Tag Archives: music lessons

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.

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!

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.

 

Our Fishtown Community, Our Story!

Morning Music ClassesFishtown Community Building Through Music 
A few years ago, we moved our music lessons business out of our basement and into a beautiful space down the street in Fishtown. Feeling inspired by my own upbringing next to a fine arts and music institute for kids and adults, I decided to start teaching music classes to the smallest of our neighbors! I wanted to bring the experience of walking past an open window to the sounds of clarinets, opera singing, piano practice, and plays into my Fishtown community. Cracking open the windows on a warm June day, the sounds our first music classes and lessons were heard in Fishtown in 2014.


Bringing high quality music was a focus of mine. I had been to some great music classes throughout the city in my nannying days, and I realized how deeply kids responded to the ones with genuinely good music and real instruments. With this in mind, I created a flexible routine that engages kids through props, promotes spontaneous interaction between teacher and child, and trains the ears to hear pitches using Solfege, familiar songs, and other music-based exercises. At the center of my classes are our carefully selected teachers, often performers in Philly and teachers with a talent for connecting with kids. They play their guitar (and sometimes ukulele!), while performing and guiding children through various kids songs, rhymes, and our unique “Hello” and “Goodbye” songs. 


Each week, old standards and new children’s songs are presented. With a scarves, pinwheels, parachutes, puppets, shakers, various world instruments, a big piano, and more, we explore what it means to play music. Interactive pieces shift from the most basic of kind to more complex dances and movement games as youngsters progress through the months. Heavily based on individual groups, these classes are adaptable – a good fit for many different ages.


Parents, sit back and enjoy as you play with your baby through this guided 45 minutes of fun! You can read our march newsletter below. Stroller parking is available.
Read about our current teachers, Alex and Keely!

Sign Up Today for Music in March

Hello!

Let’s usher in the Spring with some music making at Philly Music Lessons! As usual, we’ll be meeting weekly for classes in Fishtown and in South Philly (4PM Fridays in Fishtown and 9AM Wednesdays in South Philly). Our multi-aged classes are designed for 0-3 year olds and make for an awesome part of a day with kids – moms, dads, nannies, and other caregivers are welcome. With singalongs, movement activities, tons of props and assorted musical instruments, we change it up as we keep a base line of familiar kid favorites!

March in Fishtown | $40
Sign Up
Fridays @ 4PM:
March 2nd, 9th, 16th, and 30th
*Please note: NO CLASS on the 23rd!

Address:
2111 East Susquehanna Ave

Philadelphia, PA

March in South Philly | $40
Sign Up
Wednesdays @ 9AM:
March 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th

Address:
1548 S. 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA

Class Basics:

  • $10/class with a monthly sign up – Includes one makeup for missed classes per month, which can be used as credit towards upcoming sign ups or any classes scheduled at either location
  • $12 drop-ins with advanced notice only – Email ahead of time to let us know when you’ll be coming (please check with us to see if there’s space!)
  • First timers FREE
  • Online invoicing for monthly sign ups and drop-ins – Can pay online or make in-person payments

Managing Summer Music Lessons

violin teachers and lessons

As summer approaches, many students and parents have questions about managing summer music lessons. These include questions about changing schedules, vacation time, and practicing expectations. While your teacher is the best person to talk to about specifics, we aim to address your more general questions, or to help you decide which questions to ask. We also want to show you how summer music lessons can serve as a special opportunity for you.

 

Communicate with your teacher about scheduling

The most efficient means of managing summer music lessons involves communicating with your teacher (or your child’s teacher). Need a different lesson time over the summer? Going on vacation? Music teachers anticipate all of this, but let them know sooner rather than later. Contact your teacher as soon as you make plans or need a change.

Communicate with our office about extended breaks

It’s especially important to let our office know if you plan on taking any extended breaks, such as for a whole month or for the whole summer. If you take an extended period of time off, we will remove you from our calendar moving forward. Please contact our office at the beginning of the Fall when you plan on starting up again. We can’t promise the same time/day that you had, but we’ll do our best to work with your schedule for the Fall!

The rules of lessons still apply

It’s easy to fall into a “summer mindset” with music lessons, not applying the same rigor to cancellations and practice sessions as you would during a school year. Don’t fall into this trap! Teachers expect just as much over the summer. Plus, your music teacher is still running a business over the summer, and needs to be treated as such.

