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.
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.