The Best Equipment for Teaching Online Piano Lessons

And all of a sudden, we’re all teaching online piano lessons. I’ve received so many questions about the equipment I use that I thought it would be nice to share a list of all of my favorite tools for teaching online piano lessons.

It’s very important to note that this equipment wasn’t purchased all at the same time. I started teaching online piano lessons very simply in 2012 with just my laptop. As I discovered a need, or a tool that I was interested in using, I purchased it. Over time, my equipment setup has developed into a very nice online piano studio.

My recommendation is to start with the equipment and technology you already have on hand. Then, when you want to add something new, choose something from the list below that will enhance your online lessons in the best way possible for both you and your students, while keeping things budget-friendly.

The Best Equipment for Teaching Online Piano Lessons

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through an affiliate link, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you. For more information, read the disclosure statement here.

Visual

  • Apple iPad Pro: I’ve used my 2013 iPad for 7 years, and it’s still going strong! But when I made the switch to 100% online teaching, I needed the screen to be larger so I wouldn’t have so much eye fatigue at the end of the day. The 2020 12.9″ iPad Pro 4th Generation has been fabulous. 
  • MacBook Pro: I’m still using my mid-2012 MacBook Pro for teaching online piano lessons! I increased the RAM by following a YouTube tutorial, and it runs perfectly for teaching online piano lessons.
  • Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920: My favorite webcam for online piano lessons, webinars, interviews, and other video conference appointments. I have 2 of these and they’re great for wonderfully clear, bright, and crisp images. One is focused on my face, and the other is attached to my microphone stand to provide an overhead view of my hands on the piano keys.
  • Ring Light: This light is perfect for lighting our faces when we’re teaching online lessons! Well worth the money, because our students can see us so much better. I originally purchased this ring light to do product photography for my store. Little did I realize at the time that this light would turn into such a valuable part of my online studio.
  • Ring Light: This is a smaller and much less expensive option, and it’s perfect for clipping onto my laptop. You can change the temperature of the light from cool, to medium, to warm. The brightness can be adjusted as well. I love this little ring light!
  • Vankyo Projector: This one is small and affordable, and it’s fantastic for projecting my online students during recitals. Click here to see a photo from our recital. This was a daytime recital and the lights were on, so you can tell the projector does a really good job.
  • Staff/Keyboard Dry Erase Board: The original one I purchased isn’t available anymore, but there are several similar ones by the same company.

Audio

  • Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone: My favorite microphone for online piano lessons, webinars, interviews, and other video conference appointments. It can greatly enhance what my students hear during our online piano lessons. Both the piano and my voice sound clearer and better.
  • Portable Bose speaker: Perfect for amplifying the sound of my online students during lessons. During online lessons, I plug this speaker into the headphone jack of my laptop. If your laptop or tablet doesn’t have one, you might need an adapter so you can plug the speaker into your device. I find that plugging the speaker into the headphone jack works much better than using bluetooth. There is much less audio lag.
  • Headphone jack adapters: A different kind of adapter from the ones below, these are great when you want to use headphones with your digital piano if you’re teaching digitally through Internet MIDI with Classroom Maestro.

Stands & Mounts

  • Tripod Boom Microphone Stand: I use this all the time in lessons. I’ve had it for several years and it has held up extremely well.
  • Scosche Smartphone Holder: Attaches my iPhone to the mic stand so I can attach my phone to the mic stand without having to hold the phone, and it works great for recording myself or taking photos of my students and myself. I can also use my iPhone as a second webcam with ManyCam and Zoom.
  • iPad mount: I use this very affordable iPad mount to attach my iPad to my mic stand for online lessons when I teach on my iPad, and it’s great. I have my eye on the Manos Mount, which a lot of musicians recommend, when my current iPad mount wears out, or when I upgrade to an iPad Pro.
  • Hamilton Music Stand: This is a double-shelf stand, very sturdy, and we’ve had it for many years. It was originally black, but I painted it white. I love that it’s adjustable and I can put it at pretty much any angle for holding my laptop while I’m teaching online piano lessons. The accessory shelf is the perfect place to keep all the wires that are plugged into my laptop, and to keep pencils, highlighters, sticky notes, etc.

Adapters & Cables

  • Ethernet cable: Hardwiring to the internet using an ethernet cable will give you a better connection that Wi-Fi when teaching online lessons.
  • Adapter for Microphone Stand: I use this adapter to attach my Logitech C920 webcam to my microphone stand so I can use it as a 2nd camera and provide my students with an overhead view of the piano keys during online piano lessons.
  • RCA Adapter Audio Stereo Cable: This is plugged into the back of my receiver, and plugged into the headphones jack on my laptop with the audio extension cable below. Or you could get the 25′ version and eliminate an extra cord.
  • Audio Extension Cable: I use this to lengthen the cord that runs from my external speaker to my laptop headphones jack, or from my laptop headphones jack to the sound system in my studio. This makes a huge difference in how well I can hear my students, as well as the quality of how they sound.
  • Long Lightning Cables: These are just like normal charging cables for iPad or iPhone, but they’re 6 feet long. I plug one end into my iPad and the USB end into my laptop so I can share my iPad screen over Zoom through ManyCam, and my students love it!

