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I have taught guitar one-to-one for several years and would now like to start offering lessons via Skype.

What are the major problems in teaching guitar by Skype and can they be overcome? Are there any advantages?

  • 2
    Can it just be the same? Tech is pretty smooth nowadays – Dr. Shmuel May 27 at 14:06
  • 1
    @Dr.Shmuel Tech is still nowhere near being in the same room as another person, especially with "consumer" grade tools like Skype on a laptop. – JPhi1618 May 30 at 18:51
18

Advantages are things like:

  • You can teach people around the world, from all countries as long as they speak your language.

  • You save time... Neither you nor your student have to drive around with all the instruments to get to each other. Additionally, if someone cancels the session, you could just put someone else in between without any troubles.

  • If you allow the student to record the session, he can watch it over and over again in case he missed anything or just want to see it again.

Some disadvantages:

  • There is always the possibility of internet connection problems or trouble with your PC in general. It would be sad if they take their time and you can't start the lesson because of technical issues. There may also be lag or delay-issues with some software and it's a stupid feeling to start talking and after 2 seconds the voices are overlapping, because the other person actually wasn't finished or started to speak again :P

  • You're just not able to show all the things via Skype that you could do in person. You can't correct his finger position, you can only show him how your fingers are. But if he just doesn't get it, it would be great to be able to touch his hand and position the fingers the correct way. You also can't demonstrate things like how much pressure they should apply to the strings... I mean, how would you tell somebody over Skype how hard they should press a string? :/

  • In general, it's just always better to meet someone in person rather than seeing him virtually on a PC.

  • The sound quality is of course way better in real life and I think with instruments this is really important... Let the student have a bad microphone, or you not the best speakers. I wouldn't want to teach a student how to play an instrument when the guitar sounds like a crying cat on your side of the line.

  • You can't hand out any sheet music to the student or similar and if you want to discuss something, you can't just point at the position and say there... you would have to say in bar X, the Xth beat etc.

  • It's probably harder to follow on a video where your fingers actually are on the guitar. It's so much easier when the student is right in front of you or can look you over the shoulder.

  • It's unusual but still possible you might want to trade guitars with the student, either to help them tune or fix something on their guitar, or so they can feel/hear/experience something with your guitar that is different from theirs, and of course you can't do this over Skype.

...

  • 1
    Thank you for taking the time to write all of these in-depth comments! Definitely some points I had not yet considered! – Mlshoe May 29 at 16:24
  • I've touched student's hands, fingers, elbows, and shoulders many times over the years when I've been teach (I suggest always asking for permission to touch before doing so), and to me that would be a big downside to Skype teaching. – Todd Wilcox May 30 at 18:07
  • For a little more detail on sound quality - the compression that is used on the voice streams for online calls (and even many phone calls) is tuned to be sensitive only to common voice frequencies. Anything outside of the expected human voice can end up being wildly distorted. If there is some kind of "HD" calling feature, make sure that is enabled before even attempting this. – JPhi1618 May 30 at 18:47
33

A major disadvantage is that you can't jam together because of the delay. You can explain and show things clearly, no problem, but playing together is impossible.

The obvious advantage is that you can reach students around the world. The question is just if potential students around the world will be able to find you instead of many thousand other teachers offering online lessons.

More than half of my skype/internet students are former real-life students that moved away such that video lessons became more convenient or were actually the only choice if they wanted to continue with me.

  • 3
    You might add that it would be hard to see or show hand positions in detail. – Todd Wilcox May 27 at 14:17
  • 1
    @ToddWilcox: I haven't experienced that as a real problem though. If necessary you can move your hand towards the camera and move around a bit. But of course, it's easier in a real-life lesson. – Matt L. May 27 at 14:51
  • 3
    I agree with Todd and cite this in my answer. I think another issue is you cannot adjust the students hand posture if it's wrong. – ggcg May 28 at 17:55
  • And sound quality can often be a concern, if you're looking for that. – Cullub May 28 at 19:12
  • 1
    Thank you for your insights! I hadn't thought about how crucial jamming together may be for building confidence/rapport. – Mlshoe May 29 at 16:23
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I teach both ways and I would say that by far the biggest issues involve proper posture and technique, and not being able to physically assist the student in altering these.

