Piano studio setup for online lessons

The Covid-19 pandemic has required piano teachers from around the world to adapt quickly from in-person traditional lessons to online piano lessons. ForĀ  teachers like myself who had zero experience teaching online piano lessons, it brought some challenges. But these challenges were worth working through to ensure the safety of my students and their families.

When I transitioned to online lessons I made changes in my studio setup as well as how to keep track of assignments. Every organization change was simple so I can keep it up. Everything I use is movable so at the end of teaching we can use this room as a family room, and quick to setup because time is valuable. This post is going to cover the following

(1) Using Google Presentation to keep track of assignments

(2) Organizing piano books used most often during lesson

(3) Organizing individual student materials if they are separate sheets of paper

(4) Studio Setup during lessons

(1) Google Presentations as an Assignment Tracker

During in-person lessons I filled out assignment papers for students to use at home. It was a simple and effective method to remember what they were to practice. I needed a way to do this with online lessons that I could fill out during lesson and the parents could access and print out for students to use as a guide for their practice.

This led me to create a Google Presentation. Here are the details.

    • Slide size changed to 8.5″ x 11″ so it would print on a normal size paper.
    • One presentation per student.
    • Presentation shared with the parent/student.
    • A simple table that doubles as a place for me to type out instructions and the students to mark off practice.
How it is used during the lesson
    • At the beginning of each lesson, I open the student’s presentation and duplicate last week’s slide. This creates a new slide at the top of the slideshow. This becomes the current week’s slide. I replace things as they are ready to move on, or keep them on and change their practice goals if they need another week.
    • Background color indicates if it is current week or a past assignment sheet.
      • Background of Current week’s slide = Green
      • All past Assignment Slides = Blue.
      • This allows the parent to easily see which slide to print. Parents can choose “print black and white”. Once printed, the student can then mark which days they practice the piece.

I am happy to share this setup with you. In order to use it, you must click on the link below. Then go to FILE >> Make a copy. This will copy the presentation onto your own Google Drive. Once it is there, you can make any changes.

Click here to view the Google Presentation.

(2) Organizing piano books and materials

Book organization

Organization of things is something that does not come naturally to me. Any organization system I try to implement needs to be simple and should require almost no time or effort to keep it up.

I’ve tried bins with all my piano books separated. It took me a day to sort and put things away. And didn’t last very long. (The only thing still separated currently are wedding piano books because I use them about three times a year)

This three-shelf rolling cart has three separate categories.

  1. Top shelf is where I put my computer that I type on during lessons.
  2. Middle shelf is Piano Safari books (It’s my go-to piano curriculum that almost all of my students are currently in.)
  3. Bottom shelf holds everything else.

As you can see I don’t have a lot of books to keep track of so this works for me. If you had a lot of books this may not work or would work with changes. Top shelf you could put in some book bins and have books standing upright if you needed more organization.

Organization of Other items used

Some other items I use constantly stay on the top of my piano.

  • 11 x 14 magnetic dry erase marker board
  • dry erase markers and eraser (or a lone sock, depending on if I lost the eraser)
  • circle magnetic dots we use as a concrete way of showing where the beats fall.
  • Large-numbered Clock. It has the date and a USB port to charge a phone if needed.
(3) Organizing loose student papers

My own piano teacher showed me this idea. The inclined file sorter holds loose student papers, including if a student sends something they want to work on (free sheet music) or I need to print off sheet music for them, this is where it goes. Then, I can pull it out as needed. If I have studio copies of the sheet music that I print off and the parent needs to stop by and get it, I can place it here in their folder to grab easily.

(4) Studio set up during a lesson

(The first thing I noticed when I uploaded this picture is that the vacuum cleaner, a pack of toilet paper, and a random folded up area rug that we haven’t decided what to do with are in the background. Isn’t this picture just true to real life when you’re busy raising a family, taking classes, homeschooling, and teaching piano?)

This set up takes me less than five minutes to complete. It really is so simple.

  • Laptop 1 is used for FaceTime/Skype/Zoom. It is placed on the music stand for ease of moving around the view. I move it so students can see my large dry erase board. When not in use, the music stand just gets put up next to the piano.
  • Laptop 2 sits on top of the rolling cart and is open to table of contents of different versions of the books that I have and Google Drive for my assignment pages so I can type directly into them. The rolling cart holds all the books I need so I can easily reach them.
  • The piano bench is pulled away from the piano and doubles as a catch-all and beverage holder. Who else usually has a couple drinks — coffee and water? Or tea and water?
Small changes make a big difference

I made these changes slowly over the semester as I reflected on the deficiencies of my setup. There will likely be more changes to follow as I have announced that all lessons will be online for the 2020-2021 school year.

What changes have you made to the set up and organization of your piano studio so that piano lessons run smoothly and all studio materials stay in place.