V.com weekend vote: Have you ever tried taking or teaching online violin lessons?

March 8, 2020, 4:46 PM · By all appearances, the world is in for some disruptions in the coming months.

A number of my teaching colleagues have told me that they are gearing up to teach their school classes online due to the possibility of isolation measures that could be implemented due to coronavirus concerns. In fact, I just learned that my son's university classes are going to go online next Wednesday, just as a "test," in case they have to conduct classes that way for a while, due to this growing outbreak. Already in Japan and Italy, students are in the midst of a month-long shutdown of schools.

As a private teacher, it's making me consider the possibility of giving Skype lessons to my private students, if it comes to that.

online lessons

Of course, many people have taken Skype and online lessons for a long time, for many reasons. Perhaps you would like to take from a teacher who lives in a different city, or your teacher goes on a long trip and you want to continue lessons, or you wish to take Greek fiddle lessons from someone in another country -- how wonderful it is, that we can do this via the Internet!

If everyone does end up isolated or in "lockdown" or in quarantine, there is some good news: you still can practice your instrument. And you can continue your violin, viola or other music lessons, if you can get things set up.

For example, I love the story about violinist Anthea Kreston giving her Chinese student extra lessons while he was under lockdown in Chengdu because of the coronavirus. She had been giving him weekly online lessons, but during that time she offered to check in with him on a daily basis.

So I wanted to ask everyone, have you ever had online lessons? And what I'm talking about here is lessons with a designated teacher, not simply finding videos online (although that can be very helpful!). If not, would you consider doing so? If you have experience teaching or taking lessons online, what is your advice? Can you teach and learn in much the same way, or are there some specific adjustments that are helpful? What kinds of lessons work best online? Do you have logistical advice? Are there other ways to supplement lessons, when an in-person lesson is not possible? Please participate in the vote, and then share your thoughts.


March 8, 2020 at 10:57 PM · I have taken online lessons for years! With violin and saxophone. With teachers from europe and the states. It has worked out well with me. I have also taken classes in person of course, and am currently doing so with the violin. I really enjoyed my online classes and the different perspective from my european teachers. Helps me keep an open mind.

March 8, 2020 at 10:59 PM · I've done FaceTime lessons with my teacher when she is on tour, or in Australia or when I"m out of town, and they work quite well. The only real drawback is she can't reach through the screen and correct a finger or a wrist or an arm. However, it is a useful dialogue. Also, online lessons can be used as a tool for supplementary materials when incorporated into your regular lessons. The site FiddleQuest is excellent for being a supplementary tool for teachers.

March 8, 2020 at 11:49 PM · I have never taken online classes, but I think I might like to try at some point. Like, Laurie, if you were ever to want to do a small group of three or four students maybe on specific topics I would love that!! I read your blogs and watch your videos and know you’re reputable!

March 9, 2020 at 12:17 AM · I was probably the first guinea pig to ever have a video-conferencing lesson back in 1993, when Pinchas Zukerman started collaborating with Polycom to develop a video-conferencing system suitable for music lessons. This was before broadband, and I remember that it took twelve parallel phone lines with dialup modems to get the required bandwidth. During my four years as his student, I had VC lessons with him on a regular basis (besides face-to-face ones). Since then, I've given VC masterclasses to other schools using the professional setups, and for the last few years I have been teaching regularly using Polycom RealPresence Desktop software on my laptop (and on my studio computer). Out of all consumer systems I've tested, this is the only one that transmits violin sound at a quality suitable for lessons, as long as you activate their MusicMode. The software comes with 30 days free trial, followed by $65 lifetime license, so it's quite affordable. The only caveat is that you have to have access to an SIP server to initiate connection with a student. Mine is supplied by my school (Indiana University), but I believe there are a bunch of free-access ones around as well. I am happy to answer any questions about the system for anyone interested. I use it to give lessons to students in Russia, Israel, and accross the States.

March 9, 2020 at 01:03 AM · My daughter has had a few Skype lessons when her teacher was out of town. I don't think she got as much out of them, but probably if it happened more frequently you'd get used to it and work out the bugs and it could be a pretty good mode of delivery.

Very timely question as many teachers may be concerned about their incomes disappearing if kids cannot come to their lessons.

March 9, 2020 at 01:06 AM · I have taught occasional online lessons to established students when I was out of town. They are better than nothing but I don’t think they are as effective as an in-person lesson, and I don’t particularly enjoy teaching that way.

March 9, 2020 at 02:09 AM · I've been using skype for a private lesson for two of my kids.

The teacher is now based in Canada now, but previously in Australia Singapore and Indonesia.

He's really detail-oriented, but very musical too! That could work out fine via skype, even..

My first son have been taking the lesson since 2014, and now in book 8 Suzuki. I also play piano, and I notice my first son plays very musical.

I've tried different teachers (when he isn't available, he suggested few teachers in my area). But funny that his way of teaching (via skype) is somehow more efficient than having lesson in person - face to face with other teachers we had.

My second son has starting for 2 years approximately, and he's now in book 2, with a very nice relaxed posture. Good movement and tone too.

Sometimes I wonder how come even without touching the student, skype teacher could teach that detailed.

So I think, regardless there is virus or not, I'll keep my students to be taught by him.

He's easy to find on the web. Dave Nathanael in Canada, I'm not sure which city, but he has his web too..

Skype works just as excellent, I might say. And in my case, better than other teachers around.

March 9, 2020 at 03:05 AM · I have taken private Oboe lessons for years. Now I am taking online violin lessons at violinlab.com. I can only recommend. It’s nice to have 1st grade teacher demonstrating everything 24/7. And give Skype feedback at your convenience.

