How to Set Up for Online Piano Lessons – The Basics
Want to know how to set up for online piano lessons? You’ve come to the right place!
There’s a been a lot of talks recently in the various piano teaching Facebook groups about online piano lessons.
The outbreak the COVID-19 virus has many teachers, parents and students worried. After all, piano lessons are tactile lessons, and the virus could easily be spread via the keys.
There’s also the consideration that if you do contract the virus, or are in a quarantine zone, you can’t attend your piano lesson.
There is a solution though: online lessons! By going online you don’t have to worry about any of these things!
But if you’ve never taken online music lessons before, it might seem a tad daunting to get started. What do you need to set up for these online lessons?
In today’s blog post, I want to give you some pointers for a basic student set up for online lessons.
You’ll see that it’s not that hard. So let’s get straight into it. Here are some basic tips to make your online lesson experience great:
1. Check your internet connection
It goes without saying that your internet connection is incredibly important.
This may be a scary aspect of online lessons if you’re not terribly tech-savvy. But don’t fret – let me guide you through some simple checks you can do to ensure your lessons will run smoothly.
First of all, let’s check both your download AND upload speed. You’ll be receiving and sending full HD video streams so you need a connection that can handle that amount of data!
There’s a really easy way to check your speed. Just go to speedtest.net and click the big “go” button. The website runs the test, and spits out a result like this:
I recommend a minimum speed of 10Mbps down, 5Mbps up. To put this in perspective: you’d need about 5Mbps download speed to watch Netflix in High Definition. But because you’ll be sending AND receiving video at the same time, I recommend higher speeds to ensure a good lesson experience.
The other thing you might want to take note of is the “ping”. That is the responsiveness of your connection. The lower this number, the better as it reduces lag! I recommend a ping below 100 milliseconds (this is what is usually recommended for online gaming).
If you don’t meet these minimum requirements, I recommend you upgrade your connection (get a higher plan). If that is not an option for you, look into what other options are available to you. Is there a fixed wireless network that can offer better speeds? What about mobile broadband?
Before you hurry off to check your connection, let me give you another HUGE tip: check your connection at the time of your intended lesson!
Your speed may fluctuate depending on who else is using your internet connection, as well as how well your ISP (that is your internet provider) is able to provide advertised maximum speeds at certain times of the day. So don’t just blindly rely on your plan data, test these things!
One final tip: if you are at the lower end of the recommended specifications, ask your family or housemates to refrain from using the internet during your lesson. That means no YouTube or Netflix or video conferencing while you are having your piano lesson!
This will ensure you have your full internet connection available and you won’t be interrupted by screen freezes. And if anyone protests, remind them it’s only one hour a week. I’m sure they’ll survive. 😉
2. Use an appropriate device
These days, most households will have an iPad or laptop and they truly are the best tools for online students. I find iPads do a particularly great job as the internal mic is very decent, even with acoustic pianos.
A desktop computer is fantastic too (in fact, I use one for teaching because it’s far more powerful than an iPad or even most laptops), but they are only useful if you can set it up next to your piano and you may need to splash out on external webcams and microphones.
I strongly discourage the use of phones when taking lessons. The screen is simply too small to clearly see demonstrations or sheet music.
Make sure your device is FULLY charged prior to starting lessons. Pop a reminder in your phone to charge your device 2 hours before your lesson!
If you are using a laptop, make sure the Operating System (Max OS or Windows) is up to date!
3. Get an iPad or laptop floor stand.
While perhaps not necessary for the one-off online lesson, if you want to take lessons regularly, I highly recommend you invest in an iPad or laptop floor stand.
These stands are relatively inexpensive and will prevent you from having to balance your expensive device on a stack of books (and run the risk it falls on the floor!).
Furthermore, they can are usually height adjustable (make sure you get one that is) and that means you can flip your iPad on the side, giving you more screen real estate to view your lesson.
And by the way, this will make the view of your playing 100% better for the teacher too. Win-win!
To find a stand, simply type in iPad or laptop floor stand into Amazon, Ebay, or simply Google. Or ask your teacher for a recommendation.
4. Keep headphones ready
I find that 9 out of 10 of my students do not ever require headphones during lessons.
But sometimes the internal device speakers distort the sound or make the sound very harsh and metallic.
If that happens, it’s a good idea to have some headphones nearby, as that usually resolves the issue.
I recommend simple over-ear headphones with cushioning as they are most comfortable. However, earphones work too of course!
5. Online Lesson Etiquette
This final tip is not equipment related at all but can make the world of difference to your online experience.
Observing some ‘online lesson etiquette’ means that the lesson runs smoothly and productively for both teacher and student.
The first rule is simple – don’t talk at the same time. Both teacher and student need to wait their turn to speak. If both talk at the same time, communication can get lost as the software struggles to keep up.
Rule number 2 is true for in-person lessons too, but is more important for the online lesson: listen, watch and wait for instructions or demonstrations to be completed, before turning to the piano and trying things out for yourself.
You’d be surprised how many students forget rule number 2. Not out of malice of course, but out of excitement, curiosity or wonder.
Still, it makes lessons much more fun and productive when the teacher doesn’t have to repeat things because you got so excited you forgot to wait for the full instructions.
So just wait for your teacher to say: Now you give this a go! And you can try out whatever it is being fully informed of the expectations.
The third and final rule is a simple one. If you’re talking or asking questions, try and talk towards your device. That’s where your microphone is located! It ensures your teacher can clearly hear you.
As you can see, setting up for online lessons really doesn’t have to be complicated!
Once you’ve established your internet connection is up to scratch, you’ll find that you already own most of the materials necessary.
You can then set out and find an amazing online teacher you click with.
If you’ve been thinking about learning to play the piano, why not check out what my studio has to offer? I teach adults how to play the piano from the comfort of their home in private, 1-on-1 online piano lessons. Request a FREE meet&greet to see how it works!