As Coronavirus, Covid-19 continues to take hold across the world more and more piano teachers are considering the possibility of teaching piano online. It’s clearly not without its challenges but, if you approach it in the right way and with a positive, curious attitude you might find that it brings some unexpected, fresh ideas into your teaching.
In Part 1 we’ll look at the equipment and how to get yourself setup. Part 2 will consider the delivery and structure of online lessons and dealing with parents.
You can also watch us discuss many of these points in our recent webinar: Your Essential Guide to Giving Online Piano Lessons CLICK HERE.
If you are already a member of The Community remember to check out our Facebook group where there are many wonderful ideas and suggestions being made. If you’re not yet a member but are looking for support and resources that you can use when teaching piano online. CLICK HERE.
#1 THE BASICS
To deliver piano lessons online you need to have at least one of the following:
- A laptop or desktop computer with a camera and microphone. If a desktop computer it will need to be close to the piano.
- Mobile phone
As long as these are fairly recent models they should all have cameras and microphones built in as standard.
Here’s some additional equipment you might want to add if you want to get better quality sound and picture:
- Headphones – strongly recommended to prevent an echo
- Webcam – gives more camera flexibility and higher definition. We use a Logitech webcam
- Microphone – this can prevent the piano from sounding too tinny. Sally uses a Blue Yeti
To get a 2-way conversation going online there are various options available. Which one you choose is up to you although we have indicated our preference below. You can download apps to use all this software on your phones or tablets. You will need to choose or remember your passwords so do leave time for this!
This is free-to-use and easy to install. Lessons can be recorded (by parents) if required and screens can be shared. The picture and sound quality can be variable.
Similar to Skype and with the recording option once again. Both parties need to be using an Apple device and the screen size is not ideal in our view.
Provides a secure and encrypted environment for users.
Our preferred option is zoom which offers free plans with unlimited 1-1 time. Group meetings/webinars can last up to 40 minutes on the free plan. Recurring times and links for lessons are easily set up. The quality and stability of both sound and vision is generally better than Skype.
#3 MAXIMISING YOUR INTERNET SIGNAL
The strength of your internet signal is dependent on where you live. In the short term this is unlikely to change however there are some simple steps you can take to make the most of what you have.
It is possible to boost your wifi signal in your house with the help of wifi boosters. Click HERE to read a review about them.
Tethering and Dongles
If your piano is not located in your house but somewhere without wifi signal and you want to use a laptop it’s worth exploring tethering and dongles. Using your data allowance on your phone or tablet you can tether your computer to them. Here’s a link to one example of how to do this: CLICK HERE
In a similar way you can buy a dongle (which is like a USB stick) gives you the ability to connect to the internet. Please note that to tether or use a dongle requires a 3/4G signal. Click HERE to find out more.
Negotiating internet access at home!
You will get a stronger and more stable signal for an online lesson if there is no-one else uploading or downloading at the same time. This isn’t always easy to achieve however and some degree of negotiation will probably be necessary. The demands of your internet could well become quite heavy if the schools are closed and everyone is working from home.
Syncing and closing tabs
If you use Dropbox or similar remember to pause any syncing that might be going on as it can really effect the quality of signal. To be on the safe side only have open what needs to be open and close all tabs on your browsers.
#4 POSITIONING THE EQUIPMENT
To find the right position for the camera and other equipment can take some time and you might need to experiment a bit. A laptop and mobile devices need to be at a good height and this can be done quite ad hoc through the use of tables, books, files etc.
Having stands and tripods definitely make this easier though especially with over the keyboard shots.
- Gorilla pod – this is just one option for giving phones or cameras flexibility of positioning CLICK HERE
- Tripods – camera tripods are widely available and the basic ones are reasonably priced CLICK HERE
- Boom stands – again these are widely available. CLICK HERE
#5 LIGHTING CONSIDERATIONS
The basic rule is to have the light source behind your camera when possible. Sunlight can be problematic sadly as it can flood too much light into a picture. Sometimes it is better to have the curtains shut and a light on!
STAYING CONNECTED – YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
We are fortunate in that teaching online is quite a viable alternative, at least in the short term. It’s a time of curiosity for us all as we explore new ways of working.
Please don’t feel overwhelmed and alone in your endeavours. Remember you can Google any queries and, for Community members, you can always ask – someone will have a suggestion!
Give yourself time to get all this worked out; maybe you could set up a call with a fellow piano teacher and experiment together?
Part 2, which will be published in the next few days, will be looking at the structure and delivery of lessons.
PianoDao, written by Andrew Eales, has a very useful about communicating information clearly to piano parents. CLICK HERE
Take care and stay safe. x
Looking for more support and resources that you can use when teaching piano online? CLICK HERE.
This blog post was written by Dr Sally Cathcart, co-founder and Director of The Curious Piano Teachers