V.com weekend vote: Do you prefer in-person or online learning for lessons?

May 7, 2022, 9:21 PM · Earlier this week V.com member Daniel Broniatowski, who is a violin teacher himself, wrote about the pros and cons of online violin lessons.

During the last three years, a lot of us have had the (forced!) opportunity to learn quite a lot about those pros and cons, from personal experience! At this point, a lot of people went from in-person to online, and back to in-person. Or maybe they stayed online because it worked better. Or...you name it!

So I thought I'd just throw out the obvious question: which do you like more, in-person or online learning? And this question can apply to students, parents and teachers.

online and in person violin and cello lessons

Note: I'm not asking you which works better, I'm asking you which you happen to like better. If you live in a remote area, you may like online learning better because it allows you to take more lessons from a teacher of your choice, without the long commute. Or even if you live in a larger metropolitan area, you can take lessons from a teacher across town, without having to spend hours in traffic.

On the other hand, maybe you have found, after this time, that being there in person is very valuable for correcting positioning, being able to play together and play duets, for direct communication and various other reasons.

So please participate in the vote, and then share your thoughts. Which do you like better, and why? Do you feel you have a choice in the matter? If you have experienced both ways, what observations do you have about the differences? And here is where you can tell us about what you feel works better for you, as either a student or teacher.

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May 8, 2022 at 05:56 AM · I actually really like the online learning. Not that it’s more effective; nothing beats in-person learning. But through the Internet, all of a sudden I get the chance to work with some of the best teachers in North America, such as Nathan Cole, Garrett Fischbach, Vijay Gupta and Lynn Kuo, just to name a few.

Flexibility of time and the ease of staying home while taking the lessons are also attractive features. Record online lessons is also easy.

May 8, 2022 at 10:31 AM · Yixi Zhang when you say you have a chance to work with all these teachers are you talking about actual online lessons with them?

Or are you talking about watching videos they have uploaded on a YouTube channel?

Personally I have voted "in-person learning".

But I do watch YouTube videos on various aspects but that is something different from a violin lesson.

A violin lesson is where you play for a teacher and get feedback from the teacher, feedback that depends on what is relevant for you. That can be done in-person or online.

As a teacher, during the lock down, I was forced to teach my students online. I never liked it, but it is certainly better than nothing of course.

May 8, 2022 at 02:16 PM · Lars, of course actual lessons and/or masterclasses. I also attended a number of online violin bootcamps where I learned enormous amount.

May 8, 2022 at 02:43 PM · I voted for online also, because it made having lessons possible when in person wasn’t. I haven’t had the same good fortune as Yixi but I have been able to fit lessons into a busy work schedule without a commute, and attend fiddle camps and master classes that I never would have otherwise. In person learning is better, but my choice has been online or nothing, and I’m grateful for online so I didn’t have nothing. I’ve been continuing online even though the pandemic has allowed in person again. I may go back to a mixture this summer when I’m not teaching.

May 8, 2022 at 05:28 PM · Karen, I started with Nathan’s Violympics (https://www.natesviolin.com/sp/violympic-games-2021/), which opened up to me a whole bunch of amazing players and teachers. Living on an island in the British Columbia, not being a child prodigy, one’s chances to get a really good violin teacher for regular lessons are limited. I have been fortunate to have a good teacher on the regular basis for more than 10 years. While I am grateful for this, at a certain point I felt I knew what my teacher would say. You don’t make significant improvements when this feeling kicks in.

May 8, 2022 at 07:34 PM · I voted online.

I have had a lifetime of very little success finding regular in-person lessons. When I started out in high school, I was rejected by teachers as being "too old" to start learning a string instrument. More recently, I spent several years looking for a local teacher, but was only able to get occasional lessons. I could not find a teacher who 1) could teach advanced viola repertoire, 2) accepted adult students, and 3) had evening or weekend openings at the time I asked. Plenty of teachers met each combination of two of those conditions, but I couldn't find anyone who satisfied all three. I took lessons in the spring and summer of 2016, but stopped because I never had a regular schedule: for each lesson I had to either take time off work or wait for someone else to cancel.

For the last 15 months, I have been taking regular lessons from an excellent teacher based in Massachusetts who is a better fit than I could have imagined. I started looking for online lessons for the first time during the pandemic in late 2020 when I was just starting to get back into playing after a whiplash injury, and found someone who at one point had to retool her own technique because of a similar injury and places high value on injury prevention, has small hands like mine, was enthusiastic about taking on a very ambitious adult learner, and has an outstanding resume (regional orchestra principal violist, major orchestra sub, college instructor). I don't think I can find a similarly good fit with similar credentials within an hour's drive, and there may not be more than a handful in the country.

May 8, 2022 at 07:55 PM · My sense from the comments is that online lessons are "preferred" because they fit better with a busy life (no extra time traveling to lessons just to name one issue), and also because they offer some versatility -- more options like mixing-and-matching traditional lessons with boot-camp type offerings such as "Violympics" (which I also did - but in 2020). And if you live in a place where the selection of teachers is not adequate to you, then online might just give you access to better instruction.

Do online lessons have any downsides? Well, your teacher cannot physically touch you or your violin; nor can (s)he walk all the way around you examining your hand posture, hand positions, etc., in three dimensions. Also (s)he can't hear your true tone / nuances or evaluate your projection. And if you are working on repertoire for a recital then it's hard to capture both yourself and a pianist using a single microphone such as might be present within (or pendant to) your laptop.

