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Guide to Remote Music Education

A black man sits in the living room of his apartment and plays a synthesizer. He composes music.

So much of what makes music fun for us is sharing it with others: playing in ensembles, performing concerts, worshipping with our congregations, and teaching our craft. Unfortunately, many of us have found the usual ways we gather together to share music abruptly curtailed recently. With the help of technology, though, teachers and students alike can access a plethora of opportunities for distance learning through online lessons and rehearsals, practice aids, self-instruction and advancement, and sheer repertoire exploration.

Here’s our guide to navigating distance music learning and instruction. Let us know if you have any tips or pointers, and we’ll be happy to share them with our community!

Moving Lessons & Rehearsals Online

Online lessons work. Not only will they help all of us maintain a sense of normalcy, they allow teachers and ensemble directors an opportunity to see and hear their students differently, which can help point out new areas of weakness and opportunities for improvement.

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Unless you’re trying to make online instruction a new permanent part of your pedagogy, you don’t need fancy technical equipment. Just use your computer, tablet or smartphone with a good Internet connection and, if you prefer, maybe headphones or earbuds.

You will need to develop a vision for how these lessons will look, but your considerations can be limited to the following:

  • What platform are you going to use?

VideoCallIconOrangeA lot of teachers like Zoom because it’s free and stocked with features, but other options include Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and many more.

If you’re more interested in something like a masterclass, lecture or group rehearsal, it might instead be worth checking out Crowdcast to make the experience more user-friendly. Though this is a paid service, there are longer session limits, an integrated chat for students, Q&A features, and the ability to invite students or guests to join on screen.

To do a virtual choir recording, try GarageBand or SoundTrap EDU (by SoundCloud) to have singers record on top of each other and hear the previously recorded parts as they go.

  • How will your setup look on camera?

Make sure you have enough space and lighting, and make sure that the elements that students need to see are easily visible on screen. Do a practice run with a fellow music teacher to check.

  • What tools do students have, and what will they need?

If students need to install software or access equipment like music stands and metronomes, let them know how and where they can get these in advance of their lessons or rehearsals.

  • What should the student be paying attention to during the lesson?

Some teachers, for instance, advise students to watch the stream of themselves during a one-on-one lesson. The streams acts like a mirror, letting the student see their body alignment and make automatic adjustments.

Expect a couple kinks when you’re getting started, but you’ll be able to iron these out pretty quickly and easily.

Developing a Practice Plan

planner-2428871_640Many students, especially those who are younger or at earlier stages in their musical education, don’t know how to practice effectively. While this is a challenge for any environment, distance learning requires students to be more self-directed.

When helping students develop a practice plan, consider these ideas:

  • Set a specific time and day for practice
  • Set specific goals: For instance, play a difficult passage correctly 5 times, rather than playing it correctly only once and moving on, to reinforce getting it right.
  • Break down the practice session into timed segments between warm-up, literature/technique study and performance.

Bookending a practice session with comfortable, familiar playing helps students feel good about playing and balance challenges with success.

Online Music Education Resources & Support

Whether you teach individual lessons or lead instrumental or choral ensembles, there are a number of music methods and series that have online tools to support instruction and practice.

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  • SmartMusic: This web-based suite of music education tools includes play-along accompaniment tracks, melody examples and masterclass videos, as well as enrichment pages with theory, music history and exercises, and access to a vast library of repertoire. Not only is this a supplement to the Suzuki Method and to the Sound Innovations series for both band and orchestra, this is also a powerful versatile platform to aid one-on-one lessons, remote classrooms and rehearsals, and individual practice.

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  • Essential Elements Music Class: A cloud-based service for elementary music classes, this tool offers recordings and classroom activity videos for hundreds of songs, as well as a comprehensive collection of teaching materials, including interactive activities, games, virtual Orff instruments, listening maps, recorder and ukulele units, custom lesson creation, and more.
  • Carus plus for choir: The carus music app contains recordings with amplified individual voice parts, tempo control and a marker feature for following the score to help choral singers learn new music from Carus quickly.

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  • Noteflight Learn: Free for music educators affected by closures through June 30, this web-based tool lets teachers create sheet music and composition assignments, and also lets students can also listen to, play or record any piece of music in the Noteflight library at any tempo in any key.
  • MusicFirst: A comprehensive Learning Management System for K-12 music education, this cloud-based suite of services offers an expansive library of lessons, assessments, content and complete courses to help teachers monitor students’ progress, make lesson plans and create assignments.
  • The Shed: This site is full of digestible lessons in theory, notation, rhythm, improvisation and more.
  • MetronomeOnline: This mobile app for iOS and Android helps organize and track practice time with time tracking, task lists, goal settings and a metronome.

