There's a massive amount of information, so I'm going for a blog that you can easily refer back to.
Please bookmark this page so you can come back to it.
I'll be updating information as required...
FIRSTLY, THE MAIN PRIORITY IS SAFETY.
I fully understand that as COVID-19 cases rise in the community, everyone's risk of being infected also rises (although risk of harm is disproportionately skewed towards the elderly - this is why I've ceased in-person teaching of all older students).
I've also had a few little students with sneezes and snuffles. Now it's probably just sneezes and snuffles, but in an age of paranoia... and whilst I have no problems, I would hate to be responsible for passing on anything.
So while in-person lessons are still available, if you'd prefer, I'm ready to go with online lessons...
How it works...
Here's the link to the booking page:
Just click on this to set up your lesson time!
- You'll need to enter the usual details: name, email, mobile phone...
- Then, pick a time from the online Calendar. Sometime later (when I've checked that I'll be available) you'll get an email confirmation.
- Two hours before your lesson, you should get a text reminder.
That's it! You're having an online lesson!
Over the next two weeks, we'll probably start off just using instant lessons...
Here's the link to an instant lesson without a booking:
That's even easier!
Here's what you'll need to prepare...
1. Choose a device to use.
The system will work with anything, but Android devices will need some tweaks (contact me for details). If you're lucky enough to have access to an iPad AND a phone or laptop (or a second iPad - very lucky!), then you're best keeping the iPad free for lessons, as we'll be using the iPad for a lot of other activities, such as composing, Note Rush challenges, and more (I also have other ideas in the works - TBA).
2. Set it up near your piano.
If you can, place your device to the left or the right of your keyboard, HIGHER than the keyboard, with the camera angled DOWN SLIGHTLY so I can see the keys.
Ideally, it would be nice if it were back a little bit from the piano (maybe 50cm to 100cm) so I can also see you (it's nice to talk to a face, and not your fingers!)
If you're using a laptop, a small raised surface should do just fine, as you can easily angle the lid with the camera slightly downward.
If you're using a phone or tablet, perhaps a little more creativity might be required.
I'm using a phone attached to one of my music stands angled downwards. This means that the phone would normally fall off, but I've prevented this with my high tech patented phone fastening system...
If you're a photographer and you have a tripod, you can easily buy an adapter for $10 for a very easy, professional, but cheap system (I like the "cheap" bit!).
Something like this:
(there are many similar ones, so I'm not recommending this particular device or seller, just giving and example...)
3. Let there be Light!
Smartphones are notoriously bad at taking photos and video in low light. This is simply because, in comparison with a real camera the lens are TINY, and so they collect only a fraction of the light.
In one trial I did, the student was in low light, and all I could make out was that a shadowy grey student was sitting in from of a big grey blob that made pretty music.
A little light goes a LONG way to more successful results.
You could use a bedside lamp sitting near the piano, or a lounge room lamp on a table next to the piano, or you can get very flexible photography lights from eBay for around $30.
4. Have your music all sorted, ready to go.
This obviously saves time.
Also, I think online lessons might be a bit distracting for younger students. Stopping the lesson to hunt for missing pages isn't going to help...
Having organized music will make it much easier to keep focused!
5. Have somewhere to write on
BAD NEWS: I have a great online educational system, but it won't let me put my hand through the screen to write corrections on your music - Oh No!
You're going to have to write your own fingers and hints on your music - Oh Yes!
So... you're going to need a place to write!
Just get a little table to put near your keyboard, or use some clipboards, or make a simple music rack like the one I have on my teaching piano (a off-cut piece of 3mm mdf!)
6. And, something to write with with...
Pencils are fine - just make sure you have an eraser too.
A better idea is ERASABLE PENS!
I love these -you can right in different colours for notes, or fingers, or hints. And... no mess from the eraser falling into your valuable keyboard.
7. If you haven't already, set up a music email
You'll need this email to get free access to all the apps you'll be able to use for free via my studio site license.
If you're using an iPad, I'd use a free Apple icloud email.
If you're using Android, I'd suggest Protonmail.com
8. Make sure you've downloaded the apps we can use
You can get Piano Maestro here:
This is brilliant for learning to read music!
- Download the app (it's free!)
- Set up a student account using the music email you chose above... (DON'T pay anything - I've already paid for you!)
- Let me know that you've done this.
- I'll add your email to my studio site license account, and all the content will unlock, saving you $130+ per year!
Sight Reading Factory
This is an excellent app and website for practising exam-level sight reading.
Again, just download the app (it's free!), and let me know - I'll add your email to my studio site license account, and all the content will unlock, saving you $50+ per year!
If you're using Android, Windows, or MacOS, simply use the browser version.
Sorry, this one isn't free, but it's only $6, or about 1/3 the cost of a pack of music flash cards.
Simply sit your iPhone or iPad on your piano, and it listens to your answers! You're competing only against yourself, and it has numerous options and levels. Fabulous!
I use this app for Sight Reading competitions.
Super Metronome Groove Box Lite
I love the hilariously descriptive title! This is an easy to use metronome, that also doubles as a drum machine. Why practise with a the typically annoying "tick-tick-tick" of a metronome, when you can use a drum beat instead? Great if you have to do scales for exams, as it has an automatic tempo speed-up function, so that you have to practise a little faster each time, until you get to the required speed! Free!
And some optional things you can do...
9. Pick some new music!
Before everything is closed down, I'm going to suggest choosing some new music NOW. If you email me in advance, I'll try to have it ready for you. I can then write in fingers and highlight tricky bits (because the writing bit is going to be tricky via online lessons!)
