When I was asked to write this article, it gave me the final impetus I needed to grow my teaching business.

In recent months, several of my students have moved interstate but wanted to learn music online.

I was hesitant because, as a singing and piano teacher, I wasn’t really sure how I was going to make this move, especially for singing, because it is so interactive and personal.

Now I’m ready to experiment and I thought it would be interesting to have some company.

So please join me as I detail the steps I have taken to set up my Skype teaching business and please feel free to benefit from my mistakes or copy the methods which worked!

Step 1

Set Up Your Teaching Business

If you haven’t already set up your teaching business please read this article as it goes into great detail and outlines what you need to have in place before you take the next step of launching yourself worldwide as an internet teacher.

I also recommend you have a substantial amount of one to one teaching practice before you commence Skype teaching, as you will need your experience to help cover the distance which may be caused by giving Skype lessons.

Step 2

Install Skype and Other Software Programmes You May Need

Installing Skype is a very easy thing to do.

Go to http://www.skype.com/intl/en-us/get-skype/ and simply follow the instructions for download on your computer.

I have decided to make use of some other programmes to give value for money and help me self assess.

These are:

  • Ecamm recorder, available at http://www.ecamm.com.  This software isn’t expensive but it enables you to record both sides of the Skype conversation on video or just voice call.  You can edit the recording as well.

    My idea is to send a copy of the lesson to the student so they can review it if they want to.  Also, I thought it would be a good way for me to assess my own teaching.  But please make sure your student is aware that this process is in place and give them the option to refuse recording.

  • As I am teaching singing, I have to think about the delay live accompaniment may cause, so I am sending my students backing tracks they can sing to that are in their key as well. This means I need to have a recording facility, which can produce tracks that will convert into downloadable MP3 format as they will be sent to the student via email prior to the lesson.

    Your student needs to have the facility to open these files and play them back or record them onto disk as well.

Step 3

You will need to be able to receive payment for the lessons you give.

The simple way to do this is with Paypal.

On their website, they have some different options for merchant services.

I chose the easiest, quickest and least complicated one, which was to email requests for payment.

Students can pay by direct deposit or credit cards when using this service and I request that payment is made prior to the lesson.

If you decide you would like to advertise your services on other websites and blogs, you could think about setting up a Clickbank account at www.clickbank.com .

This is a affiliate programme market place which means that people will advertise and sell your product (your lessons) for a percentage of each sale.

Clickbank manages the funds for you, the affiliate marketers and your students.  It is a more complex way of doing things but something you may wish to consider.

Step 4

Set Up Your Teaching Studio

In just a few seconds of meeting people or walking into a room, we make value judgements, therefore, it is important that your studio looks professional and tidy (as well as yourself) when you are teaching.

You need to take into consideration the view that your student is getting, so make sure your camera is angled and adjusted to give the clearest picture for demonstration and also make sure you have good lighting in your studio.

I rearranged my studio to suit Skype teaching and it has actually turned out to be much better for all my teaching and learning needs now.

Here is a view, in case you are curious.

Lisa Brown's Online Teaching Studio

Step 5

Get Your Paper Work In Order

As mentioned in Greg Arney’s article on setting up your teaching business, you need to have decided on your Terms and Conditions of teaching.

However, you need to consider other situations when teaching online.

What will your policies be on:

  • Payment – How much?  When to receive payment?  Refunds?  How will students pay?
  • Cancellation – How much notice should you receive?  Will you reschedule lessons?
  • Technical interruptions -  What will you do if this happens during a lesson?
  • Equipment – What software and hardware should your students have in order to interact successfully in skype lessons?

I have composed a Terms and Conditions document, which is emailed to students prior to lessons and which they then type their name on and email back to me.  This acts as an acceptance of the terms and conditions stated, so both parties are clear on what to expect.

When payment is received, I am informed by Paypal and I then send students another email confirming receipt of funds as well as their lesson time and date.

It is highly important you make sure you are aware of time differences and take these into consideration when booking appointments.

Step 6

Teach Your Lesson

I have discovered that teaching online requires creative thinking and some different approaches to normal lesson delivery because of some restrictions caused by the technology.

    • Skype is unable to transfer simultaneous audio

      Surprisingly, there is little delay when communicating on Skype.  I thought this was a great thing because I could then accompany my student until I discovered …

      When there is audio coming from both parties, Skype is unable to transfer both signals clearly at the same time, which means each of you experience cutting out.   Such a shame!!!

      However, here are some suggestions for combating this problem:

      1. Email accompaniment tracks

        You will have to make sure your student then burns these tracks onto a CD and plays them from a source outside the computer.

        This is because the tracks tend to be too loud when they are coming from the computer onto Skype and you can’t hear your student clearly enough.

      2. Consider different teaching strategies

        There are many strategies you can employ in your teaching so you don’t have to use play-along or accompaniment.  You can focus more on technical aspects, mentoring and sound production and get students to demonstrate their work in home recordings or play-along in subsequent lessons, when they are playing with a backing track.

