When you think about teaching music online, how does it make sense to use a platform that’s designed for conferences and office meetings? In other words, an app not designed for music?
You can cut grass with scissors. But just because you can, it doesn’t mean you’d want to. Instead, wouldn’t you prefer to use a tool built for the job?
If you’re like most music teachers, you can likely relate to these common frustrations:
- Hearing awful distorted piano sounds, or losing notes sung by vocal students.
- Audio lag or the meeting freezing altogether, which takes away time and focus.
- Extra cameras, whiteboards, online tuners and microphones.
- Extra wiring and cables, for example, an ethernet cable stretched through your house.
- Struggling to keep the attention of your young students.
- Getting burned out.
Does it feel like each platform is missing something the other has, or is missing what’s needed all together?
Does it feel like you need to become an audio and video engineer on the side?
Here’s Musicology, the music teaching app
Musicology is designed by a music teacher for music teachers. In the Q&A below, your questions are answered by four teachers who have clocked some serious hours teaching online with Musicology. You want to know about sound quality, interactivity and specialized music features that will make your job easier! Let’s get started!
Music teachers want to know about the sound quality they’ll get with Musicology. We’re all tired of sound glitches, delays, clipping and cutting out, and straining to hear faint, garbled sound waves. Does Musicology do better?
Leanne Schroeder: The audio in Musicology is the best I’ve experienced, despite the fact that not all of my students have particularly fast internet. No more cutting out, even if we speak, play or sing at the same time. Duets are back! 😁
Lynne Rogers: Yes, the sound is clear with Musicology. My families have noticed the difference too! Hearing the piano is great! Sounds like you are right there!
Michael Hodgson: The audio and video quality was probably the most enticing element of Musicology that persuaded me to start bringing over all of my students. Duets were now possible with the full duplex audio connection.
Madi Trupp: Yes the Musicology sound quality is so much better. It picks up dynamics and subtle changes in tempo. It also lets you interject when your students are playing so you can correct mistakes in real time. Nothing is perfect but this feels like it’s getting closer every day.
Instead of telling you about this feature, why not take a listen for yourself?
Any further comments on the sound?
Michael: I’m teaching from Europe currently and my students reside in Toronto, so to have an ocean between us and be able to play together felt like an incredible advantage that oftentimes would have me forget the distance between us.
Leanne: Especially for those with larger iPads, it really does feel as if we’re together in person!
Lynne: I still find that volume is sometimes an issue when speaking, but a headset should help that (one with no mic). Also, making sure background noise is at a minimum, which goes with any platform you use.
What collaborative features does Musicology offer?
Madi: I use the whiteboard on a regular basis and it makes theory a breeze! It’s also a good tool for when I need to keep a student’s attention.
Lynne: Yes, yes, yes! Love it! [The white board] works so much better than others, like zoom, and the fact that it is collaborative is imperative to learning!
Leanne: I love the collaborative whiteboard. I will say that theory was neglected over 2020. This allows us not only to get back to it, but approach it in a fun way! It’s also extremely convenient to be able to move my student’s video around while using the whiteboard, and enlarge it as needed (if we’re comparing to Zoom, where this is not possible).
Leanne: Plus, the fact that the Apple Pencil kit is incorporated means everybody already knows how to use it! As always, everything about Apple is intuitive.
Integrated staff with keyboard and guitar fretboard:
Michael: The Digital Keyboard has been a game changer in terms of clarifying small confusions that with some younger students would lead to frustration and time lost. You’re able to demonstrate melodies and have the keys light up on the student’s end.
Madi: The interactive staff for piano and guitar are very helpful with new chords and scales. I can show which finger goes where without the awkward tango of descriptions from before. “Left, no right, next note up…” It’s much better now.
Lynne: So much fun! Even my 3 year old student loves finding all the 2 black keys, or simply just playing! And my older students like to put the notes on the staff from their music.
Michael: The Grand Staff is also incredibly helpful for real time theory work in lessons. With the feature being collaborative you can work together placing notes on the staff, and connect them to the keyboard below. This is an element of the app that has not just enhanced the productivity of music theory with students but also brought a fun lightness to it. With the way kids use technology, adding a fun videogame mentality to theory never fails to keep their interest.
