“You give lessons online?” a kid asked me this week when I was giving a demo at a local school. “But how does that like, work?”

With the right technology, online music lessons are not only possible but a terrific alternative to driving long distances and having parents wait in the car or elsewhere. In the few years I’ve been doing it, my students and I are able to conquer physical distance with the help of the internet. If we can do it, so can you.

The changing landscape of education has made online learning is growing in popularity. Using the internet allows for flexibility in time, location, and choice of instructors. Studying with a teacher across the country is now literally within arm’s reach and without the cost of airfare. 

My 15 years of being a music teacher have taught me all the ways that students can learn to play an instrument. In the past several years, homeschool students have become my most appreciative ones because they can study with me from anywhere. From teaching online music lessons, I’ve learned that the internet is one of the best ways to incorporate music study into students’ lives.

How can learning an instrument be done without hands-on instruction or in-person demonstrations from the teacher? These are legitimate questions for those who might want an in-person teacher to help with social interaction and hands-on guidance. 

Even though online learning has numerous advantages, it can also present obstacles when technology becomes more of an enemy than a friend. Here are the top five ways to turn those challenges into opportunities, so that music can be something every homeschool student will enjoy learning. 

  1. Have backup options for technology 

If you live in a place with spotty wifi, or your live video keeps freezing or crashing, things can understandably get frustrating. There is a way to overcome these pitfalls. The best way is to have backup plans for all technology used. 

For live video lessons, I’ve found these apps to be the most trustworthy: Zoom, FaceTime, Appear, Messenger and Skype. These are generally all free, and if one crashes, you can easily switch to another on the same device.

If your video works but your sound does not, have a phone handy so you can speak voice-to-voice while having the visual through video. Zoom is particularly great for setting up conference lines that everyone can call into. It is also great for screen-sharing.

When your wifi is spotty, have a smartphone handy so you can use your data if necessary. 

  1. Be in the right space

For music lessons, choose a space that is quiet, has good lighting, and also has room for the student to move around comfortably in the camera’s view. The student’s posture, how they hold the instrument, and other factors like their embouchure or bow position are very teachable in an online format when visual and verbal elements work together. 

  1. Have the right tools

Have copies of sheet music on both ends of the line. Send scanned copies of the pieces to the teacher (and vice versa) via scanner apps like Genius Scan

Have a metronome/tuning device that is not an app, but rather a separate, individual device you can buy in your local music store or online. I recommend having it be a metronome and tuner in one so that you keep everything consolidated. 

The reason for the metronome/tuner device (not an app) is to prevent distraction. If you are already using your device for the lesson, have the metronome/tuner be a separate entity. When using it in a live video lesson, the teacher can use their device to demonstrate the correct tempo and intonation, and the student can use theirs to emulate it. That will prevent any delays in the video from disrupting the communication. 

  1. Utilize additional technology to simulate in-person experiences 

The Acapella app is a great way to collaborate amongst multiple people over large distances. SmartMusic is a great way to help the student with guided, accompanied practice. 

  1. Communicate in between lessons 

Choose teachers who are willing to communicate via email or phone on the side to answer questions and go more in-depth into a topic. Write down any questions for the teacher, and make audio recordings to send to them in between lessons.  

If live video lessons just aren’t an option, pre-recorded ones are a good alternative. There are numerous platforms through which you can get pre-recorded and high-quality lessons on any instrument.

At the end of the day, personalized and quality music instruction is what transcends time, space and the interwebs. Make your student level up on all areas of life through the study of music, and use the ever-growing online resources to do so. 

Have more questions or ideas about online music lessons? Let’s talk.

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