Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Voice Lessons Online

While most subjects must be taught face to face, music performance is successfully taught online. Is anyone else doing this? I tutor a score of folks each week this way now from my website, some of them local (even through Wyzant), but many more of them are from all over the world from places I could never physically visit.

Instead of connecting to a student in a physical space, we connect in a virtual space. My student and I are both at home on our own computers, with an audio headset, a common chat channel and sometimes a mini-camera active. We can tutor over Google-Talk, Second Life, There, MS Chat, or Yahoo Messenger, but my favorite music-teaching platform is Skype. Skype service is free for all, the sound and video stream is fantastic and I can inhibit new callers so the student and I are not distracted by incoming calls during our session.

I always spend the first few moments of the tutoring session making a good connection so we can hear and see each other clearly. If static, break-up or background noises interfere at all, we spend a few moments taking care of those, checking connections and setting levels. After that, the online tutoring session is very like a live face-to-face tutoring session.

There are some differences, of course. We can see and hear each other clearly, but I cannot point to a symbol on a physical paper page to direct attention to a detail. I cannot touch the student to correct a posture or hand position. However, I can instantly send a link to a website video, picture, or article that we can look at together and talk about right then. I can chat notes about an exercise while the student is singing or playing without distracting her and send it immediately on completing without distracting her from focusing on her performance technique. Using a recording program, I can make and upload short clips of our session so the student can review them after our session. In trade off, I think the online session offers the student more resources than the face-to-face.

I do not think this practice is widespread yet, but it’s effective and economical for teaching vocal and instrumental practice and technique.

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