How to Get More Piano Students

Guest post by Kristin Jensen of MyFunPianoStudio.com. View the original on Kristin’s blog HERE.

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Everything I’d done to try to get more piano students was a waste of time with little or no results.

We’d moved to a new town and I was determined to fill my studio quickly. I worked hard to get the word out — in fact I even strapped my 4 month old into a baby carrier and handed out over 150 fliers at a grocery store on Coupon Tuesday.

Guess how many phone calls I got from those fliers? Zero.

I’ve since learned that there are much more effective ways to advertise a piano studio.

Effective advertising means a full studio so that you reach your full income potential. It will also help you build a waiting list, so that when one student leaves, a new one can fill the vacancy without missing a beat.

Read on to learn the most effective strategies used by expert teachers to get more piano students. Empowered with this info, you can focus on what works and stop wasting money and energy on ineffective marketing strategies.

Incentivize and Encourage Word of Mouth

By far the best way to get new students is by word of mouth. Once you’ve got yourself established, some word of mouth advertising will happen naturally for you if you’re a great teacher, so make sure you’re doing everything you can to offer high quality instruction.

But there are some things you can do to initiate word of mouth while you’re still establishing your studio and your reputation, and to incentivize more word of mouth once you are established.

Here’s how to get people talking about you:

Incentivize your current students to give you referrals

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Offer a tuition credit for every student that they get to sign up. And the credit should really ought to be more than five bucks. Five dollars really isn’t that motivating.

When determining what your credit will be, keep two things in mind: First, inviting others to sign up for piano lessons may require your clients to get out of their comfort zone. Second, your clients are busy living their own lives and ensuring that your studio is full isn’t anywhere on their list of top priorities.

Your current students can be your very best source of new clients, so be sure to give them an incentive that will get them excited. You could even change up your incentive from semester to semester and offer things like a restaurant gift card, movie tickets, or a fee month of lessons. The cost of these incentives is small when compared with the lifetime value of a new client.

What if you don’t have any students yet?

If you’ve recently moved or are just starting out there are ways to get people talking about you and your lessons.

First of all, open your mouth and let people know that you teach lessons. When you introduce yourself, mention that you are a piano teacher. Often just a simple mention will lead people to ask more.

You can also offer to play at community events and during church services. If there is already a regular church accompanist let them know you’d be happy to fill in whenever you’re needed.

Although these strategies won’t get you new students as quickly as some of the other ideas discussed in the article, they will help the people in your community know that you teach and the effect over time can be enormous. Then when a mother asks around for a piano teacher, people will immediately respond with your name.

Use Social Media

SocialIconsPhoneDo you know how to get more piano students by leveraging the power of social media? This avenue is HUGE. When I advertise my studio, I spend most of my efforts on social media.

Advertise on Facebook

I have been impressed by how effectively Facebook ads have helped me get more students. And running ads sure beats walking around a grocery store parking lot on a hot Coupon Tuesday with my kids! You just set up the ad and then let it run.

Facebook has info about advertising on their platform here. The one thing I would warn you about is that Facebook can burn through your budget quickly if don’t you manage the ads carefully. But once you figure it out, this is a great source of new students.

Share student accomplishments on social media

Girl standing beside a pianoWhenever your piano students accomplish something noteworthy, share it via social media. Did a student just finish a level in their method books? Praise them on your Facebook page. Did a student earn a special certificate? Snap a picture and upload it to Instagram along with your congratulations. Are you hosting a fun contest or practice incentive for your students? Share it — you’ll quickly be known for your fun lessons. Do you have a recital coming up? Share it and invite your community to attend. Did your student love one of the improv activities you found on this site and create an awesome sounding song? Record them playing and then share it — this REALLY impresses people!

If you’d like to post photos or videos of your students, be sure to get written permission from the parents first, and it’s good practice to not include the students’ names for safety reasons. Pictures of smiling students are definitely the best when potential new clients are learning about your studio, but even if you opt not to post student photos, you can post other images or just text descriptions of the fun things you do and your students’ accomplishments.

Anything worth sharing should be shared and will help others become familiar with you and the high quality piano instruction you offer. Giving interested people a real look at what you do is a great way to get more piano students to sign up.

