PBE Student: Karen | Occupation: IT Sales

Musical background prior to joining PBE: Classical piano (Grade 1-3)

Why did you stop learning classical piano when you were young?


I learned to play the classical piano when I was studying in Primary 5, only to find the learning journey short-lived; I did not enjoy classical music as much as pop, and was quickly bored by it. I don't listen to classical music at all!




What motivated you to start playing the piano again?


It has always been one of my biggest dreams to be able to play the piano. One day, I decided to Google for pop piano music schools in Singapore, and there, I came across PBE. One of the videos on the website was featuring an improvised version of Jay Chou’s music composition. That blew me away and I decided to put my foot down and signed up as a student. I have been enjoying every piano lessons since.




How do you find our learning syllabus?


It is very comprehensive and very much tailored for beginners with little or no music background.




Who is your favorite idol and did you learn to play a lot of his or her songs in PBE?


Jay Chou!! Yes, and of course many others. PBE has a very updated library of songs. Most are my favorites and I like them very much.




Will you be playing one of those pieces for us this year at PBE’s Piano Recital?


No. Next year, maybe *chuckles*




Besides, playing the piano, what do you do during leisure?


I enjoy playing online games and spending time with my daughter. I am quite a foodie too! Try out the Chicken rice at AMK Interchange market!

PBE Student: Steven | Occupation: Project Manager Musical background prior to joining PBE: Zero musical background

You mentioned that you were inspired to play the piano by an unusual encounter. Tell us more.


It was an encounter with a pianist who was playing a Super Mario tune at a café in states that intrigued and stirred my passion. I mean, he was playing SUPER MARIO and played it very well; I like video games and had played Super Mario on several game stations. That impressionable moment of the pianist playing at the cosy café, sparked an idea in me. “How nice if I can too, play on the piano as entertainment to a bunch of friends.” Besides, piano seems to be the only musical instrument that appeals to me more for its enchanting sound. So, when I found PBE , I took the step to sign up for piano lessons.




What do you plan to achieve in learning piano?


I only wanted to learn piano and play during leisure. It is a hobby to me, and I am happy to be able to play my favourite songs. That is what I like about learning piano here in PBE; music examinations are optional. On the contrary, most music schools in Shanghai emphasize a lot on academic achievements which I am not keen in at all. I am glad that PBE promotes fun and leisure piano playing.




What is your impression of PBE?


Professionalism is the word I will use to describe PBE. The instructors are very polite and helpful too. I enjoy my lessons very much as well. I have learned to play many songs that I like, especially the Korean pop and anime songs, like The Final Fantasy.




Judging from your speaking accent, you must have lived in the states for awhile?


Oh yes, you are right. I lived in Texas for many years. The culture is very different as you can imagine. You need a car to survive in the states. Everywhere is so far! And it took me quite awhile to adapt to the climate as well.

PBE Student: Huiyi | Occupation: Church Keyboardist | Musical background prior to joining PBE: Classical Piano Grade 8

What made you decide to take up pop piano lessons?


I used to take classical piano lessons in my secondary school days but I stopped eventually due to my increased school assignments; you need time to practice the piano, and I could not the time to do that back then. I would rather have some fun time with my friends and family whenever I was free from studies. The desire to learn pop piano came, when I started to play for my church. I want to improve, and it seems that signing up for proper piano lessons is the best way to help my progress. So, here I am! (Smiles)




How is your learning progress now?


During the last 4 months with PBE, I have learned a lot of new playing techniques and theory and also realized that my playing style in the past were wrong! Now, it is more on the application of the rules that I have learned from my music instructor, which can be quite confusing at times. However, my instructor is very patient in guiding me. He is also a very, very good pianist. I learn a lot from him and personally feel that his guidance has provided me a strong foundation, knowledge and groundings for my piano playing.




What are the differences between classical and pop piano learning?


Classical music is based on accuracy and playing according to the composer. In pop, theory is very important as you need them to help you with your improvisation. You also need more inspiration and ideas in playing pop. I listen to artists like Jason Mraz, and Michael Buble.




