I did not teach online piano lessons for a long time because they didn’t work. I’d tried a few lessons, and I couldn’t hear the students’ playing sometimes. I was way too OCD to miss even one note.
This was four years ago, and recently a few people urged me to try it again.
So, I did. I accepted some online piano students. I kept thinking though, how am I going to see the sheet music if I’m not beside the student? What if there’s a lot of lag again?
In preparation, I did things that no one would ever want to do.
I dropped my laptop on my piano keys.
After I tested the tech setup for piano lessons, I casually placed my closed laptop on my piano lid, then it crashed down on the keys while I was playing.
This is a lesson for us all: Keep the things you care about, securely above or away from your piano!
On the day of the first lesson, after I arranged my phone on the tripod and took the call, the first student came on with a crystal clear image, proper sound, and a good view of himself at the piano. This is perfect.
He did not say even once, “I can’t hear you, can you repeat it again.” Instead, he reassured me that the video was great, after I’d asked a few times.
A large part of the first lesson involves getting to know the student and their goals, then hearing them play. It’s like, an in-depth discussion of their student application. This also means we get to test the video system through talking and video calling.
Occasionally, I demonstrate some playing, if they’re doing something incorrectly.
The next student said, “This is perfect. I just saw your fingers so now I know what I’m doing wrong.”
In one of the lessons, my phone shut off. I was worried that this would ruin the entire lesson, but I looked at the time and we were two minutes away from the end of the session. We continued the lesson for around 15 mins.
With one student, the video quality blurs for a second and I can’t see the student’s fingers.
But I can still catch mistakes, because they likely make the mistake more than once, and of course I have my razor-sharp ears (that still ring in one side!).
Some students stopped their playing to explain that they were nervous, and some pointed out their troubled spots.
That was new to me. Very few of my in-person piano students had ever interrupted their own playing.
A lot of my students said they were nervous to play in front of others and wanted the experience of performing, so online lessons lets people open up in ways that they don’t normally get to. It’s also less of a commitment than going back to school for a formal music degree.
For the student, there’s a level of comfort and convenience, in sitting at their own piano and warming up before the lesson.
I could hear rhythmic mistakes and wrong notes, and I could demonstrate concepts over video.
I could do my job as a piano teacher properly, almost as if I were there in person.
However, I couldn’t change the angle of the camera to “walk around the student” to see their fingers from a different view–maybe in another 4 years this will be a possibility, but right now, I could settle for squinting.
I used Skype and Google Hangouts, and Zoom was suggested to me. I had one camera pointing towards me and the piano.
A byproduct of online piano lessons is that there’s less eye contact.
This means all of my note-taking and attendance sheets can be online and the tip-tapping of my keyboard won’t distract the student. Previously, during in-person lessons, all of my notes and documents written during the lesson, were done on paper for the tactile feel of it.
I viewed the sheet music on my laptop or tablet.
With my tablet, I could open the sheet music and prop it on my music stand to follow along.
With my laptop, I could view the sheet music and take notes at the same time, except I had to awkwardly hold it in one hand or use my lap.
After I move, I’ll look into a dual monitor setup by my piano so I don’t have to juggle laptops and tablets. (Here was how I restarted piano teaching last time.)
I have a hunch that as the students get to know me, they’ll be less nervous in front of the camera.
There’s a level of separation in online piano lessons, where students might feel less connected with their piano teachers at first, but it’s good way to learn piano in your own home and get out of your comfort zone.
It’s convenient. You shut off your phone when the lesson is done and go back to your own life. No driving in the rain nor waiting around for the teacher.
I’ve given online piano lessons another try, and I like them a lot.
I’m going to take a few more students for online piano lessons, if you are interested. There’s a half-priced trial lesson to see if you like online lessons. If you don’t like online lessons, we can part ways with no hard feelings. :) Send me an email here.
Have you ever tried online music lessons, or online lessons of any kind? How did you like it? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below!
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