Join online neighborhood communities and city “yard sale” pages

My neighborhood has a Facebook group and it’s wonderful. Through this page, neighbors post things they’re giving away for free, warn each other about an aggressive door-to-door salesman, ask each other questions and share ideas. They also share what’s going on in their lives. You don’t want to be annoyingly self-promoting in these groups, but it’s a good place to at least let people know that you teach lessons and get connected with anyone who’s interested.

I was skeptical about the yard sale page. I didn’t even know there were city yard sale pages until a few months before I was going to be teaching a class for preschoolers at a music store in a neighboring town. I had no connections in the town, so I found the number for a piano teacher from the area to ask her if she had any students with younger siblings who might be interested. She said she’d be happy to help spread the word and also told me that she got several of her students through the town’s yard sale page. I decided to give it a try and post info about my new class. It worked and I got several students just from that simple post. It’s free and quick, so definitely worth a try!

Get More Piano Students through Your Website

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Nowadays when someone has a question, what is the first thing they do? Google it.

Build a website so that when someone searches “piano teachers in [insert your city]” they will be able to find you. On my new student registration form, I include the question, “How did you find out about my studio?” About 25% say that they did a Google search for piano teachers in our city.

You can hire out a professional website or create a simple website yourself. If you opt to create your own website, sites like WordPress and Weebly are easy to work with and even have free options. Keep in mind that the design of your website should match the type of lessons you offer. So if you’re offering high-end instruction, you would likely want to hire out a professional design. If you offer more casual lessons then you can probably create a free site yourself.

Create a “My Business” Listing with Google

An even easier way to be found through a Google search is to create a Google “My Business” listing. It’s super simple to create your studio listing and you can find instructions on Google’s “My Business” page here. Listing your studio is free and Google claims that you can get it going in just 10 minutes.

You don’t even need a website to create a business listing with Google. This is the easy shortcut to being found through online searches. If you don’t have a My Business listing yet, I encourage you to set one up today!

Get New Piano Student Referrals through Your Local Music Store

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Most music stores receive a steady stream of inquiries about music lessons. And for this reason, many stores keep a running list of local teachers.

One of the stores near me just asks for the teacher’s name and number and then adds them to their list. Another store near me asks that I bring in a flier with tear-off strips. I write about my studio in the upper portion of the flier and then print my name and phone number on the tear-off strips.

You can also inquire about becoming an in-house piano teacher. Some music stores have space available where you can teach. In most cases, there will be room rental or referral fees, but they’re often worth it because the music store will promote you and keep your studio full. And in many cases, the rates for piano lessons offered inside a music store are higher. They are higher to compensate for the room rental fees and because clients assume that there’s a high level of quality if the instructor is promoted by the music store. Be sure to deliver on this assumption of high quality, and you’ll be in a great situation.

Offer an Introductory Music Class for Preschoolers

Preschool age children in music class

This approach is golden. When you offer a class for preschoolers, some of these students will, without any effort on your part, want to advance into your private piano instruction. But before they ever become private students, you will be teaching them all the music fundamentals.

Can you just imagine what it would be like if your students had great rhythm and knew some basic note reading BEFORE they ever had their first piano lesson? It’s terrific! Students are more confident from the get-go and advance more rapidly. They are able to focus more on piano playing because they already know quite a bit about music reading.

And preschoolers are very capable of learning basic rhythm and music reading concepts. Plus teaching these little tykes is a ton of fun!

The other reason why this method is golden is because you get some insight into the student (and the parent). You’ll get a feel for the student’s temperament and if the two of you would likely work well together. You’ll also learn if the parent pays tuition on time and can get the student to class on time every week. You’ll know all this about the student before you invite them into your private lessons! If you begin offering a music class for preschoolers, within a few years you will have the best students you could imagine.

Use a Multi-Pronged Approach

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket — use as many of these strategies as you can. When you get all these client-getting systems running, you’ll have a steady flow of inquiries about your piano lessons. With time, you’ll find which strategies work best in your area and can then focus most of your attention on those avenues. Be sure to always ask how a new student found out about you and keep a record of their responses.

 


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Kristin Jensen is a piano teacher, curriculum developer and author of the widely popular Piano Magic system. She loves helping piano teachers enhance their teaching skills and optimize their studios so they can use time efficiently, maximize profit and live a life they love. For more tips from Kristin on running a successful private music studio, as well as teaching resources and tutorials on composition and improvisation, visit MyFunPianoStudio.com.

