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 Piano Teachers Keep Learning

Did you know that many piano teachers pursue different types of professional development each year? It could be their piano lessons that specialize on a specific style of music, online workshops throughout the year or multi-day conferences.

Part of a being a master teacher is understanding this, “We never really stop learning.”

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What Piano Parents Need to Know About Group Lessons

What Piano Parents Need to Know about Group Lessons

Oftentimes, we think of piano lessons as one student at the piano with a teacher sitting next to them. However, today’s teachers have realized that group lessons meet unique needs for their students.

At Must Love Music, we offer programming based on the needs of each child. But, all student programming has group lessons built in throughout the year. This ensure that each student gets one-on-one time while also spending time and building relationship with other students within the studio.

It also means that our students our eager to see what activities group lesson weeks hold!

What are Group Lessons?

Some studios offer weekly group lessons while others hold group lessons at set points throughout the year.

The other thing that may confuse some piano parents is that there are multiple terms to describe the same thing.

  • Group lesson
  • Master class
  • Piano party

However group lessons, by any name, have a few things in common.

  • Multiple students gather together at a common time and place.
  • Focus on a particular set of skills or concepts.

Common times for studios to hold group lesson weeks are:

  • Halloween
  • Christmas
  • End of year

Typically, these group lesson weeks mix seasonal activities with the current studio focus.

At Halloween, perhaps students may explore pulse & rhythm with whole body activities to burn off the pre-candy energy.

At Christmas, students typically perform music they have prepared to play over the holidays. But, they will also participate in activities that tie together musical terms or ideas from the previous months.

Weather willing, Must Love Music students spend their last group lesson outdoors doing music theory in fun ways. (But, keep that our secret please.) Rather than fighting their natural desire to be outside, we move group lesson!

Why Have Group Lessons?

If your child regularly has private weekly lessons, the idea of changing the schedule may seem strange. But, I promise there are very good reasons why piano teachers have opted to include these activities.

Piano can be a lonely activity.

While other instruments are portable, pianos are more stationary.

Imagine trying to carry your acoustic piano to a friend’s house. Perhaps you have a great case that zips up to protect it from the weather. Maybe little wheels to make it easier to transport.

I think we will both agree that scenario is highly unlikely. Especially if you have ever seen adults attempting to move a full sized piano into a home.

Moving away from this tongue-in-cheek imagining, think about where the piano is placed in your home.

Is it tucked away in a corner or even worse in the basement?

When your child plays are they alone? Or, is a member of the family close by to encourage and occasionally sing along?

When I was much younger, I remember an instant where someone in my family decided the radio was going to be turned on while I was practicing. Except the radio made it hard for me to hear what I was playing. What resulted was a hilarious (in hindsight) game of who could be louder. Me on the piano or the stereo speakers.

Another time, I was playing “The Rose” which happened to be one of my dad’s favourite songs. What I remember was finding out how much it meant to him every time I played that song. And while it was not my favourite song at the time (life experience has made the lyrics much more poignant), both did I play it a lot when he was around. Consequently, “The Rose” became a song that I mastered very well.

Yes, your child needs to do the practice. But, this does not mean they need to feel alone.

Being with other students helps students:

  • See how far they have come.
  • Get inspired by where they can go.
  • Realize that the ups and downs of piano are ones other students have experienced as well.
Learn about the role of piano parents

Chance to Focus on Specific Concepts

As piano teachers, we do our best to give your child a diverse and interesting learning experience each lesson.

And while this does create an environment of exploration and fun, it does mean that some concepts are a little more difficult to cover.

Group lessons give students the opportunity to delve into topics that we may only get to superficially in lesson.

Music history happens to be one of these topics. Understanding what makes each musical era unique helps students create their own interpretation of their repertoire. Making time to go into these details during lesson or assigning this during the week is more difficult to implement.

Group lessons give students the opportunity to explore music history in a new way.

For example, one year we “Traveled Through Time” in our studio. At the December group lesson we all learnt the basic steps for the minuet because we had focused on the Baroque era.

Not only was it fun to try something new as a studio, but individual lessons make group activities like this either difficult or impossible.

Change in Routine

Why do we love holidays so much? Because they are a break in the routine.

As a former classroom teacher, I can tell you that there are certain times of the year when our students resemble swarming ants more than focused children. In fact, I would venture to guess that you see many of the same behaviours at home.

While routine is important and creates a foundation for learning, shaking up the routine is just as important.

Group lessons can ensure that deep learning happens at a time when your child is just ready to be done.

Rather than fighting the natural desire to take a break from the routine, changing the location and timing can bring a whole new energy to lessons!

Professional Development

On a side note, piano teachers often will take time for professional development throughout the year.

Whether this is conferences or workshops or pursuing higher education certification, a teacher that is continually learning is a teacher that has an amazing toolbox to help your child learn!

Rather than cancel lessons completely in order to attend training, teachers can use group lessons as a win-win situation.

The teacher continues to learn. Your child still has a piano lesson albeit in a different form.

What to Expect

Each teacher will handle group lessons a little differently, so be sure to ask your child’s teacher.

Scheduling

There are two options that teachers use to set up group lesson days & times. Neither is better or worse. They just reflect the goals or comfort level of your child’s teacher.

The schedule may be set up by the teacher. You will receive an email telling you which group lesson your child is expected to attend.

At Must Love Music, piano parents get a registration link in the monthly newsletter. This link shows a couple options of days/times for group lessons. Piano parents that register quickly get the spots that work best for their family. Piano parents who wait take the spots that are left.

The second option gives more flexibility to the family, but more planning to the teacher. A teacher must be very comfortable having students of all ages at the same time to successfully use this scheduling option.

Day of the Group Lesson

Each group lesson will have a specific drop-off time and pick-up time.

Think about the expectations when your child attends a birthday party at a rented facility (for example, laser tag). There are certain social norms that apply in both situations.

You are expected to drop off your child on time. Arriving 15 minutes early is not acceptable, unless you are supervising your child in your vehicle. This is because your child’s teacher is prepping for the group lesson.

You are expected to pick up your child on time. Children will often worry if their parent is late for pick-up. It also means that your child’s teacher is unable to shift to other prior commitments because they are still caring for your child.

Your child’s teacher will tell you and your child what they are required to bring to group lesson.

This can include your child’s:

  • Binder
  • Practice pouch (with pencil & eraser)
  • Points card
  • Music that will be performed

If you are not sure what your child needs to bring to group lesson, ask your child’s teacher. They want your child to have a successful group lesson as well!

What Happens During Group Lesson

Again the activities within group lesson will vary from teacher to teacher. And, to a certain extent from group lesson to group lesson.

Intro Activity

Often there is an intro activity. This is something that allows students to settle into group lesson and transition from whichever activity they may have add before arriving.

This intro activity could be a worksheet or invitation to warm-up at the piano before performances begin.

The Main Event

Typically, piano teachers switch activities often within the group lesson.

This ensures a few things:

  • Students do not have a chance to get bored.
  • Group lesson seems to “fly by” with students wondering why it is already over.
  • Students can explore concepts in several different ways to facilitate deeper learning.

Activities can range from:

  • Playing the piano (individually or as a group)
  • Worksheets
  • Listening activities
  • Whole body movement
  • Games
  • Videos with discussion

The goal is for your child to have fun while learning. Or as I jokingly say, “Trick them into learning.”

Closing Activity

Your teacher may or may not have a closing activity.

At Must Love Music, students get a healthy snack while music that matches the group lesson theme plays in the background. We may talk about the music or activities within the group lesson lesson. Or, students may visit with one another.

Either way, students have created closer relationships with other students in the studio and started the transition for their next activity.

Helping Your Child Prepare For Group Lesson

Most teachers give information to their clients before group lesson. They may talk with the student beforehand to answer any questions.

But, some children can be nervous going into a new situation. And as parents, we want to know how to help our child.

Click below to access your FREE copy of “5 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Group Lessons”.