Do you compose or sing?


No, I don't. But I hope one day I am able to write worship songs for the ministry.




What would be your advise for people who plays for worship in church if they wish to improve in their playing technique?


Everyone tends to play what they think sounds nice, but coming here made me realise that it is also important to learn all the proper theory and technique. By understanding all the rules and theories, your playing becomes more intentional and gradually you will feel the difference and that your skills improved.

PBE Student: Nick | Occupation: Administrator in hospital | Musical background prior to joining PBE: A bit of guitar playing

When did you first start developing an interest in pop piano?


I first took interest in pop piano since young. I have always admired people who can play the piano I was even envious of my cousins who could play the piano very well. That became a dream that I want to achieve – to be able to play the piano.




What have you learned at Play By Ear so far?


I learned how to read the music sheets and also how to play a song in various different styles. It is very interesting to know how you can play a song in so many different ways; I like Jazz and ballads more.




Are your friends and family supportive of you learning music?


Yes. In fact, I actually decided to take up music lessons with PBE because I wanted to surprise my girlfriend when I propose to her.




Wow! How did you propose to her?


I booked a concert hall at Newton, and played “Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence” by Ruichi Sakamoto, and she was very, very touched.




Are you kidding me? You booked a concert hall just to propose to her? Was it a good performance?


Yup, it was at the French Alliance Theater. Erm, I think I did well. No one was there; there were no audience, just my girl friend and I. So no one could judge my playing that night. *Laughs!* That was a difficult piece, and took me quite awhile.. To me, I still have not mastered it well.




This is still quite unbelievable. Wow. I am digesting this. Do you consider yourself as a very romantic guy?


I don't think what I did was romantic. I guessed I wanted to do something special for her, putting my efforts and all... Well, the whole process was fun!

PBE Student: Susanne | Occupation: Retiree

Musical background prior to joining PBE: Zero musical background

How do you know about PBE?


I found PBE on the website. The concept of learning to play music by ear was what got me signing up with the school.




What started you learning pop piano in PBE?


Ever since I was a kid, I have always liked the sound of the piano. However, back in the early Singapore days, piano learning was a luxury. So, I did not get to learn it. Now that I am retired, it is the best time for me to get down to those things or hobbies I wanted to do in the past, and to fulfill those dreams that I could not due to the busy working days. I want to live my life to the fullest and have been keeping my days purposeful with many exciting activities such as dancing, painting, playing pop piano, volunteering for missionary work, traveling and many more.




Do you find piano learning challenging at your age?


No, in fact I enjoy the learning process. I was initially hesitant about signing up for the piano lessons only now, at my current age. I had doubts if I could still play but finally chose not to believe in the myths that piano learning is only for the young and as one ages, our fingers just get too stiff to be playing the keys.




Describe your first lesson in PBE.


It was mind challenging as I was conscious about my fingers flexibility. However, the instructor was very patient with me, and with his loving guidance, I was able to overcome my fear and first obstacle. In all learning, it will always be the most challenging at the beginning. However, once you become more familiar with the playing techniques, the learning curve gets easier too. With that in mind, I persevered through patience.




What is your advice to adults who want to take up piano lessons but are mindful of their age and their fingers being too stiff?


If I can do it, you can too. Nothing is impossible if you put your heart to it and try. Lastly, enjoy the learning journey.

PBE Student: Daryl | Occupation: Economics, 4th year in NUS – Honors | Musical background prior to joining PBE: Classical piano Grade 8

How do you know about PBE?


It was through a friend, Nicholas. He was learning from my current Jazz music instructor – Jonathan. When I met Nicholas and saw what he could do on a piano, I asked him about it. Nicholas then told me about Jonathan, so I came down to PBE to learn from him as well.




Why piano?


The reason why I chose to learn to play a piano was because I learned classical piano previously until Grade 8 and stopped when I was in Secondary 4. The biggest take away was that I did not know where I could go after Grade 8, but PBE showed me where I can go from there, new possibilities and more things I can do with the keyboard.


