What are the benefits of online music lessons? Read our guide for students learning remotely with online music teachers.
Is it possible to learn music online? Yes! If you need a bit of direction, taking music lessons at home with an online teacher is a great idea.
During lockdowns in the pandemic, many people filled in the extra time during isolation by learning to play a musical instrument. Some flourished with a DIY self-taught approach, but others preferred to be guided by an expert.
Social distancing measures forced music educators online. Luckily for students teachers took to it like ducks to water, and have even found that in some ways it has improved the lesson experience; as RouteNote learnt in our interview with music teachers Denis Scully and Jonny Enser of afro-jazz band Nubiyan Twist, now back touring again in 2022.
Even though restrictions may have been lifted, you might be unable to travel to see a teacher in person. Maybe you’d like to take a few lessons to get you started with the basics or you’d like to learn more about music theory. You might be picking up an instrument you bought on a whim years ago, or on a quest to become a multi-instrumentalist to make your compositions really sing.
Whatever your reasons for finding a music teacher, first read our tips of how to get the best from taking online music lessons at home.
Preparing for your music lesson
First make sure your instrument is in a good working condition. Then have everything you need ready for your lesson ten minutes beforehand – instrument set up, any sheet music you need.
Check your microphone and video. Know which platform your teacher uses – Zoom, Google Meets, Skype, Facebook – and have it loaded up and unmuted.
Check your internet is behaving
Since the pandemic we’ve all become well versed in the irritations of Zoom by now, but try to make sure you’re in the best spot for your internet connection.
Music teacher and Nubiyan Twist trumpet player Jonny Enser suggests getting an LAN cable: “Anyone using online video software should invest in one. WIFI doesn’t cut it and leads to too many frustrating circumstances.”
Try and practise your instrument every day in the gap between lessons. It’s the best way to avoid getting disheartened.
It can be frustrating if you feel you aren’t making progress, but having a good teacher means you’ve got a cheerleader tracking your development – pointing out what you’re doing well and encouraging you to keep going.
Record yourself playing music
Music teacher and Nubiyan Twist tenor sax player Denis Scully encourages his students to video or record themselves practising in between lessons.
Record a couple of takes until you’re confident and send it over to your teacher, giving them a chance to fully analyse where you’re at with your playing.
How long should music lessons be?
Denis recommends investing in a bulk of lessons from a music teacher. “Give it a good trial,” he says. “Both you and your teacher get a better opportunity to focus on the long game and there’s more chance of you improving properly.”
Have a chat with the teacher and work out a package of lessons that works for you – it could be four lessons to start with, or more. You also gain bonus smug points for providing the teacher with a steady source of income after so many musicians really struggled during lockdowns.
Remote learning music lessons are different than in person
If you’ve learnt music in a lesson setting before, it might seem a little different that you remember. For one thing, the online lag of platforms like Zoom means that teacher and student can’t play along together.
Jonny stresses there’s a lot more talking involved and Denis agrees, saying, “Just be wary that sometimes it might come across more as like a lecture that you’re watching, with a few little demos.”
How often should you take music lessons?
Of course everyone is different, but there’s more chance of you losing the progress you’ve made in a lesson if you’re only seeing your teacher once a month or longer.
You might well end up needing to repeat the previous lesson, which is a waste of your time and money!
Record the lesson
If the teacher allows, get them to record your lesson so you can play it back later. Denis suggests you can then “spend the week going back over your lesson, not being worried about forgetting everything that was said.”
If recording is a no-go, try and take notes in the lesson to refresh your memory as you practise.
How to make music lessons fun
Learning something new as an adult doesn’t have to be the drag it was back in school. You wanted to learn an instrument because you’re looking for a fun challenge, so take charge of your own growth.
Think about what you want to get out of the lessons and talk to your teacher to work out a target or plan so it never gets boring.
Who knows, the routine of regular online music lessons might well help you recover from these continuing stressful times. The disruption of the pandemic saw many of us trying out new hobbies whilst the outside world was out of reach, and it’s a shame to leave those habits behind.
It’s also the perfect time to find a fantastic music teacher, when so many expert musicians turned to education for extra income after being unable to play live for so long.