A little over a year ago, I read an article in the New York Times about a man who had been teaching lessons online for a few years. He had several students who were all over the country! I was very impressed. His set up was quite sophisticated. He had a camera rigged to his ceiling that shot straight onto his keyboard and another camera facing him. He could switch back and forth accordingly.
I saw this and I thought… how does this happen? And how can I get on board? I definitely felt like I was looking into the future of piano lessons, because it really isn’t hard to imagine a future where every piano student just logs onto whatever current version of Skype is being used in order to start their music lesson. I mean, it definitely seems to be the direction we are all going in with everything.
Now– being someone who has never really been gifted at technology, I felt incredibly stressed out by this. My competitive side realized I would have to do this eventurally, so I may as well start now.
I hired someone to come over and “train” me. He was already established as a remote teacher for Music Recording and had students from all over the world. He had me order a second camera, download a bunch of apps and he even made me download a new browser system (apparently he didn’t like the one I was using). He showed me how to connect my MIDI keyboard and use that for the sound during my lessons. He instructed me to use Google hangouts instead of Skype, which I thought was weird. It was all very overwhelming. So much more complicated than simply showing up to someone’s house and teaching an old fashioned piano lesson! After teaching 3 lessons online by my teacher’s method, I decided it wasn’t for me. It was just too stressful to keep doing.
Then one day, I was having trouble scheduling an in-house time slot due to my driving route. I travel to my students, and it’s important that they all live close to each other. Well, this particular student happened to live farther away than I thought. Oops. But after just one lesson with him, I could tell he had a severe dedication to learning piano and I really didn’t want to quit just because of the driving thing. So we decided to do our lessons via FaceTime. I decided I would do it totally barebones. No wires or MIDI keyboards or multiple cameras. Just the way I would have a normal conversation with a girlfriend in Thailand (or wherever). The only difference is I set up my camera tripod with a special iPad attachment. This way he could watch me demonstrate on the piano. I sent him a complimentary attachment as well so I would be able to monitor his technique and posture.
About 2 days before the lesson, I scanned some sheet music using the TurboScan App and sent him the files. On the day of our lesson, he called me at our agreed time and we had a fantastic lesson! It was so easy! Everything felt like a normal lesson except I was in my home and he was in his. If I needed to correct something, I just demonstrated and he copied. Now because of that experience, I currently take all of my new students exclusively via FaceTime or Skype. My in-house schedule is already packed with 29 students. There just isn’t enough space to add another student to my driving route. My regular student’s make up lessons are even scheduled this way. I absolutely love the flexibility it offers, and it really isn’t much different from regular, in house piano lessons.
Actually, why don’t I make a list for you of the pros and cons so you can see for yourself
- Scheduling Flexibility.
- Location is never a problem. If you live in a rural area and lack access to quality piano teachers, look no further than the internet! I love having students all over the world!
- They operate 99% like a traditional in-house lesson.
- Less distraction. Students are more focused on what the teacher has to say and completing the tasks. My online lessons are often MORE productive than in-house lessons. I think it has to do with the fact that we all seem to be hypnotized by screen.
- Apps like TurboScan make it easy to share sheet music.
- Amazon Prime makes ordering piano books fast.
- Cameras with high quality screens are easily accessible due to the advanaced technology of smart phones, tablets, and laptops.
- No physical interaction. If a student is playing with less than stellar technique, the teacher will have to describe and demonstrate how to change it, rather than physically adjust the student.
- Inability to make notes and point to sections on the sheet music.
- Can’t share snacks… (Seriously the biggest Con). I love bringing treats to my students 🙂
- Sound quality is just ok. For my side of things, I can easily hook up a digital keyboard and microphone to my computer. This will give the student a nice sound, BUT the student is really the one making the music. I wish the sound quality could be better received on my end. I figure technology will catch up soon.
Ok, so there it is. You can see the Cons list is not very big. I actually just finished teaching two online lessons and they were great. My favorite PRO is the productivity. It’s just so easy to stay focused when a screen is involved… Which I guess shouldn’t be surprising when you consider what happens to people as soon as someone opens up their phone to show a video or someone turns on the TV. All eyes on the screen!
If you are thinking about starting some online lessons, you don’t need much equipment. A laptop or iPad or even an iPhone will do the trick. But I do recommend a tripod. This one is only around $10! And if you are using an iPad, don’t forget the tripod attachment. If you don’t have a camera on your computer, here’s a nice one I’ve used before. The camera quality is unreal and it’s such a good price!
Is your studio offering online lessons? How is it going? Have you learned that could help teachers who are considering this?