Years ago, my mediocre piano teacher failed to show up for my lesson, even though we were meeting at her house. I heard she did it to others too. Phooey on her. I can get the best teachers in America online, and they’re cheaper.
According to a 2020 report from Thumbtack, the average in-person piano teacher charges between $40 to $100 an hour. I just got 36 lessons for $25 from TheGreatCourses.com during one of their major sales. By using the free Chrome extension from CapitalOneShopping.com, the price dropped to $18. The equivalent from a live teacher would have cost $1,440 to $3,600.
My online teacher, Pamela Pike, won the “Outstanding Teacher Award” from Louisiana State University, among other honors. She’s fantastic. I start each digital lesson by propping my phone or tablet where I’d normally put a sheet of music. That way I can see her playing and play along with her. I can pause or rewind when necessary.
The course, “How to Play the Piano,” starts at square one. You could handle it, even if you’ve never touched a piano before. In the first lesson, you’ll improvise on the black keys while Pike plays an accompaniment. Then you’ll play an easy version of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” It’s amazing how fun piano playing is with the right teacher. At the end of lesson one, she plays an excerpt of the song you’ll play at the end of the course. It’s thrillingly advanced. But she lures you in so slowly, using numbers instead of notes at first, that you’re halfway there before you know it. TheGreatCourses.com also has guitar, violin and ukulele, among hundreds of other subjects.
CALLER ID BLUES
A reader wrote to tell me about a caller ID problem his girlfriend was having. After retiring, she got to keep her business phone, but it still displays the medical group she worked for. If this happens to you, contact your carrier and tell them you want a new display name. That’s all there is to it.
AMAZON PLANTS A TREE
I said to Alexa, “Alexa, grow a tree,” and she did. After checking with me, and asking for my voice code, she took my $1 and contributed it to the One Tree Planted organization. Amazon is donating $1 million to plant 1 million trees where fires or mines have ravaged the land, or erosion has made life difficult for salmon.
To block or unblock someone on Facebook, type a name in the search bar at Facebook.com or in the app. When the person’s profile comes up, tap the three vertical dots to the right of their name. Choose “block,” if you want to stop getting any messages from them. If you change your mind, click the three dots again, then “unblock.”
If you’re listening to music or watching a video on your Android phone, you can cast it to the TV by tapping the icon that looks like a little rainbow surrounded by a box. Up pops a list of places to cast to, if you have a smart TV or smart speakers such as the Google Home or an Echo device with Alexa.
WINDOWS BOOT TRICK
If your machine won’t boot into Windows, here’s something to try. Turn the machine off three times in a row, with this simple action: Each time you turn it off, hold down the power button for 10 seconds. After the third time, you should get the “Automatic Repair” screen with advanced options to enter the “Windows Recovery Environment.” More info on this from Reviewed.com. See “How to Enable Safe Mode in Windows 10 -11.”
Most people never leave the iPhone universe for Android. But Android phones are “far superior” at organizing apps and adding useful widgets, according to CNN Money. Here’s how to switch.
Search on “the Switch to Android” app by Google or go to Android.com/switch. The app prompts you to install Google Drive on your iPhone if you haven’t already. Then tap “settings” and “backup.” That way everything on your iPhone will come over to your new Android phone. Also, you’ll need to turn off FaceTime and iMessage on the iPhone so that your messages will start landing in the message app on your Android.
If you’re tired of having a boatload of CDs you never play, consider digitizing them. That makes it easy to create long playlists.
To start, you could just pop in a CD in the drive and let Windows take over. But when I did that, I ended up with a lot of music files without song titles. I prefer the free “VLC Player” from videolan.org. Launch the program and click “Media.” Then choose “open disc,” and then “audio CD.” Now click next to the word “play” and select “convert” instead from the drop-down menu. Finally, choose your music folder as the destination.
When you want to line up hours of music, go to “File Explorer” in Windows by typing it in the bottom left search bar and clicking it when it comes up. Find your music folder. Right click an album and choose “Add to VLC playlist.” Keep doing that with other albums till you have your playlist. VLC will play one album after another.
Govtrack.us aims to make Congress accessible. Look up an issue and you’ll find all the bills related to it, as well as its sponsors and relative progress.
Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at [email protected]