Setting Up Your Studio For Skype Lessons

June 2, 2013

Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBase

I have been giving flute lessons via Skype for going on 3 years now.  I have found it an incredible asset and a great tool for teaching.

Biggest lessons:

Teaching via Skype is not best for beginners

One of my first students was a third grader. She has been my longest running student and I’ve seen her through the 5th grade.  She’s doing wonderfully now but things were REALLY difficult in the beginning.  With her not being in band class or having any other musical outlet, she didn’t understand rhythm, beat or counting.  When she was old enough to join music classes she immediately improved and it’s not a problem anymore.  However, not being able to be there in person and be able to touch her, to help her feel the beat, or even be able to physically move her fingers when she was fingering a wrong note was immensely difficult.  Because of this, now I limit my Skype lessons only to advanced middle school and up.

You HAVE to have a fast internet connection and a good webcam.

I have had some horrendous lessons because the student lived in the middle of nowhere and their internet connection was spotty.  The first few lessons were fine, but after that things started to get ugly.  You can’t have a flute lesson over the phone, which without video, is essentially what Skype is.  If you want Skype lessons, go for FAST internet connection and have a good webcam.  You won’t be able to see music over the webcam otherwise and vice versa. There are occasional problems with video lag, and the occasional lost call, but these are really few and far between.  To minimize the chance of this happening you need to make sure of three things

1)      that you have nothing downloading during the call (if you use a laptop, make sure you power it on and start Skype BEFORE the lesson – lots of time Skype automatically dowloads an update (Windows has been known to do this as well) and you have to wait for the update to complete for the call to go through.)

2)      Make sure you do not have many if any programs running in the background, this can slow down the connection

3)      You will need to go into audio settings and make sure the box that says “automatically adjust microphