Recently, I came across the website of Tim Topham, an Australian based pianist and teacher who, like me, tutors mainly popular music to his students.

His website contains some superb resources for piano teachers and I’d highly recommend you spend some time reading his blog posts for some valuable tips.

Tim has created a product called PianoFlix, which offers step by step advice on how to teach popular music to students using chords and progressions.

After a few e-mails back and forth, Tim agreed to do an interview with me explaining more about this product, and how it can really benefit piano teachers and help them teach popular music to their students..


Hi Tim. Thanks so much for doing this interview. What is PianoFlix?

PianoFlix is the first online training for piano teachers that deals specifically with how to teach pop music (in fact I think this is probably one of the first ever online courses for piano teachers full stop!). The course is designed for teachers of all levels, whether they’ve taught pop music before or not, and takes them through a step-by-step learning process starting with chords and progressions and ending with technology and arranging.

The full course of 8 videos range in length from 15-30 minutes and they can be watched at any time, from any device, fast-forwarded and replayed as much as teachers wish. Teachers automatically get a lifetime subscription which means there is no hurry to watch the training; they can watch a video, try out some ideas and then move on when they are ready.

The best thing is that the first two videos are completely free to access and watch and contain stacks of awesome information. In fact, people can’t believe that I’m giving away these two videos because they contain so much info and great content.

How did you come up with the idea?

The idea came about through other piano teachers! Through my blogging and presenting at conferences, people were always asking me about the things that I teach in this course: How to teach using chords? What resources I use on the iPad? Where to find the best music online? What if the pop song is too hard for the student to play? Etc. etc. I basically just kept notes of all these questions over the last four years and put every answer in this course.

I pretty much give away all my tricks and tips in this course so that teachers don’t have to do any trial and error in their teaching – they can rest assured that all my methods are tested and effective in the studio. The feedback so far has been great: there is such a need for this kind of training, especially for teachers who are ‘classically trained’ and haven’t tried these methods before.

Here are just a few testimonials: “I think what you are doing is absolutely amazing.  I have been visiting your website for some time now and always find useful, practical information.  I bought the pianoflix and ending up watching videos 2 – 4 last night and look forward to watching the rest.  Great job!  I will be using your ideas as soon as my lessons resume for the new year.” And “The videos are just what I need as I have had a number of beginning teens . I have been trying the same ideas you are talking about but need some structure and can’t wait to begin the year. Thank you”

Getting this kind of feedback means a lot to me as the whole goal of my blog is to inspire teachers.

Music Teaching Methods

– What is your background?

I’ve been a teacher for 20 years now, having taught in the UK, Perth, Tasmania and Melbourne. My first degree was a BMus and I also hold a DipEd, AMusA (distinction – piano performance) and an MBA in Educational Leadership. My teaching background is pretty varied – I haven’t taught piano all that time. Rather, I’ve taught a whole variety of subjects in schools including IT, Music, Maths, PE and even Outdoor Education, but my passion and love has always been music. I came back to full-time piano teaching around 7 years ago, a first driving to students’ houses afterschool while I did my usual teaching day job and then finally getting offered positions in high schools where I have my own studio. I’m now Head of Keyboard at one of Melbourne’s top Catholic Schools: Xavier College.

– Why do piano teachers need PianoFlix?

I’d say that piano teachers have to work out for themselves whether they need this training by watching the first two videos and learning about what the rest of the series is about. The biggest thing that teachers will learn from PianoFlix is that the is an incredible opportunity to teach students about the theory of music through pop because you’re going to be working with structural elements like chords and harmony. These are, without a doubt, THE BEST way to help students gain a deeper knowledge of music that goes well beyond just reading notes.

I would challenge teachers with this statement: “If you aren’t currently teaching with a chord-based focus to your students’ reading skills, then you are doing them a disservice as they are missing out on so much of the comprehension side of music. If you want your students to really understand music to the point of being able to create it themselves and play for the rest of their lives, then this course is for you as pop music is one of the best vehicles for this kind of music study. You don’t have to revolutionise your teaching and you certainly don’t have to give up the classical music, just start adding elements of this course and your students will respond instantly”.

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– Thanks Tim. And finally, what do you like about piano teaching?

I love that moment when students “get it”! When they can suddenly do something that they couldn’t do a minute ago and they know how they achieved that moment. I also love the fun of improvising with students as they get so much out of making up their own ideas.

It’s also one of those jobs where you pretty much run your own show and I like that I can do my own thing in my studio. I love testing out new ideas and trying new repertoire. I especially enjoy it when a student comes to a lesson and says that they want to learn some song or other that I have no idea about – it becomes a shared learning experience for both of us. (ps. If this interests you, then you’re going to love PianoFlix!).

I’ve been teaching popular music on the piano for a number of years and found I could really relate to the advice Tim shares in PianoFlix.

Where you’re a classical pianist who wants learn how to teach popular music to students, or if you’re a more experienced teacher in this genre, I would definitely take a closer look at this.

If you’d like to learn more about PianoFlix and access the first 2 videos for free, just click the link below..

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