Students and I started “pianomailing” in 2005, and find it a big plus. When they get home from a lesson, they email me saying what we covered, what they’re working on for next time–and how they’re working; and whatever else they think important. I respond a.s.a.p., often just saying “Right!” or “Yes”; but sometimes it becomes clear that I explained something wrong in the lesson, or the student understood it wrong. Then the email lets us correct the error before it “sets” in the student’s brain. Nothing’s more maddening than realizing in a lesson that the student has been practicing toward a wrong goal. Pianomail avoids this!

In addition:

   Writing focuses the student’s attention; even on the way home, he or she is thinking about the lesson and the work.

   Initiating the process—writing that first email—makes the student active, which is better than passive.

   The completed exchange becomes a “study guide” for the week.

   I summarize the exhange for myself just before the next lesson, so no time is wasted on “Where were we?”

Pianomail does take me a bit more time per student per week—the average is perhaps 10 minutes, and the range from five to 60—but it’s well worth it.


   From SL: In the lesson, I played the 2nd movement of the Beethoven Sonata Op. 79, having “fast-learned” it in the last week. We discussed how to keep the right hand legato. Possible solutions included damper pedal and tricky fingering. I felt that using pedal, even judiciously, compromised the sonority. Trick fingering was possible, but could get a bit ridiculous and make playing unreliable. I guess the answer is that there is no general answer, but that we must always make tradeoffs. Recognising this is important.

JB: Yes indeed!

   From LA: I thought you said that I would not play the first of the 3-against-2 notes with the chord below but instead would play it slightly ahead—which to me meant I would be robbing the preceding note.

JB: I’m so sorry I gave a wrong impression. The first note of the “3” is played with the first note of the “2.”

   From AM: Then we spent a lot of time on the difficult 16th-note section in the Schumann.

JB: No; on the 16th-note section in the Schumann. 🙂  

Copyright © James Boyk 2013. All rights reserved.
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