It seems like almost everyone studying music has made the transition to virtual lessons in the last month or so. I have a question for you though- has it been successful for you? Was there something missing from the experience? Maybe you still haven’t gotten over the tech learning curve?
And if you’ve considered virtual lessons but you’re just not sure if it will work, I want to assure you it can and is a perfectly viable way to learn! You just need to get set up for the best experience.
Here are the steps I’ve taken to make the experience seamless for my students- and make my life a whole lot easier!
What you’ll need (this goes for teacher and student)
1. A stable internet connection:
In order to have a good virtual lesson you need a good wifi connection, or you can connect to your ethernet. This kind of thing can take up a lot of your bandwidth, and you don’t want your lesson to be interrupted by freezing video and audio drops!
I am not the world’s foremost expert in internet connectivity, nor do I claim to be, but I have a pretty good handle on my gear. Trust me, I went through an arduous process to fully understand all the steps involved in making sure my connection was solid so my students would have a great experience. But it was worth it.
Here are a couple tricks I learned that you may not already know:
Your modem should be elevated on a bookshelf or table! The higher up the better.
If you have one, a wifi satellite “booster” or mesh system won’t actually improve your speed, just the range of your wifi.
If you live with others, make sure no one else is video conferencing or streaming at the time of your lesson.
Cell phones with lots of open apps can also drag your speed down.
Close any extra tabs on your browser. I didn’t think this was a thing until very recently but it’s huge!
You can do a quick internet speed test here:
2. Good lighting.
Try to have a light source in front of you that isn’t your computer, and avoid backlighting like a window behind you as much as possible. Doesn’t have to be fancy, pretty light or anything! Your computer’s camera just works much better when you’re well lit.
3. You and your instrument need to be in view.
This is really important! Your teacher should be able to see your bow arm all the way extended—which is tough unless you’re far away from the camera. If you typically sit down to use your computer, try setting it up in a spot where you have enough space behind you to stand up and back away from the camera, without losing your violin from the frame.
This can also get very technical, but suffice it to say that the sound from your violin can be too loud for your laptop and cause feedback. If you plug in headphones this eliminates the problem.
5. A Quiet Room.
Make sure you have a private space to have your lesson so you hear your teacher well and focus solely on the music. Personally, I'd love a visit from your pup or kitty, but I know my cat will beg to be let out within 5 seconds if he's in the room. If possible, kindly ask them to wait outside the door til the lesson's up. Also, I really recommend muting your cell phone and any notifications on your computer. Set up your space so that you can really tune in to what you're learning!
6. An External Microphone (optional).
Your laptop’s microphone is perfectly fine for most things, but when it comes to music lessons you may want to have a nicer audio quality so your teacher can hear your sound accurately! Bonus: you can use it to record yourself and it will sound so much better.
A note on video conferencing software:
I don’t really have a strong opinion here but I have had slightly better experiences with Zoom than with Google Hangouts or FaceTime.
There are my tips! Hope you learned at least one thing that will help you have better virtual lessons. Leave a comment if you can think of anything I didn't list here.