The Effectiveness of Online Lessons

A Music Teacher’s Journey in a Socially Distanced World

As COVID-19 spread throughout the country and small businesses like ours were forced to close their doors, I began to ponder how we might weather this storm. Up until now, our business had been based on private lessons taught face-to-face at one of our studios, or in the student’s home, with teachers and students in close proximity. However, the new world of social distancing would no longer allow this kind of person to person contact.

Completely discontinuing lessons until our studios could reopen was not a viable option for us or our teachers and staff who rely on the income Philly Music Lessons provides. We also knew the importance of consistent practice for developing musicians. It was important to us to help our students continue their musical growth despite this new obstacle.

So the next logical step was to move lessons online and hope that our teachers would be able to deliver the professional and personalized instruction our students expect.

I admit, I was nervous about the idea of online lessons being as effective and enjoyable as in-person lessons. When something has been done a certain way for so long, it’s hard to imagine an alternative. However, before I even taught my first online lesson, reviews started to come in from the students who had tried them.

I was pleasantly surprised: Students of all ages and skill levels were trying online lessons, learning, and having a great time! One student trumpeter was impressed by how well their teacher could coach their pitch and intonation via FaceTime. A pianist couldn’t believe how well they could see their teachers keyboard to help them learn new musical passages. Another student was grateful that a weekly session could provide some normalcy during such an uncertain time in their lives

My First Online Lessons

A few days later, it was time for my first online lesson. Although I knew other teachers had succeeded in this new format, I was a bit nervous. There was a tangible learning curve due to the slight latency that occurs with video conferencing software, and the fact that audio can’t go both ways at once. I quickly realized that this would force me as a teacher to be more clear and concise than I was used to. Still, I could play a passage and listen to the student repeat it. I could also very clearly see and hear whether the student was playing it correctly or not.

I taught a handful of guitar lessons over Skype that day and learned more about the limitations and possibilities of this new medium. It was not possible to play together with a student in real time, so each lesson became more of a back and forth conversation than a jam session. I could still offer information specific to each students’ goals, just as I did in person.

I later discovered a partial solution to this issue by giving students pre-recorded tracks to play along to. It takes a little bit more preparation than a normal lesson to provide the experience of playing along with another musician, but the result is just as good!

The Wonders of Screen Sharing

I started out using Skype as my main platform, however, one of my students wanted to try Zoom. I quickly learned that Zoom didn’t even require the student to have an account. They just click on a link that the teacher emails them and they can take the lesson right from their browser.

I also discovered Zoom’s options for screen sharing. It enabled me to use an iPad or iPhone to write out exercises or lessons. I could easily incorporate a second camera focused on my instrument. This was a game changer.

Screen sharing options during and online music lesson

Now, I write out practice material for my students during the lesson in real time, and I can show them how to play the piece with a closeup view of my hands. They see the information pop up on their screen just as if I were writing it on paper and a music stand. The only difference is this is more organized and easier to read without any of my bad handwriting on it!

I began to view the creation of these lesson documents as an art in and of itself. I could email complete, organized materials to each student during or after each lesson. However, I realized that sending so many emails back and forth could be burdensome. If only there were a better way . . .

A Shared Folder

This was immensely helpful with organizing my online lessons. I invite each of my students to a shared Google Drive folder. I upload documents directly to the folder and the student receives them instantly. Instead of searching through emails for lesson notes, the material is sorted into subfolders, making sure that each lesson is documented properly.

Even better than a physical folder, I can add materials between lessons to keep my students prepared. It’s easy for the student and teacher to know exactly what material is in there. And best of all, there are no papers getting folded, torn, or lost.

Recording Lessons

The final piece of the online lesson puzzle: I can give my permission for students to record important moments or even entire lessons! At the end of a Zoom call, recordings are exported as video files, so students can rewatch their teacher performing a piece of music or demonstrating a new concept anytime.

Overall, I’ve found that online lessons can superior to in-person lessons in many ways. The inability to play simultaneously is offset by how organized and clear online lessons can be. All of the lesson materials are documented using the shared folder and video recordings. Between lessons, my students know exactly what they need to work on, which makes for more effective practicing.

During such a hard time for the world at large, the surprising effectiveness of online music lessons has been a small bright spot for our teachers, students and parents.

