This is our 13th week and the next to the last online piano lessons of the 2019-2020 school year, due to the stay at home order of the Coronavirus epidemic. We are all so grateful that we had the technology to switch to online lessons. And Everyone, students, teachers, and parents have learned so many new skills in order to create successful online lessons. I’m sure this is part of the real fatigue we are all feeling, not just with music lessons, but with online school and work in general. Our screen time is up to 12 hours a day. We are starting to move around more outside but still in small groups and with physical distancing and masks on at all time. A few students are coming into the studio this week to create their final video recordings for the year…but only one at a time, no parents or siblings, students wait in the car to be called, we each work at a piano at opposite sides of the room, no hugs, no contact, and students work in the studio only for 20 minutes. We do not know what the new school year will bring in Fall 2020…how much we will be back in the studio? How much do we continue online? Will we stagger students…one day in the studio, the next day online or every other student on a plan A and plan B schedule alternating back and forth between in studio and online? Only time will tell. Massachusetts numbers are falling and continue to look good. Yet the spouse of one of my adult students, is being tested for Covid-19 as I write.
One thing for certain: we have all learned a lot and many of the teaching techniques adjusted for online learning will now become part of our piano teaching toolbox forever! Here are my favorite new tools gleaned from online teaching:
Alphabet Letter blocks: this really helps to confirm what we are hearing while naming notes! It can be hard to differentiate between a “C” and a “D” or an “E” when there is a fuzzy internet connection. These also make for good naming keys of the piano games while using an overhead video recorder on the piano keys! These are big and easy to read from screen to screen.
Japanese colored Wasabi Tape! This tape lifts off the piano keys without leaving a mark and comes in bright colors. This is perfect for marking whole and half steps and other intervals on the piano when using an overhead view of the piano keyboard during scale work, theory lessons or when visually correcting a note reading error on the physical piano keys.
Ear Training Games: Online video lessons are the perfect time to increase ear training…and fair is fair…students get to turn the tables on teachers too!
Understanding Measure numbers: When we started online lessons, understanding how to read and count measure numbers was crucial! We take this for granted, but students by and large did not understand how to count measure numbers when they only saw blocked non-sequential numbers that jumped from 5 to 10 to 17…etc.
Marco Polo!: I play, then the student plays and echoes exactly what I play. This gets even more fun as I randomly choose harder and harder sections of a piece. Then we play the reverse…students choose a random section and I have to repeat them exactly!
The Racer!: Patterned after an old roller coaster amusement park ride from Kennywood Park in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. We alternate measures of a piece; I play the first measure of a student’s piece, then the student follows without break, to play the second measure, etc. We continue alternating measures until the piece is smooth. Then we repeat but with the student going first. This really helps students to look ahead and preparing ahead of playing!
Emoticons and Giffy’s! Once students learned how to open up their chat boxes, they taught me how to search for emojis, emoticons and mini videos. We used these endlessly with delight, creating all kinds of games and use of these for sticker awards! We would run through their memory lists by my finding an emoji that matched a title of a piece and they had to guess what I was referring to! Or I would use these to describe in a picture an adjustment to their dynamics or touch or expression. Or use emoticon alphabet letters when mixing up section work in learning music! Students would in turn send me emoticons to show they were proud of their work or sad that the lesson was ending.
Learning the Student’s Home Environment! We had the chance to adjust bench heights, recommend piano tuning, encourage upgrading from X stand two octave keyboards to better instruments, lighting, having pencils ready, metronomes nearby or on apps, meeting the parents more often and having time to talk about how everyone was doing as a family. And of course, meeting every animal member of the family and knowing the family pet by name! My students’ pets from guinea pigs, to cats and dogs, salamanders, rabbits and chickens usually made an appearance at every lesson!