Sourcing new music and expansion of Studio music library

Your tuition fee does not cover:

  • Your own, personal instrument-related costs
  • Your own, personal equipment-related costs
  • Music books which I recommended you purchase
  • Exam entry fees (if you or your child would like to sit a practical or theory exam run by an external examining body)

What happens if I have to cancel a lesson?

The procedures for cancelling a lesson can be found on the Studio Policy page.

What happens if I have to suspend lessons?

The policy and procedures for suspending lessons can be found on the Studio Policy page.

What are the term dates?

The Term Dates for the current teaching year can be found on the Tuition Fees page.

Where is your Studio?

Trotter Music Studio

92 Belford Street
Dunedin 9013
New Zealand
021 130 6569

Age Suitability

Am I too old to start piano lessons?


Don’t let age stand in your way. I’ve taught lots of adult students – some starting in their 20s and others in their 60s and 70s. If learning to play the piano has been on your bucket list, then it’s time to tick it off!

Is my child too young to learn piano online?

The process of teaching online relies primarily on the use of demonstration, observation and verbal communication and instruction. As a consequence, there’s a greater reliance on the student’s cognitive abilities to concentrate, listen, absorb information and follow directions.

In my experience, older students are better suited to this increased dependency on verbal communication (sometimes quite detailed and very specific instruction) than their younger counterparts. So as a general rule, I only teach new, beginner students over the age of eight online.

If your child is under this age and you are keen to begin piano lessons online, we would undertake an initial introductory lesson assessment to see if lessons would be suitable. Previous musical experience in some form, for example, prior tuition on the piano or another instrument, would definitely be an advantage in this younger age group.

Even though your child may not be quite old enough to start online tuition, I have a lengthy waiting list, so it's never too early to complete the New Student Enquiry form and get your child registered with me.

Is my child too young to learn piano in-person?

As a general rule, I don’t teach beginner students under 5 years of age. That said, I have a lengthy waiting list, so it's never too early to complete the New Student Enquiry form and get your child registered with me.

If you have a child aged 5 and you would like them to begin piano lessons, we would have an initial introductory lesson to assess their suitability. At this age, so much depends on the individual student’s musical aptitude, concentration and general maturity. If they’re not quite ready for lessons at this point, they can be placed on my waiting list for tuition in the future.

International Tuition

Do you teach students outside New Zealand?

Yes - absolutely.

Students from all over the world are most welcome.

What are the best times to organise a lesson if I don’t live in New Zealand?

Naturally, our respective time zones will need to be considered and accommodated. I have a page dedicated to International Students with more information.

What do you do about daylight light saving time adjustments?

A student’s lesson time will always be calculated in the New Zealand time zone and does not change due to daylight saving. More information is available on the International Students page.

Equipment Related Questions

Do I need a piano before I begin lessons?

Believe it or not, I do get asked this question more regularly than you would think! Yes – you will need to have an instrument available so you can practise in between your weekly lessons.

What kind of piano do I need?

You can use an acoustic piano (a normal piano), or a digital piano. Bear in mind, that an acoustic piano will need to be regularly tuned to stay in optimal condition.

A digital piano can often be more convenient for students, particularly if you are short on space in your home. It is also more portable and doesn’t require tuning. Additionally, digital pianos will come with a headphone jack so you can practise ‘silently’ – something to consider in a busy household or if the piano is in a shared living space.

If you are wanting to purchase a digital piano, there are a couple of features you want to make sure it has:

  • A full-length keyboard (88 keys)
  • Touch sensitivity – this is the ability to play loud and soft
  • Weighted Keys – to simulate the feel of the natural key weight of an acoustic piano

My first love will always be an acoustic piano, and for more advanced students, I would strongly recommend you have the real thing. However, for beginners to intermediate level pianists, a good digital piano should fit the bill.

What should I look for when buying a piano?

Piano's are usually an expensive purchase and you want to make sure you don't buy a dud. Here are some of the things I advise people to investigate when they ask me what they should look for when buying a piano.

  • Check out the whole range of the instrument, play a variety of big chords, and some faster passages
  • Explore the dynamic range of the instrument (play slowly and quickly into the keys). Does the sound still project well when it is quiet?
  • Experiment with different articulation effects, legato, staccato etc.
  • Investigate the sustaining and soft pedals - how far do you have to push the sustaining pedal down before it engages?
  • Check that the keys are all evenly weighted to play, i.e. that one note isn’t louder or softer compared with its neighbor when you’re using the same touch.
  • How ‘heavy’ or ‘light’ is the action? Are you having to play with more weight than normal or is it really easy to play? Ideally, you don’t want it too heavy or too light.
  • How high or low is the music stand? Will it be easy to read from?
  • What is the tonal quality like – is it mellow or brighter – can you create a warm sound? What sound do you want?

What sort of seat should I use at the piano?

Ideally, you should use an adjustable piano stool which will allow you to adjust the height of the stool to your particular requirements.

