Is Learning Piano Online Effective?

Is Learning Piano Online Effective?

What is the one factor that makes learning piano online effective?  The simplest answer: the teacher. And while that’s a basic answer, there are 3 ways that the teacher makes (or breaks) the online learning experience.

Read more: Is Learning Piano Online Effective?

As a teacher, I’ve taught almost every grade & every subject both here in Canada as well as internationally. When I started teaching piano it was in-person & eventually moved my studio online. While it may seem biased for me to give you advice on whether learning piano online is effective, I’ll be sharing this through the lens of being a parent. Because I get it. Online learning can be a fantastic experience. And, it can be incredibly frustrating. It all depends on the teacher.

A tale of two teachers

Like many families, online schooling was not something we were prepared for as a family. Thankfully, I’d already had elements of online learning in my studio so we were able to draw on that. But, it was still a learning curve.

Our experience with our kids learning online wasn’t all sunshine & rainbows. Especially at the beginning of the pandemic.

We have twins which means we’ve gotten to see how different teachers handle things at each grade level. In this article, I’ll be sharing how Teacher A & Teacher B handled things at the beginning of online schooling. For privacy, I’ll be keeping gender-neutral pronouns & no names. Each of these teachers did the best they could in the circumstances & I respect that.

Teacher A was pregnant with their first child during beginnings of pandemic. Remembering my own pregnancy, I was amazed at how she juggled it all. And Teacher B used tech as a central part of their teaching in-person. What I found interesting was it was Teacher B who was the one who struggled with online teaching.

When learning piano online is effective

The reason the teacher makes such a difference during online learning is because they are the ones that sets the tone, make tech decisions & determine levels of attention. And, there are 3 ways a teacher can make this a great experience!

Way 1: Relationships are key

You want to feel like your child’s teacher is in their corner, is advocating for them & making learning interesting.

Relationships are what keep students going when something doesn’t come easily or quickly. Anytime you’re learning something new, there will times when this happens. Having a supportive teacher makes all the difference.

Learning piano online is effective when the learning journey is taken into account.  Learning doesn't happen in a straight line.  It jumps forward & stalls ... before moving forward again.  Relationships are what keep students going.  Even during those "stall" times.

Consistent vs. inconsistent communication

The other part of keeping the relationship strong is making sure you feel heard so you know you’re part of a team working with the teacher.

In our situation, Teacher A met with students individually online to see how they were doing, emailed us to see how we were doing & offered to talk. Teacher B missed some classes or showed up late, didn’t return emails, & was very inconsistent in their approach.

As a parent who works afternoons & evenings, I value consistency in timely communication so we can plan our family schedule. It was much easier to support our kids online learning when we knew what was coming up & what needed to be done between lessons.

Knowing someone is in your “corner” can make all the difference. A teacher that focuses on building a solid relationship with your child & consistently communicates what’s happening during lessons (or coming up), makes family life a lot less stressful.

Way 2: Effectively uses technology

Back in the day, I used overhead projectors as my “tech” tool along with chalk on my trusty chalkboard. Things have changed quite a bit in the teaching world since then. And, that’s a good thing. I still remember attempting to decipher the notes one of my college professors had scribbled on the overhead projector. Some where upside down, others sideways or diagonal, with the occasional note written right side up. Needless to say, it wasn’t very clear.

Simple is often best

With our kids’ teachers, Teacher A used simple technology they already had available: phone, email, & Google classroom. These were things we were already familiar with so the learning curve as parents was minimal.

Teacher B used a Smart Board & once that was gone for online teaching just couldn’t adjust.  The Smart Board had become their teaching method instead of what it really is: a tool.

Technology is a tool.  It doesn’t replace good teaching, but helps teacher provide better support or demonstrate a skill.  Those tools can (& probably should) change over time.

Now, it’s much more common for piano teachers to use apps, online storage for resources & a host of other tech tools. This has made learning piano online much more effective.

In my piano studio, it means that students can have resources at their fingertips while they practice. Rather than waiting until the next lesson to ask a question. By keeping the technology mostly on my side, it’s easy for families to access & use the resources week to week.

Way 3: Embrace a personal approach

There is a BIG difference between one-on-one lessons & a full classroom. This is one of the reason I left teaching in a school classroom.  I hated not being able to be there when a student just needed to talk because it wasn’t fair to the other 30+ students to drop everything. Teaching one-on-one or small groups meant I could focus on those relationships I mentioned in “way 1”.

Types of online piano lessons

There are a couple of types of lesson options. Both of which we use at Must Love Music!

Private lessons:

These are completely focused on the individual student which makes it easy to keep them engaged.  After all, there’s nowhere to hide. Your teacher will see what you are doing (or not doing). And, that means it’s simple enough to switch activities or teaching approach in the moment.

Small group lessons:

These require the teacher to plan differently so students don’t have a chance to wander off or get distracted. Switching activities often & having backup plans (for when things go faster than expected) are the key to success. Plus, the upside is that students get to be part of the studio community in a way private lessons (either in-person or online) just can’t provide.

Choosing the best option

No two children are exactly alike. Your child will thrive with the lesson size & approach that works best for them.

As a parent, I’ve seen firsthand that my twins don’t really learn in bigger online group settings (like a full classroom).  However, they’ve thrived when it’s a private class or just the two of them.

I teach in a way that each student can get the attention & care I would want MY kids to get.

When it came to the online classroom, Teacher A made time for each student even if it was shorter meetings. This meant she was teaching the whole group (since that was mandatory), but then also made time for each student.  Teacher B focused on only the entire classroom which meant no one really got personal attention. When I looked at how engaged my kids were in those classes, there was a massive difference.

When deciding on an online piano teacher, choose the teacher and lesson option that ensure your child gets the personal attention & individual approach you want & they need. Some students do best with one-on-one lessons while others crave the social nature of group lessons. And, it could be that your child would love a combination of both those lesson types!