Melody Payne teaching online piano lessons

Payment options for online lessons

  • Stripe: This is my absolute favorite. If you use My Music Staff, you can set MMS up to accept credit card payments through Stripe. Sign up for Stripe, enable it in MMS, and MMS will do the integration to your invoices. When you send your invoices, the button to pay online is included directly on the invoice. It’s really easy and convenient for your online piano families.
  • PayPal: Another terrific payment option for online families. You can also set My Music Staff up to accept PayPal payments.
  • Square Cash App: This app for iOS devices is very easy to set up and use, and I have a few piano families who really love it.
  • Square: The credit card reader has been so convenient in my studio! It’s really easy to use with the Square Point of Sale app (iOS) or Square Point of Sale app (Android). The credit card reader is free.
  • **Before you begin accepting payments from your students, check the legal terms of use for the app you want to use. Many of the free money transfer apps are for personal use only, not for business use.

Our favorite apps

  • Note Rush: Definitely a studio favorite for reviewing notes on the grand staff. Customizable for any number of notes. In online lessons, you can hold your iPad close to your webcam, and your students can play the game simply by viewing your iPad and playing the correct notes on their piano. A more sophisticated way to use it is in conjunction with ManyCam and Zoom. I’ll share more about that in another post.
  • Decide Now: We love using this for piano twister, scales, assignments, who goes next in an activity, and so much more! Customize the spinners for whatever you need.
  • Flash Note Derby: Another favorite. My students love trying to win the race!
  • Tenuto: This app is great for note reading, learning chords & intervals, and so much more, without the bells and whistles. Perfect for adults and kids who don’t like “game-y” apps. It also works extremely well with the ManyCam and Zoom combination.
  • iReal Pro: Terrific for accompanying lead sheets.
  • ForScore: Fantastic for storing and organizing music on iOS devices. Carry your music library with you wherever you go! This app is fabulous for online piano lessons and can help keep your studio organized.
  • AnyTune Pro: Awesome for lead sheet & chord chart play-alongs, practicing, and it can change the tempo and pitch of songs in your music library. My students and I love this app!
  • GoodNotes: Very similar to Notability. I upload PDF’s of worksheets and sheet music into this app, and I can open them and share my iPad screen with my students very easily. I can notate on my iPad screen, and my students can see my notation in real time.

Software & Platforms

  • Zoom: Zoom is a video chat platform that is great for teaching online piano lessons. I’ve been using the paid version of Zoom to make my online piano lessons much more interactive. You can have multiple camera views, share your screen, and a lot more fun stuff! One of my piano students said “Oooohhh, fancy!!” the first time we used the multiple camera angles and I shared my iPad screen 😊
    • 4/16/20: The recent Zoom update eliminates the use of ManyCam. Zoom currently doesn’t recognize ManyCam as a camera option on a Mac.
    • 5/11/20: Great News – you can now override this issue and use ManyCam on your Mac! CLICK HERE FOR THE TUTORIAL VIDEO.
  • ManyCam: This software allows you to control your camera views when used in conjunction with Zoom. The free version allows two cameras, and the paid version allows more. I recently upgraded to the paid version, and I’m using a webcam with a view of my face, a webcam with an overhead view of the piano keys, and even my iPad, so students can view games directly on their iPads. I still have to “play” the games for them on my iPad (except for Note Rush, which works beautifully when they’re playing their own pianos!), and it’s a fabulous way to show them on their own iPad what I’m seeing on mine.
  • My Music Staff: I’ve been using this studio management system for a few years and love the functionality and affordability. It really makes things easy at income tax time, and you can email lesson notes to the student in seconds with the tap of a button. Sign up using my link and we’ll both get a free month!
  • FaceTime: This is only for Apple products. It’s fantastic, and my students and I have loved using it for online piano lessons. We’ve had good success with both the audio and video when using FaceTime.
  • Skype: Another video chat that’s great for teaching online piano lessons. You can also use multiple camera views with Skype.

Additional tools

Watch this interview for a few tips & encouragement!

Ready to get started teaching online?

CLICK HERE FOR MY QUICK START GUIDE

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Kate

    Is there one or two pieces of gear you would recommend piano students get to help with the clarity of their zoom piano lessons? A microphone for their piano?

    1. Melody Payne

      Hi Kate, the first thing I’d recommend is for students to be sure they have a strong internet connection on their end. They can test their internet speed at speedtest.net to see how fast it is. If it’s running slowly, they could purchase a wifi booster like one of these: https://amzn.to/379viyk
      There are some Zoom settings that can be adjusted to improve the sound as well, so you might want to play around with the settings during a lesson or two to see if that helps.
      Using headphones (or AirPods, earbuds, etc.) will help the sound clarity on Zoom as well, and your students probably already own these, so they’d be a really easy thing to try.
      Hope this gives you some ideas to try!
      Melody

  2. Harriet

    Hi, Melody:
    My niece wants to take online piano lessons at college but she has roommates. Is there a way for her to hook up headphones for her to hear the teacher and for the teacher to be able to hear her playing without the roommates being able to hear anything?

