What is Ridley Academy? How does it work?

Uncategorized Feb 16, 2023

My name is Stephen Ridley, I am an artist, and the founder and CEO of RidleyAcademy; a company built with the purpose of making music education simpler, faster, and highly enjoyable. We help ordinary people unlock their extraordinary creative potential, and access a deeper part of themselves, far beyond what the student would ever expect. 

In this article I want to tell you who I am, what 'The Complete Piano Masterclass' is and how it works, direct from the source's mouth. 

Who is Stephen Ridley?

I'm Stephen! I come from a small village that had 40 people in South Yorkshire, England. I started playing when I was 2 years old, took local 1-on-1 lessons with Kim Latimer (Harworth) from around 9, formal training from 11 at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, quit lessons at 15 after my father died (found lessons extremely confusing, boring, disciplined and had enough). When dad died we became as poor as you can get in the UK.

I felt some need for music again, I went back to piano, and this time found my own way with it. And that was much more enjoyable. It was never a professional pursuit for me. All I could think about was how to get out of poverty. I left university with a triple first class honours in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and got a job in the top team of the world's top Investment Bank, where there was plenty of money to be made. I was miserable. I realised that money itself has a price, and in this case I was paying far too much; my happiness, my drive, my love of life. So! I quit!

30 minutes after quitting my job, I was walking down the street in slight shock, and saw an old piano in a thrift store. I bought it for £100, pulled it into the street and started playing. I was nervous, and weirdly happy to feel nervous. I hadn't felt ANYTHING for nearly 2 years in banking, just a very heavy numbness toward life. Crowds stopped to listen to me. They were smiling, they took pictures. I didn't know what I was doing but I felt I was doing something of value, and it just seemed to be 'joyful' for all concerned, most of all me! So.. I continued. Played in country after country. And it all grew. I started getting booked for huge budget private events, very often playing alongside A-list artists who also get booked for these things, and subsequently, my public profile started to grow, mostly through other people posting me on their instagram stories.

I have now played in over 60 countries, I've played with some of my heroes, I've done some truly random things, like randomly having 3 huge hit songs in Russia, this summer I did the largest outdoor concert in Uzbekistan's history with nearly 20,000 people, I've played for Louis Vuitton, played Monaco Grand Prix sponsored by Gulfstream Jets, blocked a park in Kiev with an impromtu outdoor show. I have played in Ashrams, and shanty towns, children's hospitals, orphanages, palaces, superyachts and the private residences of world leaders, big time business folks, and other weird and wonderful people. It's a beautiful ride.

What is RidleyAcademy?

I built RidleyAcademy because people come up to me every time I play, and say the same thing. From 'Oh I wish I could play like you', to 'Oh I used to take lessons but quit because...', to 'I tried to learn but found it to confusing/difficult/time consuming', 'I tired to learn but never made any progress'. Literally, without exaduration, I've heard this thousands of times.

I knew that the path to where I'm at, as a musician, is beyond hard. After all, I am the one who walked it. I know that traditional piano education, done how I did it, is extremely testing and requires decades of work. Having walked that path, I saw the need for a fundamental change in the way it is approached as a subject. I further knew the solution was not going to be found in utterly futile of apps or watching lights go down a screen on YouTube, which broadly try to circumvent actual musical understanding with some follow-along/memorisation method. Cool for a party trick, or playing a song at a very basic level, but it's not replacing traditional music education, and it's not going to make any great musicians.

Fundamentally, I was constantly meeting people who wanted to learn, yet I was faced with the fact that my favourite subject in the world needed a total revamp. I set out to build something that ticked 3 boxes. First, it had to be faster, and more streamlined. Second, I wanted to the process of learning itself to be fun journey, that would inspire the student, progressively, and enrich them with a sincere passion for the craft. Third, it had to be simple enough that anyone, irrespective of IQ, age, background, could do it.

I spent 9 years trying out different ideas and made-up methods. Most didn't work. It was super tough. I gave up more than once. And then got back on the horse and tried again. Eventually, through a lot of testing and refinement, I came up with something which works. I tested it some more. It works. And that is what has become a product I call 'The Complete Piano Masterclass'...

