Online Lesson FAQs

I've taken "jazz" courses before. How is this different?
First of all, I'm all in as an improvisation teacher. It's not something I do on the side. Teaching is the main thing I think about and I'm continually looking for new tools and techniques to improve my pedagogical skills.
Secondly, teaching improvisation to those who primarily read music requires an almost bilingual approach to bridge the divide between how classical vs. pop/jazz musicians are trained. Having spent many years around both traditional piano teachers and lifelong improvisers, I pride myself on speaking the languages of both reading and "off page" musicians.
My job is to be your translator, breaking down complex creative concepts into bite-sized bits and making sure you receive the coaching you need to continue your creative music-making journey. You will understand what you learn, you will feel supported, and you will enjoy my coaching or I want to hear about it.

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.

Which are better; in-person or online 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.

How is this different from watching 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. 

Am I a good enough pianist 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. I always provide several options in assignments so that every student is challenged but not overwhelmed.

If I missed previous sessions is it too late for me to jump in?
Good news! Upon registration, you’ll receive a link to my private “Pop-Jazz Piano Essentials” refresher 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. And if anything I cover is confusing, we can always set up an individual “a la carte lesson” for some one-on-one time.

How much does it cost?
Please see the course descriptions for current pricing. Discounts are available. 

Is there a money back guarantee?
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.

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. 

What if I miss lessons?
Replay videos of every lesson are available for a limited time on private YouTube links provided to participants to review or catch up.

Do I have to appear on screen?
You can choose whether to watch the lessons passively. However I encourage active participation on camera for at least some of the lessons so I can understand your challenges, and celebrate your successes. Teaching works best when the teacher and students know each other and interact.

How to access

Passive Viewers

  • 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.
Position your device like this to show face and hands.

Position your device like this to show face and hands.

Active Participants

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!

Technical 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:
Computer: https://www.google.com/chrome/browser/desktop/index.html
Mobile device or tablets require an app: https://www.google.com/chrome/browser/mobile/index.html
Other browsers: 
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.