What are the challenges you faced when you first started learning Jazz?


It was ver scary mostly because when you learn classical, you have the score to follow. Everything is more or less decided what you should do and you just follow the instructions. Jazz is scary, yet exciting because it is more or less up to me to decide what I want to do, especially the improvisation. I enjoyed playing the keys more after I learned here in PBE.




How would you rate your instructor?


Jonathan? He is A—mmmazing… The things that he can do, blows your mind away. He is also very friendly; always laughing. Haha.




What are some of the numbers you learned from Jonathan?


The first song I learned to play was “Summertime”. The most recent ones that I learned are “Cry Me A River” and “Overjoy”, by Stevie Wonders. Very challenging songs, I must say..




Your girlfriend must be very impressed that you can play a piano. Is that why she fell for you?


*Laughs!* Probably. We met in a Chinese pop singing school and over the course I would perform on the keyboard and sing and she told me that those were one of the things that she got attracted to me. So, I guess so too, haha. My girlfriend is doing Pop vocal in Lasalle, by the way.

PBE Student: Ying Er | Occupation: Chemistry, 2nd year in NUS – Honors | Musical background prior to joining PBE: Classical piano Grade 8

Ying Er, would you like to share with us your music journey since childhood?


I started learning the violin and piano (classical) at the age of four and love playing these musical instruments ever since. Back in the tertiary years, I was in the music elected program and had many performance opportunities with the school orchestra. I was also a member of the Singapore National Youth Orchestra. Today, learning pop piano is a new musical journey that I have embarked on with Play By Ear Music School. This experience has opened me to a whole new level in the area of music, and I am excited by it.




How has this new journey of learning pop piano excite you?


When compared to classical piano playing, pop playing infuses self-expression and creativity into the songs. That encourages me to improvise the music pieces I play, to my own liking and style.


Also, I get to play many Korean, Chinese and English pop songs that I like.




Can you elaborate more on how classical and pop piano playing are different?


Instead of reading off the notations (one by one) in the music score and being fully independent on what is written on it, you learn to read simple notes and play a song by ear, alongside with the various playing techniques or patterns taught in the PBE syllabus. It was challenging to switch from classical to pop initially. The fact that the music sheets are in simplified versions (single right hand melody notations and chords only), made me feel handicapped; I had to visualize how to play the music piece with my own expression. However, with the help of my instructor’s guidance, I was able to grasp the playing techniques quickly. Soon, I am able to play the music piece with much ease.




Have you performed before at any of our Annual Piano recitals?


Yes! I have performed at PBE Diminished 7th Piano recital (Part II/III) in August 2012 - A Korean pop song that was one of my favorite - It Has To Be You.




What do you aspire to be in life?


I aspire to be a chemistry teacher, and may consider teaching music in future should an opportunity arises.

PBE Student: James | Occupation: Trader

Musical background prior to joining PBE: Close to none

Do you have any musical background when you first joined PBE?


No, though I learned how to play a piano when I was very young, but I cannot recall what I have learned. That was donkey years ago!




Why did you choose to learn pop piano instead of Classical?


Er.. nobody likes classical. Right? (laughs)




How do you find our music syllabus? Are they comprehensive?


Yes, I would say the syllabus is much tailored for all levels including beginners. Everything seems very structured which works for me. My music instructor is very patient, and that really helps. I enjoy my music lessons. They are fun.




Name us some of your favourite pop idols.


I used to listen to alternative rock bands like Oasis and Goo Goo Dolls. For now, I like Katy Perry’s and Taylor swift’s music.




Do you intend to form your own alternative rock band?


I took up piano playing more for leisure actually. However, if there is an opportunity to play a band, why not?




Besides music, what other hobbies do you have?


I do sports, and read. I like travelling too. One of my favourite countries is Australia. The people are nice. Not forgetting that they have pretty fine wineries there too.

PBE Student: Slim | Occupation: Clinic Assistant |

Musical background prior to joining PBE: Zero musical background

What motivated you to learn music at your current age and not younger?


