5 Things I've Learnt About Teaching Piano Online.
I've been teaching piano for 10 years face-to-face. It has been an incredible experience, and over the years I've learn so much. I have taught in three different music schools, as well as my own home studio. I love teaching piano and I truly believe that I've improved my craft so much. Of course there is always much to learn from colleagues, online and my from own students as well. I always scoffed at the idea of teaching piano online, however now that #COVID19 has meant that we need to adapt our lives, it has become a necessity for me in order to stay relevant.
In this blog post, I want to highlight 5 of the things that I have learnt and the positives it has had on my teaching.
1. You don't have to have a high-tech set up to teach online.
Seriously, you don't! I literally have my MacBook sat on top of a cardboard box, perched on the side of my digital piano. That is all you need to get started! As long as your students can see your keys, your hands and of course your face (no one likes talking to a headless torso), you are good to go. I also use a small webcam and just hold it over the keys if I want to demonstrate something specific.
2. Make props and use a whiteboard.
I saw that another teacher had a plastic pretend keyboard that she would hold up and show her students notes on. I could not find something like that that wasn't crazy expensive, so instead I just printed out an A3 size blank piano keyboard image and laminated it. It is fantastic! I use it in just about every lesson, especially with the beginner students. I use whiteboard markers to mark notes on it if necessary, especially for young beginners, and I just wipe it off with a bit of paper towel or a wet wipe and it is all clean. I use a mini whiteboard to write notes throughout the lesson or to write out the structure of the lesson, e.g.
- Scales, C Major, G Major, A Minor, E Minor, RH, LH, together, contrary motion
- Warm up - Finger strength exercise
- Pieces A, B, C
- Sight reading Page x
3. Emailing parents makes them more involved.
I've always found that writing my students' homework notes in a small notebook is great but only for me. I see it each week and therefore know what they are up to and what we did in the previous lesson. Apart from me writing in it, students very rarely seem to actually use this to do their practice, instead relying on their memory. Now, at the end of each lesson I take a couple of minutes to email their parents with the notes of the lesson and ask the parent to pass it along to the student. I find that students are more proactive and following my instructions more closely with their parents now knowing exactly what they are expected to do. I also write in how much practice I expect of the students, and a little note to say whether I think they practised enough or not during the week so the parents can see this after each lesson as well.
4. My teaching motivation has increased.
My own motivation levels for teaching are very high. I love it. I absolutely love teaching and I am really happy teaching my students. However, I have noticed that my motivation to teach has really increased whilst I've been teaching online. I'm not sure if any other piano teachers have noticed this or not, but I would love to hear if that's the case!
5. Filming mini-tutorials makes up for the lack of face-to-face interaction in lessons (a bit!)
I don't think any technology could ever truly replace face-to-face piano lessons. I love being able to jump on the piano right in front of the student to demonstrate without fear of wrongly positioning a camera or the internet cutting out etc. It is so much more tangible being right in front of them and teaching them side by side. Having said this, I have found that I've been enjoying filming mini-tutorials that are tailored to individual students and their programs, pieces they're learning or scales and technical exercises. I've had great feedback so far that the mini-tutorials have been a great help and allow students to go back over and over things we have spoken about in lessons but which they probably would have forgotten had they not been able to rewatch a short video.
I hope this has been motivating for you to read. If you are a teacher and have any tips or things you'd like to share, I would love to hear from you. Please send me a message!
FYI the technology that I use is:
- Small, extendable tripod I bought off EBay to mount my iPhone while filming (iPhone 11 pro)
- MacBook Pro 13", I mostly use this when I'm teaching but switch to the welcome (listed below) when demonstrating something specific where students need to see my hands more closely.
- Microsoft webcam
- Video call software I use is Zoom. I love being able to schedule meetings and use this as a way of keeping track of my teaching commitments, sort of like a diary.