Q&A: Are Virtual Violin Lessons Right for You?
by Paige Vogt
School and work weren’t the only things to move online last year.
Prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, many violin teachers began offering virtual lessons—using Zoom, or other video conferencing tools—to help their students progress despite physical distancing requirements. Of course, violin teachers seeking a broader student base had already been teaching virtual lessons long before “COVID” entered the general lexicon.
One example: Salt Lake City-based violinist and entrepreneur Jesse Massey. An experienced virtual violin teacher, Jesse now specializes in helping musicians define and promote themselves online. As teachers evaluate whether to continue or start offering virtual violin lessons, we talked with Jesse about how they can set their students and themselves up for success.
Now that pandemic restrictions are easing, under what circumstances might violin teachers still want to teach virtual lessons?
“A couple scenarios come to mind. First, if you're living in a geographically isolated place and there's not a market to teach students. Second, if you want to invest in a nice studio, mic and camera and create a virtual violin syllabus. There’s a very real demographic who don’t have the money for hourly lessons, or who live in an isolated area and are looking for resources.”
How do you know if a student is a good fit for virtual lessons?
“A student who’s a good fit for virtual lessons has a strong family structure at home to support practicing. Something a lot of students and teachers run into with virtual lessons and school—it's not the same experience. It's harder to focus than with an in-person experience. To bolster that, a vocabulary has to exist on the parents end and there needs to be a schedule in place to ensure follow-through.”
How can violin teachers better vet their students?
“I recommend inviting potential students to observe a month's worth of lessons with another student. At the end of the observation, have an honest conversation about whether your teaching style makes sense for them. It can also be helpful to send a questionnaire that mentions, ‘Are you willing to practice on a daily basis even if your child doesn't want to? Are you willing to prioritize performances and lessons over other activities?’”
A Violin Practice Partner student uses her Twinkle Mat to stay focused during virtual lessons.
How else can violin teachers support parents with students enrolled in virtual lessons?
“Make sure that you're consistently communicating what's working and not working with lessons on a monthly basis. Schedule a call with the parents, make it part of the teaching package. That way it’s non-emotional, everyone knows it's coming.
“Something nice about in-person is that when everyone is in the same room, you can read the body language and vibe in the room. This isn’t true with online lessons—the student and parent don’t always know what the teacher is thinking. A regular call helps keep everyone on the same page.”
What can violin teachers do to engage their virtual students?
“The teacher can make sure the hardware side on their end looks good. Good lighting, a colorful background. Something that catches a student's eye and helps them focus, as you’d do in digital marketing. It’s also important to have a strong lesson plan that's consistent from in-person to virtual lessons. Know exactly what you're going to hit, how long you're going to spend on each goal, elements you're going to spend more time on.”
How have you adjusted your teaching style for virtual lessons?
“The biggest thing I learned is to be much more direct and concise with the way I describe the things I need from the student. You want to be comprehensive enough that they understand, but still concise because if you keep talking, you lose interest and concentration.”
How does the virtual connection impact your perception of the student’s playing?
“You learn what to listen to, what to let go of. If you hear one note warped, you can blame it on the connection. A bigger issue is that all of the violin sound can cause the laptop microphone to peak out. It’s not a connection problem, it’s a mic problem.
“If your student is serious about virtual lessons, it’s important to have a conversation to make sure they’re willing to buy the proper hardware. Some tools I recommend include the Rode NT1A Microphone and the FocusRight Interface 2i2, which allows you to connect your microphone into your computer.”
Thank you, Jesse! Looking for more ways to elevate your virtual violin lessons? Learn more about our Twinkle Mat violin practice mats that help anchor and focus students, whether they're across from you or across the world.