Tech Talk for Teaching Piano & Flute Online

Since the Corona crisis hit the United States, I have been teaching flute and piano online, and haven’t lost a single student. If you are a music teacher thinking of making that transition too, this article is for you.

Just so you know, all the bold, blue words in this story are hyperlinks taking you to webpages that will give you more information on what is discussed.

Last week, I told you about how I came to the best set up for my studio. I installed three webcams to help my students, and I started using Tonara and Zoom as my online teaching platform.

Now that the teaching environment was nearly set (I still had that issue with neck strain), I decided to augment the studio for an even better experience for my students.

ENTER MIDI

The fifth and sixth weeks of lockdown brought the installation of a QRS PnoScan III. With this solution, I was able to make my Steinway B MIDI capable. In other words, this technology takes my traditional, analog instrument into the digital age. I am grateful to Mario Ajero for making me aware of this device.

Even within this time of physical distancing, I was able to set up an arrangement that protected the technician (who was doing the install) and myself. I really appreciate Mark Benson’s (photo) below) willingness to go the extra mile in that respect.

Mark Benson (click to enlarge photo)

PIANO ROLLS

QRS was founded in 1900 by Melville Clark (of Story & Clark piano fame) who developed the player piano as we know it today. QRS supplied music rolls to the player piano market, with production peaking in 1927, when QRS Music Company sold 10 million rolls. In 1986, QRS began focusing on new technologies, and in 1989 the company released its first digital retrofit player piano kit under the Pianomation™ name. 

The QRS PnoScan III is a MIDI strip that gets installed under the piano’s action (enlarge the photo above to get a  good look). It doesn’t touch the action, but reads the keys’ movements optically. The sensors are non-evasive. That means nothing effects the touch of the key, there is no mechanical link to cause potential noise or breakage.

With the QRS PnoScan III in place, I can now connect my acoustic instrument to programs that rely on MIDI to operate. By the way, QRS Music Technology Inc. is based in Seneca, Pennsylvania. 

LET THERE BE LIGHT

While I was waiting for that to be installed over a couple of weeks, the ring light (see photo below) that I had previously ordered arrived. This ring light is attached to a 24″ gooseneck mount, it has 3 distinct lighting options (white, natural, and warm), as well as 10 different levels of brightness, it has flexible 24” gooseneck webcam holder with a non-slip rubber grip, and it’s USB-powered so no batteries are required. Because it’s an LCD light, it never gets hot. 

At last, I came to a set up that doesn’t beat up on me!

Next, I lowered the music desk, placed my iPad on a little tabletop stand, and clamped the ring light and webcam to the edge of the monitor. With that configuration, I can look straight at the monitor without strain, and my students can see me well. Yay!

PS The camera adds ten pounds, and makes you look like a zombie. Click here for some tips on how to look good in front of a webcam.

Pamela Taylor teaching an online group lesson

TIME WARP

At that point, I was ready to install Internet MIDI!

Internet MIDI is a program for MAC and PC from TimeWarp Technologies that allows MIDI keyboards to connect directly to each other. It was first released in 2007, and it is in active use on six continents. With it, the teacher can hear the student exactly as they are hearing themselves, and vice versa. The program also provides an on-screen keyboard with animated keys, pedals, and velocity meters

What a fabulous concept! I think anyone who has been teaching online notices right away that, even with all the special adjustments made available for musicians, there is no ideal platform for teaching.

While I find Zoom to be the best option, there are still times when I know my student is playing with a steady beat, but there is a distinct and sometimes humorous rubato effect. Or, I will see a legato hand on the piano, but instead hear staccato. With Internet MIDI, that will all be a thing of the past.

I am currently in the process of introducing the MIDI strip to the software.

Stay tuned to see how that goes!

Pamela

Disclosure: In this blog I may discuss/review products that I believe are relevant to my readers. As a service to them, I often provide links to those products or publications. Instead of having a tip jar, I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. In other words, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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