Online teaching

Edited: August 24, 2020, 8:32 PM · I am thinking seriously of starting to do online teaching. I will only be doing a limited of demonstrating. I had shoulder replacement surgery a few years ago and it is next to impossible for me to twist my left arm around due to a lack of external rotation.

Therefore, would using a webcam work since sound quality from me only needs to be decent? If this is the case then I would not have to spend money on a good microphone and video camera. I will be using my Macbook pro with external speakers.

My other question is how to advertise to attract students who are of a medium to high level, no beginners. Also, I am thinking of an hourly rate of $125. Does this sound reasonable, given MY teachers and experience?

See my bio for reference:
Bruce Berg is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music, where he earned his BS, MM, and DMA degrees. His principal teachers were Josef Gingold and Ivan Galamian. He also studied violin with Dorothy Delay, George Neikrug, Joseph Szigeti, Nathan Milstein, Paul Makanowitsky, and Sandor Vegh; and chamber music with the Juilliard and Lenox String Quartets, Lillian Fuchs, Felix Galamir, and Maurice Eisenberg. At the time of his appointment to Baylor in the fall of 1994, Dr. Berg was Artist in Residence at Duke University, where he had served since 1984. Prior to that he taught at the State University of New York (Binghamton), Colgate University, Hamilton College, and in the Juilliard school Pre-College division. In 1997 he was designated an "Outstanding Professor" by Baylor University.
In addition to numerous solo recitals and appearances with orchestras, Dr. Berg has performed as first violinist of Madison and Ciompi String Quartets, The New York Chamber Soloists, The Berkshire Chamber Players and as Concertmaster of the Musica Aeterna, Manticore, and Waco Symphony Orchestras. Dr. Berg has also served as concertmaster and concerto soloist with Concert Royal, the Bach Ensemble, the Brandenburg Collegium, the Ensemble for Early Music, and Banchetto Musicale. He has also performed with Aston Magna, the Smithsonian Chamber Players, the English Baroque Soloists, and the Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra. He has recorded on the Sheffield, Cambridge, Albany, Centaur, and Musical Heritage record labels.

Replies (37)

Edited: August 24, 2020, 9:06 PM · Technology is not going to be your biggest hurdle here. Insofar as you are not going to be making "pro-quality" videos of your own playing, you don't need a professional recording studio in your home. The camera in your Macbook should be fine. An external USB microphone ($100 range) might be an improvement. I do my lessons with my teacher by Skype and it's fine. I prefer Skype to Zoom for music. You need a web site too, and a Facebook entity, and so forth. If you are not adept at those things then you will have to hire someone who is. So there will be up-front costs.

Your biggest hurdle will be marketing -- here I mean the actual guts of your marketing plan. Your background and experience would match well to skilled high-schoolers hoping to gain admission to conservatoire but lacking access to qualified teachers in their area or lacking parents willing to sacrifice a whole day every week to drive to a violin lesson in New York City or wherever. Your fee seems low considering your credentials and experience, but if you cannot demonstrate techniques, that could impact the value of your product, and of course there is the issue of competition from people who have already established reputable businesses. Have you a niche?

August 24, 2020, 9:22 PM · I’ve been teaching with my iPad (zoom or facetime) with quite a bit of success, no special mic or camera. It’s the content that matters.
Edited: August 24, 2020, 10:53 PM · I wouldn't use the camera on your Macbook, which is of very poor quality. The built-in mic on the Macbook isn't great either. You should invest in an external webcam (a Zoom Q4n is about $250 if you can get it; the Zoom Q2n-4k is a reasonable substitute, about $200) for acceptable sound and picture. You could also use an iPad, which has a higher-quality mic and camera than a Macbook, surprisingly. Make sure you use ethernet, not wireless, though, if possible.

In general, I've seen teachers set an online rate equivalent to what they usually charge for in-person lessons.

I think your difficulty in demonstrating is going to limit your possible students. I'd suggest putting together a masterclass with four students or so (of the sort you hope to attract) and make it public on YouTube, giving you a chance to show how you teach without demonstrating, so potential students know what they're getting into.

At the moment, it appears that the popular approach is to put together a "camp" or "program", Nathan-Cole-style, in which you gather together a group of students for a combination of prebuilt content, masterclasses, and private lessons. I assume some percentage of students continue with private lessons post-camp.

