With the rise of COVID-19 many activities that have traditionally been in-person have adjusted to an online experience, music lessons being one of them. Anything new requires time to become accustomed to, but there is no need fret about online music lessons. Here at Toronto Arts Academy, we provide the same quality of renowned education online as we do at our physical locations.

Below is a F.A.Q sheet about our online lessons. Give it a read! And if you have any further questions don’t hesitate to call us at 647-748-2878! 

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What platform are your online lessons held on? 

Zoom! Zoom is a fantastic (and free!) video communications program that is easy to use and amazingly reliable. Click here to learn more about it. 

What kind of device or computer do I need? 

Zoom runs on almost all modern communication devices: laptops, desktops, tablets, and even phones! If your device has a microphone and a webcam it’s online lesson ready.

What if the video or audio doesn’t work? 

At times, things like video choppiness or audio dropouts can happen. This is usually the cause of an unstable internet connection. It is helpful to setup your device as close to the internet modem or router as possible. This way, the best possible connection can be made. 

If the video or audio are not working at all it is most likely an issue with Zoom’s settings. At the bottom of the Zoom interface, there are microphone and video camera icons; make sure that they are activated by clicking them. 

Zoom call etiquette – Academic Technology Help Center

Sometimes, when Zoom is being used on an older phone or tablet the audio isn’t always great. This can be remedied by using headphones with a microphone on the wire. They don’t have to be fancy, even a convenience store brand will do!

What kinds of things can go wrong on Zoom during a lesson? 

Though rare, at times your video or audio connection may freeze. Also, Zoom may crash or remove you from the call completely if the internet connection becomes too slow. 

If either of these things happen, wait for a minute and see if Zoom corrects itself (which it usually does). If for whatever reason this doesn’t happen, simply log back into the main room and our Front Desk staff will gladly get you back into class! 

What are some of the cool things I can do in an online lesson? 

Online lessons allow teachers and students to focus on aural and writing skills in fun and interesting ways! Since teachers can arrange their virtual classroom in a way that no instrument is visible, the ears instead of the eyes can be fully focused on. 

Zoom also has a whiteboard mode, which allows for note writing and reading exercises, and a screen share mode, which gives students the ability to virtually draw in their online workbooks. 

Kids especially love these interactive elements, as they help create a physical connection in the virtual world. 

What if it turns out that I don’t like online lessons after trying one? 

We will credit you with an in person lesson when our schools reopen, so there’s nothing to lose! 

What are the benefits of an online lesson versus an in person lesson? 

Online lessons focus more on the ears and less on the eyes. This supports musicianship growth and increased aural focus. 

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Online lessons also provide the convenience of attending class without having to leave home! Being in a comfortable, known space without the stresses of traffic is a huge help for reducing “stage fright” and getting the most out of each class. 

What internet speed do I need? 

Almost all home internet speeds are perfectly fine for using Zoom and attending online lessons. We do recommend that if possible, your lesson area be positioned close to a modem or router for optimal speeds. 

Where should I place the camera? 

Singers: Singing students can position themselves directly in front of the camera, with their head and upper body in frame. This allows the teacher to see the students vowel shapes, breathing and posture. 

Pianists: Students can place the camera in a variety of ways, the important thing here is that the keys are visible. Some students place the camera in front of their instrument, others to the side; this placement depends on the keyboard or piano. The important thing is to keep those keys on camera! 

Guitarists: Students can setup directly in front of the camera, with their whole guitar (neck and body) in the frame. This allows the teacher to clearly see what each hand is doing and help make corrections. 

Drummers: For drummers, setting up the camera to the side of the kit is best. This way the teacher is able to keep an eye on the students hands and help them make adjustments.

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What if I have never done an online lesson before? 

Don’t give it a second thought! Our teachers and staff are completely understanding and well equipped to answer any questions you may have. Our primary goal is to make each student feel comfortable and happy with each class. 

How do I make the most out of an online lesson? 

Students can prepare by having their lesson station full equipped. Having a notebook, pencil, eraser, and glass of water ready to go is a perfect way to stay in the right headspace. 

The Recycled Jotter And Pen Notebook

For instrumentalists, it is also helpful to have a dedicated music stand. 

Other than that, the same rules as that of an in-person lesson apply: ask questions, let your teacher know what your goals are, and have fun! 

What are some instrument specific tips for online lessons? 

Piano: 

The Structure of the Piano:Let's Learn the Names of Parts ...
  1. If possible, having a music stand attached to or directly behind the keyboard is extremely beneficial. This ensures that students can read the music with correct body posture.
  2.  Make sure that the volume of the keyboard is loud enough for the teacher to hear over Zoom (but not too loud of course!). 
  3. Even though some sheet music being used for class may be found online, it is still best to print the pages out. This way they can be marked with notes, fingering numbers, and any other comments your teacher may have. 