Use this as an opportunity

Many students, especially kids, are so scheduled during the school year, it can be difficult to fully dedicate themselves to music lessons. Summer allows a little more flexibility. Use it as an opportunity to get ahead in your music lessons so you can reach your goals that much sooner.

A lot of students also hope to audition for top bands, orchestras, or choirs when they return to school. If your child brings focus and discipline to summer lessons, they’ll be ready for these auditions in the fall. This is particularly important if a student plans to pursue music further, such as in college.

In either instance, take note of your goals or your child’s goals, and what it would take to reach them. Then, you and your teacher can make a plan based on your freer summer schedule.


It’s tempting to think that once the recital is over, once classes are over, then lessons are over for the summer too, or at least are more relaxed. However, summer is a unique opportunity for renewed dedication. Flexibility, time, and focus have great benefits for you or your child, so take advantage of them! Above all else, remember that managing summer music lessons is not so different from managing regular lessons. Keep that mindset, and you’ll stay on the ball through vacations, schedule upheavals, and pool-worthy weather.

Why Play the Flute?

Interesting fact: The flute is the third oldest instrument in the world, although it didn’t always look quite like the one we know today as the keys were added at the turn of the century. Still, a form of the flute has been around since before recorded language.

Interesting fact: The flute is the third oldest instrument in the world, although it didn’t always look quite like the one we know today as the keys were added at the turn of the century. Still, a form of the flute has been around since before recorded language.

Why flute? This is a funny question—As a flute player myself, I sometimes think back to when I decided to play flute for the rest of my life: I was in 10th grade and driving home from a flute lesson with my mom when I had this overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t just stop playing flute. Obviously I had already been thinking about what I was going to do in college, but at that moment, the notion that I could stop playing music made me so sad that I knew I had to study flute for the rest of my life.

In orchestral music, we get to play all sorts of characters, from birds (composers love to portray birds with flute) to hope, wind, light, or mythical creatures, and that is barely scratching the surface! I had a wonderful teacher in college who pointed to my flute and said “this isn’t a flute.” I looked at him and thought, “Oh no, he thinks my flute is the silver equivalent to a plastic whistle. Or maybe, he’s just gone crazy” He pointed and said again “This isn’t a flute—it is the mist on a mountain top, it is the wind on a summer evening, it is rage, it is pure joy—this is whatever you make it.” Now on some level I knew that—people had been telling me from a reasonably young age that I was good at the musical stuff not written on the page, but never in my life had someone so clearly pointed out the possibilities of playing this instrument. What I love about flute and playing music using wind (or breath) as the mode of sound production is how expressive one can be while literally taking deep—and often calming breaths. I love the many colors one can find in the flute sound with careful study. Most of all I love playing all of the different characters. I love applying narrative to music, and I have the most fun when I’m playing a character with my flute.

As I think back even further to the events that led me to start the flute it all was so arbitrary: I went to Colonial Williamsburg with my family for a few days in the summer before my 5th grade year—I don’t know why I was intrigued so much by this fife I found in a shop, but I was and part of me wonders if I would be here today writing this article without that first seemingly nebulous push. This is just my story and when it comes down to brass tacks, every musician has his or her story. What we all have in common is the universal choice that we make. Every musician has made a choice to put in the careful hours and become what he or she is today. There is some turning point that presents an instrument to a person and then a choice that doesn’t seem at all like a choice but just something that you do. This might be yours for flute.

I don’t think I can ever say to someone “you should play flute because of ____.” There is never enough time and never language specific enough. Most students know flute is for them after listening to it. If they hear something that they like, I do my best to help them put what they like into words, and then we set off together after that sound. Playing flute is not the be all and end all for everyone, but for those who want to enrich their lives with a musical instrument—it is a great choice.

Five Underrated Instruments

5 Underrated Instruments for Your Child to Learn

original-5underrated_blogWhether your child wants to join their school band or orchestra, or if you want your child to take private music lessons, it can be difficult to select the right instrument. Oftentimes, students and parents alike only consider instruments that are popular, age appropriate, and/or affordable. While this criteria is reasonable, there are a number of underrated instruments for your child to learn that are also age appropriate and inexpensive.

 

Take a moment to consider these instruments and their benefits.