(Broadly, many students who currently continue to have regular private lessons with their previously-in-person teachers remain very interested in masterclass opportunities with people who might be able to bring unique insights.)

Edited: August 25, 2020, 8:08 AM · I just finished Nathan Cole's "Violympics 2020" program this summer. It was a 12-week program, and the fee was $800. Even though I didn't have time to dig into the activities as much as I would have liked, I found it to be a good value (as did Nate, assuredly, as there were over 400 participants). I would do it over again, and I recommend his programs to others very warmly, even though there were a few minor things that I didn't like about Violympics 2020, most of which stemmed from the very high enrollment, which I suspect exceeded Nate's wildest expectations. Nate has invested considerably in his business infrastructure -- web design including members-only portals, various secure means for collecting fees, and he has a video recording studio in his garage, which I estimate cost about $25000 just for the video, audio, and lighting equipment. Nate also built his business the old fashioned way -- by having a highly visible day-job that is the dream job of every 17-year-old violinist (bringing him income and instant credibility, having prevailed in what must have been a real beast of an audition). All the while working on his online presence in the form of the free video content that you can find on YouTube, a popular blog, enough sightings here and there to generate name-recognition among those who have never heard of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, etc. None of that comes close to being free or easy -- not by a mile. Cole is not only a gifted musician, but he has worked his butt off for the last 10 years to build his business.

One thing I noticed in Nathan's course is that I recognized several participants who are violin teachers either by profession or avocation. Maybe they were there, in part, to improve their own playing skill, or to glean some fresh ideas that they could inject into their own studios. But I suspect many were hoping to learn what the ingredients are for that kind of successful business -- pedagogy (think Simon Fischer, curated to the assignments and digested into 15-minute videos - and very well done), delivery, design, organization, day-to-day management, overhead/likely expenses, etc.

Every aspirational violin-business(wo)man should be grateful to Nate for having proven, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that there is money out there. Tons of money. Most violinists know that their hobby (or career preparation) is an expensive proposition, and $800 is still less than the cheapest summer camp. The people who should be scared shiftless are the people running the camps you actually have to travel to. If they were smart they'd pivot more toward ensemble activities that cannot be done successfully online (yet) and away from "master classes" and other individual instruction. Or build parallel online participation modes into their in-person offerings.

I agree with Lydia that you're going to need to put yourself out there and show what you can deliver. Just a warning, however, that videotaping a masterclass, depending on the level of quality you want to achieve in the final video, can be more difficult and expensive than you may be imagining. I'd be happy to let you give me a violin lesson while you record the session, but I think you'll be better off with a younger, more skilled, and more charismatic pupil. :)

I'll tell you one more thing -- and this comes from the heart -- I appreciate Bruce for creating this thread. I thought about this for some time last night, and what this thread tells me, especially when coupled with my experience in Nathan Cole's course this summer, is that if I'm going to reinvent myself by creating some kind of "side" business in my retirement, I need to start now while I'm still earning my salary (I'm 55). If it's related at all to my paid work then it has to be free. At a university, free work for others is called "outreach." Paid work for others is called "consulting," which is strictly limited and has to be cleared in advance. Many professors solve this problem by writing a textbook, which is usually not considered "work for hire." And yes, of course I've thought about that too. Trouble is that textbooks are going the way of the dinosaur. But, success is never guaranteed. Sometimes you have to roll the dice.

August 25, 2020, 9:41 AM · Since my guess is you would want to be recruiting kids like my son, I will tell you the things that we have been looking for in terms of online teaching and programs.

In terms of tech, the most important aspect is actually less about the quality of the teacher's sound and video, and more about the glitchiness (if that is a word) of it. In other words, your internet is probably the most important component. If it is freezing up, speeding up or slowing down, or getting choppy, that is very disruptive in a lesson. It's also pretty easy to get a good webcam and external mic on a budget of about $500, which will make a big improvement in your students' ability to hear and understand you. The ability to hear speech clearly is just as important as hearing the playing.

As for your rate, that is about what the top teachers here charge. I would say it may be a bit high for your location if you aren't in an expensive city.