March 9, 2020 at 03:22 AM · I've taken a few online lessons with my teacher when they were out of town and I did not like them as much as in-person lessons.

March 9, 2020 at 07:06 AM · I have been a student of Skype classes for about a year. The important thing is to have the same music arrangements on both sides; saves a lot of time. The surroundings have to be quiet to know when teacher interrupts your playing to guide you. I have tried computer, iPads etc.l, but IMHO mobile appears to be the best when placed in portrait position to watch the left and bow hands.

Interruption of power can be a nuisance as the backup power takes sometime to kick in.

If the class is to be postponed/canceled, warn the other person early so that life can be smooth.

Skype classes (even WhatsApp video calls, Facetime) are becoming a necessity if you need a highly qualified teacher or if you are going for higher speciality performance exam or even for preparing for a performance with a virtuoso! In addition to intercontinental panendemics??

Skype makes the world smaller, people closer and classes shorter (30 minutes best)??

March 9, 2020 at 08:10 AM · I've taken a handful of online lessons in the last three years for specific technical fixes. Not ideal but they worked OK for what I was looking for.

I'm still looking for a regular teacher, because I'd like to find someone who knows advanced viola repertoire, accepts adult students, and has evening or weekend openings. So far, I haven't found any in my area. I took irregular in-person lessons for three months in 2016 but stopped because my teacher never had any evening or weekend openings. I never had a regular lesson time and scheduling every lesson took up to two weeks of back-and-forth emails. If I haven't found a local teacher by the time I fully recover from an ongoing shoulder injury, I may have to resort to Skype.

March 9, 2020 at 03:07 PM · I've been teaching online for almost a decade. Zoom us better than Skype,IMO.

March 9, 2020 at 05:10 PM · Here is a helpful blog about teaching online, from a pianist named Terry Smith. It has some good information about various video conferencing tools that can be helpful.

March 9, 2020 at 05:10 PM · My private violin teacher used to live in California, but had to move out towards Arizona for family purposes. With that said, she offered some of their private students opportunities to use video chatting as a method of teaching. For me, this would not work out for me, due to being a visual learner, but it works for others who want to keep studying with the same private instructor.

Also, when thinking about this personally, I would not do this in the sense of video chatting, but rather teaching an online course which relates to a musical subject. For example, some textbooks are online and using a known music theory publisher for an online course would be beneficial,because the entire curriculum is cut up into weeks for the student to complete while practicing their piece/etudes/scales.

March 9, 2020 at 05:18 PM · I taught my niece on Skype for her first year of violin, then we arranged for her to get a local teacher. We still do regular practice sessions over Skype.

The challenges are: sometimes the connection (between California and Barcelona) can have poor bandwidth; you can't do physical adjustment everything has to be explained; tuning issues are really tough; and of course controlling the student's attention can be a challenge.

On the other hand it can be very rewarding of the student is willing and motivated and the parent is engaged.

March 9, 2020 at 08:53 PM · I've been studying violin with a world-class virtuoso soloist so for the last 3 years. When he told me he was going to based in his home country Armenia for a while he suggested we take Skype lessons and I was very much against it. But the fact was I absolutely did not want to lose his tuition because he has helped me so much with my violin. I started Skype lessons with him around October 2018 and have had weekly lessons with him since. As a matter of fact we have covered much more music and much more advanced repertoire than we ever did in person (working on the Sibelius concerto among other things right now)- I feel like this format makes me more focussed (I do miss going out for a beer with him here in Montreal after our lesson!). An ideal lesson is an hour and a half (1 hour doesn't seem to cover it well enough, although we do this sometimes).

Shawn Christopher White

March 10, 2020 at 02:25 PM · Online teaching is something I have only done once or twice, but I am prepared to do it if necessary. I do not like teaching that way, as it is hard to see the student and make sure they are properly set up, and sometimes the audio quality can be questionable. I am currently considering asking students to send videos of them practicing, for me then to provide feedback. Not sure if this will work, but it could be worth trying.

I actually study my degree online, and really enjoy it, but a theoretically based degree, is very different from studying and teaching a practical hands on instrument.

I will await the decisions of the UK government about tuition and lessons. I do not want my students or myself to be at risk, however I am not particularly worried about the Covid-19. My concern is loss of earnings, I still need to eat (assuming there is anything left on shelves in the supermarket).

Something I will be doing is teaching theory via online measures to students if we have to go into some sort of lockdown.

March 11, 2020 at 04:26 AM · I live part of the year in the US and part of the year in the Philippines. My violin teacher is in the Philippines so I take the lessons through Skype when I'm in the US. I think online lessons are very useful for continuity if you or your teacher can't always have a face-to-face violin lesson.

I also have a subscription to Violin Lab which I love. Beth Blackerby goes into great detail about things my teacher doesn't cover (not because he's a bad teacher, but because we only have an hour per lesson and there is so much to learn that greater details can be missed). When I get much better at the violin, I want to upgrade my subscription to get video feedback maybe once a month. I think it's great to have another point of view besides my teacher's.

March 11, 2020 at 01:19 PM · I’ve also taken online lessons with Beth Blackerby at violinlab.com. She has a huge library of videos to watch with detailed explanations, masterclasses, and she also does video exchange. You can also post questions and videos to the forums for community support.

March 11, 2020 at 01:41 PM · I suspect that online lessons are better for 'musicality' than technique. Its hard to scrutinize precise method (such as left hand contact with the neck, for example) with a camera but much easier to critique the output (that lacks vibrato etc).

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