I see playing the piano as a lovely way to prevent dementia, because it pushes you to engage your mind as you coordinate between reading the music sheet and moving both hands. I was on my way to Raffles Hospital one day when I chanced upon PBE signboard. Since I have always wanted to learn music since young, I decided to find out more about the courses and went to the reception without a second thought.




Were you nervous during your first lesson?


My first lesson was just a trial to ensure that I had made the right choice. After the trial lesson, it got me more determined and enthusiastic to take up the piano lessons with PBE.




How do you find the learning syllabus?


My music instructor’s explanation made the theory and playing techniques in the syllabus easy to comprehend. The syllabus works as a very good follow up whenever a lesson is concluded. It is something you would want to go back over and over again to re-enforce what has been taught.




What do you think of our slogan?


I am totally in-sync with the slogan because the slogan reflects my learning style. 'Life is like playing the piano. First you play by the rules. Then you forget all about the rules and you play by ear.' Absolutely brilliant!




How would you rate our instructors and PBE?


The instructors are really good. They customize lesson plans according to each student’s learning style, and always get feedback from us if we are achieving what we wanted to learn in PBE.  Overall, PBE provides a very conducive learning environment for the adults.




Do you mind revealing your age?


Oh not at all! I am 50 years old this year and I hope to inspire anyone reading this!

PBE Student: Jingqi | Occupation: Academic Teacher

Musical background prior to joining PBE: Classical Piano (Grade 4-5)

When did you start learning pop piano and what inspired you?


I have learned pop piano for about 1 ½ years. I used to learn classical piano but it was too hard to pick up so I decided to try learning pop piano instead since it is all about improvisation and playing by ear. I was googled on the internet for pop piano music school and chanced upon PBE website.  After my first trial lesson, I decided to pick up pop piano with PBE.




Were you nervous during your first lesson?


My first lesson was just a trial to ensure that I had made the right choice. After the trial lesson, it got me more determined and enthusiastic to take up the piano lessons with PBE.




How is your progress so far?


I am glad that I can now play a music piece beautifully; My mum even thought she was listening to a music CD when I told her that it was actually my playing! I thought it was quite an achievement that my mom praised my playing for the first time!




How would you differentiate classical from  Pop piano?


Pop is more about improvisation and infusing your own expression and style in the music piece. Classical is more on dictating what the composer wants to in his composition.




Are you able to play a song by ear after listening to it on radio?


Yes, simple ones.




Do you find the P.B.E.S™ useful?


Yes, the syllabus is very useful and structured. Unlike classical where the teacher would just tell you what to play and you play accordingly. The Syllabus allows me to learn progressively. Yes, it’s really amazing that someone could actually come up with such a syllabus. It has helped me a lot. I heard from my friend who is learning in another music school says, she is actually learning by numbers (Jianpu) whereas here, we learn how to read the notes, which is better.

PBE Student: Nigel | Occupation: Secondary School student| Musical background prior to joining PBE: Classical Piano (Grade 5)

When did you start learning piano?


I first learned classical piano when I was in kindergarten, then I stopped due to PSLE. Only recently my mum told me about your school - PLAY BY EAR. That is when I started playing pop piano.




Why did your mum introduce pop music instead or classical?


She wanted me to try something new and also because I wasn’t interested in classical. I supposed she wouldn't want to waste the classical piano training I had when I was a kid.




What was your impression when you first started pop piano?


I was surprised at how easy and stress-free playing pop can be. It is more “free-style” playing compared to classical where you need to read off a piano score, which can be quite intense.




How do you find your instructor?


He is funny and teaches well; jokes and teach at the same time. That made me feel relieved and more relaxed learning piano, especially in my first lesson with him, as I was not sure what to expect.




Favourite pop song?


Punk Rock, songs from simple plan.




Name us a few songs that you have learnt in PBE?


To Zanarkand , Kiss the rain, River flows in you etc.




Sounds like you are a fan of Yiruma?


Ya, pretty much. I like instrumental music especially piano stuff.