Navigating Technology

Leila Viss generates imaginative, tech-savvy instruction and resources for her studio and website, LeilaViss.com. She is the past coordinator for the University of Denver’s Piano Preparatory Program, hosts the Key Ideas Podcast and offers Composiums where she inspires pianists to nurture their creative voice through composition.

The lockdown forced us to make a decision–shutter our studios or move them online. 

If you were not friends with WiFi and Zoom before March of 2020, most likely you are now. I’m guessing that your relationship was a little rocky at first especially since you were forced to pivot. It definitely was for me even though I befriended and embedded tech tools in my studio when I first opened my doors in the early 90s. 

Think about why you chose to move lessons online. You wanted to continue lessons, connect with students, and maintain your business with a steady income. In the process you witnessed how the right tech tools can work wonders on your behalf. 

Perhaps you’re ready to implement technology beyond Zoom and a webcam? The best place to begin is the end. In other words, think about how you hope technology can meet your needs in the future.

  • Are you looking to launch or update a studio website?
  • Do you want to automate your billing?
  • Are you interested in providing learning opportunities beyond your lesson time with students?
  • Are you desperate to find tools that drill concepts beyond flash cards and theory books?
  • Do you see others use technology to their advantage and want to do the same?
  • Are you overwhelmed with what tools to use first?

Atomic Habits

James Clear, author of the best-selling book Atomic Habits, claims that

“you do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.”

VISIT WEBSITE

If you want to enhance your studio with platforms and apps then you must embrace a system and use it regularly. Remember how quickly you learned the ins and outs of Zoom or platforms because you used them for online lessons every day?

After a couple of mornings of powering up our new espresso machine, I got the hang of it and now enjoy a custom cup of brew exactly to my liking. To reach and maintain our goals it takes time and repetition. Technology will only serve you well if you make a habit of integrating it with consistency.

Once you’re committed to making space to develop a system, then it’s time to decide which tech tool will serve you the best. Do this by determining the biggest obstacle you face in your current setup. For example, do you need help with

 

  • Organization of digital files?
  • Administration of billing and scheduling?
  • Communication with studio families?
  • Reinforcement of music concepts?
  • Sharing assignments?

 

When a priority is set, then it’s essential to develop a filter similar to mine. Because of the overwhelming number of options available, I use three criteria when considering tech tools of any kind.

  • Is it easy to use?
  • Does it add value to precious lesson time or save me time?
  • Is it customizable to suit my needs?

Below is an abbreviated list of the apps or sites that have passed through my filter and ones that I highly recommend as you bypass obstacles and develop tech-savvy systems.

Keep in mind that

  • I access most of these tools on my desktop computer
  • The tools are usually (not always!) web-based which means they require Wi-Fi
  • They can also be accessed on smartphones and tablets, I favor the iPhone and iPad
  • Most offer a free level or free trial with in-app purchases.

Studio Administration

My Music Staff is a studio management software that helps you manage your schedule, website, billing, online payments, communication with parents and much more. Three of my favorite features of My Music Staff?

  • Students receive a reminder about their upcoming lesson the day before which avoids any confusion about lesson day and time.
  • During the summer months, I create a drop-in lesson option on my calendar. Students see when I’m available and sign up for lessons when it works around their busy summer schedule.
  • Student families pay online.

File Organization

​​Google Drive/Docs is a cloud-based storage solution that includes options to generate and save files on the web and access them across your devices. Within Drive you can create documents, spreadsheets and forms and easily share them with others with a link.

I use Google Docs to track incentive programs with digital badge boards, create digital escape room games, generate sign ups and evaluation forms for online festivals, store photos and videos and much more.

Assignments and Lesson Notes

Tonara is a platform for creating and sharing multimedia assignments. It also tracks student practice and includes a chat feature to message students between lessons. I wasn’t convinced that I needed this “deluxe” assignment and practice tracker but the pandemic changed my mind. Learn why I now use Tonara here.

If you’re interested in giving Tonara a try, use this affiliate link and use coupon code viss20 for 20% discount for 12 months. 

Tutorial or Reminder Videos 

Loom records a video and instantly generates a link that can be shared via email, text, Tonara, etc. Typically, you record a video on a device and then the file is too big to share so you must either upload the video to Google Drive or YouTube and then share that link.

Loom takes out the “middleman” and any video you record in the app can be easily shared with a link. I turn to Loom daily to quickly create reminder videos for students that they can watch between lessons. Loom saves me oodles of time and it definitely improves my students’ preparation between lessons.

Sheet Music Reader 

ForScore provides a library for digital sheet music and much more. After I scan sheet music with an app called TurboScan, or purchase a digital download, I organize the PDFs in the app on my iPad Pro. ForScore is available for desktop but I have not used it yet.

ForScore is a paper-free way to organize sheet music and it works with a bluetooth page-turning pedal. After pairing the pedal with the iPad, a tap of my toe will turn the page for me. I use ForScore, my iPad Pro and my Page Flip Dragonfly Bluetooth pedal every week at my church gig. 

Sheet Music Player

PlayScore 2 is one of those apps that you hoped would become a reality. Now it’s here. After taking a photo of sheet music with a smartphone or tablet, PlayScore 2 immediately plays back the score with stunning accuracy.

This scan and playback can be shared with others who download the app for free. With a professional subscription, the app can export the scan as an XML file to score editors like Finale. With a couple of swipes, you can transpose and even orchestrate the playback with 19 different MIDI voices.

I’ve sampled Play Score 2 with several students and one in particular really liked the ability to watch the score scroll by as he listened. It’s definitely a step above just an audio file. There are many possibilities for this app and I look forward to exploring them! 

Educational Apps

As much as I value technology that assists my business, apps that teach and drill concepts are my favorite to curate because they are essential to my curriculum. In my studio, students spend 30 minutes of time on the bench with me and then another off the bench reviewing theory concepts, music history, terms, etc. Learn more about my Off Bench Time here.

These apps, too, must pass through a filter that I call “stages of learning.” To learn about these stages and to see what educational apps made the cut, follow this link: Must-Have Apps.

 

Feeling overwhelmed by this list?

I can see why. There’s even a few more I didn’t include like Noteflight, YouTube and Canva! Seeing how valuable each one of these apps is to me, it may leave you feeling bewildered.

So, remember to…

  • Begin with the end.
  • Ask yourself what’s the most important aspect of your studio that needs a tech-savvy upgrade.
  • Borrow my app filter to select one or use one of the tools I recommend above.
  • Start with one app at a time.
  • Develop and dedicate time to a system that keeps you using the app every day so it becomes a habit.
  • Equip yourself with an updated computer, smartphone and iPad. You don’t need all of them immediately, but all three will level up your systems.

Looking for guidance along the way?

Visit my website for some free key ideas or consider setting up a consultation with me. 

KEY IDEAS LEARN MORE!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.