Zach Tolan

Zach T.

Grand Rapids, MI
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100% Satisfaction Guarantee

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Lesson Details

Classical Guitar

Levels Taught:
Beginner, Intermediate
Greetings! I'm a full-time private music tutor who has taught more than 22,000 lessons in the past 15 years! I teach beginner-advanced violin, viola, cello, guitar, and piano, I specialize in working with young beginners (ages 4+), I currently teach 50+ students each week, and I'm the Chief Curriculum Designer for a web-based music lesson service.

Exact Notes is a self-learning music notation system for kids. The site is a comprehensive resource for classrooms, private teachers, self-learners, and homeschoolers. It has everything you need to stay on track before, during, and between lessons. It features an easy-to-read notation that takes the hard work out of learning music, and is so easy that 4 year olds can learn songs on their own!

As the lead curriculum designer, my job is to make sure every student has a fun and successful experience! Every student who joins the website gets a free orientation from me, and a free first lesson. If you're nearby, this could be at my private studio at Keyboard World (Grand Rapids, 28th Street and Breton Ave), or at my home studio. If you're at a distance, I prefer to have orientations and lessons online.

Do you have any questions I can help answer? Please message me!
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Zach teaches



Zach passed a background check that includes a SSN verification, national criminal record check, and sex offender registry search. Learn More
Zach delivers an exceptional lesson experience and ranks in the top 15% of our teachers nationwide.
Teaches students:
Ages 3+ and special needs

Teaching since:

Greetings! I specialize in introducing beginners to piano, and have worked with students as young as two and a half! If you're looking for a teacher who makes learning to play piano fun, then please contact me!

I recently filed a patent for an easy-to-read music notation system for beginners, which is so easy that 4 year olds can read and play songs on their own! The basic idea is that just playing the instrument is much easier than reading the notes. For example, instead of reading classical notation, a lot of guitarists play very complex music using tablature, which is a way of writing notes using numbers instead of dots on a staff; it writes music in a language they can already read, so that's what I did with piano, then violin, viola and cello.

Students around age 10 and under have a hard time orienting the piano staff because lower notes go left on the keyboard and higher notes go right, so I start young students by orienting the piano staff in the same direction as the keyboard (left is left, right is right), then the notes are read top-down. You can see in Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, in the examples below. When the music is easy to read, it means students can play literally dozens more songs each day, even from the first few lessons. Yesterday, my 4 and a half year old literally played over 40 pages of music. (It helps that dad teaches music...)

Students around 10 and older usually don't have problems with the staff orientation, so they start with a modified staff closer to standard notation. The modifications in my patent, though, make it easier to play music that would otherwise be years away. Many students play Fur Elise in their first few weeks, or sometimes their first lesson. Others move into Moonlight Sonata and the like within just a month or two.

There are samples below, but the complete collection is currently available only on my website until I compile them into books. I compiled a few violin books a couple of years ago, but I was changing the notation system so much that I realized they'd become obsolete. They have, and need to be remade.

It takes better planning for young beginners to be successful with video-based lessons, which is why I've done a tremendous amount of work organizing my new website, and I'm pleased that it's become a core learning component for a few dozen of my local students. I'm also sure that many of the families currently using it would be happy to share their experiences with you, and I'd be happy to get their permission if you'd like to contact them!

Every new student gets a free trial lesson, and I'm happy to help any way I can to help you get started in music!

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Chief Curriculum Designer
Oct 2016 - Present

I am the chief curriculum designer for Violin, Guitar, Piano, and Ukulele.

Music Teacher
Sep 2015 - Present
Public Schools, Homeschool Co-op

I teach private piano, violin, cello, and guitar lessons and group guitar classes.

Private Music Teacher
Sep 2002 - Present

I've taught 23,000+ music lessons on violin, viola, cello, guitar, ukulele, and piano! I specialize in giving a great start to beginners!

Private Teacher
Aug 2015 - Aug 2016
Marshall Music Co.

I taught private lessons and small ensembles for violin, viola, cello, and piano.

Curriculum Designer and Teacher
Aug 2009 - Nov 2012
Lil' Learners! Fine Arts for Kids!

I taught violin, viola, cello, guitar, and piano, and co-designed curriculum for Spanish, Chinese, Drawing and Painting, Fencing, Ballet, Martial Arts, Piano, Violin, and Guitar.


B.A. Philosophy
Sep 2003 - Jun 2005
Grand Valley State University


Fluent / Native Proficiency
Limited Proficiency
Limited Proficiency
Limited Proficiency

Photos & Videos


Frere Jacques
Alexander's 1st time on Twinkle, Twinkle!
Au Claire De La Lune

This is how piano sheet music looks one step before learning standard notation.

View, Levels Page Sample

Level 3 Categories and Core Songs

Photo by Zach T.


5 Reviews

Write a Review
Sofya Dec 9, 2017
Violin · Online

My 6 yo is taking violin classes with Zach online. The classes are high energy, very engaging, informative, and fun.

Sofya Tairova Dec 1, 2017
Violin · Online

Kathryn Nov 19, 2017
Violin · In studio

I really appreciated that Zach was very understanding and flexible with crazy changing work schedules. He does a good job of mixing music theory, technical exercises, while still being open and even encouraging the student to working on styles and pieces they are interested in and enjoy. Zach is great about asking the student what they want to learn and work on, while still making sure that they are always learning something new and always pushing themselves. Zach always seems to genuinely care and get excited about music, teaching, and his students.

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Becky Nov 10, 2017
Guitar · In studio

Zach is very personable and figured out a great method to motivate my reluctant child--fake money!! He also developed his own musical notation to aid in helping students learn how to read music but in such a way that isn't as complicated as the standard notation. My son really likes him.

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Dawn Nov 8, 2017
Violin · In studio

My daughter is very shy and quiet. Zach is fantastic and she loves him! He is patient and funny. His way of teaching works! She is just 6 years old and is already playing songs after just 6 weeks. His music curriculum is so easy to understand and play! We've been very impressed.

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