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Riccardo Chiaberta is a north London-based multi-instrumentalist who teaches both drum kit and piano. His CV is bursting with impressive performances – including sets at Glastonbury Festival and Montreux Jazz Festival – and he has an ever growing roster of students in both instruments who learn at his Manor House studio.
We took 15 minutes to have a good natter with Riccardo, going through his experiences learning both instruments and his move to London. He’s got some insider tips on the best places in London too!
Piano, drums and a mountain range
Hi Riccardo. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us today. We’ve got quite a few questions to get through, we’ve set the timer at 15 minutes so let’s go! Starting at the beginning – where are you from?
I’m from Verbania, which is a city in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. It’s surrounded by Lake Maggiore and the Lepontine Alps.
You teach both drum kit and piano. When did you start to pick up these instruments?
I started playing piano at the age of 9, and then drums a little at 14. Since then, I’ve kept up with playing both instruments. I mostly performed on the drums but composing on the piano, well, until I released a solo piano album back in 2018. This gave me the opportunity to start performing concerts also as a pianist.
What was it like learning music in Italy?
It sort of started in London actually. I decided to study music to become a professional musician after spending six months in London straight after school. As a result, I decided to return to Italy to continue my studies and I enrolled at the The Como Conservatory of Music, and then to the Milano campus, achieving a masters degree specialising in jazz.
During those academic years, I also studied with the great drummer Fabrizio Sferra and pianist Ramberto Ciammarughi and attended many other inspiring workshops. Those years of studies have been essential for my growth as a musician and as a person – I met lots of beautiful human beings with whom I started my career forming various bands – including Dugong, a band I’m still playing with – recording quite a few albums and playing around Italy.
I have many good memories about that period of my life. Sometimes I miss those days when I could practise for a lot of hours everyday!
Did you hear that students? Practise is everything! I guess after that you made the move back to London?
Yeah, I moved back to London because I wanted to fully experience the prolific UK music scene.
Before making the transition, I already knew a few musicians living in town and I had already performed a few times here. I’m fascinated by London’s energy. I noticed a more healthy musicians’ community in comparison to Italy, probably because of the amount of venues and opportunities that this country – in particular London – can offer. It’s full of great musicians and there is space for everyone.
That’s so encouraging to hear. In a huge city like London it’s easy to forget that the city thrives upon many, often small, local communities.
What have been some of your performance highlights so far?
Playing at Glastonbury Festival was certainly one of my most memorable experiences. The whole experience – being surrounded by so many stages, artists and people hungry for music was magical. I could feel that energy while I was playing. The focus and love that the audience has for the music is tangible.
Another memorable performance was at Montreux Jazz Festival. I’ve never been treated with so much care in all my gigging experiences – from the technical personnel to the main organiser, everyone was amazing.
Oh! And I can’t forget to include my touring experience in China. Playing at so many different venues spread over the enormous country, travelling on insanely fast trains, meeting so many people and eating incredible food… the list goes on. It was an exhausting but very fun and rewarding experience.
Playing at Glastonbury Festival and being surrounded by so many stages, artists and people hungry for music was magical. I could feel that energy whilst I was playing.
So from China, back to London! You have a studio space in Manor House. What do you enjoy about that area of the city?
The Manor House and Turnpike Lane area is great for being so well connected with all London. And Green Lanes offers loads of culinary treasures!
Do you have a London-centric music tip you can give? Perhaps a place or two the reader can check out that they might not have heard of?
London Drum Studio in Haggerston is a great place to practice. It’s tiny, but cosy and well-organised.
And if you’re based in south London, Tom Sankey runs great nights at Royal Albert pub. The Sunday events are called Good Evenings. It always has a good vibe. You should check it out!
Although we know you teach piano as well as drum kit, there are some challenges trying to learn the drum kit in a city such as London. Do you have any tips or tricks for anyone learning?
The drum kit – for obvious reasons – is not the easiest instrument to practice in a city but you can always find a way to do it!
Having an electronic kit at home can avoid noise problems with the neighbours and renting for a few hours per week a rehearsal studio – there are plenty around – gives you the opportunity to practice on an acoustic kit.
You could mix and match – have an electric kit at home and go to a rehearsal studio from time to time to spend time on an acoustic kit.
Trust your tutor – cultivate patience in seeing results and always keep flexibility in your musical exploration.
What tips would you give to anyone thinking of taking up music lessons?
It’s always a good idea to find good music teachers that can navigate some of the genres that you’re into.
In my opinion, it’s really important to trust your tutor – cultivate patience in seeing results and always keep flexibility in your musical exploration.
Above: Riccardo Chiaberta performing with Maria Chiara Argiró on her track Clouds
A vehicle to improve
What are some of the moments that have really made you smile whilst teaching?
I’ve had many rewarding experiences in my 15 years of teaching. From seeing little but very important improvements during the first steps of learning the instrument to successfully preparing students for their final grades or music college auditions.
It’s also great to see some of my students playing internationally with some of the most rewarded artists around!
Many students opt to take music exams. Some benefit from not taking them. We’ve always found that exams are not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. How do you feel about music exams?
Taking a music exam is a good opportunity to learn how to deal with some of the pressure that you can feel while playing in front of an audience.
Preparing for an exam can give you the extra boost and determination to make the next step, so to speak. It’s important to aim for the best result but at the same time, no one should be too affected by the result. An exam should be seen as a vehicle to improve, not a strict and indisputable judgment.
Are there any resources you’re always going back to in your music lessons?
Riccardo, we’re coming to the end of our 15 minutes now. So let’s finish with a takeaway for the reader – is there a particular warm up you use and that you’d recommend the readers try out?
I like to change my warm-up routine quite often to keep exploring different and new possibilities but I often find myself focusing on the time. I like playing at slow tempos and moving from a tempo subdivision to another one, for example, and practising my technical dexterity in the context of the improvisation.
Yes, yes, yes! Simply changing the tempo of the section you might be practising can bring huge rewards. Riccardo, thank you so much for your time. That was really inspiring.
Interested in taking a music lesson with Riccardo Chiaberta?
If you’re looking for drum lessons or piano lessons, then Riccardo Chiaberta could be your next teacher! Make sure to drop us an email for more details and we can let you know a bit more about Riccardo and his availability.
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