I hope you are keeping safe and well. This last couple of weeks has been very stressful for so many reasons with our lives and teaching changing hugely.
In the last fortnight I switched all of my lessons from face to face to online video calls.
Despite a few blips (including one where I called Jamie for a video chat mid-lesson by mistake) lessons have gone well.
Although it’s not quite the same as both teacher and student being in the same room, I have found the video call lessons to be very effective.
Plus you can also use the video call function to keep in touch with family and have a much needed cocktail hour or cuppa with friends!
Here are a few things I have noticed about teaching by video call (and below, there are some video call teaching tips):
- Doing a practice first with family, friends and another musician can help you practice the mechanics of the call and establish a good position for you to play in. This way you can be seen and heard well by your students.
- Arrange a practice with students and their families so you all get used to using the technology and ask the student to play a few notes closer and further away from their device to establish the best position for visibility and a better quality of sound. Also bear in mind the height of their device for picking up sound well.
- If using a computer, having the internet browser closed on yours and your student’s computer can help create a smoother connection.
- Ask any other people in your house or your student’s house to not stream TV shows or make video calls during the lesson. Again you have a better chance of a smoother connection.
- The quality of sound between different devices can be variable. Don’t worry if the quality is not perfect. As long as the connection is good enough to teach and help a student make progress that’s ok. Also in the coming weeks we can explore ways to refine sound, visibility and connection.
- My personal favourite at the moment is Facetime. But for this to work, you and the person you are teaching have to either have an iPad, iPhone or Mac. I find it easy to use and generally the sound quality and visibility is very good.
Here are some teaching ideas and techniques I have found useful whilst doing lessons by video call these past two weeks:
- I found having a written lesson plan to hand during a lesson really reduced my mental load so I could just concentrate on the new mechanics of teaching online.
- Leaning in for close-ups of hand positions and particular notes or chords is effective for some instruments.
- Holding music up to the camera is good for drawing attention to a particular bar, note naming or instructing a student where to play from. I have even checked note naming sheets by a student holding up the paper to the screen.
- Wearing headphones can make the sound clearer for teacher and student to hear each other (thank-you David Taylor for this tip).
- Call and response works well, playing in unison not so much.
- Doing duets online is tricky, watch this space for my results of sending and teaching with recordings of accompaniments sent to students’ families.
- Ask the student or parent to write the practice items for the week in the student’s practice book to keep focus and continuity. A nice idea is to ask them to also write, ‘great music reading,’ for example to give the student positive acknowledgement and encouragement.
I’ll publish more observations and ideas as I go along. If you can think of any more tips relating to video teaching please pop an email over to me and I’ll share it.
- More observations, tips and advice in last week’s article about how to teach online. It includes some general observations, notes on call quality, lighting and positioning for effective lessons, pros and cons of different platforms and more. It’s really aimed at folk who haven’t needed to teach online before now. We hope you find it helpful.
- Please do let us know if this is helpful to you and feel free to email us if you have additional tips you would like us to share.
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