Cool Class Piano Tools
Class piano or group piano lessons are a great way to teach piano and music theory to a large number of students in a time-efficient manner. To maximize the effectiveness of those lessons, we’ll look at a number of tools that enable a teacher to display every aspect of playing and reading music, from overhead camera views of the hands on the keys, to showing and annotating digital sheet music, displaying the names of notes, chords and intervals, and even navigating the control panel of a digital piano.
Picking the Right Digital Piano
The Yamaha CVP-709 Clavinova is the most advanced digital piano for teaching and playing the piano. In addition to being able to play with thousands of instrument sounds and hundreds of accompaniment styles, the CVP-709 has a touchscreen interface for easy navigation and a VGA display port, making it easy to show exactly what you’re doing to access the various Clavinova functions.
One of my favorite features of the Yamaha CVP-709 is the ability to set a wide variety of accompaniment fingering patterns. For beginners, I like to set a single-finger mode that uses single notes to play major chords and a simple 2-finger pattern to play minor ones. Having a whole band or ensemble accompany you while you play makes learning incredibly fun and engaging, and helps to maintain a high level of student retention.
Show and Tell
The key to an effective class or group piano lesson is to be able to clearly show what you’re doing. The main idea is to be able to easily display views of hands and fingers on the keys, as well as show sheet music, music theory concepts, and navigation of the Clavinova functions. We start with some sort of large HDMI-equipped display, such as a large-screen TV or a projector.
The next thing we need is a multi-port HDMI adapter, that will allow us to connect multiple image sources, from webcams to iPad and computer screens, to a single HDMI port on the display device.
To connect all your image and video sources, you will need to get adapters and cables to connect HDMI cables into the multi-port HDMI adapter. I use a 4×1 switch made by ZettaGuard, which features a handy remote in addition to a physical button for switching between device views (a full list of the equipment I use can be found below).
One of the main video sources for my lessons is my MacBook. I use it to connect to an overhead webcam mounted on a tall mic stand and boom with a camera adapter to show my hands on the keyboard.
I use a free app called Quick Camera to show a simple view of the webcam image. From my MacBook, I use a Thunderbolt HDMI cable to connect to one of the ports of my HDMI adapter. There are other things I can show from my MacBook, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Digital Sheet Music
I use my iPad as my primary sheet music reader. With a Lightning port HDMI adapter, I can connect the view of my iPad to a second port on the HDMI adapter. I then use an app called ForScore to show PDF sheet music files. Within ForScore, I can also draw annotations on the music in various colors and highlights – perfect for drawing fingerings or highlighting musical notations.
To help students navigate the various functions of the Yamaha CVP-709 touchscreen, I need a converter to take the VGA display output from the piano and connect it to one of the HDMI ports on my 4×1 adapter.
If you want to work with music notation programs like Sibelius, Finale, or MuseScore on your laptop, you need a way to connect your Clavinova to your computer. You can use a MIDI to USB cable, but I really enjoy being able to connect wirelessly using Yamaha’s MD-BT01 Bluetooth MIDI adapter. Since the MD-BT01 draws its power directly from the Clavinova’s MIDI ports, you can just plug it in and forget about it without the hassle of one more physical connection.
One of my favorite programs for class piano use is Classroom Maestro by TimeWarp Technologies. Classroom Maestro makes it easy for me to display notes, chords, intervals, and other music notation and theory concepts played directly from my Clavinova.
Adding these visual elements can be a powerful compliment to the effectiveness of a Clavinova in a class or group piano setting. When students can clearly see what you are demonstrating and explaining, they become much more engaged learners and your lessons become much more creative and effective.
- Yamaha CVP-709 Clavinova: https://bit.ly/2Qeojtj
- Zettaguard 4K x 2K 4 Port 4 x 1 HDMI Switch with PIP and IR Wireless Remote Control, HDMI Switcher Hub Port Switches (ZW410): https://amzn.to/2oSehlb
- AmazonBasics VGA to VGA Cable – 10 Feet (3 Meters): https://amzn.to/2NvNFoa
- Comprehensive VGA with Stereo Audio to HDMI Converter: https://amzn.to/2QmrsHM
- Classroom Maestro by TimeWarp Technologies: https://timewarptech.com/shop/music-software-apps/software/classroom-maestro/
- Yamaha Wireless MD-BT01 5-PIN DIN MIDI Adapter: https://amzn.to/2CySatV
- ForScore PDF reading/annotating app for iOS: https://apple.co/2oRrE5a
- Apple Lightning Digital AV Adapter for Select iPhone, iPad and iPod Models (MD826AM/A): https://amzn.to/2N2cPeq
- On Stage CM01 Video Camera/Digital Recorder Adapter: https://amzn.to/2CCMkI1
- Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920, Widescreen Video Calling and Recording, 1080p Camera, Desktop or Laptop Webcam: https://amzn.to/2wY4y0n
- Quick Camera App for Mac OSX: https://apple.co/2MfX2Ue
- AmazonBasics USB 3.0 Extension Cable – A-Male to A-Female – 9.8 Feet (3.0 Meters): https://amzn.to/2wWOPj0
- Thunderbolt to HDMI Cable iVanky 6.6ft Nylon Braided [Optimal Chip Solution, Aluminum Shell] Mini DisplayPort to HDMI Cable for MacBook Air/Pro, Surface Pro/Dock, Monitor, Projector, More – Space Grey: https://amzn.to/2M9TvXy
- The Best Songs Ever (Big-Note Piano): https://amzn.to/2CMZyC7
About the Author
Hugh Sung is the Director of Institutional Solutions at Cunningham Piano Company. Prior to this, he was a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and 19-year faculty member as its Director of Student Recitals and Instrumental Accompaniment. Hugh was also the co-founder of AirTurn, a company that creates technology products for musicians. Hugh remains active as a professional pianist, performing regularly with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and teaching hundreds of students around the world through his online popular piano school at ArtistWorks.