May 8, 2022 at 08:41 PM · Yay fellow Violympian Paul! I agree with most of your points, except the following:

- During online lessons teacher can definitly examine your posture, hand frame and positions. In fact, if I have pitch issues that's the first thing they'll ask me to show my hand in front of the camera to give them a good look, and they'll show me close-up views how to fix it until until I get it right.

- They also can tell my tone to a great degree, including the bow strokes and vibrato. The rest is personal and not really fixable by one's teacher.

- By the way, I’m still loving my Topa. My current teacher Garratt Fischbach could tell it’s a Guadagnini, Parma period, at his first look , on zoom, through my more than five-year old computer.

May 8, 2022 at 09:55 PM · For working adults who play at a certain level, it may be difficult to find a suitable teacher even in a fairly large city -- especially if looking for a viola teacher. I am centrally located in a metropolitan area of over 2 million people with lots of amateur string players: three highly selective community orchestras and two large universities, along with multiple less selective community orchestras and multiple smaller colleges. Even so, I found that I essentially had no local options. The people who could teach advanced viola repertoire and accepted adult students had no time slots workable for most working adults. The ones who could teach advanced viola repertoire and had workable time slots categorically refused to accept adult students because their focus was pre-professional students. The ones who accepted adults and had workable time slots did not teach advanced viola repertoire.

May 8, 2022 at 10:59 PM · Andrew, wow, I didn’t know that! If you are curious, I encourage you to check Garrett Fischbach out on his website. He teaches both violin and viola online. I believe he still gives 1/2 hour free lesson as a trial. He is the most knowledgeable, insightful, analytical and generous teacher I’ve ever worked with.


May 9, 2022 at 01:00 AM · I'm not currently looking for a teacher. See above -- I now have an excellent one who is primarily a violist, and an ideal fit because my priorities include injury rehab/prevention and techniques specific to playing a large instrument with very small hands.

I was just elaborating on why there may be few or no local options.

May 9, 2022 at 01:26 AM · I voted for in person, but my work schedule makes that darn near impossible. I have come to accept online learning since I can arrive at my lessons in good time to become centred and prepared to play, which was hardly ever the case in my in person lessons.

May 9, 2022 at 02:52 AM · Yes Andrew. I missed your earlier comment. Injury prevention is so important. I used to have all sorts of pains but haven’t had any since I changed my practice completely the last year, after having taken Lynn Kuo’s bootcamp which included daily guided practice sessions. I am now using a timer to force myself taking a 5min break after each 20min practice session. I am not playing in any orchestra right now. I know it could be a very different story depending on the workload.

May 9, 2022 at 03:48 PM · I voted for "online" reluctantly and then read the comments and noted that some others are doing so also. For awhile, I haven't even had time to practice much, sometimes because of the seasonality of my job and currently because recovery from eye surgery is going slow. Because my practice time is limited, I'm down to half hour lessons every other week and online is more practical for that. At least the lessons keep my technique from falling apart and I'm still making progress. But my teacher is planning to move her family to Italy this summer, which will make online lessons imperative if I'm to keep her. She is a really great teacher for me.

May 9, 2022 at 04:56 PM · In ideal settings, the in-person is my preference. However, I firmly believe that it's teacher-student fit that makes a lesson successful. The right fit online is better than the wrong fit in-person.

May 9, 2022 at 05:16 PM · With online options, one has a lot more choices and can replace quickly and easily those who are not able to do the job.

May 9, 2022 at 05:42 PM · Just want to chime in as most above comments are for adult learners and offer the perspective of a parent with a younger student (pre-college). In-person is clearly preferred if that's an option, with online only as a back up or for short lessons during the week for check-in. So I hope the teachers on this site will continue to make in-person the main format of your lessons with online as supplements.

May 9, 2022 at 08:42 PM · Great to see Violympians here! For a standard one-hour lesson, I'd always love to be in the room with someone else. For me, online teaching has opened up possibilities beyond just lessons. Though the chance to work with players across the world has been wonderful too.

May 9, 2022 at 09:42 PM · Yixi I have also found that my teacher can see quite a lot, although sometimes that requires a little "positioning" on my part. I suspect it's more critical for children.

May 9, 2022 at 11:34 PM · I've felt really fortunate to have found really knowledgeable and exacting teacher as a retired adult returning student. I was really glad that I'd had over a year of lessons with him when the pandemic hit in 2020, and we had to turn to Skype lessons. He is very effective online, and I feel that I continued to progress. Still, I'm glad that we've been able to return to in-person lessons as I still have work to do on tone production, vibrato, and so on. In addition, my bow broke when I took it to be rehaired, so I had to choose a new bow. My teacher was really helpful with this process, lending me his student bow and steering me to a luthier who had a really good selection from which to choose. Ultimately, I have to say that, for me, in-person lessons will always be worthwhile.

May 10, 2022 at 02:16 PM · I've been taking virtual lessons for the last several months, all my previous lessons having been in person. I was pleasantly surprised at how effective they've been. Part of it, is that my teacher is a class act. She's just the right person for me at this time, since I hadn't played for decades earlier.

Another advantage of virtual lessons has been convenience. Transportation to my teacher's home would be an hour each way.

That said, a downside has been the technology. She uses an IPad, which has limited capability. In particular, I gather it works with FaceTime, but not so good with Zoom. So, we've been stuck using DUO. What DUO does to the sound of a violin shouldn't be contemplated. But still, the lessons have been surprisingly effective.

My teacher would love to get back to in-person lessons. But with COVID lurking everywhere, that carries too high of a risk.

May 10, 2022 at 04:36 PM · My teacher's studio has maybe 20-25 children as students. Seems like for the last couple of weeks there has been a LOT more talk about so-and-so or their friend or sibling or parent having COVID.

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