15 Things You Need to Know About Supporting Your Child Learning to Play the Piano (via Elissa Milne)

 

via 15 Things You Need to Know About Supporting Your Child Learning to Play the Piano

Learn How to Read Sheet Music: Rhythms

Rhythm is one of the most important elements of the musical language, arguably even more so than melody and harmony. Try this: without singing, clap the rhythm of “Happy Birthday.” I bet you could ask someone what you are clapping and they would be able to guess “Happy Birthday.” Now try singing “Happy Birthday” without rhythm. I don’t mean with the wrong rhythm; I mean completely without any duration or strong and weak beats. You can’t do it. That is why rhythm is so essential to the musical language.

Continue reading ‘Learn How to Read Sheet Music: Rhythms’

How to Read a Fake Book

Do you want to learn how to play hundreds of your favorite songs? Try Fake Books! They are compilations of hundreds of songs in lead sheet notation. Lead sheet notation provides the melody, lyrics and chords for each song. Learn more about Fake Books with this great resource, “How to Read a Fake Book.”

Save 20% on Fake Books at Sheet Music Plus through March 8, 2016.

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Source: How to Read a Fake Book

Learn How to Read Sheet Music: Notes for Music

Sheet music, the written form of music notes, may appear very complex to the untrained eye. While reading notes for music is like learning a whole new language, it is actually much less complicated than you may think. This article will discuss how to read music notes. Check out our article “Learn How to Read Sheet Music: Rhythms” for information on music note values, time signatures, counting rhythm and more. Continue reading ‘Learn How to Read Sheet Music: Notes for Music’

Learn How to Read Sheet Music: List of Basic Musical Symbols

Being sheet music enthusiasts, we wanted to provide some help to those music enthusiasts who are just learning how to play or have played by ear for years and would like to learn how to read sheet music notation. We’ve created this tutorial for you, starting with the basic listing of music symbols. Topics covered include the musical staff, clefs, position of notes on the staff, key signatures, time signatures, basic note lengths, and bar lines. A future article will include stylistic markings, like accents, dynamics and tempo markings. For a more in depth discussion on reading music notation, check out our blog posts “Learn How to Read Sheet Music: Notes” and “Learn How to Read Sheet Music: Rhythms“.

Continue reading ‘Learn How to Read Sheet Music: List of Basic Musical Symbols’

Publishing Models for the Independent Composer

New Music GatheringOn January 15, 2015 during the New Music Gathering at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Sheet Music Plus CEO Jenny Silva gave a presentation on publishing models for the independent composer.  Her presentation, available as a PDF by clicking on the link below, discusses the various methods through which composers may publish their music and the advantages and disadvantages to each.  It is a must read for any composer, new or seasoned, wishing to gain more exposure for his/her work.

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How to Read a Fake Book

By Kevin Harper

History of Fake Books and Lead Sheets

Imagine this: you’re a famous jazz player; you’re busy on the road going from gig to gig. One day you come up with a great tune and want to write it down and orchestrate it for your ensemble, but orchestration takes a long time. So instead, you write down the melody and then write out the general chords and any potential rhythms. When you read it during the gig (for the first time no doubt!) you and your bandmates have a general outline of what needs to happen – everything else is improvised. Because improvisations are different everytime, writing down the “correct” way of playing any tune in the old days was impossible.

As jazz grew in popularity, everyone wanted to hear all the popular songs, but the problem was that many of these tunes were hard to find or unpublished. Eventually, lead sheets were circulated from band to band and that became the standard way of notating tunes.

The original fake book, known as The Real Book, contained illegally reproduced, copyrighted songs. It was meant to be used as a textbook of standard jazz tunes. The publishers wanted to pawn off the tunes in the book as “real” versions of the songs. However, legal battles ensued, so any other future books had to have a different name. Thus, the term fake book was born from The Real Book. It also has a double-meaning in that the performer is “faking” his way through the song because the arrangement is not the same as the original version.

Continue reading ‘How to Read a Fake Book’

Singing With Clarity

 By Judy Pringle

Consonants

You and your choir have worked tirelessly on uniform vowel formation, well-tuned singing, focusing the tone, singing correct notes, beautiful phrase lines.  You’re feeling good.  But step back and give a listen and you’ll often find there isn’t a consonant to be heard.   It is our task as singers to articulate so the listeners can share in the delicious words and message.

We want clear, well-defined consonants in our singing and it’s a challenge to achieve.  When our listeners know the text as in a well-known hymn or carol, we are understood because the context is known.  This is far from the case when the text is unknown.

The topic of consonants is Continue reading ‘Singing With Clarity’


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Thought-provoking articles by musicians for musicians, music lovers or those that want to learn more about it!

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