Videoconference Piano Lessons FAQ

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Simply Music Piano lessons and Beginning Piano Workshops, including the Ensemble Accompaniment Workshop, the Improvisation Workshop, and the Play with Simply Music self-study program, are part of our Cooped-Up Creativity offerings that you can take advantage of by online video conference from anywhere in the world, in the comfort of your own home!

Who can take live online piano lessons with you?

I am happy to teach live online lessons to anyone who is unable to take Simply Music lessons in person. Perhaps you live too far away from a teacher. Maybe your schedule, for work or otherwise, leaves you unavailable during the times when a near-enough teacher gives lessons. Or maybe you’re homebound and nearby teachers only give piano lessons in their own studios.

Or maybe you, like so many others, are social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you are able to take lessons in person with me or any other Simply Music teacher, that’s good. If you are unable to do so, now you, too, can take advantage of this revolutionary piano learning method by taking video lessons with me, from anywhere in the world.

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How do videoconference lessons compare to in-person lessons?

Videoconference lessons can often help you achieve results comparable to those you’d achieve through in-person lessons. Likewise, occasional stumbling blocks are often of the same kind experienced by students taking lessons in person as well.

Aside from the simple fact that videoconferencing allows many people to take lessons who’d otherwise be unable, videoconferencing has other benefits compared to in-person lessons.

  • You will see savings in the time and expense of commuting to in-person lessons.
  • Weather and emergency situations seldom get in the way of a lesson taking place.
  • At times when you may find yourself out of town, when you would otherwise have needed to miss an in-person lesson, it is often possible for you to participate in your video lesson just as you usually would, since your lessons involve distance learning anyway.

Because videoconferencing always involves a slight signal delay, online lessons are never precisely in real time. Even a delay of a fraction of a second makes it so that certain kinds of ensemble work possible in person — singing along while someone plays, clapping or otherwise doing rhythm exercises in unison, playing duets, etc. — cannot be done during online lessons. You can learn what you need to learn, though, at times just in a slightly different way and sometimes taking a bit longer than if the same material had been covered in person.

Beyond this, some of the interactive/social nature of in-person lessons — including private lessons but especially shared lessons with a group — is also toned down, as you might expect with people in separate places communicating through computers instead of spending time in the same room together. Clear and deliberate communication is important in any piano lessons, but it is all the more important in online lessons. The environment is nevertheless very interactive and conducive for learning, including group learning and socializing.

While in-person lessons may be preferable to online lessons, videoconference lessons are far more preferable than no lessons at all! And since the Simply Music method is far more effective for most people than other methods, a strong case can be made that Simply Music videoconference lessons are typically much more effective than even in-person lessons which use other methods.

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How much do your video lessons cost?

Because video lessons tend to run slightly longer and involve additional resources for me, I charge a slightly higher tuition rate for videoconference lessons than I do for in-person lessons. The amount is fairly nominal.

The only other costs associated with video lessons are those related to the videoconference setup itself. Since you’ll be saving on travel/commuting expenses, though, it’s likely that this will not only balance out but, in the long run, let you come out ahead.

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What do I need to set myself up for online lessons?

Some things you’d need for any piano lessons:

  • A piano or keyboard with a minimum of 61 touch-sensitive keys and a sustain pedal. Weighted keys are recommended.
  • A music stand (often built into the instrument).
  • Good lighting for your instrument.
  • A quiet, uninterrupted environment for the duration of the lesson.

Beyond that is what you need for the videoconferencing itself:

  • One, or ideally two, internet-connected devices that can videoconference. Most smartphones, tablets and laptop/desktop computers you’re likely to use have everything built in. In rarer cases, you may need external webcam(s) and/or microphone(s). (more on setup below)
  • Sufficient internet speed to smoothly stream live video without interruption.
  • Appropriate videoconferencing software. (more on this below)

In some cases, using headphones may be recommended to reduce echo, but most of the time this should not be necessary.

As with in-person lessons, students who are minors require a parent or guardian’s presence at video lessons.

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How can I best set everything up for videoconference piano lessons?

You have a few options for your overall setup. Whatever you have on your side, as long as you are seeing me on videoconference, I will be able to share two views with you. One view is of my face for when we talk to each other. The other is a direct view of my hands on keys so you can easily see demonstrations on the piano/keyboard. The closer you get to the same setup, the better your online lesson experience will be. (If you are normally an in-person student who needs to do online lessons on a temporary basis, or if you are taking a short-term workshop, it’s that much more viable for you to choose one of the solutions other than the top one.)

For fun, I’ve given each set up fun names!

