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How do online music lessons work?

Posted By LaurelS 1066 days ago on Education -

Singing together, virtually!

How do online music lessons work?Online lessons are hugely popular right now. COVID-19 has us all at home in front of screens, trying to use the Internet to do things we’d otherwise be doing in person. So, now that we’re all getting so familiar with online conferencing programs, especially Zoom, it’s the perfect time to try taking music lessons online.According to, a company I’ve been using to connect with students for several years, 86% of their July sales were for online lessons, compared with 37% in February before lockdown began. Many teachers have stopped in-person lessons altogether and will only be available online for the foreseeable future - myself included.Moving my entire studio online in March 2020 was a little scary at first, I have to admit. I had never taught online before, for the same reason many people would hesitate to sign up for online instruction: I just thought, “How would that even work?” If the same question is what’s holding you back from starting online lessons, I’m happy to tell you that it’s not difficult to navigate at all. Almost everything you’d get in an in-person lesson can be done online, and there are even some benefits and features of online lessons that you can’t get from in-person instruction.

This graph provided by shows percentage of sales by location for February through June 2020.

Your first and biggest concern is probably the technology and equipment - do you need to buy new gear or learn how to use something unfamiliar?Probably not! All you need to take lessons online is an Internet connection and a device with a screen and camera.Use whatever you already own, or get a used device. Laptop, phone, tablet, PC - it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you can get it in the same room as your instrument. You don’t need to buy a fancy expensive microphone or speakers. You don’t need to buy and learn to use a specific type of phone or tablet. You might need some kind of stand, but these are pretty cheap and widely available, or you can improvise a stand out of things you have at home.You won’t need to spend any money on programs or software licenses, either. There are many free options for one-on-one videoconferencing. Zoom is extremely popular lately, and because it’s so widely used for school and work, chances are you’re already familiar with how to use it. Other options include Google Meet, Skype, Facebook Messenger, What’sApp, and Line. Facetime is also an option if both users have Apple devices. I mostly use Zoom, but I’m happy to use whichever program my students prefer.Once we’re online together, it’s just like an in-person lesson, with just a few adjustments. I can give you instructions and demonstrations and hear you play or sing, just like we would if we were in the same room together. I’ll ask you to adjust your camera angle so I can see your body, your face, or your fingers on the keyboard, as needed. In person, I might point at a spot in your music, write in finger numbers or other marks, or use my hands to adjust your hand position or posture. Online, I will give you verbal instructions and visual demonstrations instead. In person, we sometimes play or sing together or play duets; online, I can prepare and send recordings for you to play along with.For young kids, dealing with the technology and interpreting verbal instructions can be a little too much to handle. An adult or teen will need to sit in on their lessons to help out. Don’t worry, no music knowledge is required, and it doesn’t always have to be the same person helping out every week.Some people may find online lessons much more appealing than in-person lessons. There’s the obvious benefit of preventing transmission of viruses and germs, but there’s also no travel time for the student or the teacher. That’s one part I’m really loving - pre-COVID, my work schedule had me driving around all over the place, all day long, and staying home saves me time and gas money. Students who used to come to my location get to save that time and money themselves by meeting me online. Students who had in-home lessons paid me a travel fee for coming to them, so those students also save money with online lessons. Many people are also just more comfortable having lessons in their own space than going to a studio, and learning online allows them to stay in that comfort zone.My favorite aspect of online lessons, though, is using the screen for games and interactive learning. Zoom has a whiteboard which I frequently use to draw visual aids for my explanations; we can easily save those images for reference, too. Writing and drawing are extremely beneficial ways for students to reinforce their learning; students love drawing notes and clefs, writing out the notes or rhythms I demonstrate for them, drawing pictures to describe sounds, and many other exercises disguised as games.

If you were hearing my explanation of vowel shapes in your lesson, this image would totally make sense to you.

I can also screenshare for my students; this means I can show them any piece of music I have in my digital library and make marks on the screen or use a pointer. Forgot or lost your music? Sorry, you’ll never be able to use that excuse again! I’ll just put it on the screen for you. For students who are slower at processing verbal instructions, it’s really helpful when I’m able to use marks or highlights to show them on the screen where I want them to look, instead of explaining. We can search anything we need to know or use in the lesson and look at it together - information, images, videos, recordings, you name it.Being available online has also allowed me to offer lessons to students who don’t live anywhere near me - you could live in a cabin in the woods in Siberia, and as long as you have fast internet, you can take music lessons from a professional Los Angeles musician. I now have students who live far, far away from LA, and I’m so glad to have met them! Even when in-person teaching can resume, I’ll continue to offer online lessons. It’s a great option for make-up lessons, or for when someone is sick or travelling.To sum it up:Pros:No disease riskNo travelingNo travel feesThe comfort of your own homeInteractive screen-based learningLearn from anywhere in the worldCons:¯\_(ツ)_/¯My students and I have been so happy that online lessons have allowed us to continue seeing each other every week through this difficult time. So many things have changed or disappeared this year, and the continuity of the student-teacher relationship helps keep us anchored.If you have any questions about taking lessons online that I haven’t answered here, send me a message and I’ll be happy to answer.

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