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Huy’s Piano Hacks: 5 Top Tips For A Great Video Portfolio

 

Tips For A Great Video Portfolio

 

Since my last post I’ve received a lot of interest about my student showcase video portfolio, “Piano Fingers”.

Among other things, I’ve been asked about how to ensure your video portfolio is professional and effective. So here are my Top 5 Tips for ensuring you have a great video portfolio for your piano studio.

#1: ALWAYS Film Live Performances

There are several problems with studio recordings, and several benefits to filming live performances.

On a studio recording, the audience has no idea how many times it took you to get that particular shot. With a live recording, you’ll show them exactly what the pianist achieved first time, because with live performances, there are no second chances.

Atmosphere is another big differentiator. Nothing matches the atmosphere of a live performance. It doesn’t matter whether you’re recording a piano student or a famous band – the live atmosphere can’t be recreated in a studio. So give your viewers the real atmospheric experience by filming your video portfolio live.

Live performances are also more real. Have you ever seen a band performing in concert, and been disappointed by the quality of their playing compared to their studio albums? A musician’s performance skills are most evident when they perform live. Show your prospective students exactly what they can expect with a live video portfolio.

#2: DON’T Film The Piano Teacher Playing

Now there is one exception to this rule: if, as a piano teacher, you also hire out for performances, then by all means include videos of yourself playing in your portfolio.

However, if you’re like me, and your number one job is as a piano teacher, then your performance skills aren’t really relevant. Instead, your students’ performance skills are what matter. That’s what’s relevant to your future students.

To draw a parallel – if you were looking for a maths tutor for your son or daughter, the teacher’s qualifications and experience may be important, but what you would really want to know is what sort of results their students achieve. In the same way, people need to see your students playing – let their fingers do the talking.

#3: ALWAYS Respect Privacy

Admittedly, this is a common sense and courteous step to take, but it still bears mentioning. It’s good ethical practice – and probably a legal requirement – to always ask permission of students (and their parents, for under 18s) before you upload videos of them playing.

In my experience, about three quarters of my students and their parents are completely happy for me to share videos of them online. They enjoy being able to show friends and family in other cities and states, and even overseas.

For those who don’t want to be online, I don’t upload their videos.

#4: Use Vimeo

There’s much that can be said about Vimeo vs YouTube, but ultimately, it comes down to what you’re trying to achieve.

After thinking long and hard about the decision, I chose to put my video portfolio on Vimeo. YouTube may have more viewers, but I wanted better quality videos, and that meant Vimeo. Because most people view the videos via my website, Vimeo’s smaller audience numbers are irrelevant. And there are no ads, so that’s a bonus for viewers.

Other benefits of Vimeo include:

  • 3 types of account (one free, two paid)
  • faster upload time (if you’re on a paid account)
  • better looking video player

If that weren’t reason enough, it’s also important to note that all the professional videographers and filmmakers are on Vimeo – so what does that tell you?

#5: ALWAYS Use a Professional Videographer (If You Can)

Presentation is everything. There’s nothing worse than a music video with poor visuals and poor sound. By using a professional videographer for your video portfolio, you will get professional looking videos with great lighting and sound, and multiple camera angles.

In addition to the importance of presentation, using a professional videographer to produce your video portfolio will also show your clients that you’re professional, and you’re not willing to cut corners. If you don’t cut corners on video, then you probably don’t cut corners at your piano studio either. And that’s incredibly reassuring for prospective students and their parents.

All videos you see on our website are courtesy of our good friends at Imaginarium Productions.

 

 

An Example

Would you like to see an example of a professionally-filmed video from my video portfolio? Watch the highlights video from the 2014 Le Piano Academy recital below.

 

 

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5 Essential Tools for Beginner Piano Students

 

Essential Tools for Piano Students

 

Are you a beginner pianist? Is your child beginning to take piano lessons? Parents and beginner adult students often ask me what tools they (or their children) need to be able to learn to play the piano. This blog post covers five essential tools I recommend every beginner piano student should have.

1: Every Pianist Needs an Instrument to Practice on

It may sound obvious, but every piano student needs a piano to practice on!

As to which piano you should buy, I’ve put together a blog post outlining some of the best value instruments for beginners and intermediates. But if you don’t have time to read that, too, then the short answer is: for beginners, an acoustic (regular) piano is ideal, and an electric piano is the next best option. Failing that, however, for a new piano student, a beginner keyboard will also do. If you choose to get a beginner keyboard, always buy one with 61 keys, and make sure that the keys are the same width as those on a regular piano.

