28 October 2020
By Ellie Palmer
When Covid-19 hit and we were ordered to stay indoors, it seemed as though the future of face-to-face piano lessons was a bleak one indeed.
As teachers, I’m sure the majority of us were initially fearful for our profession, and fearful that we may never get some of our students back to lessons.
We had to adapt our way of learning very quickly, hastily switching to online lessons and making sure we had all the right equipment. Sometimes even that wasn’t enough; Wi-Fi troubles plagued many of us, causing us to abandon some lessons entirely. It’s certainly been a challenging few months.
Despite that, we have also seen a fair share of benefits from online teaching; including an improvement in organisation, less money spent on travel, and being able to work in the comfort of our own homes.
Let’s take a closer look.
Teaching – and learning – in the comfort of your own home
Life was very busy for most of us before the pandemic hit; we’d be travelling to student’s houses regularly and/or travelling to local schools to conduct lessons. That naturally brought a lot of stress along with it.
Being able to teach in the comfort of our own home – as well as the student being able to learn in the comfort of their own home – has certainly been, in some way, a benefit.
Physical lessons can give both student and teacher unwanted anxiety or discomfort. Having that physical distance from each other can help a great deal with any personal anxieties we may have.
Saving money on travel expenses… and saving time!
We’ve all been in those horrible situations where we get stuck in traffic on our way home from lessons, leaving us with not much time before the next lesson, and sometimes next to no time to relax in the evenings.
Ultimately, cutting out travel benefits our mental wellbeing as teachers, as well as our student’s wellbeing. It gives us more time to wind down and focus on ourselves after a busy day, as well as saving a heap of petrol money.
There is nothing more frustrating than when a student’s notebook goes missing, regardless of whose fault it may be. That’s why switching to electronic note-taking during the pandemic has had so many benefits.
In issue 116 of Pianist, teacher Kathryn Page sums up its benefits perfectly: “Electronic contact ensures that no one can complain about illegible words or untidy handwriting, and it means that we as teachers can have instant access to all of the information in a pupil’s individual lesson ‘book’.”
Connectivity issues have plagued a lot of our online lessons over the last few months.
It can be hugely frustrating when your WiFI – or your student’s – fails halfway through an exercise, and you’re left having to ask them to repeat what they played which simply wastes vital lesson time.
It's not something that can always be fixed either. Upgrading WiFi costs money, something not all of us can spare so easily.
Sound quality issues
Even when the internet connection is perfect on both ends, we can still have issues with quality of sound.
Laptop and computer microphones are not designed to pick up the wide range of frequencies that a piano produces. Therefore, we are never going to be able to 100% know if our student is performing the piece in the right way.
The only way around this is to purchase better equipment, something that – similarly to upgrading WiFi – not all of us can afford to do.
Nothing quite beats a physical lesson
No matter how great the WiFi is, or how great the sound quality is, nothing quite beats having a lesson in person.
It will always be hard to obtain an accurate feel of your student's playing on camera. There will always be something that we will miss. This could lead to bad habits being formed over time, some of which are extremely difficult to reverse.
But at the moment, most of us have no option but to soldier on with online lessons. Despite those hindrances, let's remember all those benefits it brings, and be grateful we can still have lessons in some capacity.
Have you noticed any other benefits or hindrances? Tweet us @pianistmagazine and let us know.