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Posted By: hello my name is Teaching Lessons Online - 01/13/17 10:21 PM
Has anyone here done it? What are the main differences you take into consideration and how do you approach it?
Posted By: SwissMS Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/14/17 05:51 PM
I will answer this from a student perspective. I take lessons via Skype, and I love it. For me, living in a country where I do not speak the language well yet, it has opened a much broader choice of teachers than I otherwise would have had. I take lessons from a teacher in a conservatory in another country.

In order to do it well, you need a good microphone to connect to your computer on the teacher's and the students side, so that the nuances of the playing can be heard. You also need a good (fast) internet connection.

Advantages: The teacher can see position of the hands as well as posture. She can hear how the student plays. The student can record the lesson to refer back to. Both the teacher and the student can work from home.

Disadvantages: There is not "hands on" correction. The teacher can demonstrate, but she cannot touch the student. The student only plays their own piano, so they may or may not get to experience the feel of other pianos. In my case that has not been a problem, because I am always looking for a piano waiting to be played!

I am totally sold on Skype lessons for my situation.
Posted By: keystring Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/16/17 01:18 AM
Originally Posted by SwissMS
In order to do it well, you need a good microphone to connect to your computer on the teacher's and the students side, so that the nuances of the playing can be heard. You also need a good (fast) internet connection.

I'd like to ask how long you have been doing this, and if over more than a year, if anything has changed in the last few months? There has been a drastic change at our end since about four months. Ambient noise from the other person's room, such as whirring fans, has disappeared, but in its place, the sound of music itself gets "erased" along with the ambient sounds. Specifically, if you sustain a note or even hum a note for a few seconds, that note cuts off abruptly as if staccato.

We do not limit ourselves to Skype. I create sound recordings and video recordings where there will be no distortions, for my teacher to hear. Working remotely as opposed to in the studio can also include written messages and homework shared through a file sharing system such as Dropbox, or simply sent back and forth through e-mail.
Posted By: R0B Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/16/17 02:59 AM
Originally Posted by keystring

There has been a drastic change at our end since about four months. Ambient noise from the other person's room, such as whirring fans, has disappeared, but in its place, the sound of music itself gets "erased" along with the ambient sounds. Specifically, if you sustain a note or even hum a note for a few seconds, that note cuts off abruptly as if staccato.



Hi Keystring, It may be worth asking your teacher if, in Skype audio settings, the 'Automatically adjust microphone settings' box is checked. It should be unchecked in order to avoid the problem you are having. The same applies to 'Automatically adjust speaker settings'. It is best if both parties do this.
Posted By: keystring Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/16/17 03:02 AM
Originally Posted by R0B
Hi Keystring, It may be worth asking your teacher if, in Skype audio settings, the 'Automatically adjust microphone settings' box is checked.

We turned off anything automatic at both ends. I might check again in case anything was missed. So you're not encountering this, I take it? Are you using Win10? This was also a new thing, but when I upgraded to a new computer and Win10 first, nothing changed, which is why I thought Skype had fiddled with their system later on.
Posted By: R0B Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/16/17 03:29 AM
I am not experiencing that problem.
I am on Win 10 with Skype version 7.31.0.104

Has your teacher got a new mic, which may be voice activated?
Posted By: SwissMS Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/16/17 01:53 PM
I have not been taking Skype lessons very long, but I have not had any problem with ambient noise. I have been surprised that the sound is pretty clean.
Posted By: Morodiene Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/16/17 02:11 PM
I teach via Skype, but I don't do a lot of it. Most of the time it's students that I get to see in person most of the year, and it's just over the summer when I'm out of town. But I do have some exclusive Skype students.

The challenges as a teacher (apart from technical issues that can arise on either end):

- You can't write things in the student's score
- You can't hand them a book to sightread from
- You can't hand them any books, exercises, theory work, or sheet music
- You can't so any hands-on work
- Sometimes dynamics are compressed, which means you hear less distinction between forte and piano
- Due to any technical problems that can arise (a lag bubble, Skype or Windows updates, someone else in your area using a large amount of bandwidth that decreases the amount available to you), you will want to schedule in an extra 15 minutes before and/or after lessons just so you don't fall behind. Every once in a while, it's been so bad that we've had to reschedule lessons for another day and time.

