How to Get the Most from Online Lessons

Online lessons are new to many of us, so before the teaching year starts, I have put together a list of tips for how to get the most out of your online lessons!

  1. Get set up early – Make sure you know how long it takes to set up for a lesson! Make sure to include time go get all your equipment together (your instrument, music, a pencil, a music stand, and anything else you might need) as well as all your technological equipment. I usually start setting up 20 minutes prior to the start of a lesson to make sure I have time to get everything prepared without having to feel rushed!
  2. Make sure you have everything you need – as mentioned above, make sure you have your instrument, a music stand, pencil, all music you may need, the device you are streaming from and any other technological items you may need
  3. Pick the right spot for your lessons – a student needs a quiet distraction-free location to stream from so they can concentrate on learning. If it is possible, make sure it is near the source of the wifi, or plugged into your router/internet source via an ethernet cable if possible.
  4. Be present during lessons – Sometimes technological difficulties can happen despite all of our preparations! It’s good to be around in case your child need any assistance.
  5. Set a reminder prior to the lesson – There’s a lot going on in our lives. It can be especially hard to remember now when all of our schedules are being changed around. If you think you might forget a lesson, set a reminder! Ideally, set a reminder at the time you would start setting up for lessons (and if you want, some phones will let you add a second reminder!)
  6. Read the lesson notes with your child – make sure you know what was assigned to the student during the week, and that they know too! Check the lesson notes and make sure to ask me if something doesn’t make sense!
  7. Talk to the teacher – if you have questions, concerns, or problems, please talk to me early! If there is a problem with setup or practicing, it’s always easiest to deal with the problem right away rather than leaving things to pile up!
  8. Remember: Learning music is a team effort! It takes the combined work of parent, teacher, and child to make lessons & practicing work. Students cannot practice and learn on their own. If we are all on the same page regarding practicing, music, and lesson goals, that will really help to make sure the child is most prepared to have a good musical experience this year.

These tips will help make sure you get the most out of your online lessons. There’s lots of ways to get a chance to have a good musical experience, even whilst we are far from each other!

Do you want to get even more from your lesson? Keep reading for a few bonus tips!

For those of you who feel you have the hang of online lessons, you might want to up your game and try and make sure you’ve got everything set up. For you, I’ve got a few bonus tips!

  • Discuss platforms with your teacher – I teach on Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype currently. If the one you’re using now in lessons is not working, let me know! I’m happy to try out one of the other two with you!
  • Check your sound settings – both Zoom and Skype have settings that let you turn of the ‘auto adjusting’ these platforms do (this means they try to quiet down background noise to make it easier to hear people talking. This can affect how it plays back our instruments!) You can easily change these items in settings, let me know if you need help finding these settings, I’m happy to send screenshots!
    • In Zoom, go to ‘settings’, ‘audio’, then click the button that says ‘advanced’ in the bottom right corner. In this menu, check the box that reads ‘show in-meeting button to enable original sound’. When in a meeting, if you click this button, the audio will stop auto-adjusting, and can result in much better sound quality for your instrument
    • In Skype, go to ‘settings’, then ‘audio and video’ then switch off ‘automatically adjust microphone settings’
  • Check in if you’re having technology problems – there are work arounds for technology problems, so if you’re having issues, be sure to talk to me so we can find a solution. Replacing some of the live lesson with recordings are an option, as is using the video from a platform like Skype but the sound from a ‘regular’ telephone call. Please talk to me if you need help with this!
  • Send in recordings at least a day early – this will help me to make sure I have lots of time to look over them and make comments prior to your next lesson

And most importantly, have fun! Music is meant to be enjoyed, so have fun with your adventures in learning an instrument!

Online Lesson Tips

This is a list of easy tips to get the most out of online lessons.

