I have been using video chat platforms like Skype and FaceTime to teach piano online for about 7 years now. I remember back when I first tried it out, it seemed like such a revolutionary idea. These days, I have quite a few long-distance students and I weave online lessons into my regular teaching schedule each day. It’s really quite easy and effective to learn piano this way!

If you’re interested in learning piano online, feel free to contact me to learn more about the online lessons I offer.

Whether you’re interested in learning or teaching lessons online, keep reading and I’ll tell you all about how it works.

Who Can Learn Piano Online

Online lessons are ideal for a number of different situations.

After I moved to a different city, as well as when I’ve had students move away, it has worked well for some students to continue online.

Students in remote areas without a piano teacher are good candidates for online lessons.

Busy adults who might not be able to squeeze in travel time plus a lesson into their schedules each week can save time by learning online.

Really, pretty much anyone can learn piano online these days! I have taught all ages and levels online.

Occasionally, I replace in-person lessons with a video lessons in cases of bad weather or sickness. For teachers who don’t plan to use video lessons weekly, it’s nice to have access to them if you need them. I encourage you to explore how to get started, just in case a situation arises!

I had one situation this year where one of my family members suddenly became sick with a stomach bug. There are certain kinds of sickness where it’s not a big deal to have my family closed off in another part of the house while I carry on with my teaching, but this was a situation where it just made more sense to not expose my students to this sickness.

I quickly messaged parents and told them I would call them via Skype or FaceTime at their normal lesson times. It was really helpful to be able to stay on top of my teaching schedule, give my family some space while sick and not share germs.

What you need

  • A device such as a laptop or tablet with a built in webcam
  • Some where to place the device during online lessons such as a music stand, a table, a stool or a chair
  • A full-sized acoustic or digital piano (I recommend this “keyboard” for beginners!)
  • Sheet music or other materials recommended by the teacher
  • Some people find that wearing headphones improves the sound/feedback/possible echoing. I haven’t noticed a huge difference so I skip them.
  • Some people also set up an external microphone, but I’ve found that the built in mic to the device usually does the trick.

Set Up

It can be a little tricky at first to find the perfect set up, but once you figure it out, it’s a breeze to get ready before a lesson.

For the student, it is best to position the device a little ways away from one side of the piano so that the teacher can see the profile of the students as well as his or her hands on the piano. You probably won’t need to change the position of your device once you get set up.

As the teacher, I have a few different placements that work well.

Sometimes I like to sit close to my laptop, so I just place it on a small table and sit in my desk chair. This works well when I’m trying to focus in on a student’s hands, listen really carefully or follow along with digital sheet music on my computer.

Other times, I place my computer to the side of my piano so that I can easily demonstrate things.

Occasionally I’ll position my laptop or iPad in a way that the student can see a birds-eye view of my hands playing the piano. I’ve been meaning to get an iPad tripod for this purpose, but in the meantime, I’m making it work.

Maybe down the line, I’ll get a second camera so that students can see my hands and my face at the same time.

Who Calls Who

Different teachers might have different opinions on this, but I prefer to call students.

Just like with in-person lessons, there is a couple minutes of transition time in between students. I usually teach online students in between in-person lessons so I like to get my previous student out the door, then I call the online student. Otherwise, it gets tricky wrapping up one lesson while the phone or computer is ringing for the next lesson.

What Happens During The Lesson

Once you’re all set up, an online lesson is very similar to an in person lesson. You can chat and visit like you would in person. The student can play music for the teacher, the teacher can give commentary, the teacher can demonstrate all of parts of the music.

The biggest difference that I have found is that teachers have to bit more specific with their words. You can’t point to the piano or to the sheet music during the lesson.

For students that are very young beginners, I like to have a parent or older sibling nearby so that they can help point and orient the student to the piano. This is really only necessary for the first several lessons, but it’s always good to have parents standing by.

I make sure that my online students understand how to number measures in their music from the very beginning. This is really important so that we can efficiently talk about different parts of the music.

It’s a little bit harder to start and stop music like you would in person, so the teacher may need to speak up a bit so that the student can hear on top of their music.

I would also encourage teachers to use teaching aids as much as possible, just as they would in an in-person lesson.

