‘Skype lessons’ is the generic name that is generally used for live online lessons using video chat technology. Skype is one of the more commonly used platforms for online lessons, but there are many others, such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, OoVoo, Facetime and more. Mac users often find that Facetime works best, however, both teacher and student need to be using an iOS device. For ease of expression, I will refer to live online lessons as ‘Skype lessons’ in this article, but do be aware that the information will apply to other platforms as well.
Anthony has written about Skype lessons in an earlier blog post, which you may also like to read.
It is quite possible to have a very successful Skype lesson with minimal equipment, but it is important to realise that the quality of your experience will be impacted by the quality of your equipment. While it is possible to use an iPad/tablet (and maybe even a smart phone), better results will be achieved using a notebook computer.
Minimum basic requirements for delivering online lessons Computer
sufficient memory resources
HD internal webcam
Good quality internal microphone
High speed Internet connection with sufficient bandwidth
For best results, use a cable connection to your modem rather than Wi-Fi. If that isn’t possible, make sure that the Wi-Fi signal is strong enough. If your lap top is too far from the modem/wireless router, you may need to invest in a signal booster.
If your laptop has an SD internal webcam, the view I see of you will probably not be adequate to work well with you. The video at right demonstrates the difference between an SD webcam and an HD webcam. Both parts of the video were taken one after the other, with the same lighting conditions etc (there is no audio).
If your computer has a good quality HD internal webcam, you can make do with that, at least initially while you work out whether Skype lessons will work for you. However, most people find that it is advantageous to have an external webcam as well. The Logitech C920 HD webcam appears to be the webcam of choice for most Skype teachers and is compatible with both Windows and Mac.
This can be suspended over the keyboard of a grand piano on a boom microphone stand:
Blu-Tack or tape both work well to secure the webcam to the boom, or you can purchase an adapter attachment (On Stage CM01 converts a 5/8” microphone thread to a 1/4" thread to suit cameras. The Logitech C920 HD webcam has a 1/4” thread which works perfectly with this. See a previous blog post on video equipment here.)
If you have an upright piano, you can also use the boom microphone stand, but a quicker, easier solution is an acrylic photo or leaflet holder, with a weight on it. (In my photo, a heavy lamp is placed on the end of the leaflet holder.)
Make sure that you attach the webcam in such a way that the keyboard appears across the top of the screen, and not upside down at the bottom of the screen (or you may be able to alter the view as needed in your webcam software).
If you don’t have any means of suspending your webcam for your initial lesson, put the laptop on a sturdy music stand and then angle the webcam to look down over the keyboard as much as possible. (In the photo of my grand piano above, the laptop screen would need to be angled down a little to give a better view of the keyboard.)
An issue with Skype, but not with Zoom, is that the image you see of yourself on the screen is mirrored. Don’t panic! Your teacher will see the image correctly (and will see his/her own image in reverse).