    • Introduction and check student set-up

I would suggest you set up a Skype meeting with your student before you teach your first lesson with them.  This will:

    1. Help your student feel more comfortable

      Many people are shy and especially first-time students.  Introducing yourself to them on Skype will help break the ice so that your first lesson will run more smoothly.

    2. Check the student’s set-up

      You will need to check that your student has set up Skype correctly and everything is in working order.

      You both need to direct each other so that the camera is positioned to get a clear picture on both sides, and also make sure the student has received any resources you want them to use.

      If you are using written resources, they too will have to be sent to the student as when you hold up writing to the camera, it has a mirror effect.  It’s hard enough to begin reading music, let alone backwards!

Step 7

Self Assessment

Self-assessment of your teaching practice through reflective work is necessary if you want to engage in a high quality standard of teaching.

Teaching on Skype will take some adjustment of the way you normally deliver your material.  Your first couple of lessons could be challenging but with some problem-solving you will be able to work it out.

You will also have to consider whether moving your business online is going to be worthwhile as there is a little more work and organisation involved.

However, I feel that once you have made a routine of preparing, emailing and having standard contracts and stationery set up, it could definitely be a worthwhile practice.

I am going to give it a go for a while with a few students.

And so, in conclusion:

The disadvantages of teaching online for you are:

  • You will have to organise and think about your teaching practice in a different way to cater to this format.
  • It may be a little more work and be a little uncomfortable to begin with.

The benefits of online teaching for you are:

  • You can become an international teacher and expand your student base.
  • You can teach at odd hours if you want to.
  • You can become a trail-blazer in a field which will, no doubt, become more popular in future!  And
  • If you are smart, discover a new niche market because…

Some of the benefits for students are:

  • They don’t need to leave the comfort of their own home or office!

This would be attractive to people who:

  • clock up a lot of time working and don’t have time for to go to a lesson,
  • people in isolated areas without access to music teachers,
  • people who find travel difficult or who have limited access to transport, and
  • carers or parents who can’t leave their premises for very long.

Some disadvantages of learning online are:

  • The student misses out on some of the personal energy created in a real-life meeting, however, as they get to know you, this shouldn’t be a problem.
  • They will have to be more active in helping their lesson to run smoothly, making sure their set-up is in place and they have all resources at hand but I also see this as an advantage as it helps the student learn to be independent and resourceful which are qualities needed to pursue music.

I hope you’ve found this helpful and I’d love to hear about any feedback you may have.  So, please leave a comment below and good luck!

31 Responses to 7 Easy Steps to Teaching Music Lessons Online

  1. Loved your article, thank-you! One quick question: do you charge the same for a Skype lesson as you do in person?
    Thanks again.

  2. Lisa Brown says:

    Hi David

    Thanks for your comment and glad you liked the article!

    At the moment I’m just getting used to teaching online and as I said in the article there are a few drawbacks to not being there in person.

    So my prices are a little cheaper until I feel more confident and experienced teaching this way.

    When I feel the quality of the lesson is equal to a “live” lesson, I will charge the same.

    Thanks again.

    Lisa

  3. Jeff says:

    Thanks for your article! My question is practical: how do you place your camera so that your student can clearly see your hands, and yet also your face? I’ve been investigating software that will allow me to use two cameras in one feed… But I’m not finding what I want yet. Any thoughts?

  4. Daniel says:

    Would you say that some instruments will be easier than others? Like the flute as it’s fairly small and your hands are quite close together when playing?

  5. Brian Turner says:

    good article. I teach using facetime (mac skype). I hope to do more.

  6. Ed says:

    Nice article indeed! One question: How does one go about getting students to sign up for online lessons? I have been doing free online lessons, one per week on my blog and still no sign ups. Is there a specific site someone goes to advertise such services? Thanks.

  7. Ilen says:

    Thank you so much! I have been working on converting to online teaching as I have moved to a remote place to work on recording. I still want to teach and keep my students. . . This is the best resource I’ve found!

  8. Nancy says:

    This is so helpful – thank you! How is it going for you now – after some time has passed? Are the online lessons going well? Are you finding that you are attracting people from far and wide and teaching people from a wide variety of locations?

    I’m looking forward to getting started but since I am focusing mainly on beginning singers, I’m concerned about not being able to sing with them simultaneously. When you send them a track – is it so that they can match pitch, and you can offer feedback on how well they’re doing that?

    Thanks so much!
    Nancy

  9. Ken Jaffe says:

    Thank you for your article! I have found a number of your suggestions very helpful. I am a voice teacher, but will be using web tutoring for a related teaching experience. My biggest issue is one that I didn’t see you bringing up: the question of simultaneous audio: being able to sing along with the student and have both parties hear each other. For this reason, I’m not going to be using Skype as I set up the web aspect of my business. Have you found a similar issue? Have you found a solution for this? Thanks! Ken

    • Karl Penta says:

      Yes it was mentioned. You can t do simultaneous performance with students. You can send them sheet music, recordings, and/or take a listen and direction approach.

