Things You Should Know Before Your First Online Makeup Lesson
By Joseph D’Amico
Skype and FaceTime can be used for online makeup lessons and other situations where you may not be able to follow a consistent in-person teaching schedule with your student. A bit of planning and preparation will go a long way towards ensuring your first online makeup lesson will be a successful one. Here are a few tips on preparation, lesson flow, and what to do when technical issues arise.
Tip #1: Ensure you and your student have a compatible setup BEFORE the lesson.
Before your first online lesson, make sure that you and your student have access to a tablet or laptop and a strong internet connection. You also may want to confirm whether you are using Skype, FaceTime, or some other video client. Generally, FaceTime works best across Apple devices, and Skype works best across different platforms or in situations where you are using multiple cameras.
To ensure the best connection possible, participants should be in the same room as their router or WiFi access point (or as close as possible).If you and your router are on opposite sides of your home, online lessons may not be possible. You may want to have a quick test call to your student before the lesson to check the connection.
Regarding positioning, devices should be placed so that they can view as much of the instrument as possible, and preferably also allow for some face to face interaction without adjustment.
Tip #2: Help students become more independent musicians.
Once you are used to teaching online lessons, you may be surprised at how similarly they operate to regular lessons. However, latency introduces a key difference in that interaction must be back and forth rather than simultaneous. Here are a few things to consider before your first lesson:
- Can your student count for themselves and use a metronome without your assistance?
- Is your student comfortable finding their starting positions and identifying measure numbers?
- How much does your student rely on your interaction while they play?
Lesson time should be spent on basic independent music skills at first. Online lessons reveal musical independence (or the lack of it) almost immediately. Because of this, your lessons might best be used to train your student to function more confidently without you sitting next to to them.
Slow, clear, and well articulated playing works best for demonstration. The same goes for the student; don’t hesitate to have students play hands separately or slowly. Online lessons are a great opportunity to show students how to properly break down musical ideas to their most basic elements.
Tip #3: Establish a consistent lesson structure and smooth lesson flow.
Teachers should be very engaging during online lessons and avoid awkward silence. Teachers should be smiling often, asking questions frequently, speaking clearly, and avoid being too passive. Many students don’t know what to bring up or talk about and will need to rely on a teacher’s lead.
Teachers should take charge and have a plan. You may consider using online lesson notes (Google docs, Word, etc.) so that you and the student will already have a general idea of what can be covered in the lesson. Also, make sure that you have copies of any materials students will be using during the lesson.
Always be thinking about what happens next. Move quickly from topic to topic. If you run out of things to do during the lesson, you could try some of the following ideas:
- Have the student play some repertoire or revisit the student’s technical regimen.
- Work on some music theory that is relevant to other concepts discussed.
- Practice sight reading from a sight reading book that you both own. Have students count, name notes, name finger numbers, name intervals, etc.
- Talk about some relevant musical history or related pieces, or discuss upcoming pieces.
Tip #4: Avoid common technical problems and resolve issues quickly.
Technical issues will certainly be encountered from time to time. Most issues won’t impact your ability to teach and you should be able to move on without difficulty. Here’s a few tips that will help you keep things moving:
- Make sure the devices are fully charged or plugged into power during the lesson.
- If the call disconnects, immediately call the student back.
- Don’t draw attention to technical issues. If you can still teach, do so.
- Restarting the call can resolve many syncing and glitch issues.
- Try to avoid physically moving your device around during a call.
- Teachers and students should generally try to avoid interrupting each other.
- Before the lesson, make sure your devices and drivers are updated.
- Offer some extra time if you notice that technical issues are cutting into lesson time.
Although there is a little bit of a learning curve with online lessons, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. Online makeup lessons will allow you to stay consistent with students, especially during summer months.