Why learning piano online is effective

How a teacher approaches online learning makes a big difference. By focusing on building rapport with each student, making technology tools easy, & personalizing the learning experience, the teacher can make learning piano online effective & fun.

Which is most important to you: relationship, ease of tech tools or a personal approach?

If this approach sounds like one you’d like, click below to set up a FREE Meet ‘n Greet with me.  This gives you a chance to ask questions before committing to online piano lessons!

Do you love music?  So do we!  Set up your FREE Meet 'n Greet with Ms. Rosemarie.
Why Do We Explore in Piano Lessons?

Why do we explore in piano lessons?

One of the things that makes Must Love Music unique is that we use every moment in lesson as an opportunity to explore. But, why do we explore in piano lessons?

Some people think lessons are about learning to read notes on a page.

And, that is part of it. But, it only covers a small portion of what lessons are really about.

How We Learn

There is a fabulous book by Benedict Carey called “How We Learn” that covers the research into learning from the last 60 years. While a book on learning research may sound incredibly boring, I assure you this one is not.

The biggest thing we can take away from this research is that having students sit at the piano learning one song after another is not the best option. Especially if students are left to figure out what the commonalities are between the pieces on their own.

I still remember a summer psychology class I took in university (which at this point is nearly 20 years ago). Why do I remember one particular class out of all the other classes the teacher taught?

She started class by telling us how much fun it had been to drive the winding road from her home to the university. The sun on her face, wind in her hair, & trees lining both sides of the road. Considering I had experienced the same thing while on the bus (no wind in my hair sadly), I absolutely could relate to her enthusiasm.

Then, my professor told us we were going to learn the parts of the brain. It was if a record came to a screeching halt. To say we were not looking forward to this “snorefest” was a bit of an understatement.

At least right up until our teacher dimmed the lights & showed us Pinkie & the Brain singing about the different parts of the brain.

I am quite sure most of us ended up using that video to study for our midterm! Not a single person forgot the brain stem. Not only was it catchy & fun to sing along with, but it was also something to bounce along with in our seats.

Think back to what you remember the most. Chances are it engaged multiple senses. Whether it was touch, smell, sight, sound or the emotions, they create a vibrant, multi-sensory memory.

In piano lessons, we work to create strong connections between what has been learnt & what is new.

And the best way to keep that from becoming a “snorefest”, is through exploration. Especially when that exploration is student-centered!

P.S. To read a synopsis of “How We Learn” with specific comparisons between learning research & piano lessons, click here.

Explore at the Piano

The biggest composers in classical music all have one thing in common, regardless of which era they lived.

They all explored & pushed the boundaries of what could be done on their instrument or available notation (how we write out music).

Almost all of those composers also taught to supplement their income. And, guess what they taught their students?

To question musical conventions & create their own interpretation of the written music.

Having students explore at the piano, both in lesson & during the week, is integral to students creating their own voice.

“But, my child is just playing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star! You can not be telling me that there are different versions of this simple little piece.”


In fact the original is a French folk song called “Ah vous dirai-je, maman“.

But, did you know that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (yes, that Mozart) decided to put his own voice to this incredibly simple song. And, I think we can all agree that he certainly succeeded in making it his own interpretation in these 12 variations of “Ah vous dirai-je maman”.

Notice how Mozart moved from just playing in the middle range of the piano, but also moved quite low for his left hand in some variations. Meanwhile the right hand explored as well in different ranges to create different moods.

If Mozart had not explored the full potential of what this piece could become chances are we in the western world may have never been introduced to this common childhood song!

Another famous pianist, Franz Liszt has had a lasting impact on music as well. He is the reason pianos are turned so the audience can see the pianist playing & why festivals/exams typically expect students to memorize music. Liszt was an incredible performer & showman that people flocked to see.

What you may not known is Liszt is also famous for saying he would perform a piece however he felt the audience would respond best to it. Regardless of what the composer had written or the musical norms from when the piece was written.

Liszt was all about putting his own voice & expression into every single piece he played. In order to do this, Liszt would have spent hours, if not days or weeks, exploring all the options available to him in order to figure out the absolute best way to play each piece for a concert.

Exploring Away from the Piano

We know that we all learn a little differently from one another. And, piano lessons are no different.

What makes off-the-bench activities so useful in piano lessons is they allow us to explore how different gestures & concepts feel in our bodies.

Piano playing is based on both the physical & artistry.

In order to play in a healthy manner, pianist use their whole bodies to create the exact sounds they want. Otherwise, our poor fingers overwork themselves & we run the risk of serious injuries over time.

For example, most music nowadays is written in a 4/4 time signature. It has a marching feel (left, right, left, right) & we naturally feel the correct emphasis since it is so common.

But, 3/4 time signature has a circular feel that is often best explored off the bench. Students need to feel how the body responds differently to this time signature to play it correctly at the piano.

Otherwise, you run the risk of putting the emPHASis on the wrong syLLABle. It just sounds wrong to the ear.

There are so many ways in which isolating a particular group of muscles helps students play piano.

A few examples are:

  • Tone production: the quality of the sound
  • Dynamics: the louder the notes, the more the arm & back muscles are used
  • Articulation: the physical way we change how to play the keys
  • Phrases: musical sentences vs. the Shatner school of acting approach

Exploration Each Lesson

In piano lessons, we want to “boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before”. Or, at the very least where our student has gone musically.

Having students explore away from the piano is integral to learning what makes good music & what is just sounds.

It is integral to giving students a voice, rather than copying what others have done before them.

And, exploring at the piano is what keeps students excited to learn & making music for the long term.

For 5 ideas that can be used each & every day, click below.

5 Ways to Become More Musical