What you CAN do in online voice lessons

In this time of quarantines, it makes sense to make use of online venues for teaching. There is a large subset of the activities of an in-person lesson that can be done online. We must also admit that there are some things that you cannot do online.

The can’ts:

The teacher cannot accompany the student. Some of the harmonics in the voice get lost in transmission. Every student will be presenting from a different room, so the ability of the teacher to know how the voice is working with the room acoustics is limited. It is hard to know how loud the student is singing. The exact nature of the onset is less clear. The ability of the teacher to adjust his view of the student’s body (different angles, different distances) while the student is singing is curtailed.

The cans:

Many elements of singing and music can be worked on online. Timing. Agility. Pitch. Rhythm. Breathing. Call and response. Memorization. Warmups. Anything that requires discussion, analysis, translation, theory, or other mental processing is fine online.

There are numerous detailed lists of tips for how to conduct an online lesson which are much more thorough than I could give, but I wanted to share some things that I personally have found to be important. Your priorities may be quite different.

If the singer has a live or recorded accompaniment in their location, it is more important that the singer can hear it well than for me to hear it well. I need to hear the singer well. I suggest that students play the accompaniments off to the side, not too close to the microphone that is capturing their voice, so that I hear their voices front and center.

The student needs to get their camera up at head level so they aren’t focused down.

I do more hand signals for positive reinforcement, and interrupt less when the student sings.

I use a good external webcam on my computer. Presently it is a Logitech C920.

I like Zoom as the web platform for teaching. The student doesn’t need to download special software, and it is relatively reliable. The recording and sharing of the recording is easy. Sharing my computer screen is easy.

I prefer that the student has a musical keyboard in front of them at their location.

Dress well. You’ll feel more professional, and give a more positive impression to the person at the other end of the session.

I prefer teaching in person. I like hearing the whole sound combined with the room acoustics, and being able to see a singer in three dimensions. There is also a spiritual dimension that I feel is stronger in person. However, with the limitations imposed by distance, there is still much that can be worked on. As I have transitioned my in-person students to online, I explain to them that lessons may emphasize slightly different things for a while. We work on the things that work, and there is plenty to do.


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