But the benefits to be able to teach on Skype are obvious, and there are many who appreciate this as an option.
Posted By: indigo_dave Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/16/17 10:52 PM
I did Skype sessions about 1 time per month for about 14 months. We were a tiny harmony study group, following Schoenberg's Theory of Harmony. One of us lives in the general Seattle WA area, but someplace rural. She would often go to a place with good internet for our sessions (rather than her home). I live in Orlando FL and the leader lives in Leicester UK.

The big issue was latency. One of us would often play a 4 part harmony exercise of maybe 12-15 chords. That's when latency sometimes would garble the sound. I seemed to me that one time when we by chance arpeggiated the 4 note chords, the latency wasn't as bad. But, we were scattered with big distances between us. I think it's just wonderfully amazing that this resource is available, and for free.

I don't know how it would go playing pieces with faster melodic lines.
Posted By: Morodiene Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/17/17 03:17 AM
Originally Posted by indigo_dave
I did Skype sessions about 1 time per month for about 14 months. We were a tiny harmony study group, following Schoenberg's Theory of Harmony. One of us lives in the general Seattle WA area, but someplace rural. She would often go to a place with good internet for our sessions (rather than her home). I live in Orlando FL and the leader lives in Leicester UK.

The big issue was latency. One of us would often play a 4 part harmony exercise of maybe 12-15 chords. That's when latency sometimes would garble the sound. I seemed to me that one time when we by chance arpeggiated the 4 note chords, the latency wasn't as bad. But, we were scattered with big distances between us. I think it's just wonderfully amazing that this resource is available, and for free.

I don't know how it would go playing pieces with faster melodic lines.

Wow, Seattle to FL to UK...ya, no doubt there would be more lag. Usually there isn't any or if so, it's no more than you experience when talking on your cell phone. But physical distance and having 3 people on the same call would definitely make things a bit slower.
Posted By: R0B Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/17/17 03:19 AM
One of the best things that I did to make Skype lessons more productive, and personal, was to add a couple of extra cameras, and use software to instantly switch between them with a simple keystroke.

My favourite camera is mounted on an adjustable arm, placed to fully view an A4 sheet.
I can quickly place any sheet of paper there, and point to it, or write on it, and the student views it full screen in real time.

Other materials can easily be sent via email, ahead of the lesson.
Posted By: hello my name is Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/17/17 06:34 AM
So the lesson went overall pretty well, but I found it funny when I wanted to reach across and point something out to him, and I couldn't! So frustrating. Luckily, we can go by measure numbers.
Posted By: R0B Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/17/17 08:19 AM
Ahh! that's where that second camera is worth it's weight in gold :-)
Pleased to hear all went well :-)
Posted By: Morodiene Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/17/17 12:16 PM
Originally Posted by R0B
One of the best things that I did to make Skype lessons more productive, and personal, was to add a couple of extra cameras, and use software to instantly switch between them with a simple keystroke.

My favourite camera is mounted on an adjustable arm, placed to fully view an A4 sheet.
I can quickly place any sheet of paper there, and point to it, or write on it, and the student views it full screen in real time.

Other materials can easily be sent via email, ahead of the lesson.


This really intrigues me. Are you in a PC or Mac? I use a Macbook and not quite sure how to set up an extra camera (I have a couple I could use). Would you be able to show a picture of your setup by any chance?
Posted By: TimR Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/17/17 01:15 PM
My lessons are on Skype. I use a Win 10 laptop. I have hardly ever experienced any connection issues. One time the picture quality of my teacher got degraded with pixellation, but I could still hear him perfectly, and he could see and hear me.

I didn't go with an external microphone. I asked him about it and he said he could hear sufficiently with the built in laptop one, the extra quality would not be worth the hassle. That might be different depending on how you teach.

The convenience of doing this in my own house is really nice. I do put the dog in the basement as she is otherwise liable to vigorously defend the yard against cats, mailmen, birds, and maybe ghosts, sometimes there seems to be nothing worth that level of barking.
Posted By: Wide-O Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/17/17 05:21 PM
Just a tip: this camera, the Q2n, is pretty great for this kind of application. (I have no connections with the Zoom company): https://www.zoom.co.jp/products/handy-video-recorder/q2n-handy-video-recorder. I bought it 2 weeks ago for recording myself (checking technique, musicality etc.) as it has a wide angle so that it's easy to show the whole keyboard from the side, and works even in very dark environments. Needless to say the sound is very good too.

