Zoom Online Lessons: an update

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So, for nearly a week now I’ve been conducting my regular lessons online, using a Zoom video link. Most of you will be familiar with this by now because lots of families are using the technology to stay in touch with one another during the Covid-19 lockdown.

I’ve got to admit that before I tried it I was a bit worried about how lessons would go over an internet video link. But, I’ve generally been pleasantly surprised; teaching my students using this technology has been very similar in most respects to teaching them face-to-face in my home music studio. The main difference has been to do with the time lag over the internet: because the signal takes around a second to get from one end to the other, it’s not actually possible to play or sing together in a coordinated way (I’m intrigued as to how Ronan and Gary pulled this off on Instagram… I suspect that they actually recorded their parts separately then put them together before releasing it on the internet. I.e. it wasn’t performed and recorded live over the internet, as is implied by their post). However, this makes little difference in instrumental lessons where I can demonstrate some element of playing and have my student play it back to me. It’s also no impediment to my ability to assess the work that students have been doing in-between lessons.

The only other potential downside to video link lessons is with regard to the audio quality. There are a couple of things you can do at your end to make sure that we get the best possible experience, though:

  • Make sure that you’re the only one in your house who is using bandwidth-heavy technology while we have our lessons. So, if the kids want to watch a movie online or go on YouTube, ask them to download the stuff ahead of time so that they’re not using your internet connection at the same time as you.
  • Set your device up near your instrument, preferably so that I can see what you’re doing as well as hear it.
  • If you have a mic, attach that to your device instead of relying on the internal microphone of a laptop or tablet (these tend to be pretty crummy quality).
  • Put in headphones so that you can listen to me talking without any danger of setting off a feedback loop where the mic on your device picks up the sound of the speakers. This phenomenon is responsible for the echo you sometimes get on a mobile phone call, and it causes the sound to cut out on and off on video calls.

So, if you would like to resume your lessons with me but you’ve been concerned that it won’t be the same over the internet, rest assured. Of course, online lessons can’t ever be quite like sitting in a room together, but they’re really not that much different. Why not give it a try: drop me a line to arrange your next session.

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