As for marketing, most of what we were looking for this summer was comprehensive programming and then supplemental bootcamps. Also masterclasses, though we didn't do as well in that department. My younger one did a bunch of bootcamps at <$30 a pop -- which doesn't seem like a lot until you realize that there were 400 kids in every one of them. Personally, I was turned off by the slick marketing of Nathan Cole's program -- though since 400 people did that, apparently I was the only one. :) I'm not sure how to suggest advertising, but I do get Facebook ads daily for teachers, and I sometimes do click on them. We haven't done any of them, though.

August 25, 2020, 11:32 AM · Instagram for marketing to everyone under 30. Check It out- it is a visual medium, so takes effort in that way. I had to go on Facebook for the first time recently for daughter’s masterclass, and found things difficult to navigate, really disliked it to be honest. My daughter’s friends refer to Facebook as for “old people”. (I’m 59, so def one of those).
I would find the lesson price high for continued lessons, acceptable for a masterclass series, or focused on college application.
My daughter relies on her teacher playing demonstrations even online, so that would give me pause. (Just answering honestly, to be helpful). Making yourself available to established online camps and programs in masterclass format?
(Just a parent here, so FWIW.)
August 25, 2020, 11:42 AM · Oh, and while we use a Zoom Q4n for streaming important things like masterclass or performance online, our older MacBook Pro works fine without a mic for lessons usually FaceTime, sometimes Zoom.
Just make sure you go into the Zoom settings and adjust.
Agree that the most important thing is the quality, speed, reliability of your internet service.
And one more thought, many pedagogues develop a following through podcasting, Amy Beth Horman “Beyond the Triangle” “Mind over Finger” Dr. Gauthier, Nathan Cole “Stand Partners for Life”.
Edited: August 25, 2020, 11:36 PM · Susan wrote, "Personally, I was turned off by the slick marketing of Nathan Cole's program." I was too. I'm still turned off by the whole "violympics" concept, and then about a week into the program we learned that the contenders for the "event medals" will be those who post the most comments in the Facebook group.

But that's not why I was there. Some people really eat that stuff up (trust me, they do), but I just decided to look past all of that baloney because Nate has a solid reputation as a teacher and as a violinist, so I decided to focus on what I was going to actually learn. I'm not sure I learned "more" than I would learn in 12 one-hour violin lessons (what $800 buys around here), but I learned different stuff -- different ways to think about and practice shifting, vibrato, trills, double-stops, bowing and tone production, etc., and just different ways to tackle the hard parts of new pieces. I came away with a renewed excitement about wanting to do exactly that and with new tools for doing it. Some of the pedagogy (maybe 10%) seemed a little gimmicky, but the rest was very solid and applicable. That's why I said I thought the course was a good value, and I stand by that opinion.

For Susan's son, I think Nate has other courses that are more geared toward people with advanced technique and a very serious mindset.

August 26, 2020, 12:58 PM · I do think there are definitely students who are going to want what you have to offer. I think it is a mistake to think people only want novel/gimmicky stuff. I have a full online studio (kept almost all of my existing students plus adding 3-4 new ones) and really don’t use any technology other than whatever online platform I’m using (and I teach using my iPad Pro-no extra mic or camera).

I also did the Violympics course. I think it was overpriced for what it was. I have no issues with the pedagogy, but I think the format was pretty blah with just short written assignments and daily videos. I wouldn’t say it was a rip-off because there were people who obviously found it motivating and the content was good (I especially liked the week on shifting). It might just be my learning style, but I don’t like learning from asynchronous videos. I did find the Facebook group fun and helpful. Also, some of the lessons/assignments were clear and really well done, but several felt thrown together and/or like Nathan was running out of ideas/time and many of the pieces seemed disconnected from the assignments.
I wouldn’t pay that kind of money again for any course/lessons without real-time personal feedback.

Edited: August 26, 2020, 2:17 PM · I definitely see Ingrid's point. I just know I've spent more on summer camps where I didn't really learn anything much at all (although I was greatly entertained and needlessly well-fed). And I was planning to do the same camp this year but it was cancelled, so it was kind of already budgeted (which any accountant will tell you is BS).

But looking back on what I wrote, that Nate's course cost me as much as 12 lessons, I kind of wonder what would happen if I asked my teacher to give me a whole lesson on shifting if I also paid him for an hour of his time to develop the lesson materials in advance, to pick a few excerpts, and then repeat that for the other five topics that were part of Nate's program. That's one of the aspects of Nate's program I appreciated, was that I thought some of the study-excerpts were nicely chosen. Honestly toward the end of the course I paid a little less attention because of work work work as we prepare to teach again here in the university.

