Fast internet is quite common in households nowadays, opening up new technological possibilities such as piano lessons on Skype.
After adding the Skype platform to my in person teaching I would like to share some of my experience on this and point out the advantages and challenges of learning piano this way.
The Obvious Advantages
- Having the lessons at home means saving travel time and all the logistics involved in bringing you, the student to a different location
- Learning on your own familiar piano helps you feel relaxed and confident. You will play the pieces during your lesson on the same piano you practiced on so will probably do a better job than if you had to adjust to a different instrument. You can also warm up and revise your pieces right up to the actual lesson time.
The Hidden Advantages
- As a Skype piano student you need to be more independent than in an in person lesson. You are the one to mark your own music so you have to be able to follow the instructions: fingerings, reminders to help you stumble less, dynamics or any other musical instructions.
- Since both of us, student and teacher are seated at our own pianos we don’t have to switch places when I want to demonstrate to you and explain how you can play a passage better. In the Skype lessons I play on my own piano and you play back to me on yours.
- Skype lessons can develop your aural musical skills: Instead of showing (or telling) you what note you should correct, I play it on my piano and you will be led by the sound rather than by the visual.
- Games: There are many fun music reading and aural developing games that can be played via Skype.
- Call and Response: This is a kind of musical conversation, where student and teacher play improvised phrases back and forth to each other. This can be done on different levels and different genres. Doing this on two pianos is very convenient since we can both play in the same register without getting in each other's way.
- Instead of traffic jams or snow storms we could experience a poor internet connection
- Playing teacher duets doesn’t work due to delay. There are ways of getting around this but it isn't as simple as playing together in person
Who would benefit from Skype lessons?
- Independent students who are able to follow instructions, or
- Students who have a parent with them during the lesson to assist them
- Busy people who would like to save travel time
- Students who would like to learn with a specific teacher who is not in a traveling distance
How to prepare 5 minutes before the Skype lesson begins:
- Make sure your device is fully charged or connected to a source of power
- Place the laptop or tablet above the piano in a side angle, to enable the teacher to see your hands, your posture and your face
- Prepare all your music, a pencil, theory books and any playback set up near the piano
- Make sure no one in the household will use the internet heavily during the lesson (no movies, big data games etc)
It takes getting used to
Skype piano lessons take a bit of getting used to. They are different to in person lessons in many ways and it takes adjustments and good will on both sides to make it successful. Students who understand how to work with video lessons often even prefer the convenience of a Skype session to an in person one!
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