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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 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).
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.
" 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 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.
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.
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.
@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.
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.
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!
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.
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.)
Assuming I get a webcam:
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: https://zoomcorp.com/en/us/video-recorders/video-recorders/q2n-4k-handy-video-recorder/
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.
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.
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.
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$.
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.)
@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.
"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."
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).
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.
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.
I have decided on a Zoom Q4N which I was able to find. Thanks again for all the suggestions. Bruce
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.
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.
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