Here's my question for Ingrid -- are you going to teach your own students to not lighten their finger pressure when they shift? That seems to be kind of a core philosophy for Nathan, something that goes against the grain of what a lot of people teach. And are you going to incorporate that into your own playing? I've been trying to, with mixed results. And you wonder whether Nathan himself really actually does that all the time.

August 26, 2020, 2:24 PM · Paul, that anyone might not teach to lighten finger pressure as much as possible during shifts (and in general) would seem to be more of an indictment of the plethora of completely unqualified teachers with no real form of regulation than anything special about the teachers that do. I guess my argument is kinda circular, but there's certainly a lot of crappy teachers out there, but that doesn't mean that keeping your finger pressure light and relaxed is a groundbreaking philosophy.

Maybe I'm being pedantic, as I have no thoughts about this online course, other than that it seems like Nate Cole is ballin' after this enrollment.

August 26, 2020, 2:26 PM · " I just know I've spent more on summer camps where I didn't really learn anything much at all (although I was greatly entertained and needlessly well-fed)."

I think this is the single biggest difference between summer camps for adult amateurs and summer camps for pre-professional teenagers - I lost weight at almost every summer camp I did because I hated the food so much.

August 26, 2020, 3:51 PM · I agree about the Violympics marketing. Still, I had considered signing up based on Paul's recommendation ("violin teachers...improve their own playing skill...glean some fresh ideas") and because left to my own devices, I was (am) unlikely to implement a serious daily personal practice regimen, so it possibly could have served an accountability purpose. Ultimately, I decided to spend the summer doing various experiments and "research"/info-gathering related to my online teaching (that would be more applicable for the population I work with) and taking care of some non music personal things.

Regarding finances, it was told to me early in my career change, that with one-on-one teaching, potential income is necessarily limited by actual teaching hours. Suppose you found enough clients to pay a high rate, you're still not going to work more than X number of hours. To "Make Money", I was counseled, the money would be found in creating something scalable (or alternatively, found in Not Music). Of course I make money teaching, not oodles of it, but it's enough and satisfying enough.

Edited: August 26, 2020, 5:50 PM · Ingrid wrote: "I wouldn’t pay that kind of money again for any course/lessons without real-time personal feedback." My daughter just finished a two-week on-line cello festival with four one-hour lessons by east coast conservatory professors, and we got to observe eight others teach. It was not cheap but I think the time was well spent. She got some good feedback on some things she needs to adjust, and we both got first hand experience with differences in teaching styles and ideas that I'd rather see from the comfort of home vs. traveling around the country for pre-application lessons.

Bruce another idea would be chamber music coaching, if that's an interest. Given your shoulder, it might take less demonstrating. You are more than welcome to try it out on my kids' piano trio :-).

BTW is is neat to see your connection with Duke, that's where we are from and we have been involved with the kid's program there and spent two years in the program coached by the current Ciompi Quartet.

Edit: p.s. We like our Blue Yeti mic. Our piano teacher (do you remember John Ruggero?) said enough positive things about the sound on our end that we sent him one to try. The pandemic has made them sometimes difficult to find but Best Buy tends to have them in stock for delivery.

August 27, 2020, 3:06 AM · It pains me when 15 y/o twitch streamers have better equipment than professional musicians. This being said, a webcam may be adequate given that you will not be demonstrating very much and will likely be using a service with poor audio and video quality.

As a professional musician I am certain that you are aware of the importance of microphone placement, etc. In a teaching scenario such as this, the placement of the camera, and the lighting are very very important. Higher quality equipment is designed to be easy to place, via tripod mounts, etc.

Give some thought to your workspace. Try it out. See how it looks and sounds.

Will you be standing the entire time? Will you have a stool? Will you be seated in a chair? Will you need to move when you demonstrate?

August 27, 2020, 9:55 AM · @Irene the camp I go to is mostly for kids. There are only a few adult participants. I can get a master class and they usually ask me to help the viola section of the orchestra. The master classes are pretty good. I don't know why I should be expecting a master class teacher to tell me something that entirely revolutionizes my violin playing at my age.

