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Joined: Apr 2016
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Hey folks, I'm not a teacher, I'm considering taking on-line lessons from a local jazz pro. If you are giving on-line lessons how well are you able to talk with and hear the student? What kind of communication set up should the student have in order for you to be able to hear and be heard well enough? If I use the normal built-in speakers and mic on a fairly decent laptop computer, does that seem to be good enough? Do you prefer Zoom, Skype, Webex, GoTo, something else?

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As a piano teacher, I'm teaching several students online, reluctantly now as the majority have resumed in-person lessons with physical distancing etc. I do my absolute best online, but despite it taking twice the effort, I get only average results. I can't hear the piano in any sensitive manner; I can only hear the pitch they are on. For jazz, this might be all right. For classical musicians, nuance is everything.

My students have up to date phones or iPads and both work as well as I've explained. Despite doing my best at this, if it were me, I wouldn't take online lessons from anybody as an adult. I'd chill and catch up on my reading first.

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Try this video for suggestions for reasonably-priced gear to improve what your teacher hears, and sees:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PG91ZIrsdNU&t=565s


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As for the practical performance of music on an instrument, this is sometimes just bad: communication problems and the specifics of Skype or Zoom often distort pitches or even hide part of them ; distort the rhythm: you cannot know if this is a problem of connection or of student .In addition, connection at times simply terminates. About nuances I'm not even talking, both in the classics and in jazz (yes, yes, and there are some nuances!).

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Snippet. Yesterday my teacher, having a new setup, was trying out some ideas. He tested what I could hear. He played a chord and asked what quality I heard. I said "minor" - since he had played a major chord, such an error surprised both of us. The reason the bottom note had cut out!!. He had played E(maj7) (E G# B D#), so a major triad with a maj7. But the lower E didn't transmit through Zoom, so I heard the top three note, which gives G#m or Abm, which I correctly heard as minor.

The thing is that testing what a student can hear, if there's distortion in the transmission, will lead to wrong conclusions. Part of what Nahum said.

Btw, Zoom has really deteriorated from what it was a few months ago.

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I have used Zoom for online lessons since the beginning of the pandemic. I’m 1 year into playing so still a beginner. While I think in-person lessons are the best, I’d say that online lessons are about 75-80%. No, there are things you don’t see or hear as well, both teacher and student, but it really is not too bad, especially if voice communication is improved. Both parties will have to learn to explain more, rather than just showing.

I’ve not noticed deterioration with Zoom over the months and I’ve also never been cut off in the middle of a lesson. I do use a headset with attached microphone for the lessons as my teacher said my laptop mic is not clear enough. The headset/mic is a cheap standard issue from my workplace and I normally use it for conference calls with work. My teacher teaches with a digital piano (for online lessons) and also uses a headset to talk to me. She can show me a couple of camera angles of her piano and her computer screen for showing me her scribbles on the sheet music so I guess she’s got that part of the technology covered. I have no idea how to do that. We hear each other well enough.

We do work on technique too, and as I said, it requires more explaining than simply showing how to do something, but we get there.

After this experience with Zoom lessons, I’ve asked my teacher if she will be offering them for the longer term, even when the pandemic is over. She said yes, that some of her other students had asked the same thing and that some would like to switch to Zoom lessons for good or partly Zoom and partly in-person lessons. I think I will do partly Zoom and partly in-person, when the lockdowns are over.

Just my 2 cents.

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 06/21/20 12:28 PM.

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Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
I’d say that online lessons are about 75-80%.

For me, there are days that Zoom is only about 15% effective. It has become extremely finicky and haphazard. Some days it works just fine. Other days it's like Skype with better video quality. But I guess I can't complain since I don't pay Zoom anything.

The beginner lessons are definitely okay over Zoom. The advanced kids need to use something else.


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I have been taking lesson through Zoom since the middle of March and due to my age and medication that compromises my immune system I will probably continue even after things open up. However, they are not nearly as effective as in person lessons. I am working on a Chopin Nocturne and my teacher cannot hear everything he needs to hear. That is probably why he said in the beginning, “you will be happy to hear that I am not nearly as picky through Zoom. That is because he is not sure if it is my playing or the connection. It is better using my iPhone than it was on my laptop. I was going in and out so much that he could not hear Much of anything.
I assume the Apple products have a better camera and microphone than my cheap laptop has. I ordered an iPad since the phone is really too small. My teacher uses an iPad and I could always hear him fine. Hoping it helps And looking forward to going back to in person lessons eventually.


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I've taken online lessons and they were fine. I didn't have some of the connection problems that have been noted.

But that was a different world. My work is heavily using telework, and the demand on system bandwidth means that many of the systems that worked fine when a couple of us were home have great problems when all of us are home.

I suspect it's not Skype vs Zoom or Apple vs Android but a function of the local area and how many people are home during the day using the electronic infrastructure.


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I agree with TimR's point about bandwidth.

When conducting meetings from home, everything was fine until one of the parties had others at home using their network, like a family with 5 kids who were all online during our meeting. When staff started going back to the school district office, our connection difficulties increased dramatically.


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My friends and I (and others with more expertise) have found that a lot of the problems with Zoom (and other online platforms) are caused by delays and under-capacity _in the WiFi connection_ from local PC (or whatever) to router.