 

Yamaha U1 Piano

Photo Credit: Yamaha

 

(Want a specific piano recommendation tailored to your individual needs? Send me an email, or leave a note in the comments below.)

2: An Adjustable-Height Piano Bench is a Must

An adjustable-height piano bench is a must for all piano students, but it’s particularly important for young beginners.

Many students are taught to sit at the piano incorrectly because they have the wrong-sized stool. This is not only uncomfortable, but can also lead them to play with their arm at an incorrect height, and can even result in a strained back.

All this can be solved with an adjustable-height piano bench. The adjustable feature allows little humans to sit comfortably and correctly, with their arms at the right height, and their wrists unbent. Best of all, the adjustability means the bench will still suit them when they grow to become bigger humans. Adjustable benches are also great for families with two or more piano students of varying ages and heights, as they can be adjusted each time a new sibling sits down to practice.

 

Piano Bench

 

An adjustable piano bench will cost you anywhere between $150-500. You can buy one at any reputable piano store. One final thing to keep in mind when selecting a bench is to make sure you choose a comfortable one, as in the future your child will be practicing for up to an hour at a time every day. And no one wants to sit uncomfortably for an entire hour!

3: A Metronome is a Vital Tool

A metronome isn’t necessary for a complete beginner, but once you begin learning scales, you will need a metronome.

It’s said that the Germans know how to do three things well: manufacture cars, play football (you saw the 2014 World Cup final), and make metronomes. As such, it will come as no surprise when I say that my favourite metronome brand is the German “Wittner.

Wittner metronomes come in three main categories – real wood, plastic wood, and novelty. Real wood metronomes are the best quality, and I just love the traditional ticking noise they make. They tend to be around $200-250. Plastic wood Wittners are also quality metronomes, and are cheaper, at $100-150. Then, of course, there are the novelty metronomes that come in penguin shapes etc., and are a similar price to the plastic wood options.

 

Wittner Metronome

Photo Credit: Wittner

 

You could buy a cheap Chinese metronome on eBay, but it will never be the same quality as a Wittner. Wittners are built to last, and so I believe it’s worth paying extra for them, as they will last a lifetime.

Metronomes are important because they help instil a sense of timing. And rhythm and timing are vital for good piano playing.

You may be wondering why I haven’t mentioned metronome apps for phones and tablets. Sure, you can use them, and there are even free ones, but I don’t believe that they are ever loud enough (unless you want to plug them into a stereo and drive the entire family crazy – not something I recommend!). And let’s face it, they really just don’t sound as good as that traditional metronome “tick”.

4: Invest in an iPad

Two years ago, this item wouldn’t have made the list. But I now find that the iPad is a great musical education tool.

I’m an Android fan, but the iOS music apps are more polished, and there are more of them. With an iPad, you don’t need paper practice diaries, flash cards, or note reading worksheets. Instead you can get a practice diary or log journal app, flash card apps, note reading apps, and apps for aural training. The last item in particular is a real money-saver, as you won’t have to pay nearly $80 for an AMEB aural training CD! And, of course (though I’m loathe to mention it), you will find metronome apps as well.

 

Apple iPad

Photo Credit: Apple

 

iPads are also great for music games, which can keep kids simultaneously entertained and educated. For those who are too old for games, you can also buy and store PDF sheet music on the iPad, meaning you don’t have to carry a large folder of sheet music around everywhere. (I particularly recommend the forScore app for this.)

5: Get a Recording Device

Recording devices are more important for intermediate and advanced students, but they’re also great for beginners.

When you play the piano, what you hear and what someone listening hears can be very different. The only way you’ll know if this is the case is if you can hear both. And the only way to do that is to record yourself. Recording is also handy because it allows students to record their lessons in order to listen to them afterwards.

 

Zoom Handy Recorder H4n

Photo Credit: Zoom

 

The very best recording devices are the Zoom products. I’ve been using them since they first came out about 20 years ago! Zoom mics allow you to record in stereo thanks to their XY mics, and these days you can even get them with a video recording option. Cost wise, you’re looking at $200-400 – more, if you want video.

Obviously, until you can afford a Zoom recording device, you can use your phone or camera, but if you want near-recording-studio quality, a Zoom is the way to go.

In Summary

So there you have it – the top five tools every beginner pianist needs are a piano to practice on, an adjustable bench to sit on, a metronome, an iPad, and a recording device. How many can you check off the list?

Share Your Thoughts

Do you have any questions about the items covered in this post? Would you like music app or piano-buying recommendations? Let me know in the comments below! I look forward to hearing from you.

For the piano teachers out there – what tools do you use and recommend? Share below and join the conversation.

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