Teaching piano has changed a lot in recent years. Gone are the days of being able to teach piano lessons with a piano, a pencil and a metronome. Reaching 21st-century students and running a 21st-century business require using the latest tools and technology to give your students the best possible learning experience and to make your business stand out.
The good news is, incorporating new tools into your business and teaching practices is not difficult. Many of these tools are user-friendly and will streamline your work immensely.
These are my must-have tools that I use in my piano studio weekly.
Music Teacher’s Helper – I’ve used Music Teacher’s Helper for over a decade and it keeps the business end of my studio running seamlessly. Honestly, there are only a handful of it’s features that I use consistently, but I find them to be well worth it. I used Music Teacher’s Helper to create a custom registration form for new or potential students. Once a student enrolls in my studio with this form, they have their own account where we track all of their fees and payments. I can create and send invoices to them with their latest balance, and students can easily pay online. Having all of this information in once place and with automated systems makes payments and billing a breeze! Follow this link to save 10% on your first month.
Skype/FaceTime/Other Video Chat Services – Being able to teach piano online has been a game-changer for my studio. I teach online lessons to out-of-town students weekly. I love that I can continue teach students who move away. Several of my students live in remote areas without access to piano lessons and I love being able to teach them. Even if you don’t see yourself teaching online lessons regularly, I highly recommend trying it out for occasional situations when it’s helpful to have access to online lessons. If bad weather strikes or if a student can’t get a ride to their lesson, video chatting can help you stay on track.
Lesson Mate – This is a great tool to use in conjunction with video lessons, as an alternative to make up lessons or as a convenient way communicate with your students.
With Lesson Mate, you can create lessons that students can access from anywhere. You upload videos, audio files and pdf’s. These can serve as a stand alone lesson that a student would work through on their own, or as a supplement to an in-person lesson. You can save 10% for your first year with this link.
ManyCam – Another great tool to use in online teaching is ManyCam. ManyCam allows you to record video from multiple angles at once. I use it weekly with my FaceTime Students. I call my students from my laptop, so that they can see my face, then have my phone on a tripod above my piano keys so that my student can see my keyboard and my hands on the piano. One of the biggest limitations with online teaching is that it’s hard to show students around the piano. ManyCam makes solves this problem.
Acuity Scheduling – During the school year, my schedule stays very consistent, so I generally don’t have a need for a scheduling tool. However, the summer is a different story. In the summer, each week is a little different and students are coming and going a bit more between vacations, camps and just needing a break. This summer, I used Acuity Scheduling to create a weekly schedule and to allow students to sign up for lessons and classes. It has made my most unpredictable season run smoothly and effortlessly. Acuity takes care of sending reminder emails and texts once a student has signed up for something.
MailerLite – There’s a good chance that email is the primary form of communication in your studio. There’s nothing wrong with sending a normal email with your normal email account, But, if you are consistently sending bulk emails to your entire studio, whether it’s a newsletter or regular reminders, using an email service is the way to go. You can easily manage your email list, create templates for emails you send regularly and track who is reading your emails. Using an email service is also a helpful way to communicate with your waiting list and to send emails to potential students. It’s free to use if your email list is under 1000.
Blog or Website – Having a studio website is a top priority these days. It’s really important to have online visibility so that potential students can find you and so that your current students have easy access to your studio information. Like most things, there are varying levels of complexity to setting up a website, and it doesn’t have to be difficult. You can read here about how to get started.
Social Media – This is just as important as your studio website. However, your website and social media accounts serve different purposes, so you’ll want to think through what you’re trying to accomplish with each one. Your website will remain fairly static. You’ll likely update it occasionally to reflect current dates and to keep it fresh looking. On the other hand, your social media accounts require almost daily maintenance and activity in order to be useful. A business Facebook page or Instagram account would be good ways to start out. Of course, there are other options too, like a YouTube channel.
Canva – If you need any help at all in the design department, you have to check out Canva. It’s a free online tool that helps you create all kinds of design media like social media graphics, recital programs, logos and more. It’s extremely user friendly and everything comes out looking sharp and professional.
Teachable – Since most teachers are also creators, there’s a good chance that you’re holding on to a wealth of your own material that you could share with the world. Whether it’s your own unique approach to teaching scales, the way you communicate with parents, or a successful incentive program. Teachable is an online platform that allows you to create online courses. In my case, I’m using it to create courses to reach teachers and students outside of my piano studio. However, it also has many applications within a piano studio. It would be a fantastic way to create theory courses for your students, to store teaching videos so that your students could access them or to create mini-courses to supplement what your students are learning.
Apps – Apps are one of the very best tools you can use to supplement your teaching. They can be much more effective than traditional teaching aids like flash cards and worksheets. Students are really drawn to the animation and interactive components of apps. You can read about my 9 favorite apps that are staples in my piano studio here.
