Onmutu- General Music Learning Article

How To Teach Music Online


The days of having to drive to a music studio or driving to your students home to teach them how to sing or play a musical instrument are over.   With some simple skills and tools it is easy to start teaching students from the comfort of your own home.  This not only lets you teach students in a place you are familiar with, it also gives you access to students from all over the world - not just the ones who live near you.

If you are considering teaching  music online here the basic things you need to get started as well as some tips to make the most of what you have.

1) Be a Musician

This one should be pretty obvious.  If you are looking to teach a music online or in person you should be able to play at least one instrument - or sing - at a very high level.   

2) Have a decent computer with a good internet connection.

While the computer you have does not have to be top of the line it should at least be one that is less than 5 years old (but newer is better).  What is key however is that you have a very good internet connection.   This one is key.   The minimum speed that your ISP provides should be 2 megabytes of download speed.  If you are not sure what your internet speed is you can check it on sites like Speedtest.net for free.

You can also check it manually to see if your connection is fast enough by calling a friend in another country on your computer and checking to make sure that the connection is fast enough that you can both see and hear each other without any static or skipping when both of your cameras are on.

If you are having some speed problems here are a few other things you can try to improve on your speed during the classes:

·         Close all software programs you have that are connected to the internet.  This includes but is not limited to internet browsers, ftp programs, etc.

·         Make sure nobody in your house is using the internet at the same time as you.

·         Connect your computer to the modem with a wire, not wirelessly.  Cable connections are typically 10-20 times faster than wireless ones.

·         Remember the problem may be on the students end, so ask them to do the same things if possible.

3) Download Skype

The "industry standard" for online classes these days is Skype (which you can download and user for free from http://www.skype.com).   If you are not already familiar with it, this software allows you to speak to people from around the world using voice, video and chat for free.  This will be the base of your online classes.

Skype also have a number of lesser known features that are great for online music teachers to use in their class.  These include:

·         The chat window.  This not only allows you to type out words that a student does not understand but also allows you to send files like sheet music over it by simply dragging and dropping the file into the chat window.

·         Share screen.  Can't stress enough how good this one is.  If you have any files on your computer that you want to go through with your students, you can use the share screen functionality of Skype by going to Call --> Share Screen in the menu at the top.  This allows you and the music student to go through documents and music together in real time.  A small note however is that some versions of Skype require you to turn off your camera before sharing the screen. 

·         If you have a few extra dollars to spare every month, and want to give group classes it may also be worth your time to upgrade to Skype Premium.  This allows you to have up to 10 people on the same call.  Only you as the Skype music teacher need to have Skype Premium, the students only need free accounts.

And a final thing you may consider to give a bit more value added to your classes is to record your Skype classes and send it to the students via email.   There are a number of software to do this such as evaersupertintin or vodburner

4) An external camera and microphone for your computer.

High definition (HD) if possible.  For almost all music classes the built in microphones and cameras that come with computers these days simply don't cut it.  You need external ones so you can move both the cameras and microphones around to get closer to the instruments so that the students can see and hear what you are playing clearly.  External cameras and mics are very cheap these days.   If you have a few extra bucks it may also be worth your time to invest in a bluetooth or other wireless microphone or camera so you don't even have to worry about wires during the class.

5) Have a room to teach in without too much echo.

If you are a musician, you probably already have this.  Make sure that you have a room in your house or apartment that does not have too much echo and does not pick up too much external noise.  This can make a big difference in sound quality for the online music lessons.

6) Put curtains on your windows.

If you are giving the classes during the day, make sure you have that all the windows in the room have the curtains closed.  This goes double if the curtains are behind you when you are in front of the camera.  If you don't do this the glare and contrast will be very bad for the class.  More than likely the student will only see you and your instruments black outline and not be able to follow any of the fingering or techniques you use.

7) Get some digital material ready.

Since you music students can be thousands of miles away from you, make sure all the material you have is in a digital format somewhere.  This way you can email it to them before the class, or share it with them over Skype.  If you have a lot of paper material (tabs, sheet music, etc) it may be worth scanning the most important ones so that you can have a digital version on your computer at hand whenever you need them.

Also, keep in mind that the web is full of incredible resources for music teachers.  You probably already use a number of them yourself.  Just have those links ready so you can share them with your students and they can be used as some of the reference material for the class.

8) Create a Paypal account so you can get paid.

Music feeds the soul, but unfortunately it does not feed the stomach.  So this means you will probably want to be paid for your classes.   The best and most trusted way to get paid online is Paypal.com.  You can create an account for free and the students can pay you with their Paypal accounts and also via credit card online if they don't have one.  The key here is to make it as easy as possible for the student to pay you.  One way to do that is to use Paypal to send invoices to your music students.  This makes them receive an email requesting the payment and all they have to do is click "Pay Now" in the email and follow the instructions.   To learn how to send invoices in Paypal check out their guide here.

One small word of caution about Paypal.  There are some countries where Paypal does not work.  Make sure you are not in one of those countries.  Also, you should make sure that the students who contact you are in countries where they can use Paypal as well.  A list of countries where Paypal is allowed and what features they have can be found here.

9) Create a template for your class logs.

It may be easy to keep track of each class you give when you have only 1 student, but it may get harder if you have 10 or 20 students.  The best and easiest way to keep track of how many classes a student has paid for is to simply create a simple spreadsheet in a software like Excel.  Then simply log how much each student paid for, and check off each class with the date and a small description of what was studied.

If you want to take this one level higher you can use Google Drive to create the spreadsheets, then you can share the spreadsheet with the student so both you and them have access to see how many classes were taken and how many are left.

10) Get your name out there

You need music students!  There are a number of ways to get the word out that you are teaching music online.   One of the most effective ways of getting online students is to post on classified pages, and the king of all classified pages is Craigslist.org.  The beauty of teaching online is that you can actually post ads in cities that are not your own.  Just make sure you do not overdue it as most classified systems have spam filters that will ban you and delete your ads if you post too many of the same.

You can also try newer and more specialized systems like Onmutu which is a directory and classified system made specifically for talented musicians to find students (and vice versa).

11) Offer free trial lessons

Learning how to sing or play a musical instrument over the internet with live classes is a very new concept.  So many potential students are not entirely comfortable with the idea yet.  So what we strongly recommend is that you offer a free trial class for any potential students.  This helps avoid a lot of headaches in the future.  Not only will you be able to see if the student is a good fit for you and your teaching style, you will also be able to see if their internet connection and setup are up to spec for the online classes.  It is a lot less stressful to handle these kinds of things during a free session than it is when a student has already paid.

Building up a student body to teach online takes work.  But not as much work as it did for you to master playing a musical instrument.  Just follow these basic guidelines and you should have a full teaching schedule in no time. 

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