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March 24, 2020

How to Prepare for a Top-Notch Online Piano Lesson

The verdict is in: for most people, online piano lessons have been a huge success! Our teachers and students have been surprised to find out how productive, comforting, and fun virtual lessons can be.

The following info will prepare you to rock your next online piano lesson. But if you only have time to read one thing, we recommend the following advice: make sure your lesson takes place in a very quiet room!

What device(s) to use?

  • The bigger the screen the better, although older laptops probably aren’t up to the task.
  • External microphones/webcams/headphones/headsets can make a huge difference in sound and visual quality.
  • A bluetooth speaker to play songs can be really helpful too, but you might need a second device/phone to play things.
  • Zoom is the best conference app we’ve found so far. A lot of the other products (like Facebook/Facetime/Google Hangouts) just aren’t up to the task yet. It’s free, so give it a try!
  • If you’re using Zoom on a laptop/PC, download the program rather than running it in your web browser. (You can select “Download Zoom Client” under the Resources tab.)

Having trouble hearing or being heard?

Audio can be tricky for conferencing, especially if everyone is using their built-in microphone and speakers. Here are a few tips:

  • Make sure your student is in a quiet room. Conference software can broadcast only one sound at a time, and it picks the loudest sound in either room. Noise that seems quiet on your end– fans, shuffling papers, or walking around– is a lot louder on a microphone than it is in person; it will end up being the only thing that can be heard on either end.
  • Have your student put on earbuds/headphones. This cuts down on the noise coming out of your speakers, which can mess with the microphone. If you’d still like to listen in, you can ask your teacher to record the lesson for you and send you a copy–or you can try setting up a separate set of earbuds.
  • Mute your own sound when you can’t hear the teacher. Again, loud noises on your end will make your teacher’s sound go away. Your teacher can also do this on their end.
  • Try “preserving original sound” (this may only work on a laptop):

Open the settings menu –> Go to “audio” –> In the bottom right hand corner, go to “advanced”
and make sure this option is on: “Show in-meeting option to ‘Enable Original Sound’ from microphone” –> In the meeting, click the Turn on Original Sound menu item in the top right corner and see if that improves things for you and your teacher.

Having trouble seeing or being seen?

  • Set up the camera before your lesson. Ask your teacher where they would like to be placed.
  • Put your camera where your teacher would normally be sitting. Around head level is probably ideal.
  • Use bright lighting. Webcams still aren’t very great in low light, so making things as bright as possible can be really helpful.

Having trouble with the delay?

Delay is an unfortunate inevitability with the internet, even with the fastest connections. Here are a few workarounds if it’s especially bad.

  • Make sure you’re on a good connection. Try switching to a different WiFi network if you can, or try moving your router a bit closer.
  • Try restarting your device, or the program you’re using.
  • Work around it. Teachers and students won’t be able to play along with each other at the same time. It’s probably not possible without quantum teleportation, and we’re a few decades away from that!

Here are a few other solutions:

  • Have your teacher record themselves playing a duet part, and your student can then play along later on.
  • Have your student play the song they’re working on through a speaker in your home, that way you can both hear it and your teacher will be able to hear how you’re keeping up with things.

There’s a bit of a learning curve here, so with some patience and a tiny bit of work we can all emerge from our homes soon with a wealth of new musical skills.

Happy learning!

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