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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.

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.

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!

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.

Knowing the Notes on the Guitar

original-singingguitarLearning to read standard notation is something many guitarists will never do. And while there are definite benefits to learning how to read notes, unless you’re playing Jazz or Classical, it’s not necessary to become an accomplished guitar player. However, knowing how to figure out what note you’re playing on the guitar is absolutely necessary if you want to go beyond strumming the standard open chords.

Knowing what note you’re playing on the guitar will help you to determine what scales and chords you’re playing up and down the neck. Each scale and chord has a root note that they are built from. The root note is the letter name which appears at the beginning of the scale or chord symbol (A major scale or C7 chord).

While it’s easy to memorize what chord or scale you’re playing when there are only a few in open position, when you start moving these shapes around the guitar, it becomes imperative to know your root notes and letter names.

The good news is that this is extremely easy as long as you know three things:

1) the names of the strings on the guitar

2) the difference between whole steps and half steps

3) the pattern of the musical alphabet

The names of the strings on the guitar

guitar, notes, lessons

As you can see, the two outside strings are both E notes, called Low E (the thickest string) and High E (the thinnest string). From Low to High the note names of the guitar strings are E, A, D, G, B, E. The strings are numbered 1-6 from highest to lowest, however, most people will order them from lowest to highest.

Here’s a little pneumonic device for remembering the string names from lowest to highest:

(6)Every  (5)Apple  (4)Does  (3)Go  (2)Bad  (1)Eventually

What are whole steps and half steps?

On the guitar, the notes are determined by what fret you’re holding when you pick the string, unlike the piano where each note is represented by pressing a different key.

A half step is the shortest distance you can go, so on the guitar it is the distance between one fret and the next fret up or down. If you’re playing the 3rd fret – low E string, a half step up would be the 4th fret and a half step down would be the 2nd fret on the same string.

Keep in mind that the distance between an open string and the 1st fret is a half step.

A whole step is equivalent to the distance of two half steps. So if you’re playing that same note on the 3rd fret – low E string, a whole step up would be the 5th fret and a whole step down would be the 1st fret.

All scales have an order of whole steps and half steps which repeat over and over again. The musical alphabet also has an order of whole steps and half steps. Once you know that order, you’ll be able to figure out any note on the guitar.

So what is the musical alphabet?

The musical alphabet starts with A, just like the regular alphabet. However, it only goes up to G. After G it simply goes back to A and repeats again. So it includes letters A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. There is no H note. If you already know your standard open chords, you’ll already recognize a lot of these letter names from those chords.

There is either a whole step (2 frets) or a half step (1 fret) between each of these notes of the musical alphabet. The easiest way to remember the order is that there are whole steps between all the letters with the exception of half steps between B and C and between E and F.

Here are the distances between all the notes in the musical alphabet shown below on a guitar fretboard in relationship to a piano keyboard (the keyboard had to be distorted a bit to line up with the fretboard):

Relating the notes of the piano to the guitar
So what are the notes in between the whole steps?

Ah yes. You may have noticed that we’re skipping some notes because there are whole steps between most of the letters in the musical alphabet. This is where flat and sharp notes come into the equation.

A flat note is represented by a lower case b, as seen in the chord Bb Major or Ab minor. A sharp is represented by the number sign or hashtag symbol #, as seen in the chords G# major or C# minor.

When you flat a note, you bring it down a half step from whatever letter name you’re on. So if you’re playing a G note (3rd fret – low E string), you would play the 2nd fret for a Gb. A sharp note is just the opposite, go up one fret. So to play a G# on the low E string, you would play the 4th fret.

Now when we play the 4th fret G#, it could also be called an Ab because it is one fret above a G and one fret below an A. These are called enharmonic notes. They are notes which can be labeled as a flat or a sharp. Usually this is dependent upon what key you’re in, but we’ll get to that in another article!

Figuring Out What Note You’re Playing

So to figure out what note you’re playing on any string, simply start with the open note that you know because you have your string names memorized! Then work your way up the musical alphabet until you get to the note that you’re playing.

