Hello Members,
A few teachers have sent some helpful hints to help us move from one to one teaching to online lessons. If you have any ideas and helpful hints, please send them, we as a community need to help each other during this time.

Placement of device

This was sent from Marjory Purdy - Coquitlam / Maple Ridge Branch

Dear students and parents,

With COVID-19 becoming more present in our community and the call from public health officials for increased social distancing, I have been thinking about how to support students' music learning and how to be a responsible community member.  After careful thought and research, I will be teaching only video lessons for the foreseeable future.  Lessons will still be the same day and time.

The online video lessons are a temporary option for these challenging times.  It will allow students to still learn and help to keep the community safe.  Hopefully, it will give the students something to do with school and so many activities cancelled.  It will also help students prepare for recitals and exams. Eventually, this time will end, and I want the students to still be able to meet their goals.  In the meantime, let's keep each other safe and healthy!

This past week, I have researched for hours, and I have experimented with FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom as platforms for online lessons.  Special thanks to Rialto, Aryan, Alina, Annika, Bella, Emma and their families for helping me test the options out. It has been a steep learning curve for me, and I am now so much more knowledgeable.

Zoom is the best platform by far from a sound perspective.  Please read the following instructions very carefully for an optimal online lesson.

Instructions for Setting up Zoom for the best online video lesson experience.

  1. Download the app to a laptop, if possible.
  • Though this app can be used on a phone or tablet, the desktop app provides the best experience for lessons.
    • The screen is larger for the student to see me.
    • The sound can be adjusted for superior quality.
  • It is very easy to download the app on a PC.  It is slightly more complicated on an Apple computer, so here are some instructions for downloading the app on a Mac: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/203020795-How-To-Install-on-Mac
  • The app icon looks like this:
  • If you already have the app on your desktop, make sure it is the latest version.
  1. Have headphones available.  Depending on your setup, the sound may be better.
  1. To adjust the sound for a music lesson on the desktop app:
  • Test your microphone level while playing/singing. If the meter maxes out, lower the Input volume.
  • Uncheck "automatically adjust microphone volume"
  • Click the Advanced button
  • Check box for "Show in-meeting option to 'Enable Original Sound' from microphone"
  • Suppress Persistent Background Noise: Disable
  • Suppress Intermittent Background Noise: Disable
  • Echo Cancellation: Auto

These audio settings are on the desktop app only.  Unfortunately, you can't make these changes on mobile or iPad apps.  If you can not make these adjustments prior to the first lesson, I can talk you through them at the start of the first video lesson.  It's quick and easy.

  1.  Either the night before or the day of your lesson, I will send you an email with the link for the lesson.  At your lesson time, please click on the link.  You will either see "Please wait for the host to start the meeting" or "The host has another meeting in progress".  Please wait.  I'll be there as soon as I can.  It may take a minute or two to finish the previous lesson, but I'll be right with you.
  1. Once I join the meeting/lesson, you will be muted.  Please unmute yourself and click "start video".  Then we'll make music!

Other hints:

  1. Close other windows on your device so Zoom runs smoothly.
  2. Ask other people in the house to limit their wifi use, especially any kind of streaming (e.g. Netflix).
  3. The student needs a quiet, undisturbed environment for their lesson.

Important points for device placement: (Please see the attached photo for an idea of how to set things up.)

  1. Place device on treble (right hand) side of the piano and not too close.  If the device is too close the sound is harsh.  It is best if it is not on the piano but on another surface.
  2. The device needs to be placed at a level so that I can see the student's hands and hopefully his or her face as well.It needs to be slightly higher than the students hands so that I can see the left hand.
  3. If using a mobile device, please put it sideways so the video is full screen.

Other needs for the lesson:

  1. Please be completely set up and ready to start at the scheduled lesson time.
  2. For the first onllne video lesson only,it would be helpful to have a screen shot or scan of the notes I wrote from last week's lesson from the book I write in.  It would help lesson continuity immensely if I can get this ahead of time. There are some apps like Tiny Scan or Mobile Scanner that easily scan pages from your phone.  It makes it easier to print the page because there is no black border around the edge which uses so much ink.
  3. Students will need a pencil and a highlighter to mark their own music as I direct.
  4. All students, except beginners, will need a metronome present.  If you use a device for a metronome, make sure it is not the same one that we are using for the video lesson.

For each video lesson, I will have copies of the student's music so that I can follow along from my studio.  Also, I will write notes in a notebook as always.  At the end of lesson, I will scan it and email it.  If possible for younger students, please have some little stickers ready, so I can direct them to put one on their piece when it is finished.  It will feel more like a regular lesson to them that way.  They will still have the feeling of accomplishment!

Trouble Shooting

  1. It would be helpful to have an adult present or nearby during the lesson to trouble shoot.  Just like an in person lesson, young children will need an adult present for the entire time.
  1. Please email me a phone number that I can call during the lesson in case of setup problems.
  1. I would like to have an online backup for each student.Please email the following information to me:
  • If you have an apple device, I need a phone number or email that I could use for FaceTime. 
  • If you have an android phone or PC, you will need to have a Skype account set up that we could use.  If Zoom failed for some reason, I would email you a Skype link so that we could still have a lesson.

There is a lot of information in this email, and I appreciate your time and effort sorting through it.  I am sure we will find other helpful tricks and hints as we go to streamline things.  It will be a learning curve for everyone.  With our best efforts, we can keep the kids learning and making music.

As always, I am tremendously grateful to work with such wonderful families.

Thank you and stay healthy!


From Kathleen Feenstra - Chilliwack Branch, she has made this files to help with using the software Zoom, an option instead of Skype or FaceTime.

Zoom  - Teachers Guide

Zoom - Students Guide

From Linda Gould

A YouTube video going over online lessons discussing different platform (Skype, FaceTime and Zoom)