  1. Viola
    A lesser known string instrument, the viola closely resembles the violin in every way it counts. In fact, many viola players are able to use their skills to play the violin later on. How? Not only are both of these instruments held and played the same way, they share three of the same strings. While the violin has one higher string, the viola has one lower string.The main difference between the two instruments is the clef they use. Violists are the only instrumentalists who regularly use the alto clef. Therefore, those who play the viola tend to have phenomenal music reading and music theory skills. Although the viola is often neglected for its popular sibling the violin, it’s one of the best instruments for your child to learn from an educational and opportunity standpoint. Less competition amongst violists means more opportunities to play.
  • Trumpet
    While trumpets are well-known instruments, they are not well selected by kids looking to learn an instrument for the first time. This could be because trumpets are considered one of the most difficult instruments to play. Not only does it require good breath and finger coordination, it is a loud instrument. Furthermore, trumpets are often given the melody, making precise intonation important. If a trumpet goes out of tune, everyone will notice. This makes it a great instrument for your child to learn if they enjoy a challenge or being the center of attention.
  • Trombone
    The trombone – even less popular than the trumpet – offers a number of advantages to your child. Like many of the instruments on this list, less competition means your child will have more opportunities to play the trombone. The trombone has the unique benefit of being valuable to just about every kind of music group as well. They’re heard in bands, orchestras, symphonies, jazz bands, and so on. While the trombone can be a difficult instrument to care for, it can be a good opportunity for your child to learn about the importance of maintenance and respect for valuable items.
  • Flute
    Considered one of the oldest woodwind instruments, the flute is an easy, affordable, and versatile instrument for your child to learn. It is considered versatile in terms of both portability and usage. Learning the flute allows students to pick up other instruments later on as well, such as the piccolo or the saxophone. Its ease and pleasing tone make it a good instrument to develop your child’s confidence and foundational understanding of music.
  • Clarinet
    The clarinet is often neglected over its more popular counterpart, the saxophone. Few people realize the similarities between these two instruments, but a soprano saxophone even looks similar to a clarinet. However, the saxophone is considered easier to play than the clarinet, meaning the clarinet offers an educational advantage to your child. Furthermore, just like the viola to the violin, students who learn the clarinet can easily learn the saxophone later on. Switching the other way around, however, is more challenging.

 

Every Student Is Unique

It can be difficult to choose an instrument for you or your child when you’re just starting out, though we hope you will seriously consider these underrated instruments for your child to learn. Each one offers unique benefits to the player, and by virtue of being underrated, your child will often have more opportunities to play as a result. This could include special bands or orchestras, competitions, or even scholarships. No matter what instrument your child chooses to play though, we hope they enjoy a lifelong relationship to music!

Music Practice Routines for Kids

How to Foster Good Habits and Develop Practice Strategies for Music Lessons

practice routinesAs a parent, it’s natural to want your child to learn good study habits and time management skills. Taking music lessons can be a great way to develop these skills, but they can look different when studying music rather than studying standard school subjects, such as math, science, or history. If you’ve never studied an instrument yourself, it can be hard to know how to help your child foster these unique skills. From the teachers at Philly Music Lessons, know that encouraging your kids to be good music students doesn’t have to take a lot of work, but it can go a long way.

Keep a Routine

When it comes to studying music, consistency is key. Some ways to maintain consistency in your child’s studies include:

  • Maintaining a regular lesson schedule with as few changes as possible.
  • Setting up a practice schedule that occurs at the same time for the same length every day (for example, a ½ hour of practice at 6 pm every weekday).
  • Keeping track of lessons, practice sessions, and progress in a notebook or journal.

Building these regular habits will allow your child to see the fruits of their labor much sooner. If their practice and lesson schedule is too sporadic, they won’t retain what they’ve learned as well, and musical concepts will need to be repeated more frequently than necessary. To build the ideal practice schedule for your child and their instrument, have a conversation with their teacher about what will work best.

Similarly, make the process of practice and lessons fun and welcoming. If possible, set up a space at home just for your child’s practice. Furthermore, you can incentivize practice and lessons with compounded rewards, such as small treats, tokens, or activities.

Be a Part of the Process

While your child’s study of music is unique and individual, you can have a healthy involvement in your child’s studies. Check in with their teacher after each lesson to understand what they’ve learned that week and what they should be practicing. Sit with your child while they practice if they’d like that, and encourage them to perform selections for your family once they’ve grasped a new concept. Celebrating small milestones will encourage them to work through the next step, which in turn will develop their work ethic and endurance.

Trust Their Teacher

We love our kids, and we think the world of them and their abilities. As a result, it can be all too tempting to push them into working on songs or auditioning for performance opportunities they’re not quite ready for. If your child’s teacher wants them to wait for certain songs or opportunities, discuss it with them. Their teacher is a trained professional who also wants the best for them, so the more you can be patient and encourage your child to do the same, the sooner they’ll be able to play that song or go for that competition.

