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!


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SKYPE CALL RECORDER Playback views for Online Piano Lessons



Skype Call Recorder


Face Time Call recorder crop recent

Claire and Face Time Record Box


overhead and treble clef

My Newest Overhead Cam (72 inches high)

newest overhead 72%22

Still another upgrade: My Piano Room has TWO Overhead webcams in addition to a side view cam that’s mounted on a music stand.

my piano room best webcams recent
me under overhead cam

Overhead side view of Keyboard

overhead side view of piano


MY PRESENTATION coming up at the MTAC STATE CONVENTION: July 1, 2016

FLASHBACK: As prep for my presentation to the Music Teachers Association (Alameda Branch) that took place on May 11, 2015, I’d gathered a series of exemplary SKYPE Lessons demonstrating the technology to best advantage: “Teaching Piano by Skype: Braving a High-Tech Universe.”

Alameda Branch presentation

This prep and more recent updates will encompass my program at the Statewide Music Teachers Association (MTAC) Convention in Los Angeles, taking place July 1, 2016.

My plan is to project blogs on a big screen that have have embedded you tube videos with various captions for multiple playback views via Skype Call Recorder and Face Time Recorder.

HOW I STARTED OUT before the technology expanded. Here I’m seated at my Steinway Upright teaching a student in Greece using the INTERNAL CAM of my iMac Computer.

early skype lessons--This one to Greece


Example of webcam view choices: (I use the Logitech C920HD1080)

webcam listing


The Direction and Effect of Lighting on the keyboard during Online lessons. (I use the overhead view in this example)


The Details

When a student is watching his/her computer, she can see me in full screen, but as a lesson progresses, on my end I can RECORD the event using various views (LOCAL-me; REMOTE: the student; or SPLIT SCREEN-me and the student) These settings can be altered while a lesson is in progress without interruption. Changing views does not stop the recording process.

When I review and import the lesson footage to iMovie, I then upload it to You Tube and send the student a Lesson PLAYBACK with multiple keyboard views for increased pedagogical value.

Of particular value is the use of the Alzo Horizontal mount on a tripod to support an overhead keyboard view using an attached web cam.

My tutorial below refers to this particular overhead set up.

An Online teacher can also have addition web cam views by using a music stand as support, or he/she may mount a webcam on the end blocks of the piano. There are many possibilities to be explored.


Overview of the equipment and Online transmission by Skype from Berkeley, California to rural North Carolina: SKYPE CALL RECORDER is activated on this playback video.

The attached video below explores a Skype lesson from Berkeley, California to Staten Island, New York showing the various webcam views in progress.

J.C. Bach Prelude in A minor

JC Bach p1

Page 2

p2Preludein A minor

A Preceding Technique Lesson Segment (A minor scale and Arpeggio)

Teaching supplements

These were Video recorded supplements for Gayle re: the theory and Harmonic Rhythm of J.C. Prelude in A minor. They are embedded in the attached blog:


My Legato Pedaling segment included playing and naming A minor chords on each scale degree with an ear-training dimension, along with a harmonic Analysis of the first half of the J.C. Bach Prelude

This second segment examined part B with its string of Secondary Dominants:

About Gayle from Staten Island (She’s a transfer student with less than a preceding year of formal piano lessons)

A transplant from San Francisco to New York City (but originally from Chicago) Gayle made her first performance appearance in a SCREEN SHARE at our KICK-OFF SKYPE/LIVE piano recital. That meant she and all my piano students here and afar could watch Gayle in a pre-recorded segment. One other student, about to give birth did the same with Chopin’s C# minor Waltz thanks to the Miracle of Technology!

As it happened, I created Gayle’s video profile framing for her “Happiness” offering by Turk.

Gayle also made a transition from playing a digital piano, to acquiring a lovely Baldwin Acrosonic that was LANDED by FACE TIME, if you can believe!

Here’s how it played out from a first love meeting to marriage made in heaven (with my long distance matchmaker efforts)



OTHER video supplements, or TUTORIALS for ONLINE and LIVE Students

I will use the Quicktime Record applicationfor these tutorials. The selection of Keyboard views pertain. (Overhead, Side View, or Face Time: Mac Internal Face Time camera view)

In this video I demonstrate Staccato Parallel Thirds in the “Little Party,” La Petite Reunion by Burgmuller, Op. 100, No. 4. (I utilize the side keyboard view and the overhead for comparison)

Hand-Crossovers in a Domenico Scarlatti Sonata (Overhead keyboard view)

