Using OneNote as a Tool for Tuning and Teaching

When I first got my laptop for college, there was a widget that allowed you to put virtual sticky notes on your desktop screen. I LOVED that widget and used it all the time. Now it is 8 years later, and with Windows 8, that isn't an option. However, Microsoft does have a new tool that way surpasses those little sticky notes: OneNote. 

With Microsoft OneNote you can write yourself notes, turn them into to-do lists with little check boxes, and neatly organize data or lists. You can also draw on your lists (which is more helpful if you have a touch screen). OneNote will sync with any device you have, and you can share your notebooks with other people. (That's just a quick description. If you want more info, check out this link: The best part that I love about it is that you can open up a new page, click to write anywhere, and then move your text boxes around with ease. It's just like using little sticky notes, but now you can have tons of them, archive them, and see them anywhere (as long as your devices are synced)!

OneNote has seriously changed my note taking system, and makes life easier on a daily basis. I use it to keep track of my tuning clients and tuning history, to write down to-do lists so I get things done, to keep track of where my students have been and where they are going, to plan out meals (and then I open up my list at the grocery store and just cross things off), to sync to-do lists with my husband, to plan out blogs..

More specifically, here's how I use it for Tuning and Teaching.


My tuning course said to use cards for each piano and take these with me. This system is seriously outdated and was not working for me. Now I have a "notebook" for all my business related things. In that notebook, I have a section called "Tuning". In each section you can have different pages. I have a calendar page first, and then a page for each client. On the calendar page I list out every month and list clients under the specific months I tuned their pianos so I can see it at a glance. This tells me the months I don't have many clients, when to call people to remind them about upcoming tunings, who missed a tuning, etc.   

For the client pages, I list the piano make and serial number. Then I list the first time I tuned their piano. After that I write my notes for each tuning, and the date of each tuning. I add each new tuning at the top of the page so I can see the most recent one first. I then organize the pages alphabetically (I wish OneNote would do this for me, but the drag and drop feature isn't too hard). These notes sync with my phone, so when I go to a client's house, I can simply pull up their page and add any new notes. 

As I write this, I realized I don't have a page for my piano! So, here's what a page looks like, using my piano as an example. I haven't transferred over all my notes from my note card yet. I'm not even sure I still have it. I don't remember when I first gave my piano a proper tuning, but I just recently tuned it again. It's had too many practice tuning to even count! 


I use OneNote similarly for my teaching. I keep a purchase lists section with notes of books I need for the future so I can snag them when they are on sale. 

I also have a section called "Piano Planning" which I use for planning out studio events. I used this extensively when I was planning for the 40 piece challenge , since I needed to keep track of a huge list of books and pieces for each student!  I actually wound up changing how I structured my challenge from my original idea, but you can see the planning process here:

Finally, I keep notes on each student I teach. It is hard to keep extensive notes on everything they've learned so  I try to keep it as a quick review. I list:

  • Books they are currently using
  • Current struggles I need to remember to work on
  •  Books completed (so I can know where they've been)
  • Concepts learned (this one is really hard to keep up with!)
  • When they began lessons
  • Future music ideas

I got this idea of at-a-glance student notes from Joy Morin at Color In My Piano.  I do keep week to week lesson plan records, especially for my beginners, in my teaching binder. Those eventually get thrown out, but these digital notes help me keep long-term goals in mind.  


Disclaimer: Microsoft OneNote doesn't even know I wrote this post. This is just what I think, and an attempt to help you learn about the technology options out there for your business. 

Counting to 100: #20

Woohoo! This is my 20th tuning post on the blog. I am 1/5 of the way to 100! 

If you want to go back and read more tuning posts, here's some others: 

For this tuning I went back to the Kranich & Bach piano from tuning #10. It had been a few months past 6 months because we were having a hard time coordinating our schedules, but the piano still sounded pretty good. There's nothing unusual or new to tell you about this piano, or this tuning. So instead, for my 1/5 virtual party, I'll tell you how tuning is going now vs a year ago when I really started tuning seriously after finishing my course. 

1. I don't stress about each tuning. 

I used to worry about each tuning, and practice a little before it, especially if it had been a few weeks since I'd last tuned a piano. Obviously with 20 tunings in about 1 year, I am not doing them every day. I am also teaching, and playing piano, and being a mom and a housewife.  But now I am much more comfortable showing up for a tuning after a month off. 

2. I have an awesome tuning bag!

I used to keep everything in several random bags and felt like a bag lady hauling everything in. After doing some research on tuning forums, I found this bag: The Nantucket Bagg

It is meant for knitting, but is awesome for my basic tuning tools. A lot of technicians have a big (expensive) case that they carry with all their supplies that is designed just for technicians. I opt to just carry the essentials and leave the rest in the car (or at home). Most of the time I don't need them anyway. I've been meaning to write a full review of it eventually, in case other technicians out there are in search of a better bag. 

3. I have an awesome notating system!

The course I completed was written in the 90's so some of the stuff was really outdated, like: how to keep tuning files. Randy's instructions were to keep them on note cards. I started out that way, but I kept forgetting to bring the right card with me, so I'd take notes on one big legal pad and I wasn't good about transferring those notes back onto the note cards. Anyway, I got a smart phone and starting using OneNote. It is so much easier! I'll write a post on how I use OneNote for tuning and teaching soon.  

4.  I still worry about breaking strings.

Strings break. It is part of owning a piano. They get old and less flexible and they break. If a technician breaks a string on your piano, don't assume they are a bad technician. However, I do not enjoy replacing strings. It is a skill I really need to work on but replacement coils are really expensive! Buying a set of replacement strings and practicing is next on my things to do after buying a tuning device. In the mean time, it is always a nagging worry when I do a tuning that I will break a string and have to order a replacement.

5. I am better at fixing small things

I have fixed ringing notes, pushed parts back into place, adjusted pedals, solved buzzing noises... I am getting better at fixing those little annoying things that just need the right pressure in the right spot to end your piano playing misery. And I am not as afraid to try because I know the secret that most piano parts are harder to break than you might think. But, be careful what you push on without the right knowledge to go with it. Pianos are strong, fragile instruments.... kind of like every other instrument!