Finding the positive in this current situation is challenging but, as piano teachers making the switch to teaching piano online, the profession has the opportunity to think of this as a big, long-term research project.
what effect will teaching piano online have on the progress of students and the attitude and motivation of students and teachers?
In many ways it’s a fascinating period and could change the way we teach – forever. But in the more immediate term we all have to adjust to making the switch. Here some further suggestions to help you move over as smoothly as possible.
IS THIS A VALID AND VALUABLE REPLACEMENT?
Teachers have been asking us whether they can charge the same amount for teaching piano online as for a 1-1 lesson. The answer is Yes – without doubt. The lessons you give will be different in delivery and feel but just as valuable. In The Community we are finding that once parents have experienced an online lesson any doubts as to their validity vanish.
If schools do shut then an emergency timetable might be necessary for the duration. In my own studio I am already thinking about the possibility of 2 shorter lessons for students each week. There’ll be more on that from us I’m sure in a couple of weeks.
WHAT WILL BE DIFFERENT?
- Instead of ringing the doorbell the students will be clicking on a link (if using zoom) or answering your call (for example Skype). In the same way it will take a few minutes to say hello, settle down and catch up with each other. CLICK HERE to check out Part 1 if you want advice on what to use.
- The sound quality of the piano is one area of particular concern. The internet signal can struggle with the sheer volume of information playing a piece gives it. At its best I have found that the sound is quite tinny and all the subtleties tend to get lost. As you will find out below there are ways round this.
- Because of the reduced sound quality there will be less opportunity to just say ‘play your pieces to me’ and work on what problems are presented that week. Instead the teaching will need to be more pro-active, planning lessons with learning in mind.
- Establish some ground rules at the start. For example, taking it in turns to talk/listen and only playing the piano when asked. I’m finding it’s a really good discipline for those whose fingers like to wander!
- Ask the student to have a pencil to hand – it’s now their responsibility to write anything into the score.
- Be direct with asking questions. Use your students name to make it clear it’s their turn to speak. Giving clear and concise feedback will be important. Members of The Community do checkout the Giving Effective Feedback Curiosity Box. CLICK HERE TO ACCESS
The structure of lessons will feel a little different. To begin with don’t worry too much about this as you will have enough to deal with just getting setup online – one step at a time! Let the first couple of weeks of online piano lessons run themselves and stay curious as to what transpires. We will be back with more on this topic however.
RECORDING & SHARING PIECES
As mentioned above the sound quality of a piano when streamed can be variable and dependent on your signal. For example, my internet speed is fairly average and the piano often goes ‘underwater’! A highly effective alternative is to make small recordings of whatever you want to model or demonstrate. This can also happen in reverse with the student recording and sending their playing to you.
These video files can be shared in a number of ways. It is worth noting that they do take up a lot of storage space and don’t travel easily via email so it’s worth spending some time working out the best way of sharing.
USEFUL SOFTWARE FOR SHARING INFO
Here’s a brief overview of some software that I find useful. Please note these are just my personal suggestions at the time of writing – there is so much more available if you do a bit of research!
The Cadenza Practice App (which is actually web-based) is a tool that I use weekly in lessons with many of my students. It gives me the ability to communicate with pupils between lessons and I find that most of them engage well with it. CLICK HERE
With Cadenza videos can be shared easily between the teacher and pupil. For example, recently I made a series of short videos (about 2 minutes each) about arpeggios, what they are and how to play them. These were uploaded onto my students’ page in Cadenza and this week they were able to tell me all about arpeggios. The most useful feature however is called the Media Annotator; students upload a video of themselves and as the teacher I can comment, second by second on what I hear.
GoogleDrive – all google accounts come with 15GB free storage. Folders can be set up that are then shared with an individual student and family. CLICK HERE
Dropbox – similar to GoogleDrive this provides a storage facility in which folders can be shared. This is a paid service however the basic plan has up to 5TB of storage. CLICK HERE
Finally, there are Child Protection issues to consider. With children and teenagers parents should be on hand and in the room whilst the lesson is going on. The recording of lessons, even in part, also needs some consideration. If you already have a policy about videoing and recording during lessons you might want to look at it again in light of increased amount.
If no such policy yet exists then this is certainly something to get in place immediately. Your professional body, whether ISM, MU, or EPTA (UK), MTNA in the US etc. should be able to give advice on this.
The feedback that is coming from parents about our willingness to quickly switch to teaching piano online has been so positive and appreciative. In The Community teachers have reported that even parents who were initially reluctant to make the switch are starting to recognise that it is a perfectly viable alternative.
The current situation with Coronavirus is going to continue for the foreseeable future so it’s well worth you taking some time to working out how to make the switch. This is a huge learning curve for everyone and so don’t expect to get everything perfect in place immediately.
We’ll be back with more suggestions as we discover things ourselves! Till then take care and keep safe.
This blog post was written by Dr Sally Cathcart | Co-Founder and Director of The Curious Piano Teachers.