6 Simple Tips for Teaching Effective Online Music Lessons

With the spread of COVID-19, many private music teachers are turning to teaching online lessons for the first time. Teaching online presents new challenges and forces us to adapt some of our methods in order to maintain effective teaching. The good news is that it’s really not that much different than teaching in person. Good teaching is still good teaching no matter where it takes place. By thinking ahead and making minor adjustments, we can continue to provide high quality lessons online. While I don’t profess to be an expert in technology, I have been teaching online lessons for a while now and would like to offer some simple tips to help smooth the transition while maintaining a high level of teaching and learning.

• Tell your student how you’d like them to set up their camera ahead of time. By doing this, you can avoid a lot of wasted time at the beginning of the lesson. For piano lessons, I find it very helpful to see both of the student’s hands while they’re playing. For brass lessons, it’s good to have a clear view of the student’s face.

• Have a copy of the music your student is playing. If you don’t own a personal copy of the material your student is using, ask them to email or text you photos of their music prior to the lesson. Additionally, many older books and pieces of music can be found in .pdf format online for free. When looking at digital copies of music, I like to have two devices on hand: one to see the student and one to view the music.

• Have your student provide a metronome. Since there is a slight audio and video delay between you and your student, you’re unable to play together or tap out a beat for them while they play. The best way to work on tempo, then, is for your student to provide their own metronome. If your student does not own a physical metronome, there are several free metronome apps available. Google also provides a free metronome by simply typing “metronome” into a Google search.

• Utilize call and response in lieu of playing together. As mentioned above, there are latency issues when teaching online. Many teachers often play along with their students. Instead, play a passage for them and have them repeat it. The back-and-forth works just about as well as playing together.

• Send recordings of you playing your student’s assignments. If you can’t play together during a lesson, at least your student can have the opportunity to play along with you during their practice. Providing recordings also helps reinforce concepts addressed during the lesson. This is a strong teaching tool regardless of whether you’re conducting lessons online or in person.

• Send your student lesson notes after the lesson. Take a little time to type up what you’d like them to work on leading up to the next lesson. You can send notes to your student via email or text, and be sure to save a copy for yourself. This will make sure that both you and your student are on the same page and organized for the next lesson.