It also comes with a driver so that it can be used as a Webcam (both PC and OSX) and thus in Skype. Also, doesn't break the bank. Mind you, I haven't tested the webcam function yet, and I assume the quality of both sound and video needs to be scaled down for/by Skype, depending on the broadband speed. The connection is via USB, so on a Mac you'd need a small USB to Lightning adapter.
Posted By: keystring Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/17/17 06:10 PM
I'm really mystified why we're the only ones experiencing this problem. I did a test with my adult son, who is set up in his room. My sound came to him loud and clear, and his voice came through excellently (he has a ball microphone for a different use as he is not involved in music). Then he turned on some music in his room, and there was instant silence at my end. It's like the music gets "filtered" as ambient noise. It used to be that I'd hear a whirring fan in my teacher's studio. Now there is no whirring fan, but before we start to talk it will sound like somebody is moving heavy furniture upstairs - that noise stops when talking starts.

I would have thought if Skype had become wonky around Nov./Dec. due to some changes at Skype's end, others here would have encountered it, but it seems nobody has. I've turned off everything automatic that can be turned off. Anything music needs to be critiqued via recorded sound files or videos at this stage.
Posted By: Morodiene Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/17/17 07:35 PM
Originally Posted by keystring
I'm really mystified why we're the only ones experiencing this problem. I did a test with my adult son, who is set up in his room. My sound came to him loud and clear, and his voice came through excellently (he has a ball microphone for a different use as he is not involved in music). Then he turned on some music in his room, and there was instant silence at my end. It's like the music gets "filtered" as ambient noise. It used to be that I'd hear a whirring fan in my teacher's studio. Now there is no whirring fan, but before we start to talk it will sound like somebody is moving heavy furniture upstairs - that noise stops when talking starts.

I would have thought if Skype had become wonky around Nov./Dec. due to some changes at Skype's end, others here would have encountered it, but it seems nobody has. I've turned off everything automatic that can be turned off. Anything music needs to be critiqued via recorded sound files or videos at this stage.

I know it used to work for you right? So what changed?

Have you tried having lessons with headphones on? That way the sound from your speakers aren't overpowering the microphone.
Posted By: TimR Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/17/17 07:51 PM
Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by keystring
I'm really mystified why we're the only ones experiencing this problem. I did a test with my adult son, who is set up in his room. My sound came to him loud and clear, and his voice came through excellently (he has a ball microphone for a different use as he is not involved in music). Then he turned on some music in his room, and there was instant silence at my end. It's like the music gets "filtered" as ambient noise. It used to be that I'd hear a whirring fan in my teacher's studio. Now there is no whirring fan, but before we start to talk it will sound like somebody is moving heavy furniture upstairs - that noise stops when talking starts.

I would have thought if Skype had become wonky around Nov./Dec. due to some changes at Skype's end, others here would have encountered it, but it seems nobody has. I've turned off everything automatic that can be turned off. Anything music needs to be critiqued via recorded sound files or videos at this stage.

I know it used to work for you right? So what changed?

Have you tried having lessons with headphones on? That way the sound from your speakers aren't overpowering the microphone.


It really sounds like a voice activated microphone syndrome to me. Is there a place in settings where you can set full vs half duplex?
Posted By: indigo_dave Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/17/17 11:26 PM
I don't have technical knowledge, just some experiences. Thinking back I remember only one of could speak at a time. If you tried to interject something in someone else's whatever they were saying, only one side was activated at a time.

And one thought about music getting filtered. Might it have something to do with the limited frequency range of the voice vs. the frequency ranges the music has? Just thinking.
Posted By: Morodiene Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/18/17 12:37 AM
Originally Posted by indigo_dave
I don't have technical knowledge, just some experiences. Thinking back I remember only one of could speak at a time. If you tried to interject something in someone else's whatever they were saying, only one side was activated at a time.

