Are virtual lessons worse or as good as in person lessons?
What are the pros/cons of in-person vs. video lessons? I get this question a lot. And the answer is, it depends.
Convenience: You can have your lesson anywhere. Going on a business trip or visiting family overseas? All you need is a tablet or laptop. Car break down, or just too tired to leave the house? You can have your lesson in your pajamas. (If your teacher is cool with that.)
Access to mp3 accompaniments: Many teachers will record their duet part and send it to you for the lesson. Then you get the added benefit of having it to practice.
Spatial intelligence: With no physical help to find things, students learn to use written and verbal descriptions to apply in the real and abstract world. (think of building legos from instructions)
Lag/Delay: If my Perkasie, PA studio is close to a nearby town such as Doylestown, Quakertown, or even close states such as New York or New Jersey, the lag is minimal. But across the country/world will degrade the audio quality.
No real-time duets: The delay makes it unrealistic to attempt to play duets. Although the work around is for the teacher to play with their student on mute.
No hands-on: If a student needs helping finding a key, the teacher can’t reach over and help with hand placement. When getting lost in the music, it takes longer to find one’s place.
In Person Lessons
Physical contact: The teacher is able to reach over and correct any body misalignment. Or point to where the student is in the music.
Chamber music opportunities: Being in the same location allows for collaboration with other students and the teacher.
Quality instrument/Repairs: If studying piano, your teacher is almost guaranteed to have a great instrument. This is important for proper technique and musicianship. For winds, simple adjustments and repairs can be made by the teacher if the instrument isn’t playing properly.
No independent thinking: Often, it is much easier to just reach over and point to where the student is in the music, and the student may become reliant on teacher direction.
No free mp3 accompaniments: Since the requirement for a recording is gone, students are responsible for locating or buying their own tracks to practice with.
Limited to in-studio instruments: You may have an instrument at home, such as an expensive synthesizer, that you need to use for certain tones. Or maybe you left your flute at school or at home because of travel. You won’t have access to them in-studio.
If you decide that the virtual route is for you, make sure that you have set yourself up for success by having:
- Fast internet connection: Both for the teacher and the student, at least 100 mbps.
- Video conferencing software: Such as Zoom, Skype, or other bespoke companies geared towards music teachers. Conferencing through a browser won’t cut it, there are special settings to turn off audio codecs (sound suppression). This can be tricky as technology updates are constantly changing methods.
- Decent hardware:Sometimes your on-board microphone does just fine, but older machines will need a better microphone. A separate camcorder is nice to have to position above your keyboard or point to your flute so the teacher can assess proper technique.
- Skilled teacher: Not all music teachers can teach well over video. It takes an amazing ear, especially when you’re dealing with tone quality issues. The teacher should be able to explain how to find things on your instrument without needing video, which can be frustrating for some. Most importantly, the teacher has to be very familiar with new and old technologies and be able to troubleshoot any device issues you’re having.
Either way you choose, you can learn valuable information and make a lot of progress on your instrument. It just depends on what works well for you, and your goals.