How To Have A Successful Online Lesson

How To Have A Successful Online Lesson

These days, it’s become more and more commonplace to study with an instructor over the internet remotely. After having taught upwards of 100 remote lessons via Zoom by now, I’ve come up with some things that will help anyone going into a “remote learning session” to get the most out of the experience.

Know Your Gear!

There’s nothing more unnerving and frustrating than trying to get situated in a “live” setting where there’s a time limit ticking, and the darn audio just…won’t…work… so spend a little time and practice; call a friend from within the confines of your musical environment, and see if they have any trouble hearing you play or sing. If there’s problems, those can be addressed beforehand. And if there are, they can be addressed by way of Google and a bit of patience. Someone’s had this same problem at least once, and there is an answer. It’s all in how you present the query. So be simple, concise, and patient. Did I mention “be patient?” Because you sometimes require a great deal of patience. One cannot have patience without pain, I’m afraid. Goosefraba…

One of these things is not like the other…

Connections Are Key!

The way your computer connects to the internet is a major factor in the link between you, the student and your instructor. Having a solid and stable connection makes all the difference in the world. Check out; and while download speeds are important it’s really upload speed you want to be concerned with. Anything below 1mbps is going to be iffy. A computer connected via ethernet cable will offer far more stability than that of a wireless connection.

Cancel Noise Cancellation…

In Zoom, you’ll definitely want to go to Audio Settings and set the noise cancellation to either “Low” or tick the new setting “Original sound for musicians”. Otherwise, when you begin playing, singing, or performing, suddenly you’re rendered silent and the other party cannot hear you.

You don’t have to set yours to “High-Fidelity Music Mode”, but I’m sort of a snob like that…

Bigger Is Better!

I’ve had mixed results with students who use their phone. First off, if you’re a drummer, somehow you have to hold the phone, and you’d be surprised how many times this one key element is overlooked. Protip: You can get some great quality-machined aluminum phone mounts on Amazon really cheap. This one’s a “two-parter”: First up: the phone holder. Ulanzi Phone Mount. Second up: Smallrig Clamp. The two of them are less than $30 together and will last a lifetime, unlike the cheap plastic stuff you get at Target.

In order to get the best experience, I’d recommend using either a laptop or at very least, a tablet. Not that the cameras are any better (have you seen the ridiculous quality of the iPhone 14?) but the functionality of the Zoom client offers a bit more in terms of user interface. And a laptop is far easier to position in a stationary position than a phone without a mount. If you do use a tablet, you’ll need a mount and a Smallrig Clamp.

An improvised mic mount; this is a common mic clip and mic stand and the phone rests in the open top rather nicely.

Distraction-Free Is Always Better

There’s nothing like giving a lesson, and the student is constantly being called away, distracted by an anxious pet or lots of background busyness; for me the instructor, it can break my focus and takes me away from devoting all of my attention to the student. Do your best to carve out that time of day for the one-on-one time that you’re paying for, and get your best value for the money.

Send Me An Angle

It’s really important when you’re setting up your camera shot to include as much of the “business end” of your performance mechanisms as possible. As a drum instructor, I don’t need a full frontal of your super sweet Gretsch kit, I want to see your hands and feet, so preferably a side view. Instrumentalists, make certain you set your shot so as to show as much as you can of your “technical side”. And above all, a well-lit area is much appreciated.

Hey, can you move that one cymbal to the left? I can’t quite see your hands…

Let’s Make A Record!

And finally, don’t forget to record the lesson! How many times have I had a student ask me a week later “sorry, but how do you play ____ again?” By having that video handy, you’ve got all the answers on hand, and you’ve also got great memories to share years later.

We Want You To Have A Good Experience

It’s every instructor’s wish that every lesson will be “on”, but as with life there’s sometimes little glitches that can get in the way of “bowling a perfect score”, so to speak. By following these tips, you’ll get so much more from your online lessons. And if I can help you with drums, hit me up at the Lake City location, or here online.