Anyway about the food, yeah, it's starchy camp food. Of course the kids love it. The parents generally either don't like it or they tolerate it. One guy even brings his own organic chia seeds to the mess hall. But I like it! On the other hand, I'm not picky and I'm not allergic to any kind of food and I'm not a vegetarian or anything like that. So I'm perfectly fine with "Taco Tuesday." Full disclosure: I also like the food I am served on airplanes. I mean I *really* like it.

August 27, 2020, 6:08 PM · Actually, Christian, Nathan teaches a contrarian approach. (I did not do Violympics, but I did discuss it with people who did.) He claims NOT to lighten finger pressure when he shifts.

I think if you're going to do demo masterclasses, they need to involve the same sort of student that you hope to teach. Teaching brilliant young prodigies with exceptionally well-polished works is very impressive. But most people who buy lessons from a good teacher remotely are both highly motivated and not conventionally fantastic youngsters.

There are a bunch of folks who are preparing to take orchestra auditions -- either for the first time, or because their orchestra has folded/may fold due to the pandemic, or because they've tried over the years and still haven't succeeded. Those people will pay money for lessons and work hard. Ditto the folks who are taking gap years to prep for college/grad school auditions. A lot of them will be "ordinary", and often need core technique reworked or refined in a significant way. That's not an audience that has traditionally been well-served by in-person lessons, either.

August 27, 2020, 7:54 PM · Yes, Nathan Cole is the man to watch: he has not only great teaching ability, but also great video/sound equipment and knowledge of how to use it, glitches and all. His astonishing combination of art and engineering talents with an articulate and enthusiastic persona make him the model online teacher. I never would have guessed online teaching had such potential!
August 28, 2020, 12:12 AM · I guess, Lydia, I don't fully know his deal, but if you press lightly in the first place, then there isn't much in the way of pressure to release for the shift.

Stuff like this could kinda be like fingers pointing at the moon, where who knows what particular verbal framing helps a concept click for a particular student.

Edited: August 28, 2020, 4:21 PM · I like to describe shifting as if there are holes in the fingerboard, and you jump from one hole to another one. Just like real jumping have your finger down (preparing for the jump, knees flexed outward, and your body slightly leaning forward). Then you release the pressure (your knees flex back and you take off to the target hole.)

We hope to land absolutely in the middle of the hole that we are headed for. Upon landing our knees flex outward again to cushion our landing (depress the string) and to prepare for the next possible jump (shift).

Like jumping, it is important to gauge the length of the shift. If, for instance you need to jump a distance of 3 feet over the bottomless chasm and don't think carefully, you may only jump 2 feet. We know what happens then!

August 29, 2020, 12:02 PM · Assuming I get a webcam:

1.Should I get autofocus or fixed focus.

2. What angle of view should I go for, 80, 90, 110, or? degrees.

3. Are there other features I should consider?

By the way I CAN demonstrate and will do so,but not for an extended period of time.

Thanks to all of you who have given me so much valuable information!


August 29, 2020, 12:20 PM · Definitely autofocus, and automatic light adaptation, plus HD. I would aim for a fairly basic set of features with an integrated microphone, which will simplify set-up. You've probably seen lots of Zoom Q4n recommendations here, which functions as both a webcam and an excellent portable video recorder. A Zoom Q2n-4k should be reasonable substitute:

You'll want to mount the camera on a tripod to give you more freedom of placement. Though the drawback to the integrated camera/mike solution is that you might want to place the microphone somewhere different than the camera. I set my integrated one about six feet back, which is good for sound, zoomed in one level, to show me from roughly waist up. (I think for the teacher, it's often helpful to be closer, so your left hand can be seen clearly, though.)

And if you can, use an external larger monitor so you've got a bigger picture than you can get on a small laptop screen.

More than anything else, I think you'll want your studio to be well-lit. That helps a lot.

August 29, 2020, 4:43 PM · There is a zoom Q8n you can look at on Amazon or B&H. I was able to find a Q4n last Spring following Lydia and others recommendation. Q8 is the replacement but pricey. Like the features on these though, compared to other models.
August 29, 2020, 7:41 PM · Autofocus is helpful, and would be my choice. However it can go wrong. It is not good for extreme closeups. Another option is manual focus.

You want a narrow field of view. 72 degrees, etc. Wider is not a deal breaker, but narrower is better.