Scarlatti Sonata in A Major, K. 113




Multi-cam Views during Skype or Face Time Piano Lessons


My Overhead Web Cam adds to my Online accouterments


A North Carolina piano student by FaceTime talks about the ONLINE private lesson experience well before she visited me in Berkeley:

April feet

Sample Piano Lessons by FaceTime: From Berkeley CA, to North Carolina (Chopin Waltz in A minor Op. Posthumous)



After the N. Carolina student had a LIVE piano lesson in Berkeley CA, she compared it to her ONLINE experience in the presence of another LIVE student. (Laura)



Creating a Seamless legato in G# minor Arpeggios (Split Screen view)

A Berkeley to North Carolina Online lesson segment followed by a lesson snatch to Edinburgh, Scotland (B minor scale in Contrary motion) In the first segment I use a split screen teacher overhead view; In the second, I use a full screen LOCAL Overhead cam Teacher view.


The student from Scotland, recently IMPROVISED with her technology during a lesson when SKYPE and FACETIME had serious transmission issues. She came in on FACETIME through her iPhone.

REVIEWS of ONLINE lessons by other virtual students:

Sherry from Louisville, KY talks about her ONLINE lessons:

Marie, from Fresno, California talks about her Lessons on Face Time



Laura’s lesson segment (B minor scales) captured with webcam views of two pianos (Baldwin and Steinway grand)–I use my music stand that has easy rotation.

A more recent LIVE lesson in Berkeley uses webcam technology, recording the teacher and student in alternate sequence:





Earthquake Skype lesson video

Skype lesson/baby interruption (Alaska)




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A SKYPE/LIVE Adult piano student recital!




It Finally Happened! My students taking lessons by Skype or FaceTime finally met their LIVE piano-connected peers in an hour-long, music-love ONLINE exchange. The emphasis was sharing in a compassionate setting with a spirit of unconditional support for participants of varying levels and abilities.

Introductions preceding the program proved as engaging as each player’s musical offering. As proof, footage in 4 parts memorialized the event through the tap of a SKYPE CALL RECORDER button, bringing distant locations closer by cyber shrinking degrees of separation. The borough of Staten Island, the states of Kentucky, North Carolina, California (with cities, Berkeley, Chico, Fresno, San Francisco, Oakland, Walnut Creek, all well-represented), forged friendly connections to each other and with Merry Old England.

Two Londoners, one a transplant from Berkeley logged in on standard time, while European clocks hadn’t yet made the hour shift.

Sam, in the UK, grabbed a lion’s share of credit for coordinating the GROUP SKYPE gathering, while Peter, here at my place in the East Bay (Berkeley) provided top notch technical support.

While many students chose to play LIVE for this particular occasion, two pre-recorded their pieces and had them Screen Shared on Skype. Two more, who hadn’t recently updated their Skype application, managed to communicate by audio only, with one sharing Tchaikovsky’s “In the Church” without being seen.

It was hardly an impediment to a wondrous afternoon of music-making. The program included the works of Turk, Palmer, J.C. Bach, J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Frederic Chopin.

Finally a 4-part revisit of the event provided a SKYPE recital primer for those interested in embarking upon a cyber-friendly musical journey such as this one–whether from the teacher or pupil perspective.. or ideally, BOTH.

PART 1 (Includes a Primer about how to produce an ONLINE musical exchange)




Part 5

The most unexpected, yet delightful visitor of the afternoon proved to be “RASCAL.” He was without doubt, the biggest hit of the day!

Dog one

adult piano recital, Live and Skype piano recital, piano blog, piano recital rehearsal, Skype

Rehearsing for the Big Day! LIVE/SKYPE piano student recital

Peter at piano cropped

Peter, originally from Sweden, has been studying piano since January 2014. (He started from scratch without any note reading experience.)

Working in the technology field, keeping long hours staring at a computer screen, he wanted to study piano for pure tension relief, and lucky for his teacher, Peter loves his Classical music journey.

As one of my LIVE Berkeley students, he’s made quite a bit of progress, and now has the confidence to play for an audience of combined ONLINE/LIVE sisters and brothers in a music sharing scheduled for Sunday, March 15th.

Last night we fine tuned his two recital pieces: A Two-part invention framed arrangement of “Go No More A’Rushing” (Elizabethan theme/Willard Palmer) and Sadness by Turk.

Naturally, with most students, performance anxiety and strategies to deal with it are part of the preparation process which will be ongoing as we approach the event.

Lesson Excerpts from the Palmer and Turk compositions:

(My Baldwin piano will be tuned this coming Monday in readiness for the 15th)

Flashback to Peter playing a duet with me, 5 weeks into his piano study in Feb. 2014

PRE-TEST for SKYPE/LIVE piano recital