Understanding Your Piano Lab Equipment
No matter how long you’ve been a music educator, it can be intimidating to assemble and operate piano lab equipment for the first time. It helps to have insight on what exactly is included in a piano lab system, how it all works together, and how you can expand your piano lab system to accommodate more students in the future. At MusiciansBuy, we build music labs like no one else, and we have put together this guide to give you an overview so you can better understand your piano lab equipment before it even arrives.
Piano Lab Equipment: An Overview
A piano lab creates a focused music learning environment that facilitates communication between instructor and students, whether in groups or one-on-one instruction. While there are many piano lab equipment bundles you can choose from to equip your classroom, they all ultimately serve the same purpose. Any comprehensive piano lab system is going to include the following components:
- Classroom hub: this is the brain of your piano lab system, sending and receiving audio from student stations and the teacher station
- Teacher controller: gives the instructor full control over classroom audio via tablet, laptop, or desktop interface (based on system setup).
- Instrument boxes: these provide connections for instruments and headsets at each student station and the teacher station
- Headset microphones: for communication and audio monitoring
- Pianos: one for each student station, plus one for the teacher
- Cables: your piano lab equipment should include instrument cables to connect pianos to instrument boxes, and data cables to connect everything to the classroom hub
While this may look like a lot of equipment when you’re unboxing everything, your piano lab is a relatively simple system. Each student station is equipped with a piano, headset microphone, and instrument box. The teacher will have these too, plus a controller unit to manage audio levels, create groups, mute classroom audio, and so on. Each piano station requires only a single data cable to connect to the classroom hub. Once everything is set up, you can basically forget about the classroom hub, as you will use the controller unit to manage the system. And students only need to know how to use the volume control on their digital piano — all other audio management is handled from the teacher station, or wirelessly from the teacher’s control app.
Piano Lab Equipment: Individual Components Explained
Now that we have a better perspective on piano lab systems as a whole, let’s take a closer look at the individual components. Keep in mind that no matter how many students you’re building a piano lab for, the core components you’ll be using will remain the same.
The piano lab’s classroom hub brings everything together, and handles all audio processing in the system. Your teacher controller unit will connect to this hub, as do the instrument boxes at all student stations. While the hub is the backbone of the entire piano lab system, it’s not something you will need to access or operate on a regular basis — you’ll be using the separate controller unit or control app to make audio adjustments, mute audio, and access all other necessary functions. Depending on which system you ultimately choose, your classroom hub unit may also offer audio outputs for recording or performance purposes, and audio inputs for playing music for the whole class from an external music player.
Your piano lab’s teacher controller is how you manage audio throughout the system. You can communicate with students all at once, as groups, or one-on-one. You can immediately get the entire classroom’s attention by muting all audio. Dedicated functions make operating the teacher controller or digital interface simple and straightforward, even in large classrooms with up to 48 students. Especially when you incorporate the wireless capabilities through the provided app. For example, with the Yamaha LC4 music lab system, the LC4 Controller App allows you to connect and manage up to 48 student stations simultaneously using an iPad. You can also arrange student stations visually in the app so that they correspond to classroom layout, label them with student names, manage attendance, take notes, and play music from your iTunes library for the class. The Korg system allows you to control up to 32 student stations wirelessly with an iPad or Andriod tablet.
Each piano station (students and teacher alike) will be equipped with an instrument box, a compact unit that provides audio connections for the station and interfaces with the classroom hub. At each station, the digital piano connects to the instrument box with a single cable, and a headset microphone is connected to the instrument box for communication between students and teacher. Some instrument boxes offer two headset connections, allowing a pair of students to work together at the station. Each instrument box connects to the classroom hub with a single data cable, so only one cable will need to be routed away from each station.
When you’re investing in a piano lab system for your students, choosing the right digital piano is key. MusiciansBuy offers many different piano lab systems, and the most significant differentiator is the type of digital pianos each system includes. From 61-key semi-weighted pianos suitable for beginners and younger players, to fully weighted 88-key instruments that give students realistic piano feel and response, you can find a piano lab system that’s ideal for any level of learning. It is advisable to choose a piano lab with digital pianos that offer a “split” mode that allows two students to play the same note range on each half of the keyboard. But for the most part, your choice of digital piano won’t impact the operation of the piano lab system as a whole.
Cables, Headsets and Accessories
Other than the components mentioned above, all that’s left is cabling and some accessories. Your piano lab system will include the necessary cables to connect pianos to instrument boxes, and data cables to connect the instrument boxes and teacher controller to the classroom hub. Headset microphones are included for each student station and for the teacher. Depending on your choice of piano, you may have accessories such as a pedal unit and music stand for each student station too.
Can I Use Piano Lab Equipment with Other Instruments?
Yes, you can! Almost any electronic instrument can be used with your piano lab system. All that is required is that the instrument must have a headphone output, as that is how the instrument connects to the instrument box at the student station. While the output from a typical electric guitar or bass won’t work, some guitars like the Yamaha Silent Guitar are equipped with a headphone output that can connect to the instrument box. Yamaha also offers Silent Brass solutions for French horn, trumpet, and trombone that minimize acoustic sound while offering a headphone output for the lab system. In other words, any instrument with a headphone output can be connected to any station in your piano lab, making it a multi-purpose music lab.
Is it Easy to Expand the Piano Lab with More Student Stations?
Most piano lab systems can be expanded to accommodate students as your needs grow. For example, the Yamaha LC4 piano lab system offers an expansion kit that adds eight connections to your classroom hub for more student stations. The LC4 classroom hub supports up to 48 student stations when fully-loaded with expansion kits. Adding expansion kits does require installing them in the classroom hub, but the procedure is relatively simple — anyone that has installed RAM in a computer should be able to handle the installation without any issues.
MusiciansBuy Can Create Your Ideal Piano Lab
We hope that this article helps you understand what’s in a piano lab system and how everything is connected. What begins as boxes of cables and audio gear will be transformed into an innovative music environment that can enhance learning while making it easier to manage your lab as an instructor. At MusiciansBuy, we’re passionate about helping your school find the best music lab solution to meet your students’ needs. We’ll help you choose the right system and provide a customized quote with special educator discount, we’ll deliver your system for free, and we’ll support your system for life with free tech support. MusiciansBuy builds music labs like no one else — contact us today!