Digital Piano or Keyboard – Of course there are pros and cons to teaching on an acoustic piano verses teaching on a digital piano. I prefer to have access to both in my studio for a a number of reasons. (I have 2 Yamaha Clavinovas, 2 Yamaha P-115 Keyboards and 1 acoustic piano in my studio.) Nothing can replace the sound and feeling of playing “the real thing,” but digital pianos open up a whole new world of possibilities to you and your students. Here are some of the things we use digital pianos and keyboards for:
- Ensemble playing – Everyone is in tune!
- Playing with MIDI accompaniment files – It’s super easy to change the tempo and adjust the sound so that it’s just right for the student.
- Recording – My students love to record themselves and recording is a powerful teacher for them. It teaches them how to evaluate themselves and the importance of perfecting their work to get just the right recording.
- Exploring sounds – Students never turn down a chance to play with all of the buttons on a digital piano. There are hundreds of sounds they can explore and it’s easy to draw this feature into piano lessons. We frequently use them as an immediate reward for correct playing. (“If you play your song well, you can try it out with another instrument.”) These sounds are also a helpful way to get students thinking about the bigger picture of music. They can explore which instruments suit their song the best or find sounds that help them convey the emotions and moods found in their music.
- Using Apps – most apps don’t require the use of a digital piano, but some apps work better with one. For example, Piano Maestro is an interactive app that can “hear” what a student is playing on the piano and give them immediate feedback. On an acoustic piano, it hears the piano via the microphone of your device. But, it is much more accurate if you use MIDI cables to plug your device into your digital piano.
- Headphone practice – Headphones are one of the biggest advantage to using a digital piano. They really keep the noise level down and in many cases they help students focus by allowing them to enter their own world of practice without outside distractions.
Tonic Tutor – I’ve tried tons of different online theory programs for my piano students and Tonic Tutor is by far my favorite. There are theory related games in every level. The website is very user friendly so young students can easily navigate it on their own. The animation clever and up to date so that it appeals to kids. If you want to try it out use coupon code kjp7ts for 1/2 off your first month. You can read a full review of it here.
iPad – An iPad has become a staple in my studio for the past several years. Using an app to practice a concept is much more streamlined than my old approach of fumbling through a pile of flashcards or keeping track of worksheets. It’s also a great way to play music or watch quick videos.
iPad MIDI Cables – This cable with connect your iPad to your digital piano or keyboard via MIDI cables. It guarantees the best possible experience with many apps such as Piano Maestro or Notion. (You’ll also need an adaptor like this one.)
Printer/Scanner/Copier – Having a good printer and copier nearby during lessons is priceless. When a student requests to play a new song, the first place I check is Sheet Music Plus for instant downloads. If we find it, we’ll print it out and start learning it immediately. When I purchased my most recent HP printer, I opted into their Instant Ink program. I use that plan that assumes I will print 100 pages a month and it cost $5 each month. For that price, HP automatically sends new ink when my printer is running low. It definitely saves money on ink, and I love that I don’t have to keep up with ordering and buying ink. You can try the program for free for a month by following this link.
TurboScan – It’s nice to have a full scanner for bigger projects, but for quick scans, I use the app TurboScan on my phone. I most commonly use this app if a student forgets any of their material at my studio. I snap a quick picture of it with TurboScan and it will convert it to a PDF document and email it to their parents.
Smart Phone – I put off getting a Smart Phone for a number of years, but these days, my phone is so integrated into my business that I can’t imagine not having it. I can use almost every tool listed above from my phone. I use it to make record quick videos to send to parents. I store a lot of our frequently used music on my phone. I take pictures in almost every lesson. I set reminders on my to-do list of things I need to remember to tell students or their parents. Sidenote: I also love having a super long phone charger like this Native Union one. When I’m working from my phone, I don’t have to be quite so close to an outlet and when I use my phone in the studio, it gives me a little more flexibility to move around while charging.
Amazon Echo – Our family recently jumped on the Amazon Echo bandwagon for our home and I immediately found uses for the echo within my piano studio. Primarily, it’s a super easy way to play music, especially if you go with the Amazon Unlimited Music subscription. In my preschool music classes, I’m always bouncing back and forth to my laptop to change the music on my playlist. But, with the Echo I can say, “Alexa, play You Are My Sunshine by Elizabeth Mitchell” and the music immediately begins. The Echo will for sure be a game changer in my group classes where listening to music is the core of the class, but it will also be useful in piano lessons when I’d like a student to listen to a musical example or tofind new music to learn.
Teach Your Students To Jam With Chords – This is my favorite approach to help my students think outside of notated music and to start thinking in chords.
Love River Flows In You? Try These Other Great Songs – Every intermediate student wants to play River Flows In You. Here are some other similar pieces to try when they’re ready for another similar song.
My Favorite Arrangement Of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah – Phillip Keveren’s arrangement of Hallelujah is beautiful and satisfying for pianists.
Make Your Own Piano Practice Counter – This handy gadget helps students keep track of practice repetitions in a fun and engaging way.
Motivation Medicine – This super simple trick makes students want to practice more!