HOW IT WORKS:
To view current class descriptions and schedules, open or download the PDF files below:
The “Learn to Play” 555 Club program, which includes both “live” classes and videos began 3 years ago on October 6, 2014. Since then, nearly 1,000 “live” classes have been conducted and there are over 900 step-by-step videos that are available to all member families for unlimited FREE use.
Which is better — the “live” classes or the videos? The “live” classes and the videos are exactly the same; most of the videos were originally “live” classes. Every new “live” class is recorded and uploaded as a video so that no one ever has to miss a class.
Families can choose to learn using just the videos, just the “live” classes, or a combination of both. Everything is included in the family membership; there is no extra charge to join the live classes.
Most member families exclusively use videos (rather than live classes) because of their convenience. Using the videos, students can take their lessons anytime, as often as they like, as many times as they like. Students who want to make faster progress can choose to do multiple classes per week, rather than just one. They can also take advantage of the “Pause”, “Rewind”, & “Fast Forward” features of the videos. And, a new feature now allows students to choose the speed at which they want the videos to play.
Other families enjoy the face-to-face contact and 2-way communication of the “live” classes. Some families like the fact that they feel like there is more “accountability” with the “live” classes; it’s harder to postpone or skip a lesson when the teacher is expecting them to show up for class each week at a specific time.
There are “ongoing” classes available at all times and new students are always welcome to join an ongoing class, providing that they are able to play at the class level. New classes start periodically; all students are welcome to join a new class. (more information below on both ongoing and new classes: See “Ongoing Classes” and “New Classes”. See also the latest “Live Class Schedule” & “Class Description” for specific info, including class times.)
New Classes: We start a number of new “live” classes each year. This school year, 2017-18, we are not only adding new beginner’s classes for all the current instruments (Piano, Guitar, Ukulele, Violin/Fiddle, and Mandolin), but we are also adding 10 new instruments to the program, including Drums, Rhythm Instruments, Recorder, Flute, Baritone Ukulele, Banjo (3 different kinds of banjo), Harmonica, Dulcimer, and Ocarina. We are also adding some new classes for our youngest students, including “Super Easy Piano” (ages 4-7), “Super Easy Guitar” (ages 5-8), “Super Easy Ukulele” (ages 5-8), and “Tiny Tots Violin” (ages 3-7); these class and videos are much shorter than the regular beginner’s classes and we cover much less material every week. We will also be adding some new 2nd and 3rd level classes this year for many instruments. There will also be a new live Chord Accompaniment class starting later this year for all instruments. (For more specific information on all the new classes, please see the latest Schedule and Class Description.)
We will email you prior to the start of any new classes, so please watch for our email newsletter “Newsflash”, which will announce the new classes, along with the new updated “Live” Class Schedule. Please make sure that you are signed up at this website for the free “Newsletter Subscription”, so that you will receive this important information.
To join a new class, just email us with which class you want to join (Instrument, Day, & Time), Student’s Name, Student’s Age.
Ongoing Classes: Keep in mind that some of our ongoing classes have been in progress for over 3 years (when our “live” online classes and videos program first started) and other ongoing classes started last year in October 2016, then again in November 2017, so all those classes are now at various levels. The classes that have already happened are all completed and readily available to you online anytime as videos, so you can, conceivably, work your way through all the classes all the way up to the ongoing class, if you would like to do that. Many students have been able to accomplish this during the past 3 years.
How will you know when you’re ready to join an ongoing class? Before actively joining a live class already in progress, you will want to make sure you can play well enough to keep up with all the previous class videos. To join an ongoing class, email us with information about which class you want to join, name and age of the student, and list the last class the student has successfully completed. And, if you’re interested in working your way up to one of the ongoing live classes during the next several weeks or months, let us know and we’ll help you do that, if possible.
2nd & 3rd Level Classes: These start whenever a current 1st or 2nd level class finishes the entire level and has also completed all the “Play Along” videos for that level. (See below for info about the “Play Along” videos). If you are getting ready to complete a level (using the videos) and would like to join a “live” class starting the new level, please email us and we’ll do our best to help you do that.
Unscheduled classes: We often have some “unscheduled” live classes available, too. These are classes that are not posted on the current class schedule. If you’re interested in joining a live class that is not listed, please let us know and we’ll tell you what’s currently available.
Get Together Class: Everybody (all instruments & all levels) is welcome to join our “live” online “Get Together” on Mondays at 12:00 noon (EST). We hold this class periodically during the holidays (including Summer) and at various times throughout the year. Check the current “Live Class Schedule” for current dates.
Monthly Support Group Meeting: the first Monday of each month at 5:00 p.m. (EST)
Live and videos: 2 New Video Series Now Available (Anytime):
Tiny Tots for Violin (designed for ages 3-7) – a series of very short video classes & practice videos (5-10 minutes each), especially for our littlest students (Preparatory Level); these 56 videos are in the Violin Album at Vimeo along with the rest of the violin class videos. There is also a “live” support session class each year. (See current Class Schedule)
Play Along Videos for all instruments —accompaniment videos for the songs/books students are playing. These videos are great fun for students who have completed the songs/books in class (or independently) and would like to play them at a faster tempo. There’s very little talking on these videos, mostly just to announce the page number and name of the song.
In addition to teacher accompaniment, most of these videos also include drum accompaniment. You will find these videos in the same album as all your class videos. Under “Extra”, choose: “Play Along” and all those videos will come up. There is a list of all these “Play Along” videos in the class “log” for each instrument. It is recommended that before you start a new level, you should first complete all the “Play Along” videos in the last level you have completed. There will be 30-40 “Play Along” videos, per level, for each instrument, so this will give you a great deal of enjoyment and playing experience.
How to Connect “Live” to the LIVE CLASSES online:
We use “Go to Meeting” for our live classes. If you have a webcam or a microphone attached to your computer (or a headset with a microphone), you will be able to speak with your teacher directly. If you have a webcam and choose to share it, your teacher will be able to see you and you can communicate easily. If you don’t have either a microphone, headset or webcam, you can still observe the class and if you need to communicate with your teacher or anyone else in the class, you can use the “chat” message feature at “Go to Meeting” [It is also possible to use your computer to observe the class and your phone separately to communicate].
If you don’t have a webcam, they’re not very expensive. BestBuy offers them as low as $29. The video quality is not as good as a $69 or $89 model, of course, but it will work just fine; they usually install automatically as soon as you plug in to your computer. Laptops usually have built-in webcams. If you have reasonably good internet service, you should no difficulty connecting.
If your connection seems a little slow, you can opt to use the “web” connection at GoToMeeting; just look for that option when you log in. Another thing you can do if your internet connection is slow: You can ask everybody else at your house to stay off the wifi connection for the hour of your class; that way, you’ll have a much better connection, because the signal won’t be divided. If you don’t have a computer, or if you don’t have internet service at home, or if your home internet connection is extremely slow, you can also connect with a Smart Phone. This will enable you to observe the class as well as participate. You can also access the video recordings with a Smart Phone. If you have no computer or Smart Phone, you can connect with a land line phone; this will give you audio only.
If none of these options work for you because you have extremely limited or no internet service, we can also provide monthly DVD service; we will ship DVDs to you every month for all the instruments your family is learning to play (cost is only an extra $10 monthly to cover the cost of the DVDs, sleeves, mailing boxes, & shipping). Note: if you have a “Yearly” Membership, you will receive 4-12 months of videos for each instrument in each shipment, instead of just 1 month at a time.
When you arrive at your live class, be sure to identify yourself by typing in your name (student’s name). The teacher will disconnect anyone who does not identify themselves.
Rebroadcast classes: Occasionally, some classes might be rebroadcast live. The rebroadcast includes the earlier broadcast as well as an opportunity for students to participate and ask questions. (Your teacher will be there “live”.) Also, of course, all the recordings will be available for you to use anytime and as often as you like. Each week’s videos are generally uploaded within a few hours after the live class.
