Experience with online teachers

April 13, 2021, 8:03 PM · After studying (face-to-face until the onset of the pandemic) with the same individual for four years, it is time to move on. Since I lived in an area with very limited access to qualified teachers who can teach late intermediate/early advance repertoire, I am actively exploring the online option. My sense is that most teaching, if it is done at all, is done online these days. I would appreciate if some of you would share your experience and recommendations on online lesssons.

Replies (25)

April 13, 2021, 8:32 PM · I've continued to take lessons with my teacher, Emil Chudnovsky, online during the pandemic (at least until my frozen shoulder halted my playing); I haven't really noticed much of a difference in lesson efficacy in-person vs online. Emil's studio is mostly kids, but he does teach several adults (from the intermediate level up). Emil routinely taught some students online pre-pandemic, as well, so I assume he's likely to be willing to continue online post-pandemic.

Email me if you want to discuss. I have some other suggestions I could make, as well, based on the experiences of friends and my experiences at camps et.al.

Edited: April 13, 2021, 9:07 PM · I've had only online lessons after just a handful of in-person lessons in 2016. The teachers in my area who teach advanced viola repertoire either don't accept adults or don't have workable time slots.

I think it's important to have not only a good camera angle, but also a setup where the screen you're looking at is close to the camera. In my first online lessons, I made the mistake of placing the camera above eye level and my laptop computer on a low table, which was awkward. Right now I've got both the computer and camera on top of my piano, which works better.

Edited: April 13, 2021, 10:26 PM · I really can't stand online lessons. It's unfulfilling... that chemistry between me and the teacher is all lost when squeezed through a screen. It ends up feeling contrived and awkward, and leaves a bad feeling about me when the lesson ends. I guess I'm an old soul, but I have a hunch a lot of people (teachers too) feel this way and aren't saying anything.

If you feel the online medium is adequate, you can look for a new online teacher if you absolutely need the guidance. Personally I prefer to use this time for other musical projects that usually got ignored (recording and arranging for example).

April 14, 2021, 1:15 AM · I agree with Cotton. The experience of in person lessons trumps online for me. I only put up witj online because the alternative is no input whatsoever, other than myself. Although saying that, I have a first lesson next week with a new teacher which is exciting
April 14, 2021, 6:49 AM · Greetings,
I find teaching online frustrating too. I can get the chemistry but I cant see all the things I usually want to see so it’s limiting. IT7s better than nothing though...
Cheers,
Buri
April 14, 2021, 9:49 AM · It's REALLY frustrating to try to get your teacher's fingerings online. I waste a lot of time in my lessons trying to get fingerings. Especially since my teacher's not great about keeping her entire fingerboard in the camera frame.
Edited: April 14, 2021, 9:52 AM · I'm glad to see so much talk about chemistry!
April 14, 2021, 12:53 PM · The secret to a good room setup is to have a standalone, tripod-mounted webcam. My Zoom Q4n gave up the ghost, and I replaced it with a Zoom Q8, which works nicely. I have it mounted on the cheap Amazon Basics tripod (which is sturdy, portable, and convenient), so I can crank the camera up to the right height and move it to capture my whole upper body. I have a 17" laptop on small table and I've considered getting a really big monitor (like a 32" widescreen) to make things easier.

Also, using a wired Ethernet connection helps, as does a fsst Internet connection (I have FiOS at max speed).

For fingerings and bowings, it's easier to scan and send, or to screenshare. My teacher and I snap pictures of our music to send to each other where necessary. (I mostly do my own fingerings, except for super-complicated double-stop passages where the question of what's reliable starts to become much harder.)

I've found the interactions I've had online -- whether in private lessons or in a masterclass setting -- to be almost as fully satisfying as anything I've done in person.

There's the bonus of being able to record the lesson as well. I've found myself replaying my fiddle lessons, where more basics are being taught in a pretty dense fashion. (Whereas in my classical lessons we are primarily going over repertoire and it's more about refinement, not information I've never heard before in any context.)

Edited: April 15, 2021, 4:01 PM · I have been taking online piano lessons, and I find the lessons are EXCELLENT-- better than live lessons! The lessons are pre-recorded, and each module contains both a video and a text section with sheet music. The teacher is extremely articulate when explaining, and a terrific player when demonstrating. The course, Learn Piano Blues, is way cheaper than live lessons will ever be. Having access to the lessons online, I can go back and repeat whatever and whenever I wish (middle of the night? sure!) and advance as quickly or as slowly as I want to. The reason these lessons are so great is that the teacher has organized the material with great care, advancing in technique just one step at a time. The teacher (Martin Carline) is so experienced that he knows what needs to be emphasized, and he anticipates the student's mistakes--warns you not to miss the Bb in bar 4, for example. I never would have guessed that video lessons could be so valuable, but these lessons are more informative and much less inconvenient than live lessons. IF you have a teacher who knows what they are doing, you can progress successfully without a live lesson. P.S. I have heard so many discouraging things about Zoom and Facetime lessons that I have never even tried them. Online, you have teachers all over the world to choose from. Take advantage!!! Until trying this method due to pandemicness, I never would have believed it could be so rewarding. I think I am progressing much faster than if I had to wait for a weekly in-person lessons. It's great.
April 14, 2021, 7:39 PM · after Ray Chen's video on finding teachers on fiverr.com, which my daughter assures me is a paid ad, I checked it out and have had some excellent lessons with a teacher from Venice Italy just using skype with no special equipment. No diminishment in quality of lesson being online- is great!
April 14, 2021, 7:56 PM · I have been teaching online for over a year now and have been very pleasantly surprised at how much my students and I have been able to accomplish. Of course there are disadvantages, but there are some advantages too. We actually get more instructional time in an hour because the student can already be tuned and ready at the start of the lesson.

