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Can you learn as well in online music lessons as you can in person?

Updated: Jan 22, 2021

Yes, you can! And in fact, when it comes to certain aspects of music playing, my students have actually learned more in their online lessons than they did in person! 

We’ve all heard negative comments about online classrooms.  But the main difference between online music lessons and online school is that music lessons are one on one.  There aren’t the same distractions you might have in an online classroom with 20 participants. The fact that my student is receiving my undivided attention makes online lessons feel very similar to in person lessons. We are interacting in the same way we do in person. 

Here are some of the advantages I have discovered to teaching online:

Hearing Your Own Mistakes:

I often ask my more advanced students to record themselves playing certain exercises or pieces.  They send me the recordings and we listen to the recordings at the beginning of the lesson and then discuss what each of us has heard.  By identifying and hearing their own mistakes or weaknesses (or strengths!), students develop excellent listening skills and are much more likely to hear and fix problems during practise time.

Reinforcing the Right Way to Play All Week Long:

I will often send my students recordings or videos of myself playing tricky passages of their pieces or new exercises.  They can rewatch my playing over and over during practise time to ensure that they are practising the exercise correctly.  It’s so much easier to learn it right the first time!  Plus it’s fun to play along to a video...

And finally, you can record your whole lesson when using Zoom and listen back throughout the week.

Really Understanding the Piano Accompaniment:

We had an online concert this past spring.  And I was determined to give my flute and recorder students the experience of playing with accompaniment! My accompanist made many recordings of piano accompaniments for my students and I found some recordings online.  

My students are used to playing with a live accompanist who follows their tempo and brings the performance back together if they make mistakes.  Playing with a pre recorded accompaniment meant that my students needed to learn to listen for cues instead of being followed.  No more blocking out the accompaniment as we focus on performing!

Playing with recordings was a great opportunity for my more advanced students to learn how to read piano scores and to see how accompaniments work.  I shared screen shots of the piano score and together we found the shared melodic lines between the piano and flute that had to be played together and the chords that could be used as musical guideposts.

For my less experienced students, I made recordings of myself playing with the recordings, so they could play with me at first as they got to know the piano part.

I Can See You!

Oddly enough, I can see some visual aspects of my students’ playing better online! I don’t often stand underneath my flute students when they play (excellent view of their lip shape and size) or with my head looking down the piano keys (oops, those are not curved fingers..). But we can place the students’ devices in these places and I can take screen shots to send to them!  They can then really understand what I am referring to.

Are there drawbacks to online lessons? 

Well, yes.

For the moment it is difficult to play duets because of the time lag on Zoom although I am currently testing a new platform that may solve this issue! We have found some workarounds for this issue: I will record my part and send it to my student to practise with or I will ask the student to record one part and practise with the recording (this opens up all sorts of learning opportunities such as playing in tune and understanding the value of playing with a steady beat....!)

And finally sometimes the internet connection is poor.  We have always found a way to solve the issue in order to finish the lesson - sometimes simply rebooting, asking a sibling to stop streaming video during the lesson time or even using the telephone if we are nearing the end of the lesson.

The benefits of online lessons definitely outweigh the drawbacks. Whether used as a fallback for lessons during snowstorms or to enable you to study with a teacher who lives far away, online lessons are here to stay!

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