    Harriet

    1. Melody Payne

      Hi Harriet, here’s one way to do it:
      If there are “audio in” and “audio out” jacks on the back of the keyboard, she can purchase a male to male audio cord so she can plug into the “audio in” and “audio out” jacks of the keyboard and connect to the iPad.
      This cord will work for iPads that have a standard headphone jack:
      https://amzn.to/3f8vrTs
      If it’s a newer iPad, like my 2020, it doesn’t have the standard headphone jack, so this adapter for the USB-C port might work:
      https://amzn.to/3jPcbxV
      Then she can plug standard headphones (sometimes you need an adapter) into the keyboard’s headphone jack. And here’s the adapter she might need for the headphone jack in the keyboard:
      https://amzn.to/3hJzlUy
      I’m not sure if Air Pods would work in this setup, but if she has bluetooth Air Pods, they’re definitely worth a try.
      Hope this helps!
      Melody

      1. Harriet

        Thanks! You rock!

        Harriet

        1. Melody Payne

          Thanks so much, Harriet! I hope you found what you needed in this post. Have an awesome day!
          Melody

  3. Emily

    Is there a way to use manycam with FaceTime? or do you just manually switch camera views?

    Thanks!

    1. Melody Payne

      Hi Emily! I’m not aware of a way to use ManyCam with FaceTime. I tried back in March, and I couldn’t get it to work. When we first switched to fully online piano lessons in March, I used two different webcams with FaceTime, and just switched back and forth manually in the FaceTime menu. It was really easy and worked well!

  4. Hilary

    Hi Melody,

    Thanks so much for this guide, has been really helpful. I have a very silly question though – where did you get the table for your laptop stand in photo above? This is exactly what I’m looking for at the moment for taking music lessons

    Thanks so much 🙂 Well done on creating such great resources!

    1. Melody Payne

      Hey Hilary, not a silly question at all! The flat part of the stand is the regular music rack, laid flat and secured. It’s a Hamilton double-shelf trigger stand. It’s very sturdy and we’ve had it for many years. It was originally black, but I painted it white. I love that it’s adjustable and I can put it at pretty much any angle for holding my laptop while I’m teaching online piano lessons. I also love the accessory shelf. It’s the perfect place to keep all the wires that are plugged into my laptop, and to keep pencils, highlighters, sticky notes, etc.

      https://amzn.to/2ykHU71

  5. Kristina P

    Hello! I love all the great info in this blog.

    Recently, Zoom released new versions that have removed compatibility with ManyCam. Have you found any solutions for this? Thanks so much!

    1. Melody Payne

      Thanks, Kristina! I just found out about this option to make ManyCam available for Mac, and here’s a tutorial by one of our very smart online piano teachers. I tried it this week, it was easy, and it works great!

      https://youtu.be/I41DrhJ0lB0

      1. Kristina p

        Thanks very much for this!

        I would love to know what music stand you use to hold your laptop. I wanted to get a portable stand, but worry it might not be strong enough. The one you are using doesn’t look like a portable one, right?

        1. Melody Payne

          Correct – definitely not a very portable stand in the sense that it’s not foldable. It’s a Hamilton double-shelf trigger stand. It’s very sturdy and we’ve had it for many years. It was originally black, but I painted it white. I love that it’s adjustable and I can put it at pretty much any angle for holding my laptop while I’m teaching online piano lessons. I love the accessory shelf. It’s the perfect place to keep all the wires that are plugged into my laptop, and to keep pencils, highlighters, sticky notes, etc.

          https://amzn.to/2ykHU71

  6. Melody Payne

    Thanks so much, Melva! I appreciate that you took the time out of your busy schedule to watch. Sound quality depends on a number of factors, such as your internet speed, your student’s internet speed, whether someone else is using the internet in your student’s home, etc. I’d recommend asking your studio families to limit using the internet when someone is having a piano lesson, and ask everyone in the student’s home not to watch movies online or play online video games during a lesson. If you’re using Zoom with that student, be sure your audio settings are set to allow original sound, and ask your student to set her audio on that setting also. I hope this helps, and have a great day of online lessons!

  7. Melva A. Cummings

    I just watched your wonderful video chat with Glory St Germain.
    Teaching online is a new experience for me (although I have been teaching piano for 50 years!).
    My lessons seem to be going well with the exception of one: I can barely hear her when she speaks to me when she is facing the piano. I also have difficulty hearing the piano itself (Clavinova). Is this because the piano is not an acoustic instrument? It sounds tinny and choppy.
    What can I suggest to her to improve the quality and loudness of the sound?
    Thank you so much for your advice. :>

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Welcome!

Hi! I’m Melody Payne, a pianist and piano teacher, educational resource author, a fun-loving wife to the most wonderful and talented hubby I could ask for, and a lifelong learner who loves to share. I want to make your life as a music teacher easier by writing and sharing helpful and relevant music teaching articles, and by creating educational resources with your very own students in mind. If you are a parent who wants to enroll your child in piano lessons, I’d love for us to get started building those skills that can give your child a lifetime of musical enjoyment!

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