Several friends have changed to using Ethernet cables, rather than WiFi. That won't work for me; I'm going to try a "range extender", instead.

My wife's laptop computer has had problems with stuttering, while playing YouTube music videos. I added an external WiFi-antenna-to-USB adapter, and that has helped the situation considerably. This one (from "Wise Tiger"):

https://www.amazon.com/9006-Adaptador-433-Mbps-velocidad-sobremesa-computadora/dp/B07CVLSR2M/

So simple fixes sometimes work.

With Zoom, it is _crucial_ to turn on "Original sound", and turn off "Automatic volume adjustment". Most people learn that early, but some are forgetful.


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Being an adult learner in group classes, learning at home isn't a big difference. Unlike private 1-on-1 lessons, the teacher doesn't look at our hands or hear what we play much. Half the time everybody would be playing along with the teacher on headphones. When we're connected via Zoom, the teacher would mute everybody.

We do play some Classical pieces out of a book arranged for easy piano. The last few pieces were from the Jazz book. The focus was on playing the right notes and counting properly than phrasing & dynamics.

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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
Being an adult learner in group classes, learning at home isn't a big difference. Unlike private 1-on-1 lessons, the teacher doesn't look at our hands or hear what we play much. Half the time everybody would be playing along with the teacher on headphones. When we're connected via Zoom, the teacher would mute everybody.

We do play some Classical pieces out of a book arranged for easy piano. The last few pieces were from the Jazz book. The focus was on playing the right notes and counting properly than phrasing & dynamics.

I think you can aim higher. Time to look for a real teacher.


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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
I think you can aim higher. Time to look for a real teacher.

You made a good point. My main issue is that I have aging parents (both in their 90s) to take care of. They don't live in the same city so I have to spend a few months a year away from the piano. For the time being adult group classes at the conservatory is the best option. On my off time I'd learn to play pieces on my own. I don't think I can commit to a F/T teacher when I may be asked to spend more time away from home if 1 or both parents ended up in the hospital for an unspecified number of months.

This year I am spending more time at home because of a travel ban. Otherwise I'd take the summer off to look after my parents. My group piano teacher also teach privately. Anytime I want to have more intensive learning, I can arrange to switch to private lessons.

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There is 360 degrees streaming and VR Headsets which could encompass some of these traditional visual requirements. However, The startup cost may be prohibitive in the current state of the economy for most students. The student end only needs the 360 camera, Only the teacher end needs VR, and of course the bandwidth requirements are even higher.

Such a camera can also be mounted to a mobile presence device, so the teacher can move around. But again, cost, bandwidth, latency.

Last edited by jeffcat; 06/22/20 10:46 PM.
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Originally Posted by jeffcat
There is 360 degrees streaming and VR Headsets which could encompass some of these traditional visual requirements. However, The startup cost may be prohibitive in the current state of the economy for most students. The student end only needs the 360 camera, Only the teacher end needs VR, and of course the bandwidth requirements are even higher.

Such a camera can also be mounted to a mobile presence device, so the teacher can move around. But again, cost, bandwidth, latency.

Jeffcat, you sound like you know these things inside out. I bet there are quite a few teachers as well as students reading this here, for whom much of this is Greek due to lack of knowledge in this area - including me. "360 degrees streaming and VR headsets" has got me lost. And when I read "headset" where I'm imagining sound, combined with "visual requirements" my brain went on strike. So these headsets, they're not just about sound? Can you expand (ideally on all of it) for those of us who are slow learners? I sort of half got everything. VR is Virtual Reality. "mobile presence device" ditto. I started to google some of the words last night.

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KeyString, if you have not yet put one on before, it will be very difficult, if not impossible to explain the experience to you.
Let me just say, you put it on, you enter a different world.

Few years ago, when Oculus Rift just came out, I got one for myself (in the name of the kids), one of the very first things I watched with it was a piano performance, so real it is surreal.
However, over the years, none of us in the family used it much.
Using it is very physically draining, I am exhausted after 30 minutes if I didn't feel dizzy and quit before that. They said it was the frame rate and resolution, but I think it is also the disconnect between your visual senses and your body, which confuses your brain.

With 360 camera, you can look around but from a fixed point, you can't walk around and see the student from different places, I doubt how much better it is compared to a 2D camera for piano lessons.

It is cool, very cool, but I don't think it is ready for prime time, not for piano lessons, certainly not for everyone, yet.

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iThanks, tm. It's interesting to read your experience. I wonder if jeffcat could give a picture of what the teacher would be doing, and what the student would be doing. I'm not yet picturing it.

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If the student has a 360 camera, mounted to a mobile presence device (think roomba with a stick.) The teacher can wear the goggles at her house, and remote the robot around to change angles get closer, farther, turn.

The VR goggles allows the teacher to see the entire surrounding, whole room, including hands and the student's whole posture, all of him, not just cropped as with regular cameras.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4i3KFz8qEM

On this video , you can click and drag the frame with the mouse. The images is captured in a bubble If you have VR goggles the 3D sphere would follow your head movements, so it'd be like you're there. There are limitations, but it pretty much matches all the feature requirement of full telepresence lessons.

Last edited by jeffcat; 06/24/20 12:23 AM.
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Hey Folks, thanks for the comments and insight. This will help me make a decision. And it just occurred to (duh!) I should ask the teacher himself how well it is working with his current students.

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