Examples:

  1. If I want to figure out what note I’m playing on the 5th fret, low E string I would start with my low open E, then go up a half step to the 1st fret (because there is a half step between E and F). Now I’m on an F note on the 1st fret, go up a whole step to the 3rd fret. Now I’m on G. Go up one more whole step to the 5th fret. Now I’m on A because the musical alphabet always repeats after G. So the 5th fret, low E string is an A note.
  2. If I want to figure out what note is on the 4th fret D string, I can do the same process. Start with my open D string, then go up a whole step to the 2nd fret (because there is a whole step between D and E). Now I’m on an E note. Then go up a half step to my next letter F on the 3rd fret (because there is always a half step between E and F). If we wanted to go up to the next letter we’d have to go up another whole step to get to G. However, we’re only going up to the 4th fret so we’ve hit a sharp/flat note. The 4th fret – D string can either be called an F# or a Gb depending on what key you’re in.

You can do these exercises all day long to practice finding and naming notes on all the strings of the guitar. Just kidding, maybe just 5 minutes a day? As you know, regular practice goes a long way!

Below is a diagram of all the notes on the guitar so you can check your work. Good luck naming those notes!

guitar, lessons, frets, fingering

Check out our talented students!

Our seasonal recitals are a great way for students to get an opportunity to perform for friends and family! It’s also great for friends and family to get a chance to see the progress they’ve made since last time, whether they are 6 years old or 60 years old. Check out this video offering up highlights of every students performance from our Spring 2018 recital at the Ethical Society of Philadelphia!

Spring 2018 Recital

ethicalWe are so happy to announce that our Spring Recital this year will take place on Saturday, May 19th at the Ethical Society of Philadelphia!  Our recitals are our most exciting public events of the year, and are a fantastic way for family and friends to get involved with lessons. Students of all ages and levels of development are encouraged to sign up and so the music heard over the course of the concert is full of surprises and variety!

Public performance is an important part of music-making, and so we are very proud to be able to offer these concerts twice a year for our students. In order to accommodate the number of students, the recital is spread out over two sets, each with separate admission.

Saturday, May 19th, 2018

Set 1 @ 1:00pm

Set 2 @ 3:00pm

Enjoy a great afternoon of music making, and then you can enjoy all the wonderful restaurants and activities of Center City! Tickets at the door are $10.

Partnering with Local Schools – La Salle Academy

Music PartnershipsLa Salle Academy: Expanding our Teaching Partnerships

One of the core mission statements at Philly Music Lessons is that everyone deserves a chance to learn music. It drives us to make lessons available to many communities and families with varying income levels and schedules. That is why we offer the convenience of in-home lessons, as well as local studio lessons in Fishtown and South Philly, and why we offer financial aid discounts to low-income families.

To further expand opportunities for kids to learn music, we’ve started to partner with local schools, offering discounted private and group lessons during after school hours. Because our lessons are made available at an affordable rate, right on the school premises, it is much easier for kids to begin the process of learning music!

Engaging Students at La Salle through Music Performances and Presentations

DSC_0047 (1)We recently traveled down the road from our Fishtown studio to La Salle Academy, located in Kensington on North 2nd Street. Our teachers gave presentations to grades 3-8, showing them the basics of piano, guitar, violin and drums. Starting with the principles of technique and theory, our two multi-instrumentalist teachers, Sean Conlon and Emily Stewart, were able to give the kids a sense of what the beginning portion of learning an instrument really looks like. Our teachers performed solo pieces on each instrument, and followed with group performances to show how different instruments can come together to create unique styles and sounds. It was very inspiring for students to see professional musicians performing at an advanced level. We feel this experience gives them a sense of the hard work and dedication that goes into attaining such a level of musicianship.

DSC_0052 (1)DSC_0043 (1)With our presentations, children are better able to gauge their general level of interest in music. They may also be able to better determine which instrument they’d like to learn. We feel that starting a child off with an instrument that really inspires them is the best way to form a positive and lasting relationship with music. We hope these kinds of experiences at an early age will stick with them for the rest of their lives!

New Music Education Partnerships

Philly Music Lessons will be working to maintain and expand relationships with other schools in the city of Philadelphia throughout the 2018 school year. We feel our teachers have a lot to offer in terms of supplementing standard music education classes and providing individualized lessons to students who may not have access to them otherwise. As most educators know, there is no substitute for a great teacher.