Frequently Asked Questions
How are online lessons similar/different from traditional studio lessons?
For most people, the words piano lesson brings up the traditional image of a teacher and student in the same room. That's still a great way to learn the basics on the front end and the finer nuances of performing on the other end. But for those who can already play at a late-beginner level or above, online group lessons are the best way to learn jazz piano. Here’s why:
Access – Unless you live in a major city, good jazz piano teachers are hard to find.
Wires, not tires - I come right to your screen wherever you are.
Replay videos - Lessons can be viewed over and over for review and missed classes.
Enhanced technology - I present two camera angles so you see my face, my fingers on the piano keys, colored notes on a virtual keyboard, instantly notated music examples, and screen shares of musical examples.
Multiple learning modes - My classes include highly detailed PDF handouts that are constantly updated for visual learners and precise backing tracks for aural learners.
Learning Community - Interaction with others both during the lessons and especially in our private Facebook groups enables helpful inspiration and encouragement.
What styles are taught? I’m not sure I even like jazz.
The word jazz means different things to different people. For me, jazz is not so much a style as it is an approach to making music that involves reading and improvising over specific rhythmic feels within a given harmonic context. The creative concepts I teach can be applied to many styles including, pop, rock, contemporary worship, swing, latin, bluegrass, even classical…
Why are the classes live? Why not just pre-record them?
Learning to improvise involves a lot more than just transferring knowledge. It's also about receiving individualized coaching and support that is not possible without student/teacher interaction. Imagine someone who is lost calls you on the phone for directions without being able to describe their current location. All you can do is explain the entire route with myriad "turn right, turn left" directions. This is made more complicated since there are many different routes from A to B. But if you know their location on a road you've long traveled, you can point them in the right direction. It's the same with musical improvisation. if I don't observe where you are on your creative music making journey, what is challenging, and what comes easily, I cannot tell you where to go next.
Do I have to appear on screen?
Nope but it's preferred. You can choose whether to watch the lessons actively on camera or observe with your video and/or microphone turned off. I encourage active participation on screen in at least some lessons to ask questions because it enables you to get to know the other students, share your challenges and celebrate your successes but there's never any pressure to play (if you tell me ahead of time, I won't even ask). Your facial expressions, thumbs up, head nods, etc. improves my teaching, and makes it less lonely for everyone.
What level of pianist do I need to be?
I usually offer easier (late-beginner and up) and more challenging (intermediate and up) classes concurrently. sessions are geared toward adult intermediate to advanced “recovering classical pianists.” No prior experience with improvisation is required but you should know how to play major and minor scales in a couple of keys, read moderately well, and be able to construct chords even if you can’t play them on demand.
What if my music theory knowledge is scanty?
Upon registration, you’ll receive a link to a private “Pop-Jazz Piano Essentials” reference video to review some of the theory, terminology, and creative concepts I often refer to in my teaching. I also make a point of providing several options of various ability levels in my assignments so you can choose what's right for you technically.
How much personal attention will I get in group lessons?
The more you post your practice videos to our private group, the more feedback you receive. It could be argued that you'll actually receive more scrutiny and feedback in this format than in private lessons. I watch practice videos posted by students on Facebook repeatedly and give very specific pointers i.e. "at 1:14, you seem to hesitate. Do you need help finding the next chord there?" Also, other students give encouraging feedback - it's a very positive atmosphere.
How much practice time is expected?
It’s up to you! Obviously, combining knowledge with its practical application is the best way to improve your improvisation skills. Some students don’t practice at all enrolling mostly to learn new creative concepts. Others become very involved in polishing final products. If I had to put a number on it, I’d say 45 minutes per week would be about right to see results depending on one’s prior experience.
Will I actually become a better improvising pianist?
I make no false claims that “all of my students become master improvisers.” However, in after-course surveys, most students report improvement.
As a returning student, will there be enough that's new for me?
All of my classes include reviews of essential jazz theory and exercises. To keep it interesting for returning students, I constantly vary the ways I assign scales and chord drills. Each new class topic and associated tunes provides opportunities to practice both new and previously-learned creative concepts. I also make a point of providing several options of various levels in my assignments so you can choose what's right for you technically. And, if you’re like most people, you have to hear and play new concepts several times in several ways before it sinks in.
Why should I pay for lessons when I can watch free YouTube tutorials?
Most online how-to videos fall into a couple of categories:
1. Free "lite" lessons designed to advertise a pre-recorded course by knowledgeable. teachers.
2. Shares by intermediate players who, while admirably eager to share their latest "look what I can do," are nevertheless unseasoned teachers, typically lack practical performance experience, and often lack a deep knowledge of music theory.
3. Isolated useful tips by experts. So, while it's possible (with enough hours of searching online) to garner a few disconnected keyboard improvisation tips for free, people still struggle to improve on their own. On the other hand, studying sequenced instruction with a dedicated and knowledgeable live teacher who is invested in your success gets results.
The best reason to enroll
Showing up for a class is a commitment. It means making time, facing your fears, and taking actual steps to achieve your piano playing goals. People who study in an organized course tend to take their learning seriously. Assignments and expectations from a benevolent teacher who nevertheless won’t let you hide moves you forward on your creative music making journey.
How much does it cost?
See current class offerings, tuitions, and discounts here.
What does my tuition pay for?
My teaching - time spent in the actual lesson and daily feedback on practice videos in our private Facebook group.
Prep time - Detailed lesson plans, assignments, and handout that include musical examples all take considerable time.
Advertising - You found the lessons because our marketing investment somehow reached you.
Administration - Among other things, our administrator, Tonya, maintains the rosters, sends newsletters, monitors lessons, prepares certificates, and advises on business decisions.
Credit card processing fees - PayPal and Stripe both take a bit out of your payment. Recurring payments cost us even more.
Overhead - webinar platform, a fast internet connection, cameras, microphones, photo backdrops, software/apps, devices and keyboards to maintain.
Can I pay in installments?
Yes. We offer a recurring payment plan so you can pay as you go. See the main online classes page for details
What is the refund policy?
Since there is no way to take back access links or resources once they are sent to a registered student, no refunds can be offered for online group lessons.
I’m still nervous about paying for an unknown.
We’ve all been ripped off by too-good-to-be-true offers so any caution you may feeling about enrolling is understandable. Rest assured that I will do everything possible make your learning experience worth every penny and minute you spend with me. Most students re-enroll after their first class because they know they can trust me to honor their investment by delivering practical knowledge, detailed resources, support, feedback, and gentle encouragement. You won’t be sorry.
What if I miss a lesson or fall behind?
I teach pithy lessons with lots of options to accommodate various abilities, interest levels, and schedules. You are welcome to pick and choose what to practice and what to put aside. These are your lessons. Do what works best for you. Replay videos of every class are provided for review.
When and why do replay videos expire?
Replay videos expire one year after the start of a course. Replays are offered as perk/convenience and are not intended to substitute for live lessons. There are a number of practical reasons why they expire including protecting students' privacy, dissuading prospective students from enrolling in live lessons, and controlling leakage since the longer videos are out there, the more likely they get passed around and reposted. But the main reason is that I strongly believe that real learning happens by teaching real people in real time. It's a relationship between teacher and students. As we get to know each other, I learn to push or pullback, customize or generalize, delve in or zoom out based on the class dynamics. Lastly, an end date encourages accountability. In the words of one student, "The replay videos do make us go back and practice. I have all of the CD's that [another teacher] made....and truth is......I need to go back and look at them again......but nothing to "make" me do it right now. With online lessons expiring....I have been "made" to practice."