If you are connecting by phone or by computer live, please use your mute button during the class unless you need to speak. It will cut down on the background noise so that everyone will be able to hear clearly. If you are sharing your webcam live, it will be easy to communicate with me because your teacher can see you and respond directly.
Important: If you are joining a “live” class for the first time, be sure to let us know ahead of time so that we can plan for the correct number of participants. Also, if you have small children joining a live class, there will need to be a parent or older sibling there to help them find the pages quickly, control the mute button, make sure they don’t lose their place in the book, etc. Older children can do all this by themselves, of course, but parents are always welcome to be present during all classes and can ask questions at any time. You’re also welcome to pick up your instrument and learn right along with your children! Children always seem to do better when parents are learning also — usually they think it’s pretty “cool”.
Younger children will usually also need help with their daily practice sessions, at least until they are able to easily do it themselves. Just plan on sitting down with your child each day for 5 minutes at a time, either once or even twice daily. For very young children, 5 minutes will be long enough. At first, you may have to point to each note and wait for the child to find it. Each week they will become less dependent on you. Then, suddenly you’ll notice that they are doing it all by themselves. They may even tell you they don’t need help anymore! At that point, you just need to be a good audience.
What to Wear for Classes
The classes are all informal. Just wear something comfortable.
Communicating With Your Teacher During Class
If you have a question relating to the music, raise your hand. Your teacher will call on you. Take yourself off mute and ask your question. Then put yourself back on mute to listen to the answer.
If your teacher asks you a question: If you’re using your webcam, and if the question requires a simple “yes” or “no”, just nod or shake your head noticeably. If the answer is a number, just hold up the correct amount of fingers. If the teacher asks, “How well did you play that song?”, you can give a “thumbs up” for “good”, a “thumbs down” for “not so great”, or an “iffy” sign. It’s very important that you answer these questions truthfully, because your answers have a direct bearing on how the teacher will proceed from that point. In other words, if a student is having difficulty with a song, the teacher may decide to play it slower or reassign it for the next week. If the teacher asks a question that requires a longer answer than a hand signal, just raise your hand and your teacher will call on you. Usually, the first student to raise a hand is called on, but not always.
You don’t need to ask permission to leave the room briefly. The classes are all informal.
There is a Chat Message feature during the class that can be used to communicate, especially for students who do not have a microphone to speak directly to the teacher. Students are welcome to use the Chat Message system to communicate with each other at the beginning of the class before the class “officially” starts. But, once the class starts, they should not communicate with anybody else except the teacher, unless they are answering a student’s question related to the class. For example, if a student sends a chat message like “What book are we in?” or “What page are we on?”, students are welcome to answer the question. This prevents the teacher from having to stop the class to answer a question that the rest of the students know the answer to.
Should You Skip Class If You Didn’t Practice?
No, never! Attend class anyway and just do the best you can. Even if you’re not as comfortable with your lesson as usual, you’ll get 30-45 minutes of practice during your class, so that’s a big benefit. And, remember you’re on mute, so if you make mistakes, no one else will hear you! Also, if you attend every class, you’ll always know what the assignment is for the next week.
What If You Have to Miss a Class?
Just email your teacher ahead of time, so your teacher won’t delay the class waiting for you.
What If You Have To Leave Class Early?
Just send your teacher a quick chat message saying you have to leave, then go ahead and leave. That way, your teacher doesn’t wonder what happened to you.
Can You Attend Class If You’re Sick?
Yes, if you feel up to it. One good thing about online classes is that you won’t make any of your classmates or your teacher sick by being there! We’ve had many students attend class, armed with a big box of tissues!
You won’t be considered “rude” if you can’t make it through the entire class and have to sign off early. We’ll be pleased that you made the effort to attend.
Very important: Please do not share the class links with anyone outside your immediate household. The only exceptions to this rule are grandparents! Grandparents are always welcome to connect and learn along with you — Be sure to invite them!
Other Questions? Just email us. We’re always happy to help.
See you in class!