The resolution of the camera is not a big deal, as you will be limited by your upload speed, and the video conference service.

You could try a webcam such as the Logitech 922. Compare it to the internal mic and webcam. See if the video and audio are good enough. If either are not to your liking, you could upgrade the specific aspect that is lacking.

I suspect that the 922 will provide good enough video. You could invest in a better mic if you wanted better sound.

The disadvantage and advantage of the zoom, is that it is bundled. If you do not like their condenser mics, then you wasted your money investing in their mics. However, if you want one device then it may be for you.

Violins tend to sound terrible with cheap condenser mics. There are some exceptions.

August 29, 2020, 7:50 PM · Another thing to think about... I've always wondered how to improve scheduling lessons. Every teacher I've worked with has been a little iffy on basics (lots of email, slow confirming lesson, rescheduling, etc.). Some of the online pros I've seen have software that lets you sign up for a block of time. In some ways I think that is probably the way to go.

As for going online now, I think it's a mixed bag. You likely have time and energy to take your game up, but many folk whose bread and butter is performance are doing the same, and many have had their students drop for economic reasons.

I'd also like to second the comment that the internet connection is the most important part of the hardware.

August 31, 2020, 12:52 AM · Hello Mr.Berg

regarding your question about how to advertise to attract students who are of a medium to high level, no beginners

may i suggest you to check apprentus website?
There is a wide range of instructors available with different backgrounds from those who only teach amateurs to Lana Trotovsek's teacher Volodja Balzalorsky and a professor from Salzburg and Hanns Eisler violin faculty and also some from Belgium,Russia,France and Switzerland.
Top ones usually charge ~90$/H as far as I've seen and as i can see on teacher's profiles,you can choose the level and the age of students that you want to accept and the duration of lessons you offer on your profile page. I've introduced to this website thanks to corona and had some great violin and baroque violin lessons.
Another website is musical orbit that I've tried.
I hope i can study and learn from you too.

August 31, 2020, 7:53 AM · We also bought an LED video light on Amazon (I also use it for product photography.) Bright adjustable light with no heat. There is a brand called Neewer. B&H also has similar. Under 100$.
Edited: August 31, 2020, 8:00 AM · I own the Logitech as well (it was issued to me by my job) and while the video is excellent, and the audio is OK for business speaking, it's got terrible unacceptably quality for music. Big thumbs down. (And even for audio, a decent headset will be FAR better than the Logitech for others hearing you clearly.)

It's OK if you intend to pair it with some other audio device.

August 31, 2020, 1:43 PM · @Paul as far as shifting without lightening the finger, I think Nathan's approach is probably an extreme way to avoid some common shifting problems (probably habits he had at one point and has since gone a little extreme in the other direction. I notice that students who are taught that shifts should never be heard tend to either "jump" -lift all fingers entirely, resulting in unstable and often out of tune shifts, or shift too fast- resulting in "bumpy" shifts. I don't think I'll completely stop lightening fingers or telling students to do so, but I am going to practice (and have my students practice) a lot more slides/glissando while they are learning to shift as a way to potentially avoid these shifting pitfalls.
I think almost every teacher has one "thing" that they go against the grain on common advice on and it becomes "their thing" I think most of these are a reaction to misinterpreting or misapplying the commonly held advice and developing a bad habit as a result.
I used to not teach leaving fingers down while playing since I used to end up with a lot of left hand tension when I did. I have since realized that I had been playing on the wrong part of my finger (too much in the center of the tip rather than on the "thumb side" corners) and not allowing my thumb to adjust to my hand frame. Once I resolved those issues I was able to leave fingers down more easily. So now I do teach leaving fingers down, but I make sure my students are otherwise set-up correctly. I wasn't given bad advice when told to leave fingers down, just incomplete/inadequate advice.

As far as microphones go, I would also keep in mind that if your students don't have fancy equipment as well it won't make much, if any difference. I know that most of my students are just using iPhones, iPads, and inexpensive laptops with built-in cameras, so I haven't felt it worthwhile to invest in any fancy equipment. I do teach mainly beginning and intermediate students, though, so maybe Bruce would be more likely to attract students willing to invest in better equipment.

