by Leila Viss

The fifth and final article in this “Adding a Lab to Your Lessons” series will provide a list of pros and cons to adding a lab to your piano lessons (see article 1, article 2, article 3, and article 4). Yes, in all honesty, there are cons to adding a lab to your lesson. Read to the end however, for some testimonials of students and parents that value this unique addition to a music studio.

Top ten reasons why you might RE-CONSIDER adding a lab to your lesson

You must be willing to…

  1. Manage not only repertoire, billing, instrument maintenance, lesson plans but also software, computers, lab assignments and various tools that come along with a technology addition. Believe me, this is not an option for those who are organizationally-challenged!
  2. Invest in current technology trends on a regular basis. It’s amazing how fast a computer or software program can become “ancient” and/or obsolete.
  3. Multi-task at lessons as two students will demand your time and attention within an hour instead of just one.
  4. Find a mentor who has experience with a lab or secure a colleague willing to initiate this addition at the same time so you can share ideas, successes and frustrations.
  5. Show genuine enthusiasm for the new lesson format so that parents and students are “on board” and not “in doubt”.
  6. Spend time acquiring knowledge of new things outside of your “music box”. There is a steep learning curve involved with any technology– this always takes time, diligence AND patience.
  7. Troubleshoot with ease when problems arise. Technology is flakey so you must exercise a calm front when issues occur.
  8. Remain flexible with lab plans so that Plan A or B can be implemented if the electricity goes out or the internet is down.
  9. Accept (humbly) that your students will know more than you when it comes to your computer, software….
  10. Adjust your teaching philosophy and studio policies as there will be distractions for you and your students. The term “private lesson” will mean something slightly different than before the lab addition.

Top ten reasons why you should CONSIDER adding a lab to your lessons:

This addition will…

  1. Be easy to implement as you mostly likely own the basic equipment required. Once you check your wish list, and want to purchase a keyboard and use MIDI, you may need a special set up. Here’s a picture of my studio recently remodeled. A very ingenious young man created a drawer beneath the counter that easily pulls out  when the keyboard is needed. Here’s a link to a desk that accommodates a keyboard/computer combination.
  2. Set your studio apart and reinvigorate your daily teaching, you are only limited by your imagination.
  3. Build commonality between you and your students of the millennial generation (see the first article).
  4. Build peer relationships among students as they tend to make friends with those who share the lesson hour.
  5. Provide dimension in the learning environment and create various ways to reinforce essential concepts.
  6. Promote creativity in various doses depending on software used. Although some software creative options may not provide specific outcomes, the point is–students are encouraged to create, something that is often neglected within a rushed lesson agenda. However, terrific programs such as Garage Band and MuseScore can inspire many up-and- coming composers!
  7. Result in steady student progress. According to Chris from, “Many of our members say that after a year of playing the learning games they assign–along with regular practice–students are 3 to 5 months ahead of where others were before using the site games.”
  8. Increase yearly income by at least 1/3 of your present income. The hours spent on the front end of the lab set-up will be numerous, but be patient, there will be a “pay off”, eventually.
  9. Keep you organized. Thanks to various resources (listed in article #4), correlated exercises, drills and lessons will reinforce concepts discussed at lessons. If there are gaps in student learning, you will be equipped with invaluable tools to assess and enable progress.
  10. Expand the time spent with students each week. Parents will (or should) appreciate your efforts to provide more lesson time. In our culture, it’s quite typical for sports coaches to demand 2-6 (or more) hours of practice along with a weekly game–I’m a soccer mom, so I know!  Increasing weekly lesson time to one hour offers a notable time difference–still not anywhere close to team sports, but… (don’t get me going 🙂


Here are some testimonials intended to aid in your decision process. These are NOT paid endorsements :-), just opinions resulting from a quick, random survey of parents and students in my studio.

Jack (student):  “I like the lab time because of the fun computer games. I think that learning theory with computer programs is more fun than if I had to use a book.  One of my favorite programs is the Auralia program.”

Sarah (student): “We (my brother and I) love lab time. Most of the programs are fun. My favorite program is Piano Wizard, because I like the songs and the challenge of playing and sight reading the notes. I also enjoy all of the educational programs because they help me to learn rhythms, intervals, scales, etc. faster and more efficiently.”

Sean (student): “I enjoy lab time as it is filled with educational, enjoyable games. I likeGroovy City, as it is filled with activities that enhance piano skills in every day practicing. You can learn about the blues scale, major and minor keys, and create master pieces in Groovy City. In Piano Wizard, you play along to famous pieces and choose the background for your ‘concert’. There are many more activities that you can do during lab time.”

Melanie (student): “Lab time makes learning easier. One of my favorite games is Groovy Jungle. It teaches me important things about music and gives me an easy way to create my own pieces.”

Karen (mom): “I like the hour-long lessons because I can actually get a few errands done during that hour, a 1/2 hour would be too short.  That is not a very musical reason to like labs though is it?–just a Mom reason 🙂 I think there is a lot of value in using technology in lessons because it sparks and sustains interest in students.  Jack is so “plugged in” to all kinds of technology.  To connect the music to what is important to him and what already is so much a part of his life is invaluable in helping him become a better musician.  Jack loves Garage Band and the notating software (Musescore) that he used with his composition.”

Emily (mom): “I know the girls enjoy the integration of technology in learning theory very much. I hear them talk about the games when they get in the car after lessons.”

As you ponder this endeavor, what kinds of questions and comments do you have? The more conversation, the more we all learn and develop our own tech-savvy teaching. Please share If you do make the plunge and jump on the “lab wagon”!

Leila Viss owns an independent piano studio which features a tech-savvy lab. She seeks to create innovative teaching methods and successful practice strategies to encourage the average player of any age to stick to the bench for life. She holds a Masters Degree in Piano Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Denver and has presented at local, state and national conferences. She adjudicates at local, state, regional and national piano and composition competitions. She serves on the Keys to Imagination Advisory Board and holds a full-time church organist/pianist position.  Leila posts regularly on the MusicTeachersHelper blog.  Visit her studio website.