The First Piano Lesson on Musicology

Left hand on piano keys

Winter break may be over, but it really doesn’t feel over with my kids still at home – one doing online school and the other just causing chaos during my meetings (he’s two.) We had a meet and greet on MS Teams with my son’s Grade 1 class, and I really felt for the teacher as she tried to teach 18 six-year-old kids how to mute themselves, raise their virtual hands and turn their video on and off. My son just sat there rolling construction paper while the other students pulled their ears out of their heads or talked about ear muffs haha. Then at the end of the call she had to instruct them to all lower their virtual hands because class was over. I feel for you Madame! Her job is not easy and I wish her luck this week.

So many things are different this year and it got me thinking about the connections the world offers us if we pay attention. For example, how the heck did I get involved in developing an app for teaching online? I was a travelling piano teacher who owned a multi-teacher studio. The studio is still running but completely virtual. It’s crazy to think about! The connection started back in the early 90’s with my piano teacher Mr. McLeod – a gentle yet passionate Scottish man whose dedication to music and teaching was so strong. Mr. McLeod’s son went on to own and operate Promise Parties in Toronto and advertised on social media about his accountant. That accountant, Ryan Kagan, became the accountant for my music school and he later became interested in start ups and investing. He helped me build the business plan and get funding for the Musicology app. Now, through the support of investors and the great people at BDC, I’ve made amazing connections with all kinds of very skilled people in development, advertising, PR, business consulting and women’s entrepreneur associations. It’s very interesting how life works out sometimes. Not to mention the involvement of an old friend from the Mohawk College Music Dept. and my former clients who helped me start my own music school. I love our great team!

I still teach a few students myself and today one particular family was so very kind enough to let us connect through the Musicology app even though it’s not built completely and hasn’t gone through any UI. It was a life changing experience and I’m not just saying that because it’s my app! I really felt a connection above and beyond what I had felt over Zoom in the last year. It was so nice to feel that again. Even in person at a social distance with masks and not singing, this felt closer.

I’ll give you a breakdown of each lesson – I taught a family of three of various ages and levels.

  • Student No.1, age 11, Grade 5 RCM – Oh my gosh, she could hear me when she was playing a piece! I like to interrupt my students while they play I guess (haha), but she would play a piece and I would speak over her playing to guide her and she could hear everything. I want to say it was at exactly the same time but I know the developers will be yelling at me for saying that because it always depends on so many factors. But it was close! They usually have pretty spotty Internet and I had another child at home with YouTube on and we didn’t experience freezing or any disruptive latency. I even ‘shushed’ her while she was playing a piano (soft) part too loud and she heard me immediately. I could hear her dynamics and her fingers struck the keys at the same time that I heard sound. We did some clap back exercises and nothing cut out! Next week, we will be doing theory by uploading pictures and pages from a book her dad is going to text to me. Then we can write on the sheets collaboratively and save them to her “student room” for later reference. The student, when asked about her experience at the end of the lesson said, “It was great it didn’t cut out!”

  • Student No.2, age 7, Piano Adventures Primer Level – This student is so cute and has phenomenal rhythm. I went to town today getting him to clap his little theory exercise and count the rhythm while playing his song. I could hear him great. We did a duet and it was not laggy at all. I’m sure there was some minimal latency, but boy was it a clear difference from other platforms. Then we wanted to do his theory homework collaboratively on the file upload whiteboard, but the button for that isn’t quite ready (next week!) So we did some drawing collaboratively instead. He was so into it and it felt like we were really doing something together. It was funny when I saw his little face pressed up to the screen smiling with delight after I closed the whiteboard window. He was still drawing and drawing away! (Note to self: make sure the teacher controls the student’s windows.)

  • Student No.3, age 9, RCM Grade 1 – I normally find this student a bit more difficult to engage with online and have him understand me. Today, however, he was totally there! We learned E scales and triads with ease and total engagement. Musicology has a cool little button that you can flip and the screen on your device will immediately switch to show your hand position on the piano. So, he played his scale while hearing my voice guide him and watched my hand on the screen. He’s a very visual learner so this was amazing. Then, of course, he had to try flipping the screen himself so I got to see his lovely family reading in the living room. We spent the whole lesson reviewing fingering and a bit of theory and flipping the screen to give him that new visual. He loved it. Even better, I’d say, than in person, because it is so clear on the screen.

As you can see, Musicology has many awesome features – the ones mentioned above are only a few. We know the features teachers expect to see and we’ve built them into Musicology.

Your feedback and comments are fundamental to the success of Musicology!

Some of you have asked why are we only on Apple for the first launch, and why does this whole process take so long?

First, when developing an app, you need to pick one of three platforms to build from. We chose Apple first because with their new coding system our app can work on ALL Apple products, not just mobile or desktop, and from our research we’ve found that most teachers prefer Apple. Desktop is very important, we know that, but it’s a separate work order so that will be available shortly.

Secondly, developing a highly effective and desirable app takes an incredible amount of time and testing because we want to launch it bug free (teachers have had to deal with enough bugs lately!) That’s why this new stage of BETA TESTING is so important and it’s why we need your help.

We need real teachers to use Musicology and give us the vital feedback we need to make the app a perfectly seamless experience for both teacher and student. We don’t want to be like other companies that release products before they’re ready. That just frustrates everyone. When it is launched, we want Musicology to be polished and READY TO WORK FOR YOU. Please help us by signing up to be a beta tester with the email address below.

Thanks for reading. Next time, I will be speaking about how we address security issues and privacy laws. Talk soon, friends!

To get on the beta tester list, email: info@musicology.ca

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4 Responses

    1. I know that feeling all too well. You’re really going to notice a very clear difference with Musicology – it’s built to teach music online!

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