  • The best setup: “Two’s Company” — You will use two devices:
    • A smartphone, tablet or webcam mounted directly above the piano/keyboard so I can clearly see your hands on the keys. This can be mounted various ways, such as:
    • A laptop, desktop computer, tablet or smartphone placed where you can easily see the screen while sitting at the piano/keyboard. This allows me to see your face when we talk to each other.
  • Second best: “I’m Ready for My Close-up” — Use a single moveable device (smartphone, tablet or, less preferably, laptop) that can be maneuvered for different views. This is the best single-device option when there is a coach or other cameraperson available. The student stays at the keyboard with hands free to play, while someone else moves the camera around to sometimes show hands-on-keys and other times show faces.
  • Next best if you’re on your own: “Over the Shoulder” — Another single-device option is to have any videoconference-capable device positioned in, roughly speaking, an “over the shoulder shot.” Place the device off to your side, slightly behind you, and high enough to aim somewhat down at the keyboard. The view of your hands/keys will not be as good as in the above setups, but we can get by. This is the best single-device option when there is nobody else available to act as a cameraperson for you.
  • “Look Ma, No Hands” — The last single-device option is to have any videoconference-capable device sitting in front of you on the music stand of your instrument. You will be able to see everything on the screen, but there will never be a view of your hands/keys. If at all possible, please pursue one of the above solutions.
  • The last resort: “Music’s Sweet Sound” — If you are unable to videoconference, remote lessons can be done with voices only, even over a regular telephone call. Simply Music founder Neil Moore himself gave telephone lessons for a period of time, and I have done so on occasion as well.

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What videoconferencing service would I use?

We use Zoom. You do not need your own account, and if you do end up with one you will not use it for our lessons together. With or without an account, you only need their free app, which is available for most common devices and operating systems. I’ll give you my meeting room’s code/link, and you simply join my meeting room from any of your devices.

If you are using the optimal two-device setup, you will:

  • Go to the Zoom app on your device which will be mounted above the piano/keyboard, and join my meeting room.
  • Tap ‘More’ on the device (3 dots) and select ‘Disconnect Audio’ (you will use audio on the other device).
  • Attach your device to the mount above the keyboard, oriented so the keyboard appears right-side up in landscape view.
  • Go to the Zoom app on your other device and join the same meeting.
  • Position the second device on or near your piano/keyboard so that your face appears on the screen.

For a single-device setup, you’ll simply go to the Zoom app and join the meeting.

For audio-only, discuss with me how we will connect. It may be by connecting to Zoom via internet, by using a phone to call into a Zoom meeting, or by simply doing a regular phone call with me.

Certain audio settings for Zoom are widely recommended for use with music. You only need to apply them on the one device you’re using with Computer Audio. These settings ideally should not make any noticeable negative impact on most of your general Zoom usage, so you may be able to leave them set permanently. If you notice a negative impact outside of our lessons, just change your settings back and forth as needed for the times you are / aren’t doing our lessons over Zoom.

  • Laptop/desktop and mobile apps:
    • In Audio Settings, click Advanced, then check to show in-meeting option to Enable Original Sound
    • In the main meeting window, select the Original Sound option. It only appears after you add the check as noted above. If you see “Turn Off Original Sound,” then you know that Original Sound is correctly on!
  • Additionally for laptop/desktop apps only:
    • In Audio Settings, uncheck “Automatically adjust microphone volume” and set your Input Volume slider to the max. You may end up bringing it back down depending on how things sound during a Zoom call.
    • In Audio Settings, click Advanced, then set Echo Cancellation to Auto

See https://macintoshhowto.com/audio/how-to-get-good-sound-from-video-or-music-over-zoom.html for screen shots for how all of the above appears in laptop/desktop apps, and see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_82E2t64jM for how the Original Sound options are implemented on mobile apps (tablets & smartphones).

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Do you provide all the same piano lesson offerings via videoconference as you do in person?

Just like with in-person lessons, both private and shared lessons are possible through videoconferencing, and I do offer both.

In addition to ongoing lessons, I also offer short-term beginner piano workshops in person and online.

A fellow Master Simply Music Piano Teacher and I co-created the Play with Simply Music online self-study introductory workshop. It’s the most affordable and convenient way to get a taste of what it’s like to study the Simply Music Piano method with a teacher.

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If my situation changes and I am able to study in person with a Simply Music teacher, what happens?

Because in-person study is preferable to online lessons, if conditions change with you and/or a nearby teacher so that it would be possible for you to continue your lessons in person, I would encourage that, working with you and the nearby teacher to make a smooth transition. If it is not possible to switch you or if you have a strong preference to stay in videoconference lessons with me, I will be happy to continue to teach you online.

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