Having made the change to teaching online in the middle of March, I’ve been delighted with the progress my students have been making, and impressed by quality of work that they are putting in. I asked them what they thought about online piano lessons, and here are the responses I have received so far.
Jacob’s Skype lesson on Kabalevsky’s “A Porcupine Dance”
Emily’s Skype lesson
Elliot and Toby’s review
Here’s a review from one of my fifth year students:
“I’m really enjoying my virtual piano lessons. In a time where everything is so uncertain and abnormal, it’s nice to still have the opportunity to improve my piano playing and to continue learning. I’m finding that doing lessons over video call really has no negative impact on my learning and is equally as useful as having face to face lessons. Would highly recommend that people consider trying virtual music lessons if they haven’t already done so as I’m finding them to be very productive.”
So, whilst some students drew pictures, some sent in text, some sent a photograph of themselves in their lesson, when one student’s mother sent this movie trailer through to me, it came as a complete surprise!
Due to the present extraordinary circumstances, I’m now teaching exclusively online. Please feel free to use my contact page if you’d like to set up a video call piano lesson.
What you will need
Before the lesson, please check your messages, and print any music that I send for us to use during the lesson.
From experience so far, Skype on a laptop seems to be the best option. Please contact me and ask for my Skype name if we’re not in touch there already. Zoom and Google Meet are a viable alternatives, but FaceTime only provides a limted learning environment.
It’s possible to do a video link lesson with a phone, but bear in mind that if I’m demonstrating something using a screen share, there probably won’t be sufficient definition for you to see clearly what I’m doing. If possible, a tablet device, or laptop would let you see better.
You’ll need to find a good position for your device. A laptop probably needs to be at about the same height as the piano keyboard. I normally use a good sturdy music stand, but, in the spirit of make-do-and-mend, even an ironing board would do!
Position the camera so that it shows your face and hands, and make sure the piano keyboard is visible too. The room needs to be well lit, and don’t have a window in the picture as during the day, this will create a kind of halo effect. Ideally, your screen should look something like this:
Have a pencil handy; you’ll need to mark up your music scores. I will send out practice objectives in a message after your lesson.
None of the video call applications are designed for making music and therefore have limitations; they are all built around the assumption that when one person is talking the other is listening. This means that if the student carries on trying to work something out, it is impossible for them to hear the teacher’s response. So, in this learning environment especially, it’s vitally important that the teacher gives clear instructions, the student listens carefully and follows the instruction as closely as they can, then stop and listen for the teacher’s response. It’s also important that there is no background noise (for example, TV, Radio, blender or coffee grinder!) that might confuse the software.
If you’re using the desktop version of Skype, please go to settings and switch off automatic adjustment, and set the level about 7 or 8, like this:
The lesson should take place in a public room.
Students up to the age of 18 must have their lesson using a responsible adult’s account, and under their supervision. Younger learners will need an adult to assist in a practical way during the lessons; pointing to notes on the page, or keys on the keyboard, for example.
At the end of the lesson, I will send you a link requesting payment. All you have to do is enter your card details.
In the light of yesterday’s government advice, “Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others”, I need to make significant changes to the way I deliver piano lessons.
For the time being, I will no longer teach face-to-face lessons at my piano studio.
Like many other music teachers I will be happy to continue to give lessons via video call using FaceTime or Skype. Whilst this is a different way of working, it does present some helpful learning opportunities, and allows the student to maintain a sense of momentum in their progress. This is how individual teaching is proceeding at leading music colleges like the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
Other learners may prefer to proceed by via video messaging, for example, using iMessage or Whatsapp.
To continue piano lessons via video call, you will need:
an Apple device with the FaceTime app
or any other device (laptop, tablet, phone) with the Skype app
Before the lesson:
Please check your email inbox as I may have sent some learning material that will need to be printed out
During the lesson:
Please have everything ready before the start of the video lesson
try to position the camera so that it shows your face and hands; make sure that there is sufficient lighting
remember to have a pencil to hand; you may need to write comments or fingering on the music, or in your practice notebook.
Students up to the age of 18 must have their lesson using a responsible adult’s account, and under their supervision.
I’m grateful for advice recently received from the two professional organisations that I belong to: the European Piano Teachers Association and the Musicians’ Union.
The situation is likely to change, but in the light of advice currently available, this is how I will respond.
All visitors to my piano studio will be asked to wash their hands with soap and water on arrival – this includes students, parents and siblings. I will provide paper towels for hand drying.
I will continue to wipe down the piano keyboard at the start of every lesson. Anything that I need to demonstrate will be played on the Roland digital piano, rather than on the upright piano which will be played only by the student.
A box of tissues will be kept on top of the piano; tissues should be used to catch coughs and sneezes. Once used, tissues should be placed in the bin and hands should be washed again before the lesson continues.
If a student is unwell, or is required to self-isolate, it might be possible to deliver the lesson via Skype or Facetime. If this is the case, in order that we can proceed as normal, the video call will be between myself and a responsible adult (for example, a parent) who will need to be present throughout the lesson.