HERE ARE THE TOOLS I USE
As more and more music teachers start developing their own blogs and websites, I thought it would be good to share with you some of the tools that I use to manage and run my website and business and also tools I use daily in my studio.
Please see below for a full list of all my recommendations. These are related to piano teaching, running a studio business and website hosting and construction. I'll update these regularly as I find and try new products and can be confident about recommendations.
If you're looking for training: online courses, webinars, hangouts, etc., then please head to my Events Page.
PIANO STUDIO ORGANISATION
Studio Business Software
First things first: make sure you get your business affairs organised (yes, you are running a small business!). Running a business comes with responsibilities (tax, scheduling, billing) and much of this can take a lot of time, so it pays to be efficient and to automate things as much as possible.
If you’re still using paper invoices and billing parents manually, then you really could be much more productive with your time. I use software called MyMusicStaff which takes all of the hassle out of the business/logistic challenges so that I can spend more time teaching and preparing amazing lessons.
It also allows me to schedule lessons efficiently, communicate with parents and students automatically and track my resources, lending library and students’ repertoire. I've completely automated my billing with MyMusicStaff, so I never have to worry about getting paid again!
PIANO STUDIO AUDIO/VISUAL & TECH
Studio Sound System
People often ask me what sound system I use in my studio.
I have always used and loved my Logitech system with Subwoofer. While bluetooth systems are great, they often lack the punch of a wired system. Make sure you get something with a subwoofer - the sound quality will not be beaten.
This is the Logitech Z623 which, at just over $100, is a bargain for the sound quality you'll get. The sound is huge!! If you have a big studio and don't want to plug-in via cables, grab the Bluetooth Audio Adaptor while you're there.
Get 10% off your first order at Airturn.
BLUETOOTH PAGE TURNER
I’ve long been a fan of the iPad music accessories developed by AirTurn.
Not only do they have the best bluetooth page turners on the market, they also manufacture stands, mounts, a great eBook, remote controls and a variety of other handy accessories for any musician or teaching using the iPad in their studio.
AirTurn was started by teachers and performers looking for great solutions and continues to be run by musicians dedicated to enhancing the use of technology in the studio.
An iPad is an indispensable tool for any music teacher in the 21st Century. I would even say essential tool.
I've always used and trusted iPads over other tablet devices as Apple have by far the best audio and sound production technology and connections in their devices and they also have the widest range of apps to use.
If you're unsure about the best apps for piano teachers, check out: Best iPad Apps for Piano Teachers.
The link on the left will take you to Amazon, where I've selected the iPad Pro 128GB WiFi only model, which is currently the device I would recommend for any piano teachers.
If you're going to do anything related to music notation or hand writing on the iPad, you're going to need a stylus.
Having tried lots of pens over the years, the latest stylus from Adonit, the Jot Dash is by far the best on the market for iPads and Android tablets and phones.
The Jot Dash has a fine point (unlike the fat rubber ends or clear discs of the old days) and is remarkably natural. It does require charging as it has a powered tip, but the included USB charging plate makes this quick and easy and it lasts 14 hours.
Ps. If you have an iPad Pro, then get the Apple Pencil. I know it's expensive, but it's apparently amazing (I haven't tested it yet).
PHONE AND TABLET HOLDERS
Have you been looking for a simple way to hold your phone so that you can record your students performing without all the shaking?
A shaky video detracts so much from the content and is so easy to solve. Forget sticking your phone to a music stand and hoping it doesn't fall off: just get the iKlip mini!
This great little device holds any iPhone-sized smart phone at any angle and clamps to either a music or microphone stand. Easy to adjust and move, you'll wonder how you ever coped without it!
I now use this to record all of my teaching videos.
Ps This model is for phones. If you want to hold a tablet, you'll need the bigger iKlip Expand. I use both and wouldn't recommend anything else.
CONNECT YOUR IPAD TO YOUR DIGITAL PIANO
Most digital pianos have a USB connection which will allow you to send MIDI data to your iPad for recording, notating and games/tests.
However, until everything goes bluetooth or wireless, you'll need a physical adaptor to connect your keyboard to your iPad as the iPad doesn't have a USB connection.
This adaptor you need is called a "Camera Connection Kit" and, depending on the type of connection in the bottom of your iPad (older models have a 30-pin connector, newer ones have the "Lightning" connector), this will cost around $30.
If you have an iPad 1, 2 or 3, then you'll need one of these connectors, otherwise click below if you have a newer model with the Lightning connector:
I use a Logitech HD Pro c920 Webcam for all my podcasts and many of my recordings and webinars.
It has a huge range of features, but best of all, the image quality is amazing (even if it's not obvious on the Podcast videos due to the compression required for online distribution).
It has a clever fold-out bracket that allows it to sit comfortably on the top of a screen or tablet and still be angled into the right viewing position.
While there are plenty of cheaper models, if you're looking to do online lessons or record videos for students, it's easy to use and highly recommended.
