The changing world of music instruction, Skype Lessons.


I have recently taken the plunge into giving Skype lessons, and the results have been surprising.

When I was starting out as a guitarist my education was completely dependent on who was available to teach within my area. As I progressed, I put more and more miles into my lessons, at one point taking a bus for six hours

round trip to see a teacher in another city. At the time such an effort meant that each minute with the teacher was precious, and I was completely prepared for my lessons. No point in traveling so far, only to waste the time.

In the last few years, as internet connections have strengthened around the globe, and online teaching materials are ever more present, these big trips are not the only way to learn from a distant teacher. With video calls made by Skype, FaceTime, or a slough of other services, a student can have a lessons with a teacher on the other side of the globe. Not all teachers have taken up the digital banner, but the numbers are increasing.

The benefits are fairly obvious for the teacher and the student:

  • Nobody has to leave the comfort of their home
  • The teacher gets access to an international audience and the student gets access to a teacher that may have been geographically impossible to work with without Skype
  • The student often gets a cheaper rate because of the infrastructure, or lack thereof, that the teacher needs for a lesson

The not so perfect:


  • Sound quality, and image quality can vary dramatically depending on the connection of the student (hopefully the teacher would make sure they have a good connection if they were offering the service in the first place!)
  • Camera angles can be limited, and cumbersome to change
  • The ability to play with one-another is sometimes not available
  • Apart from a general sound, it can be difficult to hear nuances of tone and articulation.

As I mentioned, several of these impediments are technology dependent, and one can hope that with the ever improving connection speeds that are being put in place, we will enjoy better connections as time goes on. It really can be frustrating to hear the student play and not be able to discern whether or not they are making a good sound, or phrasing, as the sound wavers between qualities.

The surprising…

I was initially surprised, from the teaching perspective, that a Skype lesson is by no means less intensive or easier than any other lesson. Somewhere along the line I had it in my head that teaching via Skype would be easier, requiring less preparation, but it really does need just as much planning and concentration. Thinking back on it, it seems like a foolish assumption, but the grass is always greener…

I also assumed that the interaction would somehow be less personal, without the great interaction that makes individual lessons what they are. While talking to a screen will never replace sitting in the same room together, there is still a bond that forms and the characters are still loud and clear. To be honest, the strangest part is when you log off the lesson, and the screen goes black. After such intense concentration on that little square space, it suddenly returns to an inanimate object.

The bottom line is that without the technology, the lesson never would have occured in the first place, and the two musicians would never have enjoyed meeting, albeit digitally.

I am definitely a fan of the online medium, I have my own teaching site over at Classical Guitar Corner where I teach through video, text and images. This is a whole other can of worms in itself, but as for Skype lessons, I give them a big blue thumbs up.


What do you think about Skype lessons?

Share your experience in the comments.





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3 Responses

  1. Tom says:

    My profe began to teach on Skype 5 years ago and maybe he was one of the first. He uses a professional usb microphone and headphones and proposes the same to the student if it is possible. It isn’t perfect but is an improvement. As far as infrastructure, he says he must prepare more for Skype lessons (pdf music, studies etc. to send), but his students are not just ‘consultations’. By now he has collected a mountain of teaching materials to send, so there is less to prepare. As far as connection is concerned, he says that it can be a problem but internet speed is improving. He puts the camera above the guitar so the student can both hands. Teaching by Skype is still not perfect but the teacher can do some things to lessen the disadvantages.

  2. Larry says:

    I recently discovered an app called Periscope, and it’s quite amazing, being able to see and hear a person playing in real time, no matter where I’m the world they are. I think such uses of technology can be invaluable for so many who, like myself, can’t afford a teacher or who don’t know anyone nearby who plays.

  3. Abdul Khan says:

    Do you provide Classical Guitar Lessons? I live in Sacramento and there is not a single classical guitar instructor…I would be interested in learning classical guitar thru Skype

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