As I explained in one of my previous posts, my experience with online lessons has been almost universally a positive one. But while it might work very well for me, I do realize that not everyone is enthusiastic about this relatively new way of teaching. For this reason, I thought of looking into some of the benefits and drawbacks of online, or remote music lessons.
At the very top of the list is the ability to conduct lessons safely. At the time of writing, COVID-19 cases have been once more ramping up. Music teachers can have as many as 30 students, some even more. This means that on a weekly basis, we will be in touch with that many families. The risk of potential transmission increases exponentially with each one. In-home or studio lessons essentially pose the same risk. Online lessons obviously take care of this issue.
By eliminating the commute, you can save valuable time. Moreover, since by now most students have become familiar with Zoom and similar conferencing apps, even the youngest ones are able to connect with their teachers with minimal supervision. I honestly admire parents who want to be involved by attending lessons, and I see nothing wrong with it. However, lessons essentially do not require supervision.
Last but not least, while not everyone will be able to report the same, personally I am fortunate to be able to achieve comparable results to in-person lessons. And I am not alone. In fact, teachers have been successfully teaching remotely for decades. One of the biggest obstacles is probably getting used to a contactless approach. While there are limits to what we can do, particularly when dealing with tone quality, online lessons are still a viable solution. For advanced students, I would strongly suggest a combination of online and in-person lessons, providing it is safe to do so, of course.
Lack of contact might have its benefits, but it also makes our jobs more difficult. While I am a big fan of a zero-contact approach, it is true that simply tapping on the wrist with one finger can remind students to relax it. And this is just one example. String players usually tune instruments for younger students. This often falls onto the shoulders of parents when teaching remotely.
Sound aesthetic is of the utmost importance. It is quite simply the essence of our art. Honing it takes time and effort. But perhaps more importantly, students need a frame of reference. Its lack is probably the single biggest drawback of online lessons. The ability to listen and reproduce is a crucial skill. Most conferencing platforms are simply not designed with music instruction in mind. We can try to mitigate the problems with the appropriate equipment [link coming soon]. However, once students reach a certain level, the ears of an experienced teacher are the only ones that can address certain issues. Consumer-level hardware and software will not be able to satisfy the needs of the more advanced musicians.
Internet connections have become fast, reliable, affordable, and widely available. Yet, sometimes factors that are outside of our control get in the way of a smooth lesson. This might not be an issue for most, but we cannot expect a six-year-old to troubleshoot connectivity issues..
Online lessons have been around for decades now, and educators across the world have been achieving exceptional results. That being said, not everyone is a big fan of them. Being aware of the benefits and drawbacks of online lessons and discussing them with your teacher could just be what it takes to make them the right choice for you, too.