Studio Business, Technology

In Snowy Weather…Teaching Via FaceTime/Skype

This is what it looks like outside our house today:

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Much of the U.S. is currently experiencing a “polar vortex.”  Here in Ohio, there is around 8 inches of snow on the ground and the wind chill has been around -35 degrees Fahrenheit during the daytime.  Local schools and universities have cancelled classes yesterday and today.  Our county has declared a Level 3 Snow Emergency, which means people are not allowed to travel on the roads unless it is an emergency (or else risk a fine or arrest).

What to do about piano lessons? 

I do have a number of “flex weeks” built into the yearly schedule, which I can use at my discretion in the event of my illness, conference attendance, or vacation.  I could use those, but I would prefer to teach the lessons if I can — especially since this was supposed to be the first week of lessons after Christmas break.

So, I emailed my students/parents and let them know I would be available to teach their lessons over FaceTime or Skype.

Here is the set-up I used yesterday:

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I have taught lessons this way in the past and it works pretty well, assuming both the student and teacher are comfortable with making the necessary accommodations.  Both parties must have copies of the music.  Both parties must have an arrangement where the piano keyboard can be seen easily on the camera.  And it helps to have a parent willing to manage the camera while the student plays.

Beforehand, I asked my students to text or email me a photo of their last assignment sheet so that I could refer to it throughout the lesson.  During the lesson, I wrote out their new assignment and then emailed it after we hung up.

In my experience, FaceTime provides a more reliable connection than Skype and Google Hangouts.  Any of the three options are viable, however, and can be used on a computer, iPad, or iPhone.

Pictured: My iPhone 5s, the iStabilizer, the Zoom MA2 Tripod to Mic Stand Adapterand the Samson MK-10 Microphone Boom Stand.   

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The iStabilizer is designed to hold most smartphones and attach to the top of any tripod.  However, I decided to put it on my mic stand using the tripod-to-mic-stand adaptor (one of these came with the Zoom H2 recorder I purchased about five years ago).  The mic stand allows for much more flexibility than a tripod would.  I can easily move the camera to give a close-up view of the sheet music or my hands at the keyboard.  The mic stand I have is just an inexpensive one that I purchased on Amazon for my CD recording project.

Just as in a normal in-person lesson, I can listen to and watch students play, ask the usual teaching questions, and demonstrate passages for students.

It’s a nice option to have during snowy weather!

10 thoughts on “In Snowy Weather…Teaching Via FaceTime/Skype”

    1. Ha! I like snow days, but you won’t find me in the kitchen. Cooking/baking is not my favorite thing to do. ;)

      The local schools in my area still haven’t gone back to classes. The roads are still pretty icy so the schools have another snow day tomorrow. At least the authorities have lifted the Level 3 Snow Emergency, so now people are allowed to drive on the roads!

  1. Joy, this is a fantastic idea! I started to think that I should offer skype/face time lessons to my parents, beginning next year in my Studio Policy. But first I need to organize myself in that. Last week I drove to my student’s home and my car got stack in their neighborhood. Fortunately for me, they did not mind driving me back home. Thank you for posting pictures of your set up.

    1. Although I much prefer seeing my students in person, being able to Skype/FaceTime is such a nice option when the roads are icy! I’ll admit that it takes a little bit of adjusting to get used to teaching over FaceTime, but it really does work surprisingly well once you get hang of it.

  2. Joy, do you have somewhere where you discuss how you set up your pricing and decide how many flex weeks to include? I’d be very interested. Also, how do you deal with folks who want to take the summer off in this kind of plan? Thanks for the blog, it’s great.

  3. Not a music comment, but…
    I have a brother in Canada and we have been comparing our weathers…here in Australia we are baking hot!!!
    Thank you for your delightful picture of your home…it looks so warm and cosy.

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