Philippa Topham
About Philippa
We are on the move!

After 22 years in haslemere we are making a move in october to Swanage in the the beautiful Isle of Purbeck.  It is with great sadness I have to leave behind most of my 32 lovely students, many of whom have become real friends over the years, (some are continuing with lessons with me down in dorset, which is fantastic) but we are looking forward to a new life and all it has to offer.  I thank all my students and their very supportive parents for making my working life such a great pleasure. my greatest wish is that they all continue to enjoy playing the piano for the rest of their lives.


Prizes 2017 - 2018

I award small prizes once a year for the most number of mentions on this website for particularly impressive or pleasing playing.  There is one prize for each of primary, secondary, and adult age groups.  I count up all the points at the end of the year to find out who the winners are.
Sofia (with runner up Sabine) in Primary age group
Zoe (with runner up Finbarr) in Secondary age group
Jackie (with runner up Sue G) in Adult age group
MANY CONGRATULATIONS to these conscientious students.

But also to add that ALL my students are hard-working and a real pleasure to teach - I feel very lucky to have a job that doesn't feel like a job!

We have really enjoyed working towards these short performances in the last 10 minutes of the last lesson of each term.  There have been some wonderful videos taken also.

Piano Coffee Morning
What a pleasure it was to hear such beautiful music, followed by a friendly and fun-filled morning with 9 of my adult students.  Already looking forward to the next one!

Teach Your Parent a Piece Week

Otherwise known as Teach Your spouse/friend/sibling/child a Piece Week
The idea was to teach them a little every day, they practice, and then video the end result.  I think many people found this rewarding, revealing and fun!  The videos were most entertaining, especially one chap who cheated by using a player-piano, which I nearly fell for!

Huge Congratulations to Zoe for gaining a Distinction in her Grade 6 ABRSM exam - a well-deserved result!
And Enormous Congratulations to Claire for a whopping 146/150 in Grade 4 ABRSM jazz exam, with full marks in two pieces, and one off full marks in the third - what a brilliant result!
And Huge Congratulations to Charlotte for a Distinction in her Trinity Initial Piano exam - all the hard work paid off!
And yet more Congratulations to Barney for a Distinction in his Trinity Initial Piano exam - the result of very focused work.
WELL DONE to all.


How many points have you got - will you be throwing the Dice this week? Reward number 1 is teaching me to floss, so work out how to teach this dance in easy stages please!!

Olympic Games!

I find it amazing that a total of 234 points were awarded, showing that 234 pieces have been finished by 36 students in just 8 weeks!!  Well Done everyone!

Birthdays: coming soon!

Super Musicians of the Week: 19.11.18

Francesca, Gillian, Marek and Rocco for a great start to piano lessons!
And Ellie and Pam for a great start to singing lessons!

Super Musicians of the Week: coming soon!


The individual is blissfully ignorant!  They have no idea what they don't know!
The individual realises there is much to be learnt.
The individual understands how to do something.  However, this takes heavy conscious concentration.
The individual has had so much practice with a skill that is has become second nature and can be performed easily and effortlessly.

PRACTICE MATRIX - which quadrant are you in?



  Lack of practice                                Lack of practice

by parents


Fastest possible progress


Slow progress

No support


Reasonable progress (rare)


No progress

Helpful hints for Parents 

Please ensure there is always a pencil and rubber on the piano.  Encourage use of them to mark tricky points which need extra attention, if we haven't already!

Here is a rather endearing old cartoon called Sparky's Magic Piano with a message bigger than just doing your piano practice:

Ensure your son/daughter can practice in a room free of distractions such as TV, computer or siblings.

Do check the notebook as soon as possible after the lesson to avoid a week slipping by without supporting your child.

Stick the Checklist on the piano to encourage independent learning.

Either mark all old books with stickers for favourite pieces or photocopy them for a ring binder, so they are easy to find.  Encourage playing these from time to time to really enjoy playing pieces one already knows well.

Arrange to have a family song song with all the Christmas carols.

Listen to some lovely music for winter:
Winter from Vivaldi's Four Seasons
Sinfonia Antarctica by Vaughan Williams
The Skaters' Waltz by Waldteufel
The Snow Maiden by Rimsky-Korsakov

Keep watch over your child's posture: one's head weighs about 10 pounds so it needs to be kept over the spine to avoid putting a strain on the neck.  Think of a string pulling the head up to the ceiling.