Lynne: In the past, we did not even try using metronomes much, simply because it was not easy to access. But with it built right in to this app, students are now practicing with it. And it shows!
Browser Feature for Youtube and Websearch:
Michael: The Browser feature allows you to stay in the app and pull up whatever websites you may need to help with lessons without feeling like you’ve left your student waiting while you are off hunting. This feature is particularly ideal to use instead of screen sharing. It enhances the level of privacy in the lessons and you bring them along with you when you surf to whatever is needed.
Lynne: I use a preschool music for a bit of finger play, and concept learning for my very young beginners. We can pull up the video, and play and sing along! My vocal students can pull up their vocal tracks to sing along to.
File Upload feature:
Michael: The File upload feature is very helpful as it allows you to upload music or documents to each individual student room. With a little bit of prep time, everything you need is right there for your student, creating a cool kind of personal lesson library space for them. They can access it outside of the lesson as well, saving you time emailing files.
Leanne: I can put tons of colorful resources on the screen without asking the parents to print (I think they’re getting tired of all the printing!). It’s even easier to work collaboratively on our own screens than in person in a book. And we get to use colour, not just pencil! 😁
Leanne: Having their music on screen while they play is time saving, as well as so helpful for developing their notating skills – no more “3rd line, 2nd bar, beat 4… no, beat 4.. not the 3rd bar, the 3rd line.. “
Lynne: I have used File Upload from day 1! We can now look at their pieces together, and analyse, mark up, and even save what we did so they can view it again during the week. I am working on creating a homework template, and uploading it there for them to view.
Lynne: Okay, this has to be the best part…at least from the perspective of the students! Even my adult student (in her 60s) thought [emojis] were fun! A couple of my students call out with glee when I reward them with them. “Mom, Miss Lynne gave me a flower emoji!”
Leanne: Fortunately, there’s a lock button for when it’s time to get down to business! The ability to minimize the options and the Apple Pencil kit keeps the focus on the music!
Have you had a chance to try all of the collaborative features? What are you excited to try next?
Lynne: We have not yet played games with the solfa numbers, but there is so much potential. I would like to use the collaborative piano a bit more and reinforce note reading using the numbers. And try putting more rhythms and notes on the staff with the student. I would also like to try doing duets more.
Leanne: I’m excited to try the browser next. Having them be able to play a YouTube video on their iPad instead of requiring a 2nd device on one end (with the other person straining to hear through iPad speakers) will be awesome.
Michael: I look forward to bringing over my guitar students to the app so I can access the tablature tool and the guitar tuner.
Madi: I’m still waiting to try the tuner for ukulele and guitar as most of my student have finally started tuning before class. Also the in-app browser is something I need to play with.
How easy is it to use Musicology? Does it take a lot of tech know-how?
Lynne: Musicology is easy to use. Simple as that! Just open the app, click on your next student, and Boom! You are set to go!
Leanne: I’m definitely not a techie and I find the app extremely easy to use. The layout is clean and simple, especially compared to Zoom where I still forget how to find each feature.
Michael: Musicology is very user friendly. I like how it is designed to negate the need of external accessories and apps. Think of it as an all-in-one app so you can focus more on your students. I am by no means a tech expert and was able to become very fluent with the app in a short period of time.
Madi: Honestly, it’s pretty simple. Very user friendly and kid friendly too. Now I can sit on my couch for most of my lessons as I don’t need to be wired into my computer. Just me and my headphones and maybe my ukulele or guitar. A lot less wires to trip over now.
Is it easy for students and families to use?
Lynne: At first, a couple parents felt a bit overwhelmed with yet another new platform to try, but after they tried it, it was so much easier. Even my newest student, a vocal student in her 60s, was at first confused thinking she needed Zoom with it. But after explaining, she just needed to download the app, enter her personal Room ID, and she got in with no problem whatsoever!
Leanne: All of my students have taken to Musicology intuitively. I haven’t had to explain anything! They love pressing the buttons and exploring the app.
