Face Time, Online piano lessons, piano, Skype

Lights, Camera, Action in Los Angeles!

In a few days, I’ll find myself at the MTAC Statewide Convention in L.A. sharing my Online Music Lesson journey in a LIVE high-tech universe exploration. (I gave a comparable program to the Alameda Branch last May 2015, but I was not hemmed into the impending ONE HOUR space.)

The scope of this event begs for TWO FULL HOURS!

As PREP, I’ve been UP-dating my blogs on the subject; embedding the latest photo technology: overhead and side angled keyboard views made possible with an Alzo Horizontal mount (adding a tutorial on how to install); checking perspicaciously on LIGHTING as it affects visual key clarity; and interviewing students about their ONLINE lesson setups.

It might as well be an Entertainment Tonight feature with students giving Testimonials, (not INFOMERCIALS) RE: their Skype and Face Time romps.

Alameda Branch presentation

This North Carolina student’s offering below will steal the show by her comparison of LIVE and CYBER-driven instruction. She made a touchdown visit to Berkeley last February that was recorded in my living room with a second LIVE pupil on hand to join the exchange. It was riveting!


After the teaser, I’ll CROSS FADE into the Call Recorder cosmos, showing the TEACHER, FULL SCREEN, shooting back a Summary Lesson video with three different camera view options (REMOTE: the Pupil, LOCAL: the Teacher; and Split Screen: Shared keyboards)–A resounding TRI–umph of eye/ hand coordination!

Skype Call Recorder

Next, I’ll CLICK the Asterisk as three webcam angles are set in motion:

Skype Call Recorder Settings

WARNING: CALL RECORDER technology is not to be CONFUSED with the basic AUDIO/VIDEO SETTINGS that relate to the initial SKYPE SIGN ON where the teacher chooses the basic keyboard camera view that’s altered with a savvy, staccato-centered mouse click.


Audio Video Settings

Did I lose my audience after I shuffled through the webcam views?  Will my colleagues be drowning in a sea of confusion?

Put it this way, a VIRTUAL INSTRUCTOR has to have supple wrists, relaxed arms, nimble fingers and shifty eyes, with GOOD MEMORY RECALL at COMMAND CONTROL.

MULTI-TASKING without skipping a beat or losing a priceless teaching moment, takes PRACTICE!

(REMINDER: DON’T USE THE FULL SCREEN if you want to enable CALL RECORDER during a lesson. It will otherwise disappear until you click the VIEW tab and bring it back down. And Beware of activating the WEBCAM mic that has a low HOT ZONE threshold! Choose the INTERNAL mic, or YETI Blue USB!)

Yeti Mic crop

Through myriads of do’s and don’ts, I hope Convention registrants will not get snowed under by the weighty details of ONLINE transmission, even as temps are rising in the region!

And PLEASE: NO POWER outages during my program that will cause it to go up in smoke as So. CAL wild fires rage out of control.

To cut tension, I might choose a stand-up comedy framing.

Maybe humor will be the best segue way to the presentation itself.

How about this opener to break the ice: (Did I say ice, when L.A. natives will be shedding layers and running to malls for A/C)

“I want everyone to know that I’m under constant surveillance with three webcams monitoring me 24/7. That means I’m a security risk, placed on the NO FLY/HOME LIST.”

Oops! The audience might evacuate!

Perhaps my intro will elicit a sprinkle of chuckles, or dead silence?


THE SETUP: I’m holding a mic, squeezed between two tripod mounted cams, careful to avoid a catastrophic wire-tangled, slip-up. Can you imagine the sirens approaching, with paramedics unraveling USB cable extensions and webcam wires around my neck!

Perhaps I’ll project an OLD Piano Room/Living Room/Kitchen/Bedroom photo on the Big Screen before I deliver my LATEST wham-mo image of the tech-burdened, wired-up, unlivable cubicle in the PRESENT.


piano room, spacier

NOW–My piano room latest

A mid-range music stand mounted webcam, inserted between grand pianos, gives a third keyboard view. If you add the INTERNAL CAM of a PC or MAC, that amounts to FOUR confusing possibilities!

music stand cam mount between pianos

Let’s just say my Program might be a sky-rocketing success, though I’m NOT scheduled for PRIME TIME.

They’ve assigned me the 4 p.m.to 5 p.m. slot on Friday, July 1, Day ONE of REGISTRATION, as I’m encapsulated in the Carmel Room with three competing presentations vying for attention.

L.A. Convention coming up in July

Well, FACE it, ONLINE lessons are not yet in the mainstream and too many TRADITIONAL TEACHERS are rolling over in their graves at the very notion of displacing the “LIVE” MENTOR with a multi-cam image of one.

I can’t change consciousness overnight, but I’ll give it my best shot.

Oops…Remember to evade those surveillance cams and DON’T PANIC at the sight of 3 Logitechs staring you down!