Edited: August 31, 2020, 2:10 PM · "As far as microphones go, I would also keep in mind that if your students don't have fancy equipment as well it won't make much, if any difference. I know that most of my students are just using iPhones, iPads, and inexpensive laptops with built-in cameras, so I haven't felt it worthwhile to invest in any fancy equipment. I do teach mainly beginning and intermediate students, though, so maybe Bruce would be more likely to attract students willing to invest in better equipment."

I agree with this 100%. I have been reading the various microphone setups etc with astonishment. I am teaching on my ipad and my students are using a phone, an ipad, or occasionally a computer. It has been quite satisfying to see how much progress they are making; not once have I thought that either my students or I was limited by the mic. When evaluating the student's sound or dynamics becomes an issue, it is easily solved by asking the student to send me a recording in advance of the lesson so I can listen and have comments ready.

Most of my students range from intermediate (Czardas/P&A/DeBeriot #9) to moderately advanced (Mendelssohn/Saint-Saens #3/Wieniawski #2/Lalo).

To put it another way, if I were going to invest in better equipment, I would have to charge quite a bit more to cover the overhead. That seems like an unjustifiable expense given that I haven't felt limited by the equipment up to this point.

Edited: August 31, 2020, 2:34 PM · My teacher has told me that my Blue Yeti microphone was a game changer in his ability to hear my playing properly and that it sounds as if I was in the room. His mic isn't quite as good - but it isn't as if we could play together anyway and I can hear him well enough. I'm also not as advanced as the students you will look for (just starting Suzuki 4).

If Indiana ever gets to stage 5 we will start a mix of Zoom and in-person lessons and I'm good with that. It's worked better than I thought possible back in March. I've also had to upgrade my internet to prevent glitches.

Edited: August 31, 2020, 2:28 PM · The built-in camera and mic on an iPad is actually very good; if you're teaching from an iPad there might not be a great reason to get anything else. I have found there to be a noticeable difference between using my Zoom Q4n and my iPad, but my teacher uses his iPad and it's acceptable.

The built-in camera and mic on a Macbook is significantly inferior to what's in the iPad, surprisingly. On a PC, it really depends on the particular model.

An iPhone's microphone and camera are fine, though they're hard to position if not a tripod. And obviously for a kid trying to take a lesson on an iPhone, their teacher may be too tiny to see any detail.

You'll hear much bigger differences in both dynamic range and color with a decent microphone, so that might matter more for teaching more advanced students, where they might need to be more consciously aware of the deltas you are producing. More serious students are more likely to have invested a bit more in their setup so you can hear them properly. A decent USB mic like the Blue Yeti is only about $100.

August 31, 2020, 10:38 PM · My teacher pushed me to get a better mic. I don't mind because I'll use it for other things, but I personally can't tell a difference between using it and not using it, and in some cases I think it makes things worse (since manufacturers work out the set-up but if you have a mic you now have to make sure you don't position it wrong, drop it, etc.). I think Lydia's suggestion of ipad is a good one if you have one.
September 4, 2020, 9:50 AM · I have decided on a Zoom Q4N which I was able to find. Thanks again for all the suggestions. Bruce
September 4, 2020, 7:49 PM · With due respect to Mary Ellen, there is a big difference between maintaining a studio you already had before the pandemic hit -- so your students will be accommodating with respect to most technical limitations because they expect them to be temporary -- and building a new business from scratch like Bruce is trying to do. Bruce doesn't need $25000 in gear like Nathan Cole has in his studio but the Q4N or Q8 is not an unreasonable outlay as a basic studio tool.
September 4, 2020, 10:22 PM · Bruce,
There are “firmware” software updates at Zoom camera website which solved some initial glitches with the other Zoom when using the camera as a webcam. Also if using Zoom for meetings whatever the camera, you need to optimize the settings, and always “turn original sound on” when entering a meeting. I think instruction for the settings have been posted elsewhere here, but can repeat if needed.
September 5, 2020, 12:11 AM · A reputable camera manufacturer is going to have a YouTube channel full of videos for how to optimize your device to specific needs. It might just come with a user's manual too. But Matthew's point is well taken that sophisticated electronics these days have a great deal of software running inside them and it needs to be maintained and updated regularly. Often just the shelf-life of a product at Amazon is enough to require a firmware update as soon as you take delivery.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Business Directory Business Directory Guide to Online Learning Guide to Online Learning

ARIA International Summer Academy

Meadowmount School of Music

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine