I've been seeing so many complaints among my friends and colleagues about the quality of their Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom lessons. I have to say that while I acknowledge the limitations of the media, I actually really LOVE teaching online.
1. Lesson transitions are better. Sometimes when we are live, our chit-chat can take a fair amount of time, while people get their instruments out at the beginning, soak their reeds, and put everything away again. Online no one calls in before they are ready, and we can end the call at the end of the content and let everyone take care of swabbing in private. We use ALL of our allotted time efficiently online.
2. My personal focus is better. I have to listen hard to hear the details through the medium, and it keeps my mind from wandering. I think the tighter transitions help me with that, too. And I perceive the same from my students - it could be that my focus directs theirs, I suppose, but either way we’ve gotten a LOT of good work done lately!
3. My students do a lot more playing. In live lessons, I interrupt a lot - too much - and we can take a full session to get through three lines of music. Interruptions are too disruptive over zoom, so I let them play a bunch. Then I talk a bunch. We can and do have some back and forth as we dig into details, but I really enjoy hearing more of what they’ve prepared.
4. I can only see a thumbnail of the person, usually. From the chest up, often, or only a side view as they play. But that focused view gives me a really clear focus on jaw movement, or tension in the shoulders, or posture and approach to the instrument. In a live lesson there might be a LOT of distraction, a lot of visual stimulation - but online I see closeups of body parts (we can and do move the camera to focus on hands, fingers, etc as needed) and can REALLY address efficient body usage in my students.
5. The students have to take much more responsibility for their own sound and learning. The mics on our computers are BAD, we know that. I can’t hear every nuance, so I find myself saying things like, I’m hearing variable pitch on that B natural. Tell me if I’m wrong. It sounds like there’s a quiver or a tension in the sound on that note - are you hearing that? Tell me how that long tone FELT in your body. I don’t hear any dynamic range. Tell me what dynamic you think you are playing there. Can you convince me of that dynamic THROUGH cyberspace? Talk to me about the beginning of that note - it sounded really jarring. Did you hear that from your side too? Live, I would point it out and make them fix it - over the internet I have to make them notice it and acknowledge it for themselves, and be responsible for telling me when it’s fixed. Even my younger students can DO this, when I ask them to!
6. Obviously, I can’t fix their reeds over cyberspace. I can talk them through diagnosis and tweaks, but I can’t JUST do it for them. This is going to be SO empowering for them! Everyone’s coming out of this quarantine ready to cope with reed adjustment, I just know it.
These are my top six reasons why zoom lessons are GREAT - tell me yours!