Voice: 

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  1. Make sure to change the Zoom audio settings to the optimal ones for singing. This is done by going into the Advanced Audio Settings section and disabling Suppress Persistent Background Noise and Suppress Intermittent Background Noise
How to get good sound (from video or music) over Zoom - Macintosh ...
Zoom Video Conferencing - Quick Guide For Singing Teachers - The ...

  1. If possible, set up the lesson area in the living room or bedroom where there is plenty of furniture. This helps to reduce any echo that can become overwhelming in an empty space. 
  1. There is a slight audio delay present between users on Zoom. Due to this teachers are primarily having students play backing tracks on their own end to sing along to instead of accompanying them. It is helpful to have these tracks loaded up and ready to go before the lesson begins. 

Guitar: 

El Nino Travel Acoustic - Epiphone
  1. Try to have your guitar tuned up before the lesson starts. 
  1. If possible, use a music stand to hold up your workbook or sheet music. It can be quite a frustrating experience using a table or ledge and seeing that pesky book fall over and over again! 
  1. If using an electric guitar, use the amplifiers clean channel. Over Zoom, the overdrive channels can be hard to hear clearly. 

Drums: 

Export EXX 5 Piece Drum Kit W/Cymbals, Hardware And Throne - High ...
  1. It is best to use a pair of speakers or loud headphones to hear the play-along music. Drums are loud, and it can be very hard to keep time if the music is drowned out.
  2. Just like singers, drums cover a large frequency range which can be confusing for Zoom. Be sure to change the audio settings to the ones described in the above singing section.
  3. Make sure the device running Zoom isn’t too close to the drummers body. Banging on the skins is physical, and it would be a shame to knock over a device while jamming out!

How do online lessons differ for students in different age ranges? 

Kids: 

Cartoon Children Music Images, Stock Photos & Vectors | Shutterstock

For kids, the change from the physical classroom to a virtual one can be challenging. Learning in the classroom provides a specific educational setting, one with few distractions, as well as the ability to physically get up and move around. 

In order to help kids get the most out of each lesson we recommend that the classes take place in a common area, and things such as toys and additional screens be removed. 

On our end, our teachers have developed fantastic methods to engage young students in our online classrooms. 

Teachers have digital access to all of the books we use in the schools, allowing them to effectively aid students in each piece. We have also implemented Zoom’s special features, such as the share screen mode to further explain a piece of music, or the popular interactive whiteboard! Younger students have especially been loving the whiteboard function, where they can work on note reading and drawing musical symbols. 

Teachers have also added physical activities such as call and response games, rhythmic clap-backs, and singing with solfege hand symbols to add a physical element into each lesson. 

Teens: 

For teens, the “too cool” mindset can quickly sink in with online classes, which when scraped away is usually a feeling of insecurity around singing or playing at home with family around.

If possible, allow teens to take their lessons in a more secluded area, without parents or siblings continually walking by. Also, providing them with headphones for their classes can help create a sense of privacy. 

Teens can also get distracted by phones or messenger pop ups on their device while the lesson is taking place. Our teachers advise that phones be placed away from the “classroom” and messenger pop-ups be turned off when they are in class. 

Adults: 

For adults, online lessons are the most similar to in-person ones. Fortunately, not much has to change! 

There is a slight audio delay on Zoom, so scales have to be done in a call and response fashion and backing tracks must be played on the students end. Other than these two things, all other technical aspects remain essentially the same. 

With this being said, it is common for adults to feel uncomfortable singing or playing with family, roommates, or neighbours around. This self consciousness is totally understandable, but within a lesson or two you’ll see how quickly that feeling will fade! 

If possible, try and set up for lessons in a closed room. For further privacy you can even set up in the furthest corner! It is important to remember that we are usually louder in our own head than we are to others ears! 

For further privacy, use headphones! They are a great way to help feel more comfortable. 

How can parents help support an amazing online lesson experience? 

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While each young student is different, it can be helpful for some parental involvement, especially for the first few online lessons.

For children who have a more difficult time focusing, having a parent there during lessons can be a big help. Even if they are simply in the room reading the morning paper, their presence can be enough to provide structure.

 It is also ideal if the room where class is taking place is quiet. Just like doing regular homework, music takes high amounts of focus! 

With younger students, it is also a great idea for parents to check in with the teacher at the start and at the end of the lesson. This way both the teacher and parent can exchange updates and ensure the right things are being practiced during the week. 

A cartoon young boy singing a song Stock Vector Image & Art - Alamy

Hopefully this F.A.Q has provided clarity about the wonderful world of online lessons. f you have any further questions don’t hesitate to call us at 647-748-2878! 

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