Setting up for Online Lessons

Booking and paying for lessons

If you need to be reminded of the booking site address, please contact me.

I take payment by credit card using Stripe and PayPal. (There are a small number of people to whom I still need to send invoices, because the bill is paid by someone else: if you are one of these, could you please contact me before booking?)

You can rearrange lessons, but not fewer than six hours in advance. The details of how to rearrange are in the confirmation email for each booking - so don’t delete it when you get it!

General Environment

You will need:

  1. a quiet, appropriate room (NOT a bedroom);

  2. light (shining on you, but not so much behind you);

  3. download the zoom software to join me online when you get the link;

  4. a camera (on your phone if necessary) - in a fixed position, so that the student is well in view (and for pianists that I can see their hands clearly). Some people use two devices - one for me to see, and the other for the student to see me.

  5. for singers, you will need some way of playing the backing tracks, not on the device that you are using for the camera. It would probably be better to download them to play them, rather than stream. It doesn’t matter if the sound comes through a speaker or through headphones.

If things still aren’t working as well as you would like, there is lots of advice on this page about improving the quality of the experience:

Improving the experience

Without a doubt, the biggest problem for online lessons is the quality of the connection. Please do everything you can to improve the student’s online connection:

There is a lot of advice on the internet about improving the experience -

  • getting a better connection;
  • giving the computer a chance to run properly;
  • tweak the software of the video-conferencing software.

There might be one big thing that makes the difference:

  • Buying a long ethernet cable to enable their laptop to reach the router directly;
  • Upgrading your broadband package

(these are both things that students of mine have done this year).

More likely, working logically on marginal gains, which together added up to a big improvement.

Start with the obvious:

  • Restart your router.
  • Restart the device or computer.

Here is a list first published by Bramble Online Tutoring:

  • Close all browser tabs apart from the one you are using.
  • Close all other programs on your computer. If you have Skype running, ensure it is closed down completely as it accesses both your microphone and internet in the background.
  • Are you tethering to a phone or dongle? Or using a VPN? Both of these increase latency, so try switching to a regular connection.
  • Wired connections are more reliable than wireless. If you're on WiFi, try instead plugging directly in to your router with an ethernet cable to improve the connection.
  • If you can't connect with an ethernet cable, try moving to the same room as your router or sit closer to it.
  • Are other people using the same internet connection as you? This will reduce your available bandwidth, so try asking them to remain offline during your session.

To which I would add:

  • Use the newest device you can, since they are better at making a good connection. (Oh, and make sure it is charged, and updated)
  • Cut down background noise in the room with the lesson
  • Keep your volume at a level that you can still hear what is going on, but not too loud.

There is a good list on Clarion Clavier. If you are video person, rather than a reader, you can see the author deliver more or less the same points on YouTube.

Instructions for enhancing audio with Zoom

(I have no idea what all this does, but apparently everybody does it for music lessons!)

In order to optimise the sound quality of musical instruments while teaching using Zoom, the following device setting changes are required for all session participants.

Note these settings are only available on a Mac or Windows computer/device. You will only need to make these changes once for each computer/device.
  • Restart the Zoom client if it is already running.
  • Go to “Settings.”
  • Go to “Audio.”
  • Click the “Advanced” button.
  • Check the box entitled, ‘Show in-meeting option to “Enable Original Sound” from microphone.’
  • Set “Suppress Persistent Background Noise” to “Disabled.”
  • Set “Suppress Intermittent Background Noise” to “Disabled.”
  • Ensure “Echo Cancellation” is set to “Auto.”
Finally, ensure you point the microphone at the instrument to further increase the audio quality.

Can Brahms help? Probably not.

The short answer is NO!
Elastic bands tying your phone to Brahms is a short term fix, not a permanent solution:
  • It is too low: try and make it a few inches higher, looking slightly down on the keyboard;
  • It is too close. The camera on the phone might be better further away and landscape. A bigger screen is better if I need to demonstrate on the keyboard (e.g. a tablet in landscape);
  • It is on top of the piano speaker. Ouch!

Access to lesson notes and resources

I use Sync for sharing lessons notes and sheet music. Can you please share the Sync folder with student? They need to see my notes. Whether they are 7 or 17, there are three of us in this relationship (as I think Princess Diana once remarked). I rely on parents to pass things on: I know this makes extra work for the parent, but on the plus side, it does involve them more in the lessons.

Sending me homework

Written Work

Please take photos of the pages and send me homework. Please put the student’s name in the subject line.

Students can do this from their own account, since I never see the email - it simply drops the attachments into google drive, into a folder with the subject line as the folder name. Amazing!


Also, I might ask the student to record something. Because a recording is a kind of performance, it will encourage the student to play it well without stopping and starting, but also it is hard to hear the details over the internet, and I will get much more detail in a recording.

There are many simple audio recorders for smart phones. On iOS, I find Music Memos as good as anything, although sharing it is a bit fiddly. Don’t use Voice Memos. On Android, Smart Recorder is hard to beat. If you can find an app with level meters, so much the better - then you can position the phone so that the sound level doesn’t go into the red.

If you use any other recorder, please make sure that Automatic Gain Control is set to off. (AGC irons out the volume, making the loud bit quieter, and the quiet bits louder, which is not what we want).

Then, send me the file using the emailitin address above.

Don’t forget to check out the F.A.Q., for questions about all my music lessons, and please also see the following information pages:

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