Logitech best face forward


IMPORTANT BLOG LINKS upon which my PRESENTATION will be centered:



adult piano instruction, Face Time, Online piano lessons, piano, piano instruction, piano lessons, piano lessons by Face Time, piano lessons by Skype, piano teaching, Rhythmical practicing, Skype

“Counting Correctly, but Playing Un-rhythmically”

“The habit of counting correctly but playing unrhythmically develops easily in the beginning and is too often overlooked.” – Richard Chronister (A Piano Teacher’s Legacy, Ed. Edward Darling)


I love this quote, because many students count out beats quite methodically but without musical meaning. Their metrical repetitions serve little purpose if the goal of study is to communicate an art form that is embodied in rhythmic framing with threads of melody weaving through a “singing pulse.”

Dimitri Kabalevsky’s “Clowns” piece from the composer’s Op. 39 Album of Children’s pieces, is the perfect springboard for practicing (behind tempo) with an animated, “living, breathing,” framing pulse that ignites the very mood and affect of the composition right from the start.

In this regard, my Face Time student in London, in his second year of piano study, has made nice gains playing rhythmically and musically. Here he takes a baby step journey in his early exposure to “Clowns,” with a keen awareness of buoyant rhythmic energies that propel his practicing in a chosen, steady, embracing tempo.

Kabalevsky Clowns p. 1


In this sample, the pupil practices a five-finger C# minor penta-scale in double tempo starting with 8th notes, to 16ths to 32nds..(ending with staccato, forte and piano)


P.S. I always recommend that students enroll in a Jacques Dalcroze Eurhythmics Course. As it happened, my most influential teacher at the Oberlin Conservatory was Eurhythmics mentor, Inda Howland.




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Technology as a valuable piano teaching tool

computer screen

This is not a planned or staged informercial, but one of my students spontaneously reviewed the value of her piano lessons by Face Time, and I snatched her critique on my iPhone. NOTIFICATION: She was not impeded from sharing the down side of her piano learning experience so naturally I was riveted to what would pour forth from rural North Carolina to provide me important feedback.


April and I began lessons by Skype, but in this particular connection we had audio issues, so we decided to try FACE TIME, which was like night and day, by comparison. A few of my ONLINE students have made the same transition, and the transmission greatly improved.

Below is a lesson segment beamed by Face Time from Berkeley CA to North Carolina (The only problem with FACE TIME Record at the time, was it only provided SPLIT SCREEN views on record playback, so the keyboard was therefore attenuated)–UPDATE: FACE TIME CALL RECORDER now has a three-view RECORD option. LOCAL (Full-screen), REMOTE (Full Screen) and SPLIT SCREEN.

Marie in Fresno offered her assessment of Face Time transmitted Piano Lessons:

She had been my LIVE student in Fresno for 7 years before I moved to Berkeley. She then transitioned to ONLINE lessons.

Sherry from Louisville, Kentucky soon enough chimed in about her piano lessons by Face Time:

Yet, Skype has worked exceptionally well in transmissions from Berkeley, CA to Staten Island, New York.

In this example, I was able to demonstrate multiple SKYPE CALL RECORDER PLAYBACK VIEWS that are of great help to a student following his/her lesson. SKYPE affords the opportunity to use multiple cam views while recording is in progress. The student will therefore be able to see full keyboard views on PLAYBACK–(either my piano or the student’s instrument)–plus acquire additional split screen views if I choose to use)


FROM David, a piano student who used to commute for LIVE lessons from CHICO, CA to Berkeley and currently signs on weekly by SKYPE.

Dog one


I like the Skype lessons for several reasons:

1st, I don’t have to drive 320 miles round trip for my lesson every

2nd, the view of your keyboard is much better and I can see what you’re
doing with a clarity that sitting at the piano next to you doesn’t allow.

But there are some drawbacks to the Skype lesson too:

1st, I don’t get to visit Berkeley and shop at the Monterey Market which
I love!

2nd, I don’t get to fool around Berkeley and explore the restaurants and
other fun things about Berkeley. I know the bartender at a Berkeley bar
and I like to stop in for a (1) glass of wine before heading home to
Chico. It’s nice to “get outa town” once a week.

Overall I am surprised by how good the Skype session is. I wouldn’t have
guessed it would be so good. I’d say it’s every bit as good a lesson as
in-person, and better in some respects.



So the testimonials have played out, and I’m spared from looking into a camera and sounding like a politician running for office.

My NEXT Stop: The Music Teachers Association Branch Meeting in Oakland to spread the gospel about braving the new technology/teaching piano ONLINE–May 11, 2015–Where: Holy Names University.

By the way we had our first SKYPE/LIVE piano recital on March 15th that globalized our lessons and brought students far and wide closer together.



A SKYPE/LIVE adult piano student recital!