Keep in mind my ultimate goal - to foster a life long love of music.  I aim to furnish each student with the tools to read whatever music they like, and a repertoire of beautiful pieces to play for the rest of their lives.

Mistakes can take place through tension, so sometimes it is necessary to lighten up and have a joke.

One test as to whether a piece is 'finished' or not is whether the performer looks relaxed while playing.

Let your son/daughter hear you saying something lovely about their playing to someone else once in a while.

Patience and perseverance are just two of the skills one learns through playing an instrument

Encourage time in the week to play favourite pieces - after all that is why one is learning to play!

Encourage singing as you play - either out loud or in your head.  All good musicians are singing inside as they play.

Practising tips

Use a metronome to diagnose your tricky spots.  Then slow it down further.  Good musicians always practice slowly, carefully and consciously.  How slow can you play?

When playing the piano we are aiming for a state of 'flow' - complete absorption in a task, to the point of not being aware of time passing.

There are roughly 10,000 minutes in between lessons so no excuses for not practising!!

Enjoy playing your really easy pieces from time to time - to see how easy they are and notice how far you have come.

To make the most progress have the discipline of practising every day - on busy days fit in 5 or 10  minutes in between other things.  On tired days do a normal amount, but maybe make it more mechanical practice to train the fingers.

When practising performing don't be distracted by little slips - don't waste brain power on what just happened - think forwards always.

DO use a pencil or stickers to highlight areas for special attention.  Spotting your own mistakes is half the battle!

Always have the notebook open when you practice.  Know what you are aiming to improve in each piece.

Practise being your own teacher using my checklist to take yourself forward.

Don't waste valuable brain power on getting frustrated.  Keep calm and play more slowly.

When performing show your enjoyment through your facial expression and body language.

Either mark all old books with stickers for favourite pieces or photocopy them for a ring binder, so they are easy to find.  Play playing these from time to time to really enjoy playing pieces you already know well.

Enjoy playing your Christmas carols by the light of the Christmas tree.

If rhythm is a problem then tap the rhythm on your legs first until secure and easy.

Aim to get into the anticipation zone - where you are constantly thinking ahead to prepare the fingers into the next position before they are needed.

Do give your relatives a concert by Skype or FaceTime

Every so often STOP playing in the middle of a piece and check you have relaxed wrists, arms, shoulders and neck.

One of the signs of a real musician is a person who cannot resist playing all the other pieces in their books.

Repeat tricky bits at all octaves on the piano.

The music notation and a pencil go hand in hand.  Never practise without a pencil when playing from the score.

Have an after-lesson check - what am I supposed to be practising in each piece?Then have a Pre-lesson check, 2 days before your lesson - have I done what I was supposed to do?

Small, small sections at least 3 times, gradually extending to larger sections - the most efficient way to practice. The brain can then remember what it needs to remember!

Former students

Most students have made music an important part of their lives and many have gone on to musical careers.  Tala Badri has opened her own highly successful music school in Dubai - the Centre for Musical Arts.  Check it out on  Mehernaz Pardiwalla leads her own music department in New Zealand and has won many competitions with her excellent choir.  Here she is conducting:
Olivia now works at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Record holders

Alice who had lessons for 12 consecutive years, and then sadly went away to University.

Caragh holds the record for ABRSM piano and flute exams with 142/150 at Grade 1 and 139/150 at Grade 6.
Claire is the record-holder for ABRSM jazz exams with 146/150 at Grade 4.
Alice holds the record for ABRSM theory exams with 100% at Grade 1.
Alice and Zoe jointly hold the record for Grade 5 theory with 97%.
Mehernaz holds the record for Trinity exams in both piano and flute with 91% at Grade 4 and 88% at Grade 7.
Philippa holds the record for LCM exams with 98% at Grade 8.
Tom is the record-holder for LCM jazz exams with 89% at Grade 3.
Finbarr holds the record for Rockschool exams with 91% at Grade 1.
Zoe holds the record for Rock & Pop exams with 88% at Grade 1.
Claire and Jo hold the record for Dip ABRSM with Distinction for the Teaching Diploma.
Simon holds the record for LTCL Flute Performance with 86%.
All Distinctions!
Not one student has failed an exam!

Workshop on piano adventures at cma dubai

Students on CT ABRSM Plus course Singapore


Seminar for teachers at CMA Dubai

Examining trip to Hong Kong

Concert at St Bride's, London

Motivating Musical Achievement, ABRSM Teachers' workshop in Cyprus




















Content copyright 2018. PHILIPPATOPHAM.COM. All rights reserved.