Few rock & roll songs are as iconic and universally known as “We Will Rock You” by Queen. Every school kid knows how to stomp-stomp-clap on the gym bleachers as the masses chant along. This song works splendidly for a newbie guitar player to learn to transition between three chords in a changing chord progression. The “clap” portion of the rhythm allows for a natural break where the student can move his/her hands from one chord to the next without stopping the flow of the song. It’s always fun for a newbie to play a recognizable song for friends and say, “What song is this?!?”
As soon as you begin teaching music, you will gain students who once took lessons from another instructor. Helping those students transition well is very important to their success with you. Clarifying expectations, defining the student’s “Why?” statement and helping the student set some goals will create an environment that will cause the student to be more likely to succeed.
When using Skype for live video lessons, you need to complete the following steps to make sure you are ready to rock:
Download Skype for your computer.
Go to Skype.com and download the appropriate version of Skype for your computer. You can also use Skype on a variety of mobile devices with the same account information that you set up for your computer version. Having Skype on your mobile device can be very handy and can keep you from missing a lesson when you’re on the road. However, try to use a laptop or desktop computer as your default Skype machine so you have the screen size and volume necessary to have a good lesson. Your instructor will most likely share files and website links during your lessons; utilizing these resources will be difficult on a mobile device.
Create and sign in to your account.
When you install Skype on your computer, you will be prompted to create an account. Do so and sign in to Skype. Look around and get familiar with the layout. Skype can be used for voice-only calls as well as video calls. Find the controls for video calls. Also, figure out how to open the chat box while in a video call. This will be important during your lesson; your instructor will use this box to make notes regarding the lesson, send files, and share links.
Check out this tutorial for step-by-step instructions for downloading and setting up Skype.
Test your computer’s webcam and microphone for functionality.
The easiest way to use Skype is with your computer’s built-in webcam and microphone. Once you are logged in to Skype, find the link for Skype Test Call. Click the link and test your sound. You may not be able to test your webcam until you make your first real Skype video call.
An important warning about technology and live video lessons: Make sure to test your equipment BEFORE the first lesson. Like the day before, not ten minutes before. One of the biggest things that could cause Skype lesson disaster is untested or unreliable equipment. If your equipment is not reliable (namely your computer and internet service), you’ll waste half of your lesson time fighting with technology.
Get your instructor’s Skype username and add him/her to contacts.
You’ll need to add your instructor to your contacts and make a request to connect. Do this ahead of time.
Do a test call with your instructor before the lesson.
This is CRUCIAL. Do not wait until your first lesson to try and connect with your instructor via Skype, or be prepared that your first lesson will be used mainly to test and troubleshoot your computer setup. If things go well, you’ll be finished with this step in less than 5 minutes and ready to rock your first Skype lesson.
Choose a good space for your Skype lesson.
Find a space that is comfortable and distraction-free for your lesson. This should be a space where you can be loud, talk freely, and not be worried by constant interruptions. You should also have good internet access in this space; if you’re using a wireless connection, be sure to stay close enough to the router that your connection is strong.
Keep your family in the loop (and out of your lesson!)
If you live at home with your family, make sure they know when your lesson occurs and ask them to respect your time.
The Internet has changed the way we learn. Want to build a guitar from a cigar box? No problem. Get clever with your coffee? Easy-peasy. Build an awesome LEGO car? Just listen to the master. Yes, you can even learn to play an instrument via the World Wide Web.
There is a growing community of music teachers who make their video lessons available for free via YouTube and other video hosting sites. Though “canned” lesson videos have value, they are not always the right tool for the job. Most students find that the benefits of in-person lessons far outweigh the conveniences of pre-recorded video lessons.
However, this does not mean that you are limited to taking lessons from your local pool of instrument experts. Back in the olden days, an aspiring student would learn to play under the tutelage of a relative, neighbor, family friend, or community “expert” endorsed by the local music store. Geography was the limiting factor. No more! Thanks to high speed internet and video conferencing applications like Skype and Google Hangouts, students can literally choose from a world of music instructors and have a live, private music lesson no matter where they are… living room, beach, or hotel!
Live video lessons have some benefits and challenges. They should be considered when deciding if live video lessons are a fit for the student.
- Free to roam. Video lessons allow the student (and instructor) to conduct lessons from any variety of locations. Vacations, mobile lifestyles, and distance between instructor and student no longer have to interfere with regular lessons.
- Convenient. You don’t have to go to a store or music school to take lessons. You don’t even have to leave your house! (You may want to change out of your pajamas, though… your instructor can see you.)
- Lots of options. You can find the right instructor for you, even if he/she doesn’t live in your state or country!
- Every lesson on file! One of the best benefits of video lessons is the ability to record the entire lessons via a screen capture program and save the file for the student to use as a reference later. The student never has to leave lesson, only to wonder later, “Now how did my instructor want me to play that?!”
- Requires personal discipline. You have to make your lesson time non-negotiable. For some folks, it’s easier to skip or constantly reschedule lessons because the instructor is on a computer screen, not actually in the room with you. However, your instructor is taking your time seriously; you need to do the same for her. Show up on time, every time. If you need to reschedule, give at least 24 hours notice if you would like a makeup lesson (and even then a makeup is probably not guaranteed). This takes personal discipline… but really, it’s the same discipline required if you take lessons in the same room as your instructor.
- Must learn to be marginally tech-savvy. You do not have to be a computer programmer to operate Skype. However, live video lessons require the student and instructor to become pretty friendly with the equipment and applications necessary to make the lessons happen. The more familiar you can become with the technical aspect of live video lessons, the more effective and consistent they will be. However, sometimes you just can’t get away from the ghost in the machine and last-minute reschedules are required because, simply, your computer doesn’t like you.
- There’s a lag (not the bolt kind). Though today’s Internet moves at mind-blowing speeds, it still takes a few nanoseconds for a video feed to leave one computer and arrive at the other. This lag is almost unnoticeable in your standard “Hey! How ya doin’?” video conference conversation, but it becomes very apparent when you attempt to play your instrument along with the musician on the other side of the screen. By the time you hear the chord she just strummed and you attempt to play along, she’s a few beats ahead of you. Then, by the time your strumming gets to her, you’re a few beats further down the road yourself, and the gap just widens. So, basically, you can’t play simultaneously or sing while the other musician accompanies. This is probably the biggest challenge to live video lessons and takes some work to negotiate. However, this challenge can easily be turned into a benefit because the student and instructor will ALWAYS hear exactly what the student sounds like; no simultaneous playing means the instructor can’t “carry” the student, and they both have to “face the music,” so to speak, and really hear the student’s playing.
- Must. Communicate. Better. When taking lessons via live video, you are not in the room with your instructor. Thus, he can’t move your fingers when they’re in the wrong place or locate and correct an out-of-tune string for you. The instructor will have to become more skilled at communication so he can clearly explain what you need to do. You will have to learn how to communicate what you need to your instructor or what you don’t understand about his instructions. Again, it’s easy to see how this challenge can become a great benefit.
For lots of students, the benefits of live video lessons outweigh the challenges. Consider live video lessons and let the learning begin! Learn how to Get Started with Live Video Lessons.