Has your favorite teacher moved away? Do you live in a remote area? Maybe you just want the convenience of taking music lessons in your home, and the only teacher you can find looks like he’s casing the joint to break in later? (Okay, I’m kidding, but still, inviting a stranger into your home can be daunting, depending on where you live.)
The answer? Lessons via Skype! Unlike the plethora of video lessons floating around on YouTube, you’ll get a live teacher to watch, play for and answer your questions. And, you don’t have to spend hours on YouTube, finding that one teacher who can effectively show you that bluegrass run or how to fingerpick “House of the Rising Sun.”
Find an instructor
If you play guitar, mandolin or ukulele, I could be your Skype teacher. Contact me here. Play another instrument or want someone who specializes in a certain style? (For instance, I don’t teach classical guitar.) Here’s how you find a teacher:
- Google “Skype music lessons” or “Skype <your instrument> lessons” and you’ll get several choices.
- If you’re already taking lessons, ask your teacher if he or she teaches via Skype.
- Take one lesson and see how it goes. You want to test the technical aspects as well as the skills of the teacher. Personality is important, too – if you’re going to see someone on a regular basis, you need to like them and their approach to teaching. For more about evaluating teachers, see this post.
- Your teacher should supplement your lessons with articles, sheet music, MP3s and/or videos. My students get all of those. Look to the right of this post and you’ll see the categories. Only my students get videos, MP3s and sheet music. (Contact me to find out more.)
The right equipment
- Skype. It’s free and simple to use. Download it here.
- Pad or computer. Phones are usually too small.
- Fast net connection. It helps if you sit near the router.
- If you have trouble with Wifi, try using a cable to connect directly – it can improve the speed.
- Insure that no one else is using your Wifi to download large files. In fact, it’s best if no one else is on line during your lesson.
- A mike. Often, the mike that’s built into your device is sufficient.
- A webcam. Again, the webcam that comes with your device will probably work.
- Consider an exterior mike and webcam, if yours isn’t a good quality. (Test it with friends before your lesson.)
- Consider exterior speakers. They’re usually better than the ones that come with a device. If you include a woofer, you’ll hear the bass better.
Insure that you have the right space and furniture.
- A desk or table that puts you and your instrument in the sight-line of your teacher.
- A chair with no arms.
- A quiet room. Send the kids to grandma’s, turn off your phone and put Fido in the backyard.
Most Skype teachers use Paypal. Some also accept other online payments or even a check. Ask.
Advantages of Skype lessons
- You’ve got a whole planet full of teachers from which to choose.
- Take lessons anywhere. It’s great for stay-at-home parents (provided Junior is quiet or at daycare), people who travel, bad weather days, and anyone who doesn’t feel well enough to leave the home. (I prefer not to get your flu, thank you.)
- You’re already familiar with a teacher because you’ve taken lessons from them before, or you’re seen them play or teach.
- You can practice right away. There’s no long drive in traffic. Turn off your computer and play that new riff minutes after you’ve learned it. It’ll stay with you longer that way.
- It’s easy to record lessons. You’ll need software. Try Evaer or Skype Recorder. (The latter will only record audio.)
- You can’t play at the same time as your teacher. However, you can play for each other and there’s value in that. (Also, I supplement my lessons with audio and video, and you can play along with those.)
- Audio quality is not as good as it could be. You can still hear each other, but sometimes the sound is a bit distorted.
- Any other noise – a dog barking, your neighbor cranking up his favorite metal band – will cancel out the sound that you’re making and suddenly, your teacher will see your hands moving and seemingly playing Black Sabbath cranked to 10 ½.
- Sometimes it’s hard to see playing position effectively. When I teach a lesson to someone in the same room, I can walk around them to make sure their hand position is correct in the back, that their posture is good, etc. I can’t always see that on Skype. However, I can ask a student to turn and that can often give me the view I need.
- The vagaries of equipment and the Internet. Sometimes, the connection just isn’t good and you need to reschedule. I doubt any teacher would charge you if there were technical problems, unless they were something you could fix. (Make sure your teenager isn’t downloading movies while you take your lesson.)
- There are no recitals. My in-town students enjoy a yearly performance. You can’t do that via Skype. At least, not yet.
- I can’t mark on student’s sheet music as we do the lesson. However, I can describe to them what needs to be done. It also helps to send music where I’ve anticipated issues and have circled difficult passages or added chord diagrams, etc.
Ready for lessons or have further questions?
Contact me here. Or, find another teacher, especially if you want piano lessons. You do NOT want to hear me play piano.
Did you find this post informative? Please consider making a $2 donation with the button below. Thanks!