10 Techniques For Developing A Musical Practice

By Nicholas Krolak

A musician’s performance on stage is a direct expression of the time and energy spent in the practice room. Therefore, having a clear and effective practice strategy is invaluable. Here are a few proven techniques for improving practice outcomes, spending practice time more effectively, and having more fun.

Keyboard metronome practice

1. Block Distractions

Practice begins before you even touch your instrument. Life is full of distractions, but your practice space should be your sanctuary. A place of focus. You will get so much more out of your practice time in an environment that is calm and distraction free (as much as possible).

2. Set Goals

Think of what your goals for that practice day are. Keep them small and completable. There is no need to overwhelm yourself. Practicing one thing thoroughly is always better than practicing ten things superficially. Be sure to write down your daily goals in a practice journal, where you can also record your weekly, monthly, and yearly goals.

3. Visualize

Before playing a piece, scale, or etude, try closing your eyes and visualizing yourself playing it. How does it feel? How does it sound? Now try playing it. Does it match your visualized experience? If not, visualize it again and focus on the difficult parts. Get your mind around it first and your body will follow.

4. Practice Slow

Most music students, including myself, are in a hurry to play a piece at full tempo or beyond. They key to playing fast, is playing slow. Slowing down a piece will reveal all the stumbling blocks and how to get past them. You may have to decrease the tempo many times to fully smooth out a piece, but in the long run it is worth it.

Metronome tempo practice

They key to playing fast, is playing slow.

5. Use a Metronome

A metronome is a great tool to help you develop and strengthen your internal clock. However, most music students either don’t use one, or use it incorrectly. When playing something for the first time it is fine to have the metronome playing all the beats. Once it is a little more comfortable, try muting one beat, then two beats, then three beats. Muting beats forces you to keep track of the time, and the metronome will let you know how successful you were.

6. Use a Drone

A drone is like a metronome for pitch. It gives you instant feedback on your intonation. Set a drone to the tonic pitch of the piece to make sure your intonation stays constant. Observe when it drifts, and bring it back.

7. Focus on the Crux

The crux is the hardest part of a piece of music. It is very common for students to play the parts they know as fast as they can, stumble through the hard part (at a much slower tempo), and call it a day. This is ineffective. It is a better use of time to spend most of your practice time on the hardest part. This is where big gains is musical growth will happen.

8. Chunking

“Chunking” is the process of working on a larger piece by breaking it into chunks. Working chunk by chunk and then working to connect them is much more effective than playing a piece from start to finish every time.

9. Record Yourself

Record your practice sessions and performances and listen back to them periodically. What needs to improve? What are your strengths? Write observations down in your practice journal, and use your insights to set or redesign goals.

10. Have Fun!

Musical practice is one of the most challenging and rewarding pursuits, but can be tedious at times. Whenever, it gets boring, try making a game for yourself or to be played with others. Write your own etude or duet, try playing another instrument, or go see some live music. Keeping it fun will help motivate and stimulate your musical experiences.

open music kids class

Online Lessons Are Here!

Social Distancing & Music Lessons

Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime lessons have enabled our students to continue learning during these stay-at-home times.

Online Music LessonsWith state-wide closures of non-essential businesses amid the pandemic, our Fishtown and South Philly studios have been closed. However, many of our current students have transitioned to online lessons. We’ve received such positive responses, we wanted to share some with you as we invite you to join us in the virtual realm. Perhaps there’s no better time to learn something new.

  Book Online Lessons Now   

What We’re Offering

  • Live, Face-to-Face Private Instruction (Over 50 Local Teachers)
  • Online Lesson Set-Up Guidance
  • Beginner to Advanced Instruction
  • All Ages & Styles
  • Guitar, Piano, Voice, Drums, Strings, Woodwinds, Brass
  • Half Price Trial Lessons

What You’ll Need:

  • A user account or phone number for your preferred platform (Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, or other)
  • An instrument
  • High-speed internet connection
  • Desktop, laptop computer, or mobile device with microphone and camera (tripod or support stand for phone users)

How You Are Helping:

  • Taking lessons provides crucial support to musicians and educators in Philadelphia during this time
  • You are sustaining your local economy by investing in small businesses (likes us!) as we all cope with the COVID-19 changes
  • You’re keeping the arts alive (when we need ‘em most)

What Students Are Saying:

(Trumpet Lessons)
Let me tell you how pleased I am with my first online trumpet lesson with John Dimase. I am an older student and video conferencing tech was outside of my experience, but John guided me through the steps to get set up through my cell phone. I thought I would have to buy a camera and figure out how to get it to work on my laptop, etc. I kind of feel silly that I had built it up to be such a shibboleth.Audio quality was good enough that he could tell when I was flat or sharp and he was able to guide me through our regular lesson. Any of my awkwardness from dealing with the new format soon fell away and it was almost like we were back in the studio. It worked surprisingly well.While it seems like so many avenues of creativity, enrichment and socializing have been cut off, I thank you for keeping this portion of normalcy viable. I’ve already re-upped for 10 more with John and I look forward to continuing my journey to learn the trumpet in the comfort of my own home until the studios re-open. Philly Music Lessons is an asset to the south Philly community and I hope others can have the positive experience I had.Thanks again,
K.

(Piano Lessons)
When I moved to Philadelphia several months ago, I knew I wanted to start taking piano lessons. I did some research, found Philly Music Lessons and was immediately connected with an excellent teacher who worked with adult students like me. When I heard this past week that I would have the option to have my next lesson conducted online I jumped at the chance. Why not? It seemed like a good idea to cut down on foot traffic in the Fishtown studio space. I was already looking forward to yesterday’s online class, but I want to say that it exceeded my expectations. I received the same attentive teaching that I have always gotten in person.I love being able to continue taking lessons, and I look forward to my next one. I want other students to know that it is absolutely possible to continue getting excellent music instruction while staying safe. I believe that music students will enjoy keeping lessons as a regular part of their lives right now. Being able to do something as normal as taking a piano lesson is actually quite soothing and reassuring in a stressful time.Sincerely,
R.K.

(Ukulele Lessons)

Covid-19 can’t stop Joyce from ukulele practice. @phillymusiclessons is offering virtual lessons and Joyce was thrilled to still be able to see her teacher Collin this week!

M.

Fall Recital Coming Up Nov 16

600_89973492Our fall recital this year will again take place at the Ethical Society of Philadelphia on Rittenhouse Square! Saturday, Nov 16 is a perfect day to come enjoy the amazing talent and diversity of our students in the middle of Philly’s most beautiful public park and overwhelming selection of world-class restaurants.

If you are already a student and would like to sign up to perform in the recital, just talk to your teacher by Nov 1st!

The performances will be split up between multiple sets between 1PM and 5PM; feel free to come to just one set, or stay for all of them!

This event is open to the public.

Admission: $10 Per Person

1:oo PM – 5:00 PM

Philadelphia Ethical Society
1906 Rittenhouse Square
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Student Recital 5/18

Don't you want to look as cool as this random man wearing plaid?

Don’t you want to look as cool as this random man wearing plaid?

What could possibly make this already lovely Spring even better?

Ummmm obviously a student recital! 

This recital will take place on Rittenhouse Square at the Ethical Society of Philadelphia, the same location we’ve been lucky enough to use for several years now. It’s location means that not only do you get to hear an amazing spectrum of music and performers, you can make a beautiful Saturday afternoon in one of Philadelphia’s best neighborhoods for restaurants and shops.

If you haven’t let your teacher know already, please do so soon because the deadline for signing up is fast approaching!

 

 

Facebook Event Page

Philadelphia Ethical Society
1906 Rittenhouse Sq, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103

Students will be showcased in two sets.

Set 1 – 1:00 PM
Set 2 -3:00 PM

Tickets $10 available at the door | Cash only

(Performers must also have a ticket)

PML Gets Philadelphia Family Love Award

 

2019_LOVE_PF_Winner

 

Philly Music Lessons has been selected as recipient of the Philadelphia Family Love Awards for 2019. This award serves as recommendation for businesses that have demonstrated a commitment to their communities and carry a trusted name in the city. We’re honored to be selected this year and can’t wait to keep filling neighborhoods with music all year long!

If you’re looking to finally get around to your dream of playing the piano, or you know a child who spends their days begging to learn the guitar, we can get you set up with a half-price trial lesson with a teacher who knows exactly how you want to work!

 

Get started by sending us a submission!

 

Fall Recital 2018 Highlights

The recitals are the best time of the year every time they come around. Not only do we get to enjoy great music, but we also get to watch the growth of each participant! A good concert, with a great community of people. What more could you want?

Our recitals happen twice per year, once in the Spring and once in the Fall. If you’d like to perform on one, let your teacher know!

