Keeping Your Students Engaged Between Lessons

By: Alison Chiang

One of the biggest challenges as a music teacher is getting your students to practice between lessons. Even the most ardent and enthusiastic student has busy weeks where the piano takes the backseat in the list of assignments to complete. But we don’t tote the quote “practice makes perfect” for nothing – it is indeed the most important ingredient in improvement!

Technology is often a culprit for distraction – whether it be the TV blaring in the other room, pings and messages from friends on social media, or the animated screens for exciting games. So imagine if there was a way to integrate all the things students love about technology into their practice? Introducing…Tonara Studio.

A game-changer for both teachers and students, Tonara Studio is an app that adds fun incentives for practicing and helps the teacher stay organized for their lessons. Below are the main features offered by Tonara Studio and how it can help your students become enthusiastic and consistent in their practicing.

manage and motivate your music students banner

Practice Points and the Leaderboard

Who doesn’t like earning points for practicing? This taps into the young generation’s joy of gaming by awarding points for practice sessions. Students can log every moment of their practice for points, and the stars and confetti that accompany the awarded points at the end of a practice session always bring a desire for more points (and hence more practicing). Additionally, comparing their points in the studio leaderboard is often a big incentive for students to practice more as they compete with their studio peers for the top spots. Awarding the leaderboard leaders every now and then maintains a continued interest in this feature.

This is a BIG deal for young students. Most of my students who have slacked in practicing perked up immediately after they started using the app and parents were messaging me saying their children have started practicing so much more. And this increased practice has resulted in discernable progress between lessons.  

Weekly Assignment Tasks

The assignment tasks are a game-changer for the teacher and an organized, fun, and clear way for students to know their assignments for the week. After each lesson, you can create “tasks” for your students to complete during the week, with options to choose the number of days and time spent required to complete the task. For example, Bobby sees that he has an assignment to practice Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata for six days this week, 20 minutes per day. If he completes this assignment (the app logs the practice time), he earns EXTRA points on top of the practice points.

Not only is this another way to encourage students to practice, but it also makes the weekly assignments clear for the student, who can see them every time they sit down at the piano (unlike having to ask their parents for the assignment email, or wait for the parent to push them to practice). Additionally, teachers can write the lesson notes within each assignment, allowing students to see clearly what they need to practice.

One of my favorite features of this assignment function is the ability to save assignments in the Repertoire library on the teacher’s account. This function makes it easy and fast to create assignments for multiple students. For example, instead of having to create a “C major scale” task every single time a student has to practice scales, I can go to my library and send this previously saved template to multiple students, with all the presets already set (number of days, time per day, and any tips or notes regarding the scale). This has saved me so much time after each lesson and my library of tasks continues to expand the more I teach.

Audio Recordings

Another game-changer is the ability for both students and teachers to send audio recordings. When creating assignments, teachers can record themselves playing the piece or a portion of the piece to provide the student a reference during their practice. Every single student has told me that this is so helpful, as they can listen to how a piece should sound and know what to aim for.

Other forms of media can be linked to each assignment, such as YouTube links, PDFs of scores, or photos and videos from your Photos app.

On the flip side, students can send an audio recording of their progress. Teachers can monitor the student’s progress by offering feedback halfway through the week on the current progress of the piece, or even assign new pieces if the student has mastered the assignment early! It even helps save lesson time, as I have often asked students to send audio recordings of the pieces we did not have time to address in the lesson for general comments, allowing them to continue working on and improving all their pieces throughout the week. With the increasing number of lessons held virtually, I’ve also needed to have students with poor Internet connection send recordings before the lesson so that I could hear their play-through clearly – which also saves time in the lesson itself! Ever wonder what your students sound like in-person having heard them over Zoom for months? Have them record a piece over Tonara and you will get a better idea!

Messaging and Stickers

Students can directly message you within the app, and many cute stickers are available to encourage the student to practice. Additionally, students are reminded through their chat 30 minutes before their lesson with the teacher’s Zoom link included (if using Zoom). This offers a clear and easy way to access the lesson, and should offer no excuse for forgetting lessons!

Chat view from Tonara Studio

Group chats can be created by the teacher for studio-wide announcements or to encourage friendly discussion and sharing between students.

Studio Management

Tonara Studio helps you manage your studio by including everything in one place. When creating the student’s account at the beginning, you can include the student’s email and phone number for easy access. The calendar tab shows all lessons and the studio list itself allows you to have all your students’ names and information in one place.

The Tonara Studio app is an amazing studio tool to supplement the lesson themselves. With the practicing incentive and the leaderboard, chat, and assignment features, students are more engaged and active between lessons, adding to their overall enjoyment and growth in music. For the teacher, this is a game-changer in keeping your studio organized, allowing you to spend more quality time on your student’s progress and growth.