Tech Setup for Teaching Online Piano and Music Lessons, What You Need To Know

With the new challenges in private teaching, we are all faced with due to COVID-19 I created this video to help teachers navigate the online teaching world. This video focuses on OBS Project, an open-source software available on all platforms. OBS Project has a history of being used by video gamers so they can broadcast multiple screens and cameras to their audience. This works wonderfully for music teachers. Hugh Sung gives some excellent information on his blog post that helped me come up with some of the hardware that I use. Mario Ajero gave a wonderful presentation at a Music Teachers National Association conference on using Classroom Maestro and Screenflow. He has a video here.

Since I made this video, I have added a Scarlet Audio interface to my setup. I also have been using a Shure wireless microphone system similar to this one, and a Shure mic for my piano similar to this one. I hope this post has been helpful to you. I will make additional posts in the future on how I am teaching other subjects online. Feel free to reach out with questions.

Measure Practice Charts To Help With Memorization

I have been asked a few times about a MeasurePracticeChart Excel file or MeasurePracticeChart PDF that has been mentioned in some Facebook groups. It is something I came up with after speaking with Dr. Alan Huckleberry, who was one of my professors while I was working on my D.M.A. in Piano Pedagogy at the University of Iowa. He spoke about how he would take a piece and check off all the measures that he could sight-read, or measures that were repeats of other measures. This would account for approximately 25% of the piece. Then he would focus on the other measures, and set a deadline to have the rest finished. This is how he survived working as an accompanist in the trombone studio while earning his D.M.A. at the University of Michigan. 

I am a visual person, and love to be able to see progress charted. I used these measure charts exactly like Dr. Huckleberry mentioned when I was working as an accompanist, but I also used them for my learning of solo repertoire. They are motivating for me as I make goals and reach them, and color in each box. Recently I have been using them with my students in my private studio. I hope they are of help to you or your students!


How to Start a Collegiate Chapter of MTNA


This article originally appeared in the Winter 2015–2016 • Volume 1, Number 2 edition of CAPMT Connect, The Journal of the California Association of Professional Music Teachers.

How to Start a Collegiate Chapter of CAPMT/MTNA

Dr. Brandon Bascom, NCTM •
Fresno City College MTNA Collegiate Chapter Advisor
CAPMT State Honors Competition Chair

As a university student, being a member of an MTNA collegiate chapter was very beneficial to
me in learning how to network, in choosing future schools and programs of study, and in
establishing my career as a music teacher. I was a collegiate member for five plus years,
although my activity fluctuated. As a collegiate member, I attended one state conference. I
was also able to take advantage of the collegiate door-monitoring program and attended four
national conferences for free.

The main requirement for forming and operating a functioning collegiate chapter is time. An
advisor is needed to donate his or her time to help oversee the chapter. Officers are also
needed to volunteer their time to plan, and help run the chapter. I have listed some
additional requirements and other things to consider below.

Institutional Requirements

One of the first steps needed to form a collegiate chapter is to find out about the institution’s
requirements for starting an officially recognized club or organization on campus. Each school
with which I have been associated has had their own system of student government with
different policies for each club on campus.

The following things should be kept in mind:

• Funding is sometimes given by a campus student government organization to clubs.
This funding has helped members of my chapters attend national conferences.

• Some student government organizations require the chapter to complete some sort of
application. Furthermore, some require a member of the proposed club’s leadership to
attend meetings. Meetings at different schools have been as few as once a semester,
or as many as once a week.

• The institution may have requirements that must be reflected in the chapter bylaws in
order for the organization to be approved at the institution level.

• Meeting times and places often have to be scheduled in consultation with the

MTNA Requirements

• MTNA’s Collegiate Chapter web page states, “Each prospective collegiate chapter
must submit an online Collegiate Chapter Application. Upon approval by the state
association and national office, your collegiate chapter will receive notification and a
certificate from MTNA.” See

• It also states that “each chapter must have at least three student members, as well as a
sponsor or advisor who is an active member of the state and national associations.”

• Bylaws are required of each chapter, and must be submitted with the proposed
chapter’s application to MTNA’s national office. A sample of bylaws can be found in
the Collegiate Chapters Handbook, which can be downloaded at

• The suggested officers to make up the Executive Committee of a collegiate chapter
include president, vice-president, treasurer, and secretary. It is also helpful to have
someone act as an historian to take pictures of chapter activities, as well as someone to
handle publicity by letting others know about upcoming activities.
MTNA lists example past activities of successful collegiate chapters (see
This is a helpful resource to new chapters.

Another great template that has worked well for me is to pattern collegiate chapter meeting
activities after the Nationally Certified Music Teacher project requirements (see At my present institution, pedagogy
courses are not currently offered. Advising a student chapter is a way for me to ensure that
our students receive the same information and materials.

Other Considerations

I have seen departments require all piano majors to be members of MTNA. The costs of
membership fees/American Music Teacher subscriptions are justified as a textbook. I have
mixed feelings about this idea. While it does help increase membership numbers in a chapter,
and potentially funding for a chapter, forcing membership does not always result in

When I was a graduate student, the local teachers’ chapter invited all members of the
collegiate chapter to attend their meetings. This gesture was valuable to me as a student
getting ready to transition to the real world. It helped me see how a chapter operated, and
how its members put on events, including a festival serving hundreds of students. I would
encourage local chapters to extend the same invitation to collegiate chapters in our state. I
would also suggest that, if possible, students attend the business meetings at a state
conference or a regional meeting at a national conference to get a feel for how meetings are
administered. Students will learn the language of Robert’s Rules that MTNA uses, including
the process for the proposal and passing of motions (see

While time is precious and often safeguarded, I believe that the benefits of this investment
are great for the advisor and the students. Being involved as a student provides great
leadership experience as well as valuable training, at a fraction of what this might normally
cost. Becoming an advisor is a great way to give back to students, and to help mold the
future of our organization.

