Are Online Violin Lessons Worth It?

May 5, 2022, 2:19 PM · When it comes to online violin lessons, the COVID-19 pandemic gave rise to all kinds of new and relatively untested ideas that were being tried online for the first time. Although plenty of violin teachers were teaching on Skype, Facetime, and Zoom prior to the pandemic, the age of the coronavirus ushered in an era of this idea going mainstream.

online lessons

Based on the real-world experiences that my school experienced during this time, I feel that I'm in a good position to answer the question: "Are Online Violin Lessons Worth It?" While I am a music teacher who offers this service, I'll be as upfront and honest as possible about what I have seen that works and that does not work.

First, I will list the pros and cons, then I will go into more detail below about each bullet point so that you can better understand my point of view.

Pros:

Cons:

PROS:

Access to a real, live person who can give you real-time advice from any part of the world

This is a huge game-changer. A quality violin teacher is hard to find, and the skills needed to learn this complicated instrument well can only be taught by a relatively select few. Although quality instructors are relatively easy to find in large metropolitan areas, you might be hard-pressed to find a violin teacher in a place that is underserved. If your city does not have a large classical music scene, a university with a conservatory program, or a big orchestra, the odds are high that you probably do not have access to a violin teacher who can really bring you or your child to a high level. The internet has given an amazing opportunity to people in the most remote areas to experience the violin lessons they could have only dreamed of!

You don't have to leave your home to take violin lessons online

If you live in an area with a lot of traffic, you or your child has a busy schedule, or if you simply don't like to leave your home (or can't), violin lessons online are an amazing option for you. You can receive training from the comfort of your own living room!

A large number of options

As more teachers discover the technology they need to teach online, and as more instructors offer their own online violin videos, Google is becoming populated with so many options to choose from. Whether you are looking for a paid subscription model, live lessons, or a hybrid version, the options to fit your goals and lifestyle are there.

CONS:

If your connection, microphone, or speakers are not optimized properly...

This can be a real problem. Imagine setting up your first violin lesson and realizing that your teacher's beautiful playing is coming through tinny on your speakers. Or worse, your playing is cutting out on the high notes and your teacher can't hear you. We have some solutions!

Professor Susanna Klein, on her Violinist.com blog, has a wonderful tech guide for online violin lessons. I'll leave it to you to visit her blog and download her guide, but the gist of it is that you need an internet speed of 100 MB download and 5 MB upload, a good mic, such as the Blue Snowball, Samson Condensor, or Fifine USB mic (unless you are using an IOS tablet, in which she recommends the Shure MV5), and that you have as few extraneous devices running on your shared wi-fi connection as possible.

Also, of prime importance is to set Zoom correctly by setting "suppress persistent background noise" and "suppress intermittent background noise" to disable. She also advises that you click show in-meeting option to 'Enable Original Sound'. Then during the lesson, toggle "Enable Original Sound".

Need more help? Visit her blog in the link above. It also covers how to stand in front of the camera, how to get the best lighting, and other items.

In the case of a child, he or she needs to be comfortable with learning through a screen

Some kids are just not able to learn online, whereas others do great in this medium. I have personally taught in both situations. At the end of the day, you know your child best, and often, the younger kids have more trouble relating to the human on the other side of the screen. At the very least, before you sign up your child for an online music lesson plan, make sure that there is some kind of refund policy or trial, in case things don't go as planned.

You cannot have the same kind of interaction using unspoken social cues that you normally would in the same room as the teacher

Some kids and adults struggle with the nuances of communicating online. Others actually do even better with online lessons. I'll explain:

When a large amount of information is presented over a short period of time over Zoom, the student must focus intently on what the instructor is saying or doing. This ability to listen to the instructor is a skill that a student must ultimately use in practicing between lessons. Ultimately, the student must develop the ability to listen critically to himself or herself.

During Zoom lessons, it is much harder to interrupt or interject, both verbally and physically. As a result, the student will need to listen even more carefully. On top of that, the student must also be more patient with the teacher, who has to often simplify techniques further, in order to be understood in a medium where it is necessary to change camera angles or positions of the violin to demonstrate.