Lynne: I do not have to send an email out before each lesson with a new room code. The students have their own personal room ID that they use each week, AND they can go into the APP during the week, even without me there. You cannot do that with Zoom , or the other platforms that I have tried.
Want a comparison?
If you’re looking to compare Musicology with other apps, here’s a handy comparison chart (click the image or caption to view the chart)!
Questions for the developer
Could you explain why the sound quality is so outstanding compared with other platforms?
Rebecca Featherstone: Musicology is a full-duplex, peer-to-peer, WebRTC-based platform, with minimal audio processing. This minimizes additional latency and prevents the student and teacher’s audio from interfering with one another. I like to call this layered sound which allows you to sing, clap and play at the same time without any interference.
The difference between Zoom and Musicology is that Zoom is optimized for larger corporate meetings with participants from around the globe. We’re focusing on a 1-to-1 music teaching experience with additional tools to help facilitate this.
There are no extra settings required for Musicology, it’s all done for you. No need to wire your ethernet cable in, attach microphones and expensive headphones. You can use Musicology on its own or a simple pair of wired in headphones for the ultimate experience.
What’s next in the development of this exciting new online teaching platform?
Rebecca: Lots of things! Soon we are launching the Audio/Video component for browser. This will work on several different types of browsers (not just Apple iPads).
Screen share (like Zoom) will also be added and we will release features as they are completed until they match the iOS version.
We will also be releasing features such as recording to your student’s room, group classes and a workbook icon for multiple file uploads with a virtual piano, zoom-in feature on the file upload with annotation.
There are many exciting items on the horizon but we encourage teachers to use our platform in the meantime for the full-duplex audio and collaborative features with your students that have iOS devices. It’s a great way to expand your business globally and engage students who may have lost that drive with online lessons. We are bringing teacher and student together again for a fully immersive lesson experience!
Can you afford it?
Musicology is an app you can buy. Sometimes piano teachers believe that anything free is better than anything you can buy, and let’s face it, we’re a frugal bunch.
Let’s break it down. If you pay $19.99 a month, how much is that?
Let’s say you teach 20 days each month (5 days each week). That’s $1 a day. And if you teach four students each day, that’s $0.25 per lesson. Would you be willing to pay 25 cents for better sound?
To find out how much the monthly fee would cost in your studio, figure out how many lessons you teach a month and divide that number by the app fee. I believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised how affordable it is!
I’m a big believer in investing in your studio and claiming your business expenses against your income.
The question is really — can you afford not to?
Get the Musicology app at the Apple store!
Meet the teachers who tested the app!
Leanne Schroeder has been completely online since March 2020. Before switching to Musicology she had tried FaceTime, Skype and Zoom and found them lacking. She’s a travel piano teacher in Oakville, ON and has been teaching for almost 30 years, ages 6-72.
Lynne Rogers first taught online in January 2020, then switched to online in April 2020, when the world was completely changed due to COVID-19. She has used and still uses Zoom, Rock Out Loud and Musicology. Other platforms were too expensive. She teaches in Nanaimo, BC. Her piano students range from 3 to adult, voice from 6 to adult.
Michael Hodgson was primarily using Zoom, Skype and Google Meet from the first lockdown in March, 2020, before using Musicology. He currently resides in Sweden and has been teaching voice, piano, cello and guitar for 15 years, ages 6-18.
Madi Trupp started teaching online with zoom with March 2020’s first lockdown. She teaches currently at Featherstone Music studio in Toronto, ON, mostly ages 4-9.
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Video of the Week
Orange Sunset (Early Elementary, Prep B), hands share the opening descending melody of seconds and fourths, followed by a gentle rhythmic section with moving left hand root chords/triads. From the print and eBook The Color Collection Junior, Elementary to Late Elementary piano solos that express all of our feelings. From gorgeous character pieces to the blues, from black-key pentatonic to disco, this collection has it all! Or, check out the Orange Sunset eSheet (in the Kaleidoscope Sunset eSheet bundle, two titles for the price of one! Includes Orange Sunset and Kaleidoscope Colors.)