Review and Hack of Yamaha LC4 Music Lab System

Recently Fresno City College upgraded their piano lab and we finally had what every group piano teacher has been waiting for–the ability to walk up and down the rows of their students, and be able to remotely change which student you are listening to! Yamaha’s LC4 Music Lab system with the Wi-Fi kit allows you to do just that. There was no previous lab system at my school so I was thrilled to be able to acquire a new system, especially one with remote capability. However, in my opinion, there is just one shortfall. There is no teacher microphone on the wireless headset. Fortunately I have found a work-a-round that makes the system perfect!

In speaking with Yamaha Product Manager, Ben Harrison at the NAMM Show, Yamaha considered the option to include a pair of wireless headphones with a microphone, but they felt that the cost was too great, and the latency with the wireless system was also a factor. They also figured that if you were speaking to a student while standing right next to them, that they would be able to hear you. My experience has been that the students say “I can’t hear you” and they take off their headphones. The reality for me has been that an additional $411 fixed the problem. For institutions of higher education, this is doable. For a private teacher’s lab, maybe not so much. In future posts, I hope to discus other lab system options for private teachers and their studios.

I wanted to see the system work how I thought it could. I was willing to give it a try, and had institutional funding that needed to be spent before the end of the fiscal year. So I called up Vern Crews at Sweetwater. I don’t understand all the ins and outs of the system. I know just enough to be dangerous, and Vern was great to be patient with me and figure out what I was after! I wanted a wireless microphone system that would allow me to wear a body pack mic that would feed through the system into the student headphones. His concern was the potential for hum and feedback. After discussing it with his colleagues, they came up with a configuration that they thought might work. I got the parts and hooked them up, and it did!

I ended up ordering products similar to the following:


I plugged the male 1/4″ plug into the back of the wireless mic receiver, and the other end into the in jack on the direct box. The direct box has a mic jack on the other end that the Hosa cable plugs into. The other end of the Hosa cable is an 1/8″ jack that plugs into the microphone jack of the teacher box. Initially I ordered the clip-on lavalier mic. However, I found that I had to have my chin to my chest so the mic was right in front of my mouth for students to be able to hear me. So I returned it for a headset lavalier.

Just a couple of other pointers with the iPad:
One other thing that I have noticed is that you must change the Auto lock settings on the iPad for the screen timeout. If you don’t, when you hit the home button to wake the iPad, the selected student piano will be deselected, and you won’t be able to hear the student. You will have to reselect the student piano on the LC4 app to continue hearing and speaking with the student. To do this, go to Settings, General, Auto Lock, and change the screen timeout option to a longer time. Also, David Love recommended this iPad case. It has worked out great for me. I love it because I can hold the ipad by using the holes in the back of the case.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions, or need more clarification.

Teaching the Counting of Rhythm

One of the biggest challenges that I have had in my teaching, is the teaching of rhythm. Students are challenged with an abundance of numbers. They have a right hand finger number. They have a left hand finger number. Then they have a rhythmic beat number. They also have a number for how long they must hold notes. All of these numbers overwhelm many students. Dr. Carol Aicher, one of my professors at the Manhattan School of Music, taught me a great way to teach rhythm that she was taught by her teacher, Vera Wills. While doing some research, I found the originator of this rhythm system. Hazel Cobb came out with the book, Rhythm with Rhyme and Reason: Counting Made “Easy as Pie” in 1947. She wrote an article, Rhythm –Easy as Pie, in Clavier magazine in 1963. One of Dr. Aicher’s big sayings was “From known to unknown.” What do children learn as a toddler? Words.

There are many counting systems out there. In college coursework I was introduced to different systems such as metric counting, the McHose counting system, and other Kodály based systems. These systems are addressed in pedagogy textbooks such as The Well Tempered Keyboard Teacher as well as Beth Gigante Klingenstein’s book.

The beauty of Hazel Cobb’s system, is that it uses familiar words that will be remembered by the student. From known to unknown. The purpose of her system is to help students see and feel rhythmic patterns. Each note is represented by a syllable. Using Ap-ple to count eighth notes, and pie to count quarter notes really has resonated with my students.

Any reluctance I have seen with my students is the result of having to learn a new system. I had an adult student in one of my college classes. She was easily thirty years older than many of the students. She had musical experience, mainly as a vocalist. She wanted to take the class for fun to get better at playing the piano. She resisted this counting system that I was teaching the rest of the class. I noticed, but didn’t want to make an issue of it. As the semester went on, I noticed that I eventually won her over without saying anything. At the end of the semester, she came to me and said, “You know I have to tell you I resisted your counting system at the beginning. But I now use it to figure out my counting both for piano and for my vocal music.”

I use the counting system myself when I practice. Here is a list of the words that I use with my students. Some are different than Hazel Cobb’s, and some are the same. Carol Aicher suggested to use words that are evenly syllabic. I hope you find these useful. In a future post, I will show how to use these rhythm words with a rhythm worksheet.


I know there are a lot of piano pedagogy blogs. Some of my favorite blogs include those by Leila Viss, Diane Hidy, Wendy Stevens, and Jennifer Foxx. I also recently met Tim Topham at the MTNA Conference in San Antonio and was introduced to his podcast. I feel my background and my experiences offer a unique perspective in the world of piano pedagogy. I have taught group piano at the college level for over ten years. I have taught individual lessons in my studio for over fifteen years. I have recently started teaching group piano as part of my studio teaching, including Recreational Music Making (R.M.M.) lessons. I feel very fortunate to have experienced what I have, and want to share my knowledge with others. I also want to learn from others, through what they share here on this blog. So I hope to hear from you soon!




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