I’m shocked that anyone would take up lesson time with dictating fingerings however. It’s very easy to scan marked up music with a phone app and send it to my students in advance. If I need to give fingerings in the course of the lesson and it is more than just a few, I take a picture of the page with my phone and text it to the student.

April 14, 2021, 8:28 PM · I find it quite helpful, but I also have been studying with my teacher beforehand for like 8 years, so it might be really disconcerting to start with someone who has never heard you play in person.

With that said, I look forward to my in-person lessons coming up.

April 14, 2021, 9:39 PM · By the way, David, based on the repertoire you've already played in your bio, I would imagine that you're definitely an advanced student, not an intermediate one. The difference is meaningful, as many teachers do not normally go beyond the intermediate level.
April 14, 2021, 11:34 PM · Like others here, I’ve been teaching online only for over a year and my large studio is thriving online. I now have 8 students I’ve never met in-person and I feel like we still have a good rapport (after all people start dating relationships online all the time- you need much less “chemistry” for a student/teacher working relationship).
I’m also taking some lessons myself online and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I did know my teacher before the pandemic, but I think it would still work just fine even with someone i’d never met in-person if they were a good fit musically and personally.
Edited: April 15, 2021, 12:43 PM · Thanks to all for your suggestions.

I feel much better now about the online option. I have scheduled a few trials online lessons with teachers located in a metro area about 2 hours away.

BTW, I am so glad to see, one year into the pandemic, everyone is doing well. So very glad!

April 15, 2021, 3:30 PM · Hi David,
just curious. Isn’t the purpose of online lessons that you can try teachers any country in the world?
Are you limiting your options a little?
Cheers,
Buri
April 15, 2021, 3:30 PM · Hi David,
just curious. Isn’t the purpose of online lessons that you can try teachers any country in the world?
Are you limiting your options a little?
Cheers,
Buri
April 15, 2021, 3:30 PM · Hi David,
just curious. Isn’t the purpose of online lessons that you can try teachers any country in the world?
Are you limiting your options a little?
Cheers,
Buri
April 15, 2021, 5:03 PM · I can see some benefit to finding someone reasonably close: after the pandemic, even if still taking lessons mostly online, it may be possible to schedule the occasional in-person lesson. If I were taking lessons from a teacher 2 hours away, a schedule of online lessons most weeks and one in-person lesson a month might be workable.
April 15, 2021, 8:09 PM · Stephen, I am, as Andrew mentioned, looking for online lessons with the option of having face-to-face lessons later. While local access to qualified teachers at my stage of development is somewhat limited, a metro area (with a "major league" orchestra and a well-respected chamber orchestra) is about two hours away. I am hopeful that I would find someone there.
Edited: April 15, 2021, 8:28 PM · Mary Ellen wrote, "I’m shocked that anyone would take up lesson time with dictating fingerings however. It’s very easy to scan marked up music with a phone app and send it to my students in advance."

That's a good point, but if the part isn't already marked, then if you're marking a part for a student outside of his or her lesson time, then that's uncompensated professional work. Of course it's your choice how you spend your time, and it's nice that you're generous with yours, but I think there are some violin teachers who may be concerned that the amount they're expected to do outside their paid time creeps ever upward. I can see that being the case for someone who has a very full studio because it's his or her only source of income.

April 15, 2021, 10:17 PM · For common pedagogically-taught works, most teachers probably have a copy marked up for student use (vs. personal use, as artistic choices might be different).

April 15, 2021, 10:27 PM · I did not want to go online when the pandemic hit but I've been pleasantly surprised at how well the video lessons have been going. I'm actually planning on teaching both in person and online when I can have students back in the studio.

It took a little of getting used to and getting my students to get their cameras, lighting, and angles correct but it's been fine. There are actually one or two things about video that are better than in person.

The teacher needs to have a legit video setup though. A good camera, microphone, lighting, a computer with a big enough display to see themselves and their students clearly, and an audio system to hear their students clearly. Little computer speakers don't really cut it, I have my students' audio feed piped in through my studio's stereo system.

The camera needs to be able to be easily moved around to show the student different angles. I'd be a little wary of a teacher just using a laptop or tablet at an awkward angle with only ambient room lighting.

You should meet with the teacher online before beginning lessons and see how at ease they are with the format. You should also judge the quality of their feed to make sure you will be easily able to see and hear what they are showing you.

April 15, 2021, 10:28 PM · Paul, Chemistry rules!
April 15, 2021, 11:41 PM · Ann, of course, but that is true regardless of online or in person lessons.


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