And one thought about music getting filtered. Might it have something to do with the limited frequency range of the voice vs. the frequency ranges the music has? Just thinking.
The problem is that they had it working before, and others can do it without this problem. I think it's either software or hardware that is the problem.
Posted By: Miguel Rey Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/18/17 01:11 AM
That new Zoom looks good and now in wish list!

Regarding the settings for Skype, you definitely need to turn off auto mic and use a good external MIC. I have been using the Yeti Blue with external cam with descent results but this new Zoom will be its replacement. . Having a good quality music mic is important since the on board mic and many external mics are really more designed for voice and podcasts. I think even my Yeti is more for voice then acoustic, this zoom looks like a perfect match and can handle the db's of fortissimo coming from a piano a couple feet away.

Regarding Skype you first need to make sure you are up to date and turn off the "automatically adjust microphone settings" You will then need to adjust the gain manually on the mic or your computer, the amount will depend on the quality of your mic, the piano is a loud and percussive instrument and was a bit of hassle getting my Yeti set up at first. Zoom should be much easier based on the specs. Also get a good pair of open back headphones.
Posted By: R0B Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/18/17 03:56 AM
Originally Posted by Morodiene


This really intrigues me. Are you in a PC or Mac? I use a Macbook and not quite sure how to set up an extra camera (I have a couple I could use). Would you be able to show a picture of your setup by any chance?


I am on a PC, and have almost zero Mac knowledge, but the most basic way to use a second usb camera, is just to plug it in, and it will show up in skype tools>video options, and you can select between them there.

An alternative is to try out the free version of ManyCam (available for Mac) and as long as ManyCam is on top (it can be dragged almost to the bottom of the screen to hide most of it) cameras can be switched (at least on PC) using ctrl+1 ctrl+2 etc.

Personally, I prefer Xsplit broadcaster, but I think it is PC only, at present. It costs $8/month, but for me it is worth it, as it offers many more options, and hot-keys still work even when completely minimised, so no need to remember to bring it back 'on top' each time.

My camera for displaying music sheets, is a Microsoft Lifecam Studio, attached to a desk clamped microphone stand (similar to an anglepoise lamp) which was around US$10 from ebay.

A bonus, is that I can place a tablet beneath the camera to display videos etc. without hogging PC resources.

Audio from the tablet goes to a small mixer, which also has a condenser mic, electric guitar, and digital piano connected to it.
Mixer output goes to a Komplete Audio 6 usb audio interface and from there into the PC.
( will need to have a major tidy up, before taking pics, lol )
Hope it helps.
Posted By: Morodiene Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/18/17 01:52 PM
Thanks, Rob! Yes, that does help. I'm thinking it would be great to have a top-down view of the keyboard for demonstration purposes. Your idea for having one dedicated for putting a paper that you can write on is neat, too.

What would be really cool if there was a way that we could both be looking at the score online, and with a tablet I could make markings on it that the student could see, maybe as a split screen, or toggling to that view as needed.

Are you aware of anything that would allow that? I know Skype can let you show your screen to the other person, but then I wouldn't easily be able to mark up a pdf like I could on a tablet with a pen.
Posted By: R0B Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/18/17 03:19 PM
It may be worth looking at something like TeamViewer.
Posted By: Morodiene Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/18/17 03:55 PM
Thanks, I'll check that out!
Posted By: hello my name is Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/18/17 08:52 PM
How do we deal with the problem of the mirror image? No matter which way I turn my built-in camera on my laptop, it produces a mirror image, so the piano keys are flipped. Do other cameras have features to fix that problem?
Posted By: Miguel Rey Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/18/17 11:55 PM
the mirror image only appears o your side, the viewer see's it normal
Posted By: R0B Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/19/17 02:15 AM
Was going to reply, but Miguel has already answered your question correctly :-)
Posted By: R0B Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/19/17 02:18 AM
When I mentioned TeamViewer, there may be other Skype add ons that will do what you need.
I have only used Teamviewer once, with a student, so that we could both work on a MuseScore project simultaneously.
Posted By: hello my name is Re: Teaching Lessons Online - 01/19/17 07:16 AM
Originally Posted by Miguel Rey
the mirror image only appears o your side, the viewer see's it normal


What! Mind blown : ) Thank you!
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