  1. Use what works for you – Online lessons can be done in a myriad of ways, and different options will work better for one family. Lessons can be done in different formats:
    • Real time: lessons take place in real time. This can involve video conferencing software, or telephone calls. The studio has accounts on Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts/Duo. I am also able to hold lessons via FaceTime. Families can pick the platform that works best for them. If internet connections are a problem, regular telephone calls can be used alone or in combination with video conferencing software
    • If real time lessons aren’t an option, students can also trade videos with me instead of having live lessons.
  2. Test out your technology – If you are using video conferencing software, it’s good to set it up and have a little test prior to the first lesson. On the day of the lesson, set up your technology early so you have time to work out any bugs. Let me know if you’d like to do a test call at some point to assure things will work!
  3. Talk to the teacher if you have any concerns – Let me know if you have questions about the lessons, or the quality of the call. As mentioned above, there are many options for how to hold an online lesson, and I’m happy to help with any issues that come up.
  4. Students may need help – parental assistance is always helpful for any kind of lesson. Being involved with your child’s lessons and practicing will help them to stay more motivated and give them another person to go to when working on their practicing. When moving to video lessons, try to stick around in case there are any technical difficulties, especially during the first lesson.
  5. Make sure everything necessary is all set up prior to the lesson – this includes having the student’s music and instrument set up, making sure there is a pencil for writing notes and making sure devices are charged and charging chords are nearby in case they are needed.
  6. Setup: if possible, set up the device so that the teacher can see the student’s face as well as their hands at the piano/on the clarinet. For clarinet, you simply need the device to be in front of the student, and far enough ahead to see both the child and their hands. For the piano, different options might work for you. Some students have put the device on the music rack, or on the end of the keyboard. This angle below works well:
Picture of a good angle for a piano video lesson
One of the studio cats, modelling a good angle for a video lesson!

Further tips: If you’d like to get the most out of your lessons, here are some a few technical tips to help get you set up to have a great lesson:

  • If location/proximity permits, try to plug into your router with an ethernet cable rather than via wifi – this will allow you to have a more stable connection.
  • If you have multiple devices, you might find different ones give you better sound. Test out a few options, if you have them, and see which one works best for you.
  • Some platforms will allow you to adjust the sound settings to give you better audio. If you’re having trouble hearing the piano on my end, let me know and I can let you know if there’s audio settings you can change on your end!

This article will be updated with new tips and FAQs as needed! As usual, if you have any questions, please contact me. I’m happy to help students get set up for their online lessons.

Composer Elections 2019

The studio worked on a composer elections project this year! Students learned about various eras in musical history, and during the week of the Canadian elections this year, student got to vote for a musical party of their choice.

To learn about the various eras in music history, students did a variety of things. We listened to music, learned what eras our pieces came from, and talked about what sorts of music were written in the various periods.

Baroque era poster

For the Baroque era, students got to try the harpsichord setting on the studio’s keyboard, plus students got to learn how to make inventions. Little activities like this helped students to learn some facts about a variety of musical time periods!

Modern Party Poster

The results of the election are as follows:

  • 100% of eligable studio voters voted!
  • The Modern Party won with 50% of the popular vote
  • The Romantic Party came in second with 40% of the vote
  • The Baroque Party came in third with 10%
  • And the Classical Party came in last with 0% of the vote

The Badges Challenge

One of the new activities students took part in last year was a badges challenge.  Students worked hard in lessons to collect a variety of lesson-related badges.  Students could earn badges for playing scales in lessons, practicing, learning music, and taking part in studio events.  Taking part in this activity was a great way for students to appreciate all the hard work they’d done in lessons.

The full list of badges is a few pages long, but here’s a very small sampling of badges:Examples of various badges

At the end of each term, students also had the opportunity to design their own badge.  I asked students to make a badge about something they thought they’d done a great job at in lessons.  It was great hearing students talk about what they were proud of!

Students collected their badges on a sheet of construction paper all year, which they got to take home in June to show off.  Here’s part of one student’s sheet of badges:

Badges example

MTNA 2017

I recently returned from the MTNA/CFMTA conference in Baltimore.  It was a lot of fun!  I saw a lot of great speakers, listened to some awesome music.  I am looking forward to using some of the great ideas I heard in my teaching!

Puffy admiring a view of Baltimore

Puffy the puffin, my travel buddy, admiring the view from our hotel room.

The first night featured a concert by comedic duo Igudesman & Joo (they’ve got a youtube channel).  It was a hilarious concert.

The next couple of days featured masterclasses, interesting talks from a wide variety of teachers, and an exhibition.  There was a lot to see there, too, including sheet music, pianos, piano technicians, and more.

Puffy the puffin at a piano

Puffy the puffin saw lots of cool stuff at the conference!

Musical Passports

If you’re following the Studio on our Facebook Page, you’ll know we’ve been doing a new activity in the studio this year – musical passports!  We’ve been visiting different countries as a part of our musical travels this year.

So far, we’ve visited: Japan, Germany and Austria, and North and South Sudan.  Most of the countries covered so far (and those on the list for upcoming weeks) were requests by students.  It’s been fun to listen to music from other places, and interesting to see what countries students request!

Musical Passports