Saturday, October 5, 2013

Free Course!

After careful consideration and on the advice of a very wise educator who has supported me extensively throughout this exciting process, I've made the difficult but necessary decision to offer PT101 for free.  Yes, you read correctly, FREE.

Why am I doing this?  There are many reasons: 

  1. Online education isn't for everyone.  Having a sneak preview of a course without any cost will help potential learners decide if it is something they can work at successfully.
  2. As I've stated on many occasions to anyone who asks about my job, it has very little to do with music.  I have to test that theory somehow, and what better way to do it than to open the course up to people interested in learning this who come from a variety of backgrounds.  Some will be very musically inclined, others not so much.
  3. PT101 doesn't require the use of a "beater" piano the way the other courses do.
  4. A mentor isn't required either.
  5. No expensive piano tools are required.  If any tools are needed, they will be ones that the learner will probably already have.
  6. I can get helpful and constructive feedback about how effectively I've designed and developed the course.  This will help me fine tune and hone the remaining courses so that the program will rival its traditional setting counterparts.
  7. I've had many questions regarding the cost for each course, and since it's still under development I can't give an exact figure.  The courses will all be priced individually and will include the necessary tools required for completion.
  8. Knowing there are people waiting patiently for me to finish the remaining courses in the program will help keep me motivated.  I expect to have PT102 (Piano Tuning Theory and Practice), and PT109 (Assessments) completed in the next two months. I'm sticking to my promise in a previous post to do a "lesson a day", and in some cases, I'm doing two.  So progress is slow but steady!
Now, don't get me wrong, I know this is necessary but it still hurts!  It has probably taken me close to 1000 hours to develop each course and I expect the others to take at least that much time to do.  It is the hardest thing I've ever undertaken but know that in the end the rewards will more than make up for it, and I'm not just talking about financial rewards.

10 more minutes of self-pity and I'll be back at it. :)

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Lesson a Day

Sounds like something my doctor would say, right?  Nope, those words are coming from me to me.  As a self-employed person, I know how important it is to keep telling yourself to work.  You have to be the boss, the employee, and basically anything else the business needs.

That list includes motivator.  As I chug along creating lessons, images, videos and everything else that will be seen once this program goes live, I'm still working full-time as a technician, and sometimes at the end of the day I'm just dog tired, and don't feel like picking up a different kind of work.  Before starting this, I had no idea how much work went into designing, developing and implementing a program like this.  It is a daunting task if I look at the "big" picture and the sum of its parts.

But, there has been great interest in this program I'm developing.  I'm getting comments from people around the globe that "this is just what they are looking for", or "I'm really interested, please keep me posted".  

On top of that, I'm creating this program to take me into my later years once I've retired from piano tuning.  It's already taking its toll on my body, and I'm not even retirement age yet.  The program will help me stay involved and will allow me to do what I love:  teaching about something I'm most passionate about.  So I have many reasons to want to develop and put some time into the program every day.  Plus, I've promised that the program will be ready September 2014, one year from today.

Thus, this program development is my "apple".  I may not eat an apple everyday, but I pledge to myself, and to those who may be following my progress or have expressed an interest in the program, to do a lesson a day.  There are about 200 lessons to develop, but looking at them one at a time is a realistic and attainable goal.

Off to eat my "apple" for the day. :)

Friday, June 7, 2013

One down, nine to go

Ok, never thought this day would come, but I am actually finished the first course, PT101 - Foundations of Piano Technology in the Piano Technology Program!  What an incredible amount of work it was, but totally worth it.  I now know how difficult it is to create test questions, to make course content meaningful to someone who doesn't know it the way I do, to create graphics, videos and audio files.  My hat goes off to people who do this all the time, course designers, teachers, multi-media file produces and graphic artists.  

Each course can take thousands of hours to create, and be completed in 10 hours.  However, now that I have figured out the logical organization of each course and the way it is displayed (the stuff that makes it pretty), I can now focus on strictly content for the remaining courses.  Nine to be exact.  It's a daunting task, but one I feel ready for.

Next up:  PT102, the Tuning Theory and Practice Course.  This will take me back to the days when I was ready to give up on everything, because I just couldn't grasp the content. My challenge will be to up the ante a bit, make it a bit clearer to the students enrolled in the program than it was made to me when I was learning.

Onwards and upwards, as they say. :)

Friday, May 10, 2013

A people business

I'm writing today about the true nature of the business of being a piano technician. If you  think its only about fixing pianos, you'd be mistaken.  It is much more about the people that own them, in fact, it is about 90% of the business.

I decided to write this article because, in the last year, I have lost three clients, two to cancer, one to natural causes.  These were three incredibly talented musicians, and remarkable charitable people, whom I came to view as much more than clients.  I saw them as friends.  They were what we in the trade would call a "rare" breed, in that they kept their pianos tuned regularly, so I had a chance to know them well. Their passing has left a hole in my life that can never be filled.

For those of you considering piano technology as well, I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of a good "pianoside" manner.  I was lucky enough to be welcomed into my client's homes, but to be offered tea, biscuits, stimulating conversation, laughter, sometimes even lunch, and the joy and appreciation they expressed after I had completed my work made it all the more rewarding.

I said goodbye to one client two weeks ago.  Having never met her family, I had to introduce myself and who I was.  I was swarmed by her children and their spouses, her grandchildren, and her friends.  All of them said I had saved her life.  What did they mean by that?

A few years ago, I was having my workshop renovated.  The poor guy doing it told me if I brought another piano into my shop, he'd walk off the job (I'm sure he was just kidding, but you get my drift), because he was constantly having to move them around as he did his work.  At the same time, I had the opportunity to get a Canadian Heintzman piano for a good price.  My client had just moved into a nursing home and had to surrender a 7 foot grand.  It was difficult enough for her to have to go into a home like that, but to have no piano to play?  That would have killed her.  So I got this brilliant idea.  Send the piano to her, tell her that she could use it until, as I put it to her "you no longer need it".  There was a quiet understanding of what I meant by that, but the words were never spoken.  It stayed there for 6 years, until I got the call a few weeks ago from her daughter that she "no longer needed it".

This is the type of moment that no schooling can prepare you for.  All along I felt she was doing me a favour, when in fact, she and everybody else saw things differently!

While I will miss her terribly, it turns out her work may not be done yet.  One of the staff members of the home contacted me about purchasing the piano  You see, my client had been teaching her how to play piano, for free, just for something to do.  While this staff member was contemplating whether to purchase the piano, she told me she got a sign that it had to be hers.  My client had always told this staff member how much she loved the little yellow bird, finches, and saw them all the time at the beautiful garden at the home.  The staff member, who was on vacation when she learned of my client's passing, was sitting in her backyard, and what landed on her picnic table?  A yellow finch.  She knew it was meant to be, and I agreed that my client would be tickled pink to know that two people she liked and respected would now be coming together over the instrument she played and loved.

There are so many priceless moments in this job, which is why I love it so much.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The "Helpless" Desk

What I thought was a simple task turned out to be a two day affair. No thanks in part to the so called help desk at my hosting provider.

Naturally when someone pays for hosting (as I do), you would think that technical support would be superior. After the last two days, I'm wondering if the people who receive these tickets actually read what is in there.

It all started when I decided to move both the site and the moodle component of the program to a separate server. Easy, right?


Here are a few snippets from our conversation:

Me: I'll need moodle 2.4.3+ found here installed under this new add on domain.
Them: You can install a new moodle into new folder or sub domain name, you may choose where you want to install it into.
Me:Would you be able to install moodle 2.4.3+ under public_html/ Here's the link
Them: and are online.
Me: Would it be possible to have moodle installed under public_html/ I would like to be able to see my moodle site when I enter Right now all I see is the same thing that is at I would like version 2.4.3+, available here : (3rd time I ask, still not done)
Them:We have installed Moodle for you into /home/barbhall/public_html/ as requested.
Me:Thanks for doing that, but we still have a problem. When I type or I want to see the website. - I see my moodle - I get an error message from moodle: I just checked on the control panel and see that it was installed under, not under Would that explain the problem?
Them: (and this was the final straw for me) Sir, you did ask us to install moodle on the domain which is what has been done !
Me:Actually, I'm not a sir, I'm a ma'am! Yes, I realize that is what has been done, and perhaps it was my mistake not to create a moodle folder for the installation. I have now done that and would like moodle to be installed under that new folder, because leaving it the way it is means I can't access my website (not the moodle site), as I mentioned in an earlier reply.Sorry to be a pain, but I need the latest install of moodle reinstalled in the moodle folder.

And it went on and on like that all day until about 11 pm last night. What a hassle. 

Aside from calling me a sir (even though I signed each post with my name (Barb), each one of their responses ended with "Please let us know if there is anything further we can do for you." My response: try reading the posts properly!!!! Arghhhh!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Back at it at last!!

First off, let me apologize to anyone following this blog with questions about this program. My life seriously got in the way of any progress I could have made. I finished my Master's Degree in Education, which, at the end was a tremendous amount of work that gave me zero spare time.

I had a friend's teenage daughter living with me for six months last year, and can now fully appreciate any single parent, especially one with teenagers. I loved having her here and gave all I could to her.

On top of that, my mom passed away after a lengthy illness, and I've spent the last few months cleaning up her estate.

I jumped back into the program development, only to discover that the version of "moodle" (the learning management software I'm using), had undergone several upgrades, which had completely passed me by. In an attempt to upgrade, much of the data I'd entered disappeared, but luckily I did have hard copies of the course material. On top of that, many of the administrative functions I needed to create course material disappeared, and the solution to the problem seemed really complicated. So I then made the decision to do a clean install of the new version of moodle, and am slowly populating the course material with everything I'd saved on my computer.

But now I'm going full-steam ahead. Will be doing more as the summer months approach when I'm not so busy. I promise :=)