I realise this may not be possible for everyone, so instead, find a chair or stool which is a good height so that when you put your arms up on the keyboard to play, your forearms are level and parallel with the floor - not angled up or down. If you need to use a small cushion to tweak the height, do so.

If you’re using a chair with a back, try to sit on the front half of the chair and not have your weight leaning backwards, resting your back on the back of the chair.

Avoid using an office chair which rotates - you want something which is stable.

Music Matters

What type of music do you teach?

I teach a wide range of musical styles including:

  • Classical
  • Contemporary music, such as music from well-known films, TV shows and Theatre productions
  • Jazz style pieces
  • Pop and Rock tunes ranging from Queen to Adele…and many more!

I want you to enjoy the pieces you’re playing so we will discuss the type of repertoire you’re interested in and want to learn.

I’m new to piano – what are some of the things I’m going to learn?

Starting out is a really exciting time! You’ll learn how to read music, lay the foundations of a good technique, hone your listening skills and so much more!

A ‘Journey of Discovery’ takes you on an in-depth look at the various practical skills and knowledge I’ll be introducing you to in your first year of tuition. Please explore this page if you’d like to know more.

Do you teach Jazz to an advanced level?

Although I’m a Classically trained musician, I do incorporate a lot of jazz music and improvisation in my lessons for those students who are interested. The improvisation work is tailored to beginner and intermediate level students, so if you’re looking for more advanced Jazz training, I’d recommend seeking out a specialist Jazz instructor.

Do you teach theory?

Not every student is a theory buff, but I do strongly recommend and encourage including theory work in the lessons, particularly for younger students. Gaining a greater understanding of the written symbols and knowing how these should then be interpreted, and ultimately translated into sound, all contribute to developing a well-rounded and ‘literate’ musician.

Piano Practice Related Questions

Why do I need to practise?

Learning to play the piano takes time and regular reinforcement – after all, you’ve probably never required your fingers and wrists to undertake such finely nuanced movements before. As with any activity which needs sophisticated motor control, awareness and repetition are important factors. Imagine a tennis player practising to hit the ball into a specific location – the position of the body needs to be just right, the angle of the racket needs to be just right, the amount of power in the stroke needs to be just right, and probably most importantly, the shot can’t just be a lucky fluke achieved every now and again – it must be reproducible, called upon whenever required – especially if it’s needed to win the match!

The same applies for musicians. We’re finely tuned athletes!

I can’t remember who said it, but they were very wise - “We don’t practise until we get it right, we practise so we don’t get it wrong”.

How much practise should I be doing?

Establishing a regular practice routine and sticking to it is the key to making progress.

While you don’t have to practise every single day (sometimes you just can’t fit it in) at least four or five sessions a week would be good to aim for. If it’s much less than that, your progress will be impeded.

Avoid trying to cram all of your practice into one session. The time in between your practice sessions is valuable as your brain will be consolidating all of those new neural pathways you’ve been laying down!

As you progress over time, the length of practice you will need to do will naturally increase.

Here’s a rough guide of the practise lengths I recommend to my students:

  • For younger beginners (ages 5 to 7), 10 – 15 minutes. Older children could do a little more, heading towards 20 minutes as a goal
  • Adult beginners can aim for 20 – 30 minutes – yes, you can take it – you’re better at concentrating than the wee ones!
  • At a Grade 2 & 3 Level: approximately 30 - 40 minutes
  • At a Grade 4 & 5 Level: approximately 40 - 50 minutes
  • At a Grade 6 & 7 Level: approximately 50 – 60 minutes
  • At a Grade 8 Level: approximately 60 – 90 minutes

Exams & Performance

Do I have to sit an exam?

No – not if you don’t want to.

But if you’re keen to undertake an exam, I’m more than happy to work with you towards that goal. 

Do I have to perform in public?

Only if you want to. There will be opportunities to play to other students in a relaxed and supportive environment if you’d like to improve your performance skills and gain more confidence.


What music books have you written?

I have written five books which range from music for pre-Grade 1 students to more advanced learners at Grade 6.

‘Garden Party’ – Pre-Grade 1
Imagine a miniature world where spiders, butterflies, ants and ladybirds come together for a ‘Garden Party’

‘Garden Playtime’ – Grade 2 – 3
Revisit a world where garden creatures come to life in a fun and imaginative way

‘Fantasy & Fairy Tale’ – Grade 4 – 5
Explore a mystical realm where characters from ‘fantasy and fairy tale’ come to life

‘Freestyle’ – Grade 3 – 5
10 lively piano solos embracing a sense of freedom and spontaneity

‘More Freestyle’ – Grade 4 – 6
A collection of pieces ranging in style from gentle and contemplative to extroverted and energetic

Where can I buy your music books?

Selected digital downloads of some of my pieces can be obtained from the Hal Leonard music website.

However, your best option is to contact me directly for the book you’re interested in. You can go to the Contact Me page and in the ‘Subject’ drop down menu, select ‘Book Purchase’.