Key Principles behind 'The Complete Piano Masterclass?'

Underpinning the development of The Complete Piano Masterclass, are some key discoveries I made throughout 30 years of playing, 10 years of working as a professional artist, and the 9 years of educational research, which underly the new method I built.

1. The Theory of Music had not been properly evaluated for relative importance of data. The consequence of this, is that I wasted many years struggling to learn masses of quite complex theory that even as a professional, world-touring musician, I don't use at all.
90+% of data I'd learned, whilst true, was not important on a practical level. Thus a hierarchy of importance can be established in music theory, which allows for extreme simplification.

2. Student overwhelm is very common when learning piano. It is largely created by asking a student to do too many things at once. Piano, by its nature, involves doing many things at once, both physically and mentally. This makes it a very steep 'barrier-to-entry' when learning. This needs to be broken down into specific steps in a specific order.

3. Other approaches have attempted to circumvent understanding with memorisation. The result is well trained parrots, not artists.

4. I define an artist as 'one who can express their individuality through music in a way which creates emotional impact'. Artists aren't memorising. They're originating music. They are literally just speaking with music. They have something to say, an individuality they want to express and they are able to do so with music. This is what I wanted to make.

5. To achieve point number 4, would be mean moving away from memorisation techniques.

6. To achieve point number 5, would mean re-approaching music theory, the relative importance of data, and the practicality of music so as to reduce student overwhelm.

7. Inside everyone is a creative potential. Call this an 'inner artist'. When properly educated in piano, this inner creative potential finds a new medium to express itself. This is the 'artistic personality' that shines through with good music education.

8. There is a huge quantity of 'soft skill' data which is incredibly useful, even more senior to pure theory in some instances, in the development of student to artist. This data is not taught in traditional formats, likely beyond the zone of experience of a regular music teacher. It is nonetheless invaluable for creating a rounded, capable, student.

9. For people to have 'their own sound', they must have a real connection with music, not be stuck in memorised cerebral brain games.

10. The illusion of complexity is created by doing many simple things at once.

What is the The Complete Piano Masterclass?'

The Complete Piano Masterclass is the product of my life's passion, work and research in this field of music and piano. It is quite simply the Rolls-Royce of piano education. It is an online programme, delivered by me, where I personally guide you step-by-step from zero to hero on piano.

The Complete Piano Masterclass allows regular people, even those with little to no musical experience, to master piano, up to 10X faster than traditional methods, without shortcutting understanding. 

The way the programme works is by breaking down the journey of learning piano into very specific steps, ordered in a very specific order. Each practise session, you are only ever concentrating on one single step, which is very targeted and very simple. Because of this, practise lasts 3-15 minutes. This programme works on the principle of little, and often. Master one easy step, move on to the next. But at any one time, you are only ever practising one thing. That one thing is simple.

We build the wall, by laying each brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. This is the fastest way to having a perfect, strong wall.

The illusion of complexity on piano is created by doing many simple things at once. To achieve the 'seemingly' complex outcome of being able to play any song you want, with confidence, at speed, with a full understanding, with a full ability to read and write music, with perfect rhythm, with perfectly synchronised hands, and an ability to not only play, but make songs your own, looks like an incredible feat. In reality, achieving this is simply a combination of many small micro-steps. 

On the Complete Piano Masterclass, I walk the students through each step, and with each step, the student expands, grows, and experiences real progress. Thus the journey is both motivating by it's design, and enjoyable, for the student is constantly experiencing a reward from their practise. This is what was missing in past methods. 

Enjoyability to the key to engaging students. Music, by it's very nature, should be the most enriching and rewarding pursuit of all. And now, with this programme, it is. 

Properly organised, the subject is now accessible and available to all who have ever wanted to unlock that creative potential within them.

That was the original vision. This has been achieved. And it is being used now by over 4,000 students in over 40 countries. Listen to what they have to say here.



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