Online, virtual, or “remote” lessons are a relatively new format choice for music education. However, both the speed and quality of video conferencing itself has improved by leaps and bounds during the past 5-10 years; and almost everyone is familiar with both the concept and the various software, thanks to the advent of smartphones and tablets with built-in options like Zoom, Apple Facetime, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Skype.
If you’ve used one of the above services or similar others, whether it was for connecting with family or for work meetings, then transitioning to the use of video-conferencing software for piano lessons will be quite easy for you — so easy, in fact, that you may even wonder why anyone would choose the slightly less convenient option of attending lessons in person! Well, as it turns out, there are still some drawbacks. But if you don’t have a better option for whatever reason (distance, health, or schedule conflicts), virtual lessons can still far outpace self-guided, tutorial-style courses like those offered on sites like Udemy, Lynda, and YouTube.
Equipment, Setup, and Technical Information
A Laptop Computer or Tablet with a Built-in Webcam
Brand and operating system do not matter (Mac, PC, Android, iOS, Windows) as long as your OS is up to date. You’ll need to place your device next to you during the lesson. Click below to learn more about setting up and positioning your device for online lessons.
NOTES: While smartphones can also work okay, I do not recommend them as your primary device unless you have no other option.
An Ethernet cable will provide a better quality and more reliable connection.
A Stable, High-speed Internet Connection
If you are normally able to stream movies in HD from services like Disney+ and Netflix, then you should be fine. Similarly, a large portion of Simply Music Student Home Materials are delivered via streamed video segments. If those are working fine for you, then you probably will not have any problems.
Zoom Setup Instructions
You’ll need to install Zoom on your device, then follow these instructions to connect to your lesson.
My thanks to Ian Belloso, another Simply Music teacher, who has generously allowed us to use his videos and pictures for illustrating online lesson setup.
Device Setup Instructions and Details
Laptops & Larger Tablets
Place your device on a surface such as a high chair, table, music stand, or tripod to the left or right side of the keyboard at an angle. Position the device so that the webcam is about eye level with the height of a sitting adult. Picture how a teacher would normally sit next to a student during the lesson. The camera should be able to see an “over the shoulder” view of BOTH the keyboard and the student. Test different views ahead of time to achieve desired angle and lighting.
For more detailed instructions, be sure to watch these tutorial videos.
Other Setup Considerations
Background lighting must be adequate for clear viewing. It may be necessary to close blinds and diffuse the lighting to reduce glare. One way this can be accomplished is by pointing a lamp towards a wall or the ceiling rather than directly at the keyboard. Avoid having the camera point directly toward any light source (lamp or window).
To keep background noise at a minimum, a student should try to make sure other family members, pets, etc., are kept OUT of the room you are using for the duration of the online lesson. If you are having trouble hearing the lesson on your device’s speakers (or if I am having trouble hearing you), it might help to use a pair of earbuds or headphones with a built-in microphone.