One cause of this is a lack of 360 view of the student's hands. You can ask them to change the angle of their camera or how they sit but that is very cumbersome and wastes time. In person you can always just get up and look to see if their left hand is correct etc. You simply cannot do this (at least not easily) via a video chat.

The second issue that arises is that you cannot physically touch their hands to correct certain problems. We can try our best to describe what to do and show what we are doing but things get lost in translation. The student thinks they are doing what you described but they are not. Also, it is customary for the instructor to test a student's grip by pulling on the fingers, etc. You cannot do these things via skype and there is really no telling what the student is doing.

Students could be developing bad habits that will lead to tendonitis or other problems and you'll never catch it via skype, and not be able to help them. For me, I will do skype lessons with students that I've met and done in person lessons with. This is good for keeping students who move etc. But I'd be reluctant to start lessons with a true beginner vie skype. All these other issue related to time delay, PC issues, etc, pale in comparison to the issue of not being able to physically correct bad habits.

  • Very interesting point about taking on beginners through Skype, something I will have to consider! Thank you for your answer! – Mlshoe May 29 at 16:25
7

Basically the most disadvantages are based on your Internet. Things you most likely encountered generally. For instance:

  • Call drops. It's not uncommon for a Skype session to fail. This can be okay when you are talking with a friend but during a lesson, it might be valuable time lost and annoying.
  • Bandwidth. If someone else is the same using the same router, your connection might be slow.
  • Video lag. This is something that happens if your internet connection is slow, and your video (or your student's) might have some lag
  • Audio Latency. This is something again that is caused by a slow internet connection and it can be really annoying when someone is trying to see and hear what you are playing.
  • Very true - and something that has to be solid on both the student, and the teachers part. Thank you for your answer, it's very helpful! – Mlshoe May 29 at 16:26
2

Other answers have highlighted several issues, namely:

  • Audio/Video Quality (do they have a good mic / webcam?)
  • Latency of Connection (delay)
  • Quality of Connection (dropping call, stuttering)

To alleviate some of these concerns/issues, I'd suggest instead producing video tutorials / 5-10 minute lessons and charge a nominal fee (either included with physical instruction, or a subscription fee) for access. Topics that are more informational in nature, such as Music Theory, How to tune the instrument, Picking Technique, etc. don't really require one-on-one instruction, except for follow-up questions.

Because this would replace the need for some of the 1-on-1 instruction, it reduces the impact of the issues above. You can supplement the videos with one-on-one instruction either included in the subscription, or for an extra per-lesson fee, which could more precisely answer questions, evaluate technique, explain theory, etc.

Additionally, you can alleviate some of these concerns yourself by ensuring that you have:

  • A solid Internet connection
  • A high-quality camera
  • Studio-level microphones + audio interface
    • At least two mics - one for guitar, and one for you talking
  • I had not yet thought about shorter video tutorials - definitely another interesting aspect of e-teaching! Thank you for your response, lots of information to consider! – Mlshoe May 29 at 16:26
2

All of these are great answers. As a student who started taking lessons and then moved out of state, my guitar teacher worked with me to start teaching via Skype. It's been a just over a couple years, and we have learned a few ways to make it even better than it started out to be. While Skype does a pretty good job, if you are able to get a video conferencing application, like Zoom, or Webex, the call quality is so much better. Also, if you are planning to keep taking lessons via video, invest in an HDMI high resolution wide angle camera. I use a Logitech HD webcam on a tripod. The tripod I bought for $2 at a thrift shop, the camera I paid about $95 dollars, and the wide angle allows for my entire guitar, head, and hands to be in the picture. And it also has a reasonable microphone with the camera, so I haven't needed to purchase another piece of equipment.

We also know that bad weather will sometimes impact the signal, but overall it's a great repeatable experience I have been enjoying for awhile. Now it's become my regular Tuesday morning way to start my day. I hope you find the same results! - Catz

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