It would be wonderful if all of our kids started music lessons by being focused, determined, and skilled. Studying music, however, is not solely about fostering talent; studying music works to develop these skills in kids, which will help them succeed later in life. Keep this in mind, and your child’s music lessons will go from a chore to a rewarding process that’ll last them a lifetime.

Father’s Day Gifts, Music

Schedule a Lesson or Contact Us for Gift Certificates

Father’s Day Packages and Discounts

FREE Trial lessons for Dad through the end of June!

Gift Certificates Available:
1-12 lessons (includes free trial for Dads)

10% off season packages (12 lessons)

Dad plus Family:
Group lessons family prices:
10% off the normal group lesson price

(Father and child, Father and spouse, or the whole family)

We have a lot of options for families at Philly Music Lessons. Learning together is a unique and memorable way to explore music. With discounts for multiples, our private lessons can be made joint. Two or more students can take lessons together, and for the upcoming occasion, it may just be a Father and child duo. Families taking joint lessons get an extra bonus on top of our discounted group rates, with an additional 10% off.

A local Philly parent’s blog visited our space for a unique Father-sons jam session for Father’s Day. Guided by our teacher, Phil, the family met to rock out and test some of the studio instruments in honor of Dad and his passion for music (Weezer in particular). The jam included an electric bass, ukulele, full-upright piano, drum kit, guitar, 1/2 sized violins, a harmonica, and various other musical knick-knacks. A bit like our Big Kid’s music class, the jam session was highly focused on the exploration and strongly encouraged experimentation and collaboration. Phil provided some concrete musicality, and everyone chimed in and took turns in the spotlight. Check out the video above (made by HipsterHenry). You can also read about HipsterHenry’s experience at our space at Hipsterhenry.com. The blog provides a lot of really good, parent-tested things to do with kids around Fishtown, Northern Liberties, and Philadelphia at large. We’re grateful to have received a visit!

In addition to this unique jam session, parents and children pair up frequently to learn a new instrument together in joint-lessons. Its also pretty common for siblings, and/or parents to take lessons at the same time (with two different teachers for convenience or one after another). In a nutshell, Philly Music Lessons can sometimes turn into a family affair (we love the brothers who played a duet on guitar and cello, and our Father-daughter trio from our Spring Recital!).

Of course there is always the simple gift for Dad – get him a set of new strings and some private lessons where he can quietly pursue his long held off dreams. He’s put aside his musical passions long enough, and its time to give him the chance to be a rock star… or a classical guru… or get on top of his dixieland, jazz clarinet chops. Contact us for joint-lesson rates, Father’s Day specials, or to set up a trial lesson. For more on what instruments we offer, check out our lessons and classes.

Cello Teachers | Fang Fang

Meet Fang Fang
Cello Teachers in Philadelphia
Fishtown Studio Lessons & Philly In-Home Lessons
Specializing in Classical
Beginners and Advanced Students

cello teachers fishtownWe’ve had some new additions to our cello teachers, and one of them is Fang Fang! Fang studied cello at Arizona State University and received her masters in cello performance. Her experience takes her from being a longtime student of cello herself to teaching and working in orchestras as an associate principal cello. She’s an expert in classical, with roots going back to lessons from her mother when she was 7. In addition to a career as a professional musician, Fang is also an accomplished teacher with award winning students. We managed to catch a snippet of her playing (video below). Also included is a piece performed at Arizona State (Sonata for cello in C major, op. 119 by Sergei Prokofiev).

Read about Fang Fang in her own words below.

I teach Cello and Piano. I have a Masters of Music in cello performance from Arizona State University. I have studied at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and received my B.A in cello performance in China. I began to play the piano when I was 5 years old, then began learning the cello from my mother when I was 7 years old. I am a professional cellist and have been working in various orchestras for the past 8 years as associate principal cello. In Phoenix, I played in the Scottsdale Philharmonic as principal cello. I have been teaching for 10 years, and have learned that patience and enthusiasm are necessary to keep students interested and eager to learn. I pride myself in finding the unique musical talents of each student, and finding ways to communicate with them on an individual level. One of my students in Eastern China was awarded the 1st Prize at a Cello Competition in 2011. My primary focus as a teacher is on classical music for the cello and piano. I am schooled in the Suzuki Method of teaching and find it to be an invaluable way of learning as a beginner.