If you've seen videos on my site that look pretty professional with a clear image and out-of-focus background, that's thanks to my Canon EOS 650D (Rebel T4i in USA) and f1:1.8 50mm lens. Note: you don't get the same effect with telephoto lenses and the standard lenses that generally come with new cameras.
I chose this camera for a number of reasons, but notably, it has a fold-out screen that allows you to watch yourself as you record (great for solo shooting). It records up to 10 minutes of video at a time in full HD.
It also comes with the Canon EOS Utility software that allows you to control focus and settings and watch the shooting from a laptop which means that you can easily record yourself without the help of other people.
MICROPHONES - PODCAST & RECORDING
For the price, you really can't go past ATR USB microphones.
I now use a Rode Podcaster mic which provides incredible sound quality. If you're just getting started with podcasting, then I would definitely start with one of the ATR mics listed above. You can always upgrade later.
If you get a condenser microphone like the one pictured, you'll want to get a scissor or boom arm, pop shield and shock mount given they are much more sensitive and need to be held in a different way to the standard (cardiod) mic.
This is the place to start if you want to build a free website. WordPress is the Number 1 platform for websites that are 100% customisable, free and easy to use.
Please note that when starting a website, you've got two options with WordPress:
- WordPress.com - free site that is hosted at WordPress. Customisable but not as many options for future growth and features as the next one. Use this if you're just starting to dip your toe into the water. I started with a free site before moving to the self-hosted option. Perfect for a studio website and/or blog.
- WordPress.org - same as the above except that you have to host the site yourself (see below for my hosting recommendation). Hosting costs around $10-20 per month to start but gives you unlimited functionality, plugins and room for growth which is limited in the free version of WordPress. This is a slightly more technical option for those who can foresee building their site in the future.
I've been using SiteGround as my web host for years and can't say enough about how good both their product and, importantly for people just starting out, their service is.
The most amazing thing about SiteGround is the customer support. I've never waited longer than 10-15 minutes (or you can live chat 24/7 for an instant reply) for an email reply from their top support techs.
If you're just getting started online and moving from a free WordPress site to your own hosted version, and you know that you may well need help along the way., this is the place to get your hosting! They'll even help with the move.
Don't take your chances anywhere else - this is a fast, streamlined hosting service that is backed by an excellent interface and customer support. It will also allow you to easily grow and upgrade as you develop. You can't go wrong.
WEBSITE THEMES AND PLUGINS
Once your hosting is up-and-running and you've installed WordPress on your server, don't do anything before you've downloaded Thrive Themes and Thrive Content Builder.
These guys have the most stable, well-coded and conversion-focussed themes on the internet and constantly bring out new updates (every week).
Thrive Content Builder plugin is by far the best front-end editor for WordPress which means you can build pages that look amazing (my whole site and all my landing pages are built with this tool) without any coding knowledge.
Add every conceivable button, feature, headline, animation, etc. that you need all with a drag and drop interface.
The Thrive team are leading the way with the most updated, functional and useful WordPress themes and tools, so I'd get in now while the prices are still incredibly reasonable for what you get. Excellent service and excellent value all round.
EMAIL MARKETING & AUTOMATION
One of the first things you want to do when you set up your self-hosted WordPress site is start collecting emails. ActiveCampaign is the software I recommend for this purpose.
Collecting emails allows you to start building a fan base of people who you can directly contact when you update your site, release new information or products or just want to share something and ActiveCampaign allows you to do all this and much more, simply.
BLOG AND SOCIAL MEDIA SCHEDULING
Once you've created your site, if you're looking to blog regularly, then check out CoSchedule which is the software I use to organise my content.
CoSchedule allows you to plan your blog posts on a calendar and share roles and writing with other people really easily.
It also allows you to create your own automated social schedule for each article you write.
All-time Favourite Teaching Books **MUST READ!!**
These are all books that have shaped my current teaching practice and continue to be books that I reference regularly (if I could only find them amongst all the Post-it notes and scribbles!). These books will change how you teach.
- The Savvy Music Teacher - David Cutler
- The Talent Code - Daniel Coyle
- Coffee with Ray - Nick Ambrosino
- The Inner Game of Music - Barry Green & W. Timothy Gallwey
- The Virtuoso Teacher - Paul Harris
- Lessons with Matt - Nick Ambrosino
- The Dynamic Studio - Philip Johnston
- Improve your teaching: Beginners - Paul Harris
Teaching Methods & Technique
- Practising the Piano - Graham Fitch's eBook series
- Chopin's Funeral - Benita Eisler
- Boris Berman - Notes from the Pianist's Bench
- Chopin: Pianist & Teacher as seen by his pupils - Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger
- Famous Pianists & Their Technique - Reginald R Gerig
- Daniel Barenboim - A Life in Music
- Heinrich Neuhaus -The Art of Piano Playing
- Piano Technique - Walter Gieseking & Karl Leimer
- The Leschetizky Method - Malwine Bree
- Professional Piano Teaching - Jeanine M Jacobson
- The Perfect Wrong Note - William Westney