With online students, I use scale blocks, flash cards, read stories, set up my floor staff, play games, and do any other type of engaging activity that we can make work.

Troubleshooting Problems

Inevitably, technological problems will arise during online lessons. They are usually not a big deal.

Several of my online students live in remote areas that sometimes have patchy internet connections. It’s a bit unpredictable. Sometimes we have a crystal clear picture and perfect sound. Some times one or the other is fuzzy and sometimes both the picture and sound are really spotty.

We just roll with the punches. I find that as long as I can hear the student pretty well, the picture is less important. There have even been a couple of times that we just ditched the video and switched to a phone lesson. It’s not ideal, but it works in a pinch. If I can hear clear enough, I can almost always figure out how to help a student with trouble spots in their music.

Pretty frequently we deal with dropped calls. I think this often happens when there’s a little glitch in the internet connection. I find the best way to deal with this is to immediately call back and then to just pick up right where we left off.

I don’t waste any of our valuable lesson time trying to figure out what went wrong with the connection or even talking about the dropped call. I just continue the previous sentence that I was saying before the dropped call.

Sometimes there are either slight delays or echoes in the sound. This can be really distracting for me as the teacher. I have a hard time formulating my sentences when I’m hearing the previous few seconds of what I have already said. The easiest fix for this is to hang up and call back – it almost always works!

Conclusion

So there you have it! If you’ve been thinking about trying lessons online as a teacher or as a student, I hope that you can see that it’s really pretty simple and accessible!

Leave comments with questions! I’d love to chat more about this topic!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using this link.

 

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Using Skype or FaceTime To Teach or Learn Piano

9 thoughts on “Using Skype or FaceTime To Teach or Learn Piano

  • May 19, 2017 at 6:16 pm
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    I take online flute lessons, but it’s formatted like an online course. The teacher has lessons where we can see the front view and then close ups of the flute… it’s quite good. Since this is my first time on your blog, do you only do skype lessons or do you have some sort of online course for learning piano? I;d like to get back to playing, so that I can create my own music duets.

    Reply
    • May 19, 2017 at 7:04 pm
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      Hi Lisa! Sounds like your flute teacher has a neat program! At the moment, I’m only teaching via Skype and FaceTime but I do have some online courses in the works. Stay in touch if you want to try out some Skype lessons!

      Reply
    • May 20, 2017 at 5:23 am
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      Lisa, you might be interested in flowkey. It sounds similar to what your flute teacher’s approach because there is a birds-eye-view of hands on the keys as well as music scrolling across the screen. I’ve had a lot of success with students learning music from it! Here’s my review of it:

      Reply
  • June 7, 2017 at 12:20 pm
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    Hi Megan! I’ve followed your fb page for some time now and I have always toyed with the idea of online lessons, but never pulled the trigger! This idea seems incredible to me! May I ask if you request the same payrate with online lessons verses in person lessons? Also, you mentioned following your students ‘digital score’ online- are yoiu able to view these scores for free? Where do you find them? I’d love to chat with you more! Thanks so much!

    Reply
    • June 8, 2017 at 2:48 am
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      Hi Mary! I charge the same rate for online and in-person lessons. I try to have a hardcopy of all of my students’ music on hand, but occasionally we buy digital copies online, so I have some pdfs stored on my computer. You should give it a try! If you’re unsure about, see if one of your current students would be willing to experiment with you so you can figure out your set-up and see what it’s like!

      Reply
  • July 21, 2017 at 12:14 am
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    First time looking at your blog. Awesome article! I have been doing FaceTime lessons to missionary students in Russia for about 2 years now. At first, I was very apprehensive, but it really works! The time change can be a challenge for us at times and also the connection. But we make it work! It really is cool!

    Reply
    • July 21, 2017 at 4:43 am
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      Wow, Russia! What’s the time difference? I also teach some families overseas. They are 8-9 hours ahead of us, so it works well for me to teach in the morning while it is evening for them. We’ve also tried late night for me, early morning for them, which works well too, but I prefer to teach in the morning. I’ve been amazed at how well teaching online works!

      Reply
      • July 21, 2017 at 6:00 pm
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        Same time difference you referenced. Like you, morning is best for me,
        while it is early evening for them.

        Reply

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