To help, I've bought a subscription to musescore.com
There are thousands of popular pieces of piano music. Copy the URL (the page address in your browser) into an email, and I'll get it for you free.
10. Consider an online buddy
You can't leave the house, but you can do some duets online, or even make a small band! Let me know if you're interested.
Here's how the professionals do it...
These are members of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, all staying at home, performing "Ode To Joy" by Beethoven.
Whew! That's everything I can think of!
If you can:
- sit a device near your keyboard
- have a light nearby
- get your music organized
- have something to write ON and WITH
- Make sure you've downloaded your apps
Then you should be ready to join me on the great online music adventure!
I've had many reports about other teachers having difficulty with online lessons.
Most of them are using free systems (especially FaceTime, Google Meet, and Zoom Free).
The main problems seem to be:
- Their system doesn't work on all equipment (FaceTime is the main culprit here);
- Students are required to download, install and configure an app (several systems, including Google Meet have this restriction);
- You need a particular account (e.g. for Google Meet);
- The teacher doesn't have copies of music for classes;
- 30 minutes lessons have become 20 or even 15 minutes as a large proportion of the class time is taken up with simply getting connected;
- There is no way to record the lesson (or at least no easy way to get the recording)
- Difficulty in getting new music;
- Difficulty in arranging alternate times to do lessons (especially during the day)
- Lack of other activities to do.
I'm sorry that I'm running a little late, but I wanted to solve every one of these issues.
I'm hopeful that I have.
I've spent a LOT of time and unfortunately money to get several commercial software tools to deliver excellent online outcomes for all my students!
Here are my solutions:
- The system I use works on Mac, Windows PC, Apple iOs, and Android (the Android hardware has been a problem: Android screens will turn off within 10 minutes, requiring you to stop the lesson and restart your screen, and sometimes your session; and Android has a nifty noise reduction system built-in to stop background noise on phone calls - such as pianos... - if you wish to use Android, contact me and I'll tell you possible solutions to these problems). In other words, you can use whatever equipment you have already have access to, you won't need anything special - cool!)
- My system works via a web browser, and doesn't require any downloads or configuration. You'll be asked your name, email, and phone number; what time you'd like to have; and your device will ask you for permission to use the camera and microphone (on tablets and phones, select the FRONT camera!). Very Easy!
- No special accounts are needed. (So you won't need a gmail account!)
- I've spent this week organizing my own music, as well as students music. I have each student's music in individual folders, sorted alphabetically. At the start of each lesson, I'll just grab the music, and 30 seconds later we'll be ready to go - no delays that cost you part of your lesson (and waste your fees).
- I'm taking a 50% pay cut, and moving immediately to 45 minute lessons for all online lessons, and all daytime in-person lessons. Lessons will still be 30 minutes, but there will be time to connect online (and to connect and have a quick chat, which I know I look forward to!). Going online will NOT diminish the value of your fees. For students doing in-person lessons, the extra 15 minutes is to provide social distancing - a 15 minute gap between students so that there will be no contact between students and their families. My concern is Safety First.
- The system records lessons. Now a few other systems also record lessons, but on the teachers end. The teacher then has to somehow send a large 30minute video file via the internet (and as video files are too large for email, this means something like DropBox, again requiring students to download, install, and configure an app). It also means the teacher has to find the time to upload 5-10 large files every night. My system stores the lesson recording immediately in their own cloud, where you can access it for 30 days. You don't need to do download anything, or waste any time (which with everyone else also at home working, doing schoolwork, or watching NetFlix, is a BIG consideration!)
- I've found a provider willing to provide free storage and safe transfer of files up to 1GB. I have written permission from Wendy Stevens to allow me to send her music to students as pdf files for the duration of the lock-down, on the strict proviso that students don't share her music with their friends. I've also just purchased a subscription to musescore.com, which has thousands of pieces of music that I will be able to share with students. Finally, I have thousands of legal pdf's of classical music. So I have all your new music needs covered!
- In Term 2, I will be taking a 50% pay cut, suspending the current timetable, and all lessons will switch to 45 minute format for safety. You won't have to ring me and try to reach me on the phone, as I have an online booking system that will even ring your phone and send you a reminder two hours before your lesson! How convenient is that!
- I will be offering a wide range of additional lesson plans, such as Note Rush challenges; homework via Piano Maestro; "Rhythm Cups"games (a few mums, dads and siblings have already tried this in class this week to much amusement!); and small group workshops (several adults have already asked about chords and theory, and some High School students have asked about composition classes). I'm also going to set up a community notice board, and I'd like to think that there will be the opportunity for students to meet other students online, and perhaps do some duets or improvising. Finally, I'm trying to organize a site license for a collaborative composing app, that will allow you to compose and print out and share with others from your iPad. That should give you some distraction during the "holidays"!
And, as this is an all-new adventure, I gladly welcome any ideas and suggestions you have!
I ask for your patience through what is bound to be an interesting transition period!
When the school holidays close, I will be (hopefully) going and getting the flu vaccine, which I do every year.
If previous years are anything to go by, the side effects of the vaccine, coupled with my many allergies, will mean that I expect that a day or so later I will have some sniffles and soreness, so I will be self isolating for the entire holidays.
I will be at home, ready to answer any questions, to provide any tech support, and to help with any issues at all.
If you have any questions, or need some advice, you can email us here:
Please stay safe, keep washing your hands, and remember:
Yours with a massive amount of appreciation,
(C) 2020 Blue Mountains Piano School