A child who does not have this patience might not be a good candidate for violin lessons online - at least not yet. If, on the other hand, the child (or adult) is able to modulate his or her attention to make the necessary accommodations for the Zoom lessons, with a little patience and persistence, the student will go very far.

Also, for basic maintenance, such as tuning the violin and changing strings, you'll have to rely on violin videos online and the occasional trip to a local music store.

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Replies

May 6, 2022 at 09:10 PM · Over the course of the pandemic, I moved from studio lessons with my teacher to online lessons, and back to studio lessons. Recently, while she was in Australia to visit her family, make some videos with String Space, and play in two concerts, we had live online lessons on Skype.

Online lessons can be effective, but they do have genuine limitations. The biggest problem is the lack of 360-degree perspective. A video screen has limitations for the teacher when it comes to assessing physical technique. Having a teacher who can move around you to view your hands, your posture, your wrists, and so forth is of great value. Video screens obviously limit a teacher’s ability to reach out and correct an arm movement, or a posture. However, as a substitute to regular in person lessons, I think they can be useful.

What is most important is the quality of dialogue between the student and the teacher. If you are just starting out, I strongly advise avoiding YouTube general lessons. You can’t talk to the teacher, and the teacher can’t see you. I learned this the hard way.

When I started, I did some video lessons for a week. It seemed easy. On a Saturday, my wife was at an all-day conference, so I knew I’d be alone all morning and afternoon. With the best intentions, I thought I’d teach myself a song and play it for her when she got home.

It was a beautiful day in May, so I thew the windows open and dug into “Ashokan Farewell”. To say it was awful is an understatement. I tried my best for about fifteen minutes, then I put the violin down, went out the front door, and sat on the stoop.

As if on cue, a cop car rolled up in front of my townhouse. The tinted window on the car slid down and a police officer sat there looking at me.

“Sir, would you please step to the vehicle?”

I rose and walked to the window. “Yes, officer? How can I help you?”

He looked into my eyes. “There have been reports of some odd noises coming from this block. Do you know anything about that?”

Oh dear.

“Um. . . well, the crows around here can be quite a nuisance. They make quite a racket. The city should investigate that!”

He stared at me for a long time and didn’t say a word. The window closed, and his car rolled away.

I went upstairs and closed the windows. I put my violin in its case and decided I needed lessons from someone who could see, hear, and comment on my playing.

May 6, 2022 at 11:40 PM · As someone that was self taught for the first 3 years, I would give a definite yes. I finally decided to take lessons and went through Suzuki book 2 with him. Although he was extremely impressed with my solo progress he helped me drastically with intonation, tone and timing.

Unfortunately with my job taking me away to war zones I had to stop taking lessons and haven't resumed since. Now 6 years in I'm feeling a plateau and will hopefully get back into lessons when I return home from this latest deployment.

May 7, 2022 at 01:27 AM · Thank you for your service Sean. I hope that music brings you great comfort.

May 7, 2022 at 02:49 AM · I had maybe a dozen on-line lessons with my teacher during the pandemic. Of course in-person lessons are better but I definitely still feel I got a good value from my lessons. Struggling with passages -- suggestions. Needing advice on musicality -- plenty of that. All the usual stuff, really, except he couldn't really look *quite* as closely.

May 8, 2022 at 12:58 AM · Michael, I’m sad to hear your story. Some neighbors can be downright mean. Keep going!

May 8, 2022 at 02:53 PM · It may be mean neighbours, but it could be something else: The neighbours are probably used to Michael's practising (Why didn't they complain before?), but that episode may have sounded different enough to trigger some sort of genuine concern - The officer may have been at a loss as to whom to approach until Michael appeared outside his house.

May 8, 2022 at 05:03 PM · It probably depends on a student’s level, what you are working on and with what teacher. It works very well for me, as a relatively advanced player and a lifelong learner, who is quite analytical and chiefly needs good ideas to explore Bach solos. Online lessons have brought me some masters I normally wouldn’t have the chance to study with. Each online lesson has changed me as a player in noticeable ways. I believe, at certain point of violin journey, it becomes more a mind game than physical thing. And it convinced me that a chief difference between a good teacher and a great teacher is this: the former teaches you how to play, the latter changes you as a player.

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