Frequently Asked Questions
1. About online lessons
2. How to access (scroll down)
3. Tech tips (scroll way down)
1. About online lessons
How are online lessons different from traditional in-person lessons?
In many ways, online lessons offer a richer experience than face-to-face lessons in the same room. For example, I use the latest technology including multiple camera angles so you see my face, my fingers on the piano keys, colored notes on a virtual keyboard, instantly notated music examples, and screenshots of relevant resources. Of course, the biggest advantage to online lessons is the possibility to study with me remotely. About the only drawback I've noticed is that it's not possible for me to accompany online students due to a slight time lag.
Are these really just pre-recorded videos?
No. These are live, interactive lessons with individual feedback. Learning to improvise involves a lot more than just transferring knowledge. It's also about receiving individualized coaching and support from others to discover your personal take on keyboard creativity. At the suggestion of my colleague, Leila Viss, I invented and continue to refine live online group lessons.
Why not just make pre-recorded video courses?
Real teaching/learning works best with two-way communication. In other words, if I don't understand where someone is on their unique creative music making journey, how can I show them what's next? It's like someone who is lost calling you for directions from their cell phone without being able to describe where they are. All you can do is describe the whole trip 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 right where they are and it's a route you've traveled, you can point them to the exact next direction to move them forward.
Am I good enough to participate?
My courses are designed for intermediate to early advanced “recovering” classical pianists interested in learning to play off page. Anyone with intermediate piano technique and a basic knowledge of harmony will fit into any 8-week session. A basic knowledge of scales and chord construction is helpful. Pop tunes typically utilize three-note triads. Jazz emphasizes four-note 7th chords. Upon registration, you’ll receive a link to my private “Pop-Jazz Piano Essentials” reference video created exclusively for past current, and future pop jazz piano students 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 levels in my assignments so you can choose what's right for you technically.
Do I have to appear on screen?
No. You can choose whether to watch the lessons actively on camera or passively out of view. However I encourage active participation on camera for at least some of the lessons so I can understand your challenges, and celebrate your successes. Learning is enhanced when the teacher and students get to know each other and interact.
Why should I pay for lessons when there are tons of free YouTube tutorials?
The world is full of "experts" who want to teach and you get what you pay for. Most online how-to videos fall into two categories: 1. Free "lite" lessons designed to advertise a pre-recorded course, or 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. So, while it's possible (with enough hours of searching online) to garner a few disconnected keyboard improvisation tips for free, I offer well-organized, interactive lessons that combine time-tested teaching strategies with the latest technology and include the all important individual feedback both during the lesson and on Facebook.
How much does it cost?
See current course offerings, tuitions, and discounts here.
What if I miss a lesson?
Replay videos of every lesson are available for a limited time on private YouTube links provided to participants to review or catch up.
What if I 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.
How long do replay videos remain available?
Replay videos expire on August 30.
Why do replay videos expire?
Replays are offered as perk/convenience and not intended to substitute for live lessons. Additionally, there are a number of practical reasons why they expire several months after the lessons including protecting students' privacy, dissuading prospects from taking real live lessons, and controlling leakage since the longer videos are out there, the more often they get passed around and reposted. Philosophically, the most important reason is because I strongly believe that real learning happens by teaching real people in real time.
What is your 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.
2. How to access lessons
On the day of the lesson, you will receive an email with a link to view the live stream on YouTube. You will see me and a few active students but we won’t see or hear you.
- If you want to comment and be part of the instruction on YouTube while watching a live class, you need a Gmail account. If you want to be a viewer with no chat, you do not need a Gmail account.
- If you miss a lesson, you can watch it later on YouTube.
When it’s your turn to be an “active participant,” your instructions are a bit different.
- To be an active participant, you will need a Google account.
- The platform is Google Hangouts, which works best on the Google Chrome browser. Other browsers require a plug-in.
- I’ll send you an invite to the hangout 15 – 30 minutes before the lesson.
- You need a good internet connection and a camera enabled device. Here are the system requirements if you want to get all technical but it usually just works for most people.
- If you are using an tablet or phone, have the Google Hangouts app installed and open.
- Active participants should position their device diagonally off to the side to show both face and hands.
- Headphones are recommended.
If I ask you to be an active participant, please don’t hesitate. It’s important because it makes the lessons “live.” I promise not to put you on the spot or embarrass you in any way. If you have questions about something I ask you to do, you can bet that other viewers are wondering the same thing.
Tip: If you are bothered by the video display jumping to whatever person is talking, you can easily stop (and restart) this by simply setting the focus (clicking) on any person’s picture in the list at the bottom of the screen in the hangout. To go back to the auto-switching, click on the same person again from the visual list of attendees at the bottom, or click on anyone twice — once to set focus, and again to release the focus!
3. Tech Tips
Please follow these guidelines for the best experience.
Prepare your browser – The Google Hangouts platform I use, works best with the Google Chrome browser. You can download it here:
Mobile device or tablets require an app: https://www.google.com/chrome/browser/mobile/index.html
If you’d rather not use Chrome, install the latest version of the Google Hangouts browser plugin before you connect here: https://www.google.com/tools/dlpage/hangoutplugin
Check your connection – Streaming video is very demanding on your Internet connection. If you are on Wi-Fi, the closer you are to the router, the better. A direct Ethernet connection is usually more reliable than Wi-Fi.
Reduce demand – Encourage those around you who are on the same connection to take a break from the internet or, at least, refrain from downloading large files or streaming video (this includes Netflix and Xbox Live) during the duration of the lesson.
Close unnecessary programs – Close down all software, apps and browser tabs on your device, except what you need to view the lesson. This includes online storage programs that sync in the background such as Dropbox or Google Drive.
Disconnected? – If you can’t see and hear me or you get bounced from a lesson for any reason, you can just rejoin using the same link you received in your invitation.