Music Teacher
and Performer

Adapting to Online Keyboard and Piano Lessons

In March 2020 when the Covid Pandemic triggered the first Lockdown in the UK almost overnight myself and millions of other people had to quickly adapt to working from home. As a one to one instrumental music teacher ths meant I had to transfer all my tuition online and use platforms like SKYPE, FACE-TIME and the new comer ZOOM to allow my current students to continue their lessons. So as well as being a huge bonus to me and my students getting to grips with this new way of teaching presented a number of challenges.

Thankfully the improvement in the quality of peoples home internet connections allowed online lessons to take place successfully. I would say as recently as 5 years ago the technology would not have coped with the demand. I had already tried using the internet to conduct a small number of lessons mainly for students I had already taught but had moved out of the area or aboard. It was mostly a frustrating experience of poor picture and sound quality, constant buffering and connection drop outs to the point where it was just not viable as an alternative to face to face lessons.

So now that the quality had improved to the standard required the first disadvantage with online teaching revealed itself as where to position the device (phone, tablet, laptop etc) to allow me to see the student’s hands and for them to see mine while playing instrument. At my end I fortunately had a dedicated room to work from and had already constructed a set up using stands to position the camera correctly and adequate lighting to give proper visibility. My students were mostly in their lounge or kitchen using phones propped up against a cushion, hanging from clothes dryer or perched on a mantel piece. Inevitably they would move, topple over or even drop to the floor. After a while most students found a sweet spot that worked and I just got used to seeing what I could. One pupil even adapted his bedroom to have a fixed position overhead stand for the camera looking down on to the keyboard with a separate microphone and stereo out connection but unfortunately not everyone was able to do that. So after a week or two things settled down and we all learnt to adapt, I even took on new pupils online who lived in different parts of the country.

So overall it worked well and my most of students continued with their lessons and went to successfully take their grades. This was another big step in that the exam boards ABRSM, Trinity College and Rockschool also adapted their exam structure to allow students to take a digital exam meaning they recorded themselves performing 3 pieces, exercises and a selection of scales for assessment. The marks were adapted to allow for the emphasis on performance and certificates were issued with the same accreditations as before.

So for both teachers and students of music and many other subjects tuition now exists in two formats, face to face and online. In my view having the choice of both is certainly an improvement in the way one to one education works and is definitely here to stay.