Online piano lessons

I’ve been teaching piano online for the last week, since the Wednesday after Easter. COVID-19 has completely changed the way I work, but it’s going to be okay.

I used to teach in schools a few days a week and travel to students’ homes in the evening. Now I teach at home, and there is nothing beside a student’s name except the lesson time and whether they are using Zoom, FaceTime or Teams.

After a few experiments using more than one screen (placing my phone over my keyboard and sharing that screen) I’ve decided that simplicity is the word of the day, at least initially. That might change later, but as far as I can see, the defining factor of all of this is internet speed. All of the video conferencing apps seem fine if the internet is fast enough, and if not…. it’s not going to happen. So I’m going with less screens, less data to exchange, better speed hopefully.

I’ve upgraded to the highest NBN package offered to me, although I’m not convinced I get anywhere near the speed I’m supposed to get (88Mbps) most of the time. But the lessons are going okay, for the most part.

One lesson was sabotaged – by the sound of birds! I don’t know what kind – starlings maybe? But around a certain time in the afternoon zillions of them gather in the trees outside my home and they make an insane racket! I asked my neighbour Michael about it and he thought maybe it was a bird migration.

So when one person is talking in the video conferencing app, the other side is muted. This seems sensible, although it means I can’t play a duet with my student because we are muting each other out.*

In this lesson, the birds made so much noise that the app kept muting my student (as if I was talking). She faded in and out, and after ten minutes I rescheduled the lesson for a different time. I have since closed all the windows and might have to avoid that hour. Only time will tell. Maybe these birds will migrate the hell out of here fast!

Anyway Term 2 is about to start and students are remote learning. Some parents have asked me about upgrading from keyboards to digital pianos. I feel so privileged to be on this journey with their children, and one BIG plus of teaching online is that I’m meeting all these parents of my school students via video link! Normally I don’t have the kind of communication with them as I do with home students. I think it’s great that more parents will see what their child’s piano lesson is like, and it is definitely a bonding opportunity. Especially with the parents who stand and hold the iPad aimed at their child’s hands because they haven’t worked out where to place it and don’t want to delay the lesson. Oh my heart goes out to them xxx.

It’s a new world, and I like it. When this is all over, it will be good to be physically in school again, and to visit homes as well (so we can play duets again!) But I really like online teaching and it’s going to be a permanent part of my offering.

*This is a tragedy. I LOVE duets. It’s how I wrap up the last few minutes of a lesson: playing all the duets we can find in a lesson book. Although it’s for my enjoyment, I do justify duets as being good for timing and the importance of respecting the rests, and creating awareness of another musician, while playing. Plus it makes every piece bigger and just glorious!

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