The evolution on online lessons

Prior to this massive societal upheaval called Covid 19, I, and I think most of us were quite content in our routines and ways of doing things. From the way we shopped, to the way we sought out entertainment , to the way we ate and got our education. For me and my organization, we promoted and adored the idea of in person education as being the gold standard for music education. We valued the instant feedback and personal touch in person lessons provided and were sure that there could be no better way.


Covid 19 and our new realities regarding safety, virus spread and other issues with the way we had been doing things forced us to accept that things had changed.Why did this have to happen might have been my first question, followed by What were we going to do about it ? How could we pivot, and still deliver meaningful and effective lessons virtually to the degree that we had become accustomed to in person. 


Over the last 6 months, we have learned alot and have successfully evolved into a new era of music instruction that, through technology has uncovered unforeseen benefits to both , teachers and students. 


Wifi and internet connections :


The first thing we learned, was about internet connections and how something we thought was just fine,  was in fact inferior on so many levels! Bandwidth, problems with wifi connections, plans that people had been paying for years that were way out dated all came into play.


We learned that if 2 or more people in the same house were using wifi at the same time for video conferencing, Zoom meetings would often freeze or start glitching like a nervous squirrel! The fix was to either stagger lessons and other work related video conferences or invest in the top notch internet plan. We learned that by hardwiring to the router ( let’s go back 10 years!) we could have a better shot at getting through the lesson with great sound quality and video. 


Exterior cameras and microphones:


So now that we are all invested in this new hobby of Zoom meetings, it was time to start investing in all the cool gadgets and accessories ! The webcams on some computers are o.k., but others are really crappy for zoom meetings. It made sense to invest in a good exterior camera, not only for capturing different angles of the instrument, but for better video quality and in most cases a better sound quality. You see, a lot of the exterior cameras on the market offer a built in mic that is superior to the one built into your desktop, laptop or tablet. 


I bought a bunch of these Logitech cameras for our studios that have worked out really well for both enhanced video and audio:


For those of you that really want to go the extra mile, a usb mic is a great way for music students and teachers to be able to provide the clearest, full spectrum sound to one another. I tried out this model by Tonor and it really upped my game as a teacher.  I recommend these to my students:


You’ll find that you don’t need a lot of money to get a great sounding USB mic! 


We also found that teaching online required us to have music sheets and other teaching materials ready to go in PDF form. This was important so that when we needed to work on a score with a student we could either share a screen with them or send them the music prior to the lesson so that they could print it out on their end and be ready when the lesson started. Another great feature is the whiteboard in Zoom which allows the teacher to write out musical concepts and have the student interact in real time, just like an in person classroom.


We also found that prepping the student to have their music out, instruments tuned in advance and any network or audio issues figured out prior to the meeting time, help to smooth out the process and make the lesson very productive.


A few months into this, I realized that Zoom lessons were becoming a perfectly acceptable option to in person lessons with a few perks that I hadn’t anticipated . For one, the client didn’t have to drive anywhere, so for moms with 3 or 4 kids wouldn’t have to load everyone in the car and come down to the studio. This saves gas, but also TIME! In addition, the students and teachers wouldn’t have to wear a mask through the lesson, which was especially beneficial for voice lessons! The lesson materials could  be saved and transferred more easily using PDFs rather than paper and with exterior cameras, you could get close up to see the technique of teachers and students. One last thing, is that we could easily record the lesson and send a copy to the parents for the student to review throughout the week.


I still prefer in person lessons for doing duets with the student and helping them with things that need to be addressed in a live setting, like doing a quick tune on an instrument or helping a student retrieve a guitar pick that once again fallen in the soundhole of the guitar! There is a certain vibe that happens when the student and teacher are in the same room working together that I feel would never be able to be replaced. Let’s face it, its good to get the kids out of the house as well! They need that escape occasionally, even more so now!


My main message here is that whether you choose online or in person lessons, there are benefits to both and you can be assured that your child or yourself can learn to play effectively regardless of your choice. 


Vince Hanvey 

Owner U.S. Music Lessons


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