  10. Michael says:

    This was an enlightening article. I’m in the process of re-defining my guitar tuition biz, from a bricks & mortar business model to an online business model. I’m hoping skype will grow on me. Does anyone out there know if there’s any possible way of fixing the similtaneous cut offs when both teacher & student try to play together?
    Once again, great article :-)

  11. MITCH. MCKENZIE says:

    6/16/2012 GREAT ARTICLE AND VERY HELPFUL TO ME, AS I AM JUST GETTING STARTED WITH TEACHING PIANO LESSONS,ALONG WITH THEORY AND COMPOSITION USING SKYPE. I HAVE BEEN TEACHING THOSE MUSIC LESSONS FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS, ONE ON ONE.YOUR ARTICLE IS VERY HELPFUL.

    MITCH MCKENZIE
    MCKENZIE MUSIC

  12. Tim Connolly says:

    Hi, enjoyed your article about skype music lessons. I am just starting to teach drums on Skype. i had a question about sending
    written material to students.
    can you use the prt sc button in upper right corner of keyboard to send written things via skype?
    If so how does it work/?
    Thanks

    Tim Connolly

    • Tim, this doesn’t exactly answer your question, but I send PDFs of the day’s lesson to my students the day of the lesson, along with a confirmation, and at the same time send a Paypal invoice (in a separate email). I don’t like sending file transfers during the lesson because it is kind of an interruption and there might always be technical problems.

  13. Hi there

    Great article. I like the idea of terms and conditions for students, would you please email me a copy of yours so I can take a look properly.

    Thank you in advance

    Dale

  14. Nikki says:

    I have much more success with ooVoo over Skype. Also free and way better streaming. It’s used for business much more than Skype. No idea why it’s not more well known outside that. Check it out and good luck with your ventures!

  15. Your post seems to be very awesome.I enjoyed it while reading.I’m glad that you simply shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  16. Hal Mooney says:

    Lisa, Thanks for priming my thought process. I’ve been a one-on-one guitar teacher for fifteen years, starting at a church school of music. Although I’ve never made my whole living as a teacher, I hope to be able to do it in the near future. Skype lessons seem like a great possibility, although there are some problems to work out. For a guitar teacher, a camera on the teacher and an inset camera on the left hand seems to be important. Does anyone know of a program that would do that. Also, Is e-camm available for windows? Their website seems to cater specifically to mac users.

  17. Great work. Thank you for sharing such an excellent resource and being such a trail blazer yourself :)

  18. Lucia Diaz says:

    This is just what I was looking for. I have been teaching voice for more than 15 years. My nationality is Chilean. I graduated in Berlin, Germany and at the present time I live in USA. Thank you for sharing your resource. The world is developing technologically in an incredible speed, and we have to adjust ourselves to it. Thank you again.

  19. Technical question: I have electronic drums and an iMac desktop. I’m trying to figure out how to run the drums, my voice and monitor the audio at once. I know I can get a clean sound using the drums direct instead of through the air via my webcam’s mic. I have an M-Audio Fast Track which is seen by Skype but is not heard.

    Any and all is help is vastly appreciated!

  20. Brian Lucas says:

    Thanks for this post! Online is definitely the future, whether video lessons or Skype. I haven’t tried live web lessons yet, mainly because of the issues mentioned here. But the technology is getting better, and I may attempt it in the near future. I chose instead to do videotaped piano lessons online. It’s a great way to be able to reach and teach those that may not have a good teacher nearby, or the time in a normal schedule for a formal piano lesson.

  21. Randall Williams says:

    do you use more than one camera to teach your lessons?

  22. D Donnelly says:

    Hi,
    Thank you for an insightful article..I was wondering what sort of rate one could expect to charge for an hour Skype lesson?
    Also I am planning to teach Irish music on the violin and would be interested in any technology that would enable me to have a close up of my left hand?
    Does such a thing exsist?i.e a separate camera?
    Thanks in advance for your response..

    • I charge a slightly reduced rate than my in person lessons. Regarding the camera, as far as I know, you can only use one at a time with Skype. I just hold my hand closer to the camera when I need to.

  23. Philip Robinson says:

    What a helpful article. It really is! Thank you.

    Philip

  24. Your article was very helpful. I’m hoping to start teaching online very soon, and this gave me a lot of direction.

    Thank you!
    Jodi

  25. Maria D'Aura says:

    Thanks for the article. Would love to see an update on how online lessons are working for you.

  26. James Saia says:

    Lisa,
    I am a retired music teacher and have been wanting to do online music lessons for years but didn’t know where to start. Thank you for letting us know, I’ll be off and running up online soon. Are there any updates since your article August 15th article?
    Thank you,
    Jim Saia

  27. Pier Mario says:

    Very interesting and enlightning article, how do you deal with taxes and pensions?Is there anything that need to be considered to legally teach online?

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