Yes, I will teach on line lessons in special circumstances.

  • To avoid cancelling lessons due to weather events
  • To reach students who cannot access  teachers in their own community
  • To avoid missing lessons due to illness
  • and of course now, to fulfill public health guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic

If you want an online lesson, you need to print one of these:

Practice Assignment and Lesson Notes worksheet PDF download here

And set yourself up following these guidelines:

Platforms in order of preference:
  1. FaceTime is THE BEST for audio quality. Unfortunately it is Mac-specific.
  2. Zoom is the best that works across all operating systems (IOS and Android). You can also play recordings and look at scores or worksheets together on simultaneous windows, and have a group meeting as well as one on one. You can also set appointments in advance with an emailed link, which is super convenient. If I am working with a number of students back to back, I will use Zoom to avoid having to change platforms between lessons.
  3. Skype is adequate if you don’t have access to anything else.
  4. I have had very poor results with Google chat or hangouts. Don’t know about Google Meet yet – have yet to try it.
Online lessons are never a complete replacement for in-person lessons, primarily because you cannot play together, for two reasons:
  • The audio connection is one way only – when one person is playing/talking, the other cannot be heard.
  • The latency delay is significant.

I am investigating some recently developed software that may help in this regard. Hopefully I will be able to advise on this soon!

However, you can do a lot with a back and forth, call-and response approach. I will start every online lesson with:

  • establishing a reconnection procedure in case the call gets dropped
  • establishing simple hand signals to give instructions while student is playing (“Stop” is the most important one).
  • an alternating single note warmup, to check the amount of delay in the connection and to see if the mic settings need adjustment
Set-up requirements:
  • Make sure that you are setting up in a quiet environment. Any persistent background sound will affect the audio transmission. This includes fans, dogs, siblings, and the clatter of pots and pans from the kitchen.
  • Make sure no one else in your household is using the wifi! No video streaming, no games! You need all your upload / download speed to avoid long lag times and potential freeze-ups. Also make sure that you have closed any other apps on your device – save all computing power for transmission of complex signals.
  • Get an external USB mic (if possible) and plug it in. If you don’t I might not be able to hear any of your dynamics. The transmission will either cut out or try to equalize anything that gets louder/softer/higher/lower than a certain level.  An external mic set up improves this somewhat, but the audio transmission is still compromised even if the input is better quality. Distance from the mic will also affect sound quality – depending on the student’s device, sometimes drastically. If you get distortion in the sound, try moving closer/farther from the mic. Make sure your audio preferences/mic settings are set so they don’t auto-adjust for levels or background noise. Here is a link to a video tutorial for adjusting your mic settings on Zoom:
  • Plug into some external speakers. This will help you hear me as well as I hear you. Avoid Bluetooth speakers in favour of ones that plug in directly. In some setups Bluetooth devices can increase the latency delay. Some of my students have tried Bluetooth headphones/earbuds with some success – but headphones don’t work if you have a parent listening and taking notes along with the student. In this case, the internal speaker on the device will suffice.
  • Have a second device available to use for apps. If you will be using a metronome, drone, or other backing track, be prepared to play it on a different device. I can’t play it for you if you need to play along with it. Ideal set-up is to have your lesson on a computer (bigger screen) and your apps & playback tracks on a phone or tablet. Make sure the device is behind you – not between you and the mic. NEW IDEA *This second device can also log in to the lesson as a second camera for showing closeups.*
  • Have your device at eye level. I want to see your playing posture, not your hunched-over-the computer posture. Do take the time to experiment with camera placement, and move it around so you can see different things.
  • PARENTS OF YOUNG STUDENTS: Please set up so I can see both of you in the screen. I understand that you want to get out of the way and promote direct teacher-student communication, but young students do not have the experience to interact though a screen and are easily confused. An adult looking over their shoulder can make things run much more smoothly, and I can talk to you directly if there is a need.

Compensation for this:

  • If you are having on line lessons for an extended period of time, I will require you to periodically email me audio or video recordings. This will give me  better audio to assess tone quality, dynamics, vibrato, phrasing, etc, and if you play with accompaniment (another person or a recording),  ensemble skills.
  • If at all possible, we need to meet in person for the occasional face to face lesson, to fill in the gaps that can’t be addressed on line.
  • Now that we all have more experience with online lessons, I am taking beginners over the internet, which is something that I have avoided in the past.  I will work with the student’s parent, and supervise the parent’s work with the student. The parent must be present while we are working, and be prepared to move the camera so I can see all aspects of the student’s posture and playing position. The parent will also have to be my “ears” in the event of a poor audio connection.
Now I am making it sound like on line lessons are terrible – but I have had students and teachers do diligent work with me on line and successfully  reach a high level of ability. In order to make it work, you have to be aware of the shortcomings  and use some creative planning make it work for you. The rewards with be worth it.