"Gotta get to my study room!"

AC #45 Online Lessons – Do They Work? How Do They Look?

Yes! They really work and they’re fun! / What do online piano lessons actually look like?

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With today’s video conferencing capabilities, online lessons now work better tOnline-Schoolhan ever before! High-quality consumer-level equipment, interactive screen sharing of amazing music software programs, coupled with optional multi-angle camera viewing on larger computer screens, the online lesson experience is the next best thing to “being there”. It’s great for long-distance learners and local learners have the option to use both in-office and online platforms on an as-needed basis.

Some people feel that in-office lessons are “better” than online lessons and I’m all for people having their preferences, but let’s face and admit an obvious point. Student progress is not guaranteed just because their lessons are “in-office”!  In-office students who don’t practice, won’t progress, and it doesn’t matter if they’re under the tutelage of the world’s best teacher! Students, in-office or online, who don’t practice, don’t improve, and go nowhere. End of story!

So, the question is not whether online lessons work! I’ve been involved in online ed for quite a few years and I’ll tell you, “They work!” The real question should be, “Is the student practicing?”

As long as you practice, you’ll do very well in online lessons. Since both of us are in the comfort of our own homes, the atmosphere is relaxed and informal which is most optimal for learning. You can work at a pace that’s most comfortable for you, and flexible scheduling is a great perk!

How Do Online Piano Lesson Look?

The “face” of online lesson sessions may vary considerably from person to person because of some important equipment-related factors that need to be considered in determining how they will look to you. Does the teacher and/or student have a single-camera or multi-camera system? Things like the quality and kind(s) of equipment each teacher and student bring to the video chat room table have a significant effect on experience for the both parties.

Here’s a sample of how a few of my configurations will look to you.

I use a mid-range consumer-level, 5-camera set-up, (6 cameras including my screen cam). My main camera is my “mug-shot cam”, followed by the overhead, side-left, side-right and hand-held cams. Most of the time I use only the mug-shot, overhead and hand-held cams.

Below are 2 screen shots and video clips of how a couple of select multi-camera configurations will appear to you. My mug-shot, overhead, side left, screen cam, and hand cams are shown.

Video 1 Alternate LinkAC-45-The_Counter-with mp3 embed I like to groove to you when it’s “Your Turn” to play! Video 2 Alternate LinkAC-45-Part_3-FIGURE 8 MAJOR TRIAD TARGETS-ORNAMENTS All exercises and assignments are tailored for you.

How you look to me depends on the webcam setup configuration of your work station.

Having a webcam is pretty much a requirement for us to do our work in online piano lessons.

Webcams on laptops are almost never an issue because most laptops come with a pre-installed mug-shot cam which can easily double as a keyboard cam by carefully positioning the laptop with its lid tilted.

Webcams on desktops are another matter sometimes. However, as long as a camera-less desktop has an empty USB port, a webcam can be easily added. (Usually!)

It is not necessary for you or any of my students to have an elaborate multi-camera, split-screen set-up such as mine! The visuals I need from you can be sent with an under-$25.00 webcam.

 Logitech Webcam C160_Pic-01  Creative Labs VF0410 Live!_Pic-01A

It is helpful for me to have a good unobstructed view of your hands and fingers on your piano or keyboard. The angle at which you place your camera to achieve that end is determined by the circumstances in your home such as surrounding furniture, doorways, ceiling height, etc.

Jake, who started as an in-office student, takes most of his lessons online now because of the convenience and fun factors. Here are a few snapshots of the overhead configurations he uses.

We're about to start working on a Czerny piece. Jake takes notes on some music theory and jazz improvisation techniques we're discussing.
We're about to start working on a Burgmueller piece. Here, Jake applies the theory and jazz improvisation techniques from his notes to some chords I'm playing for him.

Willie, one of my online students who lives over one-thousand miles away from me, has a dual camera setup (mug-shot / overhead).  He agreed to let me post a clip of him practicing two assignments so you can see the overhead angle he uses most of the time during his sessions.

Channel WT-56 Alternate LinkWillieIsAssignedTwoExercises-AC45

Does your camera(s) have to be positioned overhead for me to see what I need to see? No! It does not. The overhead-cam positions used by two of my students are only samples of what works.  There are many variations and degrees of side-views, front-views and other angles that work fine.

Working out the best camera configuration angle(s) for your work station, from my perspective,  is something we do together. The first time generally happens in your introductory free lesson. Since camera positions often change from lesson to lesson for many reasons, readjusting their angles is a subject that’s frequently revisited. Giving each other this type of feedback helps both of us make sure we see everything we need to see.


Online lessons are a great idea and piano/music students, of all ages, at every level of development, can positively gain from the experience of having them. Even absolute beginners who don’t yet have a piano or keyboard on which to practice can benefit from taking online lessons as there are lots of things that can be done “pre-instrument”.

Of course, an instrument will eventually be needed, and the sooner one is obtained, the better, but an absolute beginner does not need to wait to get started with taking online music lessons. Beginner and intermediate students of all ages are always welcome at my place.

Practice well, see you next post.

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About Art Matthews

Art Matthews, son of Dr. Artie Matthews Ph.D. (1888-1958), is a retired pianist performer/educator who teaches music to beginner and intermediate students in private lessons, group lessons, and computer lab-ready schools online worldwide.

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