The coronavirus lockdown measures have created a series of problems for different professions – not least music teachers. As such, many people are turning to video streaming platforms to teach their lessons and keep earning money. One of those people is Steph Baker, a vocal coach from Wetherby in West Yorkshire. Here are her tips on how to be a successful online music teacher.
If you’re working as an online music teacher, what are some of the essential things you should bear in mind?
The first thing for an online music teacher to be aware of is the inevitable limitations of technology. Whichever platform you use for your online lessons, you will experience a lag between audio and video output. Not a huge one, but the output is not instantaneous. Therefore, allowing time for teachers and students to speak/listen individually is really important.
You may also experience a range in quality from your students’ internet capabilities. For example, they may experience dropouts, so be patient if their broadband connection is not as strong as yours.
Teachers should be aware that the student might be nervous about trying an online session, so I’d make it fun for them to get them used to the new lesson environment.
What are the biggest challenges when teaching a student online rather than in person?
Singing lessons tend to feel different online, as the student has to be a bit more creative with their own accompaniment or use backing tracks, which YouTube is a great resource for. (However, a cappella works fine and gives the teacher a chance to listen to the voice alone.) Internet connection issues can also be frustrating when you are making progress in a lesson.
There are ways you can improve your connection, like moving your router into the centre of the home and ensuring nothing is blocking the signal (sometimes mobile phones or other devices using the WiFi can slow your speeds down).
Calling your provider for a faster broadband speed might be an idea if you plan to hold more online lessons. You should also look at buying a decent camera and microphone for your lessons. Most devices come with a built-in microphone and camera, but making this additional investment will provide a clearer picture and audio for your students, making lessons all the more enjoyable.
What are some of the more enjoyable elements of working from home and teaching online?
I love being able to work with people from across the UK and around the world. Online lessons open up your teaching to students everywhere! Also, lessons can be taught on-the-go, on phone, tablet or computer, making them more accessible for your students. Teaching from the comfort of your home is another great bonus of online lessons.
In light of the coronavirus outbreak, could you see online musical education becoming a more popular medium in the coming years?
I think that, since students have been ‘forced’ to take their music lessons online, in the future we may see some students continue this way. It removes travel time to and from lessons and creates a more comfortable environment being able to learn from their own home.
In order to provide a resource for students who do wish to continue with their musical education online, I’m currently developing a beginner music theory course to be accessed in this way.
What would you say to any music teacher who has little to no experience of teaching students online but is thinking of getting into it?
I would say dive in! It’s usually a bit new to both students and teachers, so you’re both in the same boat. Only practice will get you used to it!
I have included some discount for the first online lesson for current students to help them transition to online lessons. This gives you the chance to take them through the online platform. I use Zoom, so in the first session I will guide my students through the classroom tools Zoom has to offer.
If you are teaching instruments, I’ve found it useful for the student to send through any music to you beforehand so you have a reference for the lesson. This way, you only have to focus on seeing the student and instrument in the lesson, not the music too!
I would also allow the students and their parents some time to set up the application, get a good connection, good position for the device and so on prior to the lesson, to make things a little less stressful.
Many thanks to Steph for her insights. In addition to vocal lessons, Steph also provides guitar, flute, piano and music theory lessons via Zoom. You can find out more about her services by clicking the link at the top of the article. You can also contact Steph via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Facebook.
If you are planning on teaching students online, don’t forget you need specialist music teacher insurance.