The Fall Recital is Coming!

ethicalContinuing our tradition of student recitals, don’t miss out on hearing all the talent pouring out of Philly Music Lessons at our Fall Recital this year! The big day this season is Saturday, December 8 and it is again being held at the Ethical Society of Philadelphia, right on Rittenhouse Square.

Open the public, this event will showcase students of all ages performing their best and favorite works. Not only is it great to hear so many songs as an audience member, but it’s also a crucially important skill for any musician to learn how to manage public performance!

Students are grouped into two sets:

Set 1: 1:00
Set 2: 3:00

Admission is $10 (Unless of course you are one of the performers!)

Fretting Hand Technique Exercises

lessons_mainline_webIn this article, I’m going to present a number of technique exercises that will help you to play single note melodies, as well as chords with your fretting hand. The exercises will all be single note picking, but the principles of stretching and strengthening your fingers will apply to all aspects of your playing. It’s advised that you read my article on fretting hand technique to supplement these exercises. The principles in these exercises are borrowed from a great book called Guitar Technic by Roger Filiberto. You should pick it up if you have the chance!

 

Basic Principles to Remember

  1. Always press down right behind the fret to get the cleanest sound, not too far behind the fret and not directly on it.
  2. Press down behind the fret with the very tip of your finger.
  3. Keep your fingers curved.
  4. Fingers that are not playing should remain curved and ready to play at any time.
  5. Economy of motion: move your fingers as little as possible to get the job done. This will pay off huge dividends later when increasing the speed of these exercises.
  6. Keep the pad of your thumb in the middle of the back of the neck, always facing away from you.
  7. Curve your wrist as little as possible.
  8. Palm of your hand facing up, perpendicular to the neck.
  9. Keep your knuckles apart from each other. This stretch is important when playing chords.

 

Practicing alternate picking with your right hand for all of these exercises (down-up-down-up). The x followed by dashes means to hold down that finger throughout or until the dashes end. Continue all the exercises to the low E string to make sure you cover each string.

Also, if any of these exercises are too hard to do in the first position, you can move them up the neck to any position that’s doable for you. The frets get smaller as you get higher on the neck, so it requires less finger stretch to do the exercise as you get to higher positions.

 

Ex. 1.1

    (hold down first finger down)

    x – – – – – – – – – – – – –   x – – – – – – – – – – – – – x – – – – – – – – – – – – –

E|–1–2–1–2–1–2–1–2—————————————————————

B|———————————1–2–1–2–1–2–1–2——————————–

G|—————————————————————1–2–1–2–1–2–1–2–

D|———————————————————————————————

A|———————————————————————————————

E|——————————————————————————————— (continue to the low E string)

 

Ex. 1.2

    x – – – – – – – – – – – – –  x – – – – – – – – – – – – – x – – – – – – – – – – – – –

E|–1–3–1–3–1–3–1–3————————————————————

B|——————————–1–3–1–3–1–3–1–3——————————

G|————————————————————-1–3–1–3–1–3–1–3–

D|——————————————————————————————-

A|——————————————————————————————-

E|——————————————————————————————-

 

Ex. 1.3

    x – – – – – – – – – – – – –  x – – – – – – – – – – – – – x – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

E|–1–4–1–4–1–4–1–4————————————————————–

B|——————————–1–4–1–4–1–4–1–4——————————–

G|————————————————————–1–4–1–4–1–4–1–4–

D|——————————————————————————————–

A|——————————————————————————————–

E|——————————————————————————————–

 

Bending the Wrist and Straightening the Fingers

You may notice that these exercises are harder as you get closer to the low E string. That’s because your fingers have to reach further. The natural tendency is to bend your wrist to compensate for the added difficulty. A small amount of bend is natural as you get towards the lower strings, however, make sure to not over bend which can lead to unnecessary tension and injury.

In order to keep your wrist as straight as possible, you can gradually straighten out your fingers as you approach the low E string. This technique can also help to mute unnecessary strings.

 

Here are  couple more exercises that use the basic principles from above to utilize all the fingers.

 

Ex. 2.1

 

    x – – – – –  x – – – – – –  x – – – – – – x – – – – – – x – – – – – – x – – – – – –

E|——————————————————————————–1–2–3–4—

B|—————————————————————–1–2–3–4——————

G|————————————————-1–2–3–4———————————-

D|———————————-1–2–3–4————————————————-

A|——————1–2–3–4—————————————————————–

E|–1–2–3–4———————————————————————————

 

And then come back down…

 

Ex. 2.2

 

E|–4–3–2–1———————————————————————————–

B|——————4–3–2–1——————————————————————-

G|———————————-4–3–2–1—————————————————

D|————————————————–4–3–2–1———————————–

A|——————————————————————4–3–2–1——————-

E|———————————————————————————-4–3–2–1—

 

There is a pretty big leap in difficulty from the first series of exercises to the second. I’m presenting these as examples in order to apply the principles of correct fretting hand technique. For a more graduated course I highly advise purchasing Mel Bay’s Guitar Technic by Roger Filiberto. This book presents the exercises in a graduated manner, allowing you to slowly work up to the harder ones.

Fretting hand technique can be difficult in the beginning, but practice with the fundamental techniques in this article, and you’ll begin to see results in no time! Chords, scales, melodies, and solos will all be easier to play when you practice with intention. And remember, it’s always best to practice every day than to try to squeeze in a big practice session once or twice a week. This especially applies to technique practice where muscle memory is extremely important. Spread your practice sessions out over the course of the week for the best results.

Moveable Chord Forms on the Guitar

 

In this article, I’m going to discuss some basic chord shapes on the guitar in open position and show you how to turn them into movable chord forms. It is recommended that you have a basic understanding of open chords and are able to switch between them fluidly before trying the methods discussed below.

 

What is a moveable chord form anyway?

A movable chord form is a chord played with no open strings, that can be moved up and down the neck. You will maintain the basic shape of the chord no matter where you play it. However, the letter name of the chord will change as you move (the terms chord “form” and chord “shape will be used interchangeably throughout this article). It is important to know the root note of the chord so you can determine what chord you’re actually playing as you move the form. Knowing the notes on the guitar will help you.

The most popular moveable chord forms are often referred to as “barre chords” on the guitar, because they require you to create a “barre” across all six strings with the 1st finger on your fretting hand. Your first finger is essentially acting as a capo, so that you can move chord shapes up and down the neck freely. If you’re not used to barring with your 1st finger, this can be difficult in the beginning, but stick with it, and soon your barre chords will sound just as good as if you were playing with a capo! Here are some technique exercises that will help you stretch and strengthen your fingers to make playing barre chords easier. You can also read my article on fretting hand technique to supplement the exercises.

 

What Chord Forms Can I Move Around the Neck?

Well, the real answer is all of them! However, we’re going to start with some of the basic major chord shapes, because they are the theoretical foundation for every other chord. The five shapes that we’ll discuss in this article are often referred to as the CAGED chords, named after the chords that these shapes make in the open position.

The most popular movable chord shape is the E shape, so we’ll start there for the purposes of this article.

 

Let’s Start Moving Some Chords Around!

image3

Here is the basic E major chord shape in the open position, the one that we all know and love with the standard fingering:

The key to turning an open chord form into a movable chord form is to first learn how to play the chord in the open position without using your 1st finger. We have to free up your 1st finger in order to create the barre that will enable you to move the chord shape up and down the neck.

Here is the same E major chord with a different fingering which frees up your 1st finger:

image2

Now that your first finger is freed up, you’re ready to turn this shape into a movable chord form! Barre your first finger behind the nut of the guitar by laying your entire 1st finger across all six strings. This will give you a sense of how this chord shape will feel to play once you move it. Now slide everything up one fret and you get an F chord shown below:

image1

It is important to know that the lowest root of this shape is located on the low E string. So when you’re in the open position it creates an E major chord (the letter name of the chord is always named after the root note). Because E and F are on half step away from each other, when you move the shape up a half step, the same chord form becomes an F major chord. If this is confusing to you, please read this article on the musical alphabet and how it can be applied to guitar.

 

Continuing Up the Neck

Let’s move this same shape up the neck one more time. The F major chord is in first position with it’s root on the F note located on the first fret of the low E string. If you move up a whole step to the third position, then the root changes to a G, making the new chord a G major.

image4

This can be continued all the way up the neck, until the notes start to repeat at the 12th fret. In this way, you can play all 12 major chords with the same chord form! Knowing how to play movable chord forms on the guitar will open up a whole new world of possibilities playing all over the neck, instead of just staying in the open position. Knowing how and when to use these chord forms will also help you begin to understand the fretboard and it will serve as the foundation to learning your pentatonic scales and basic music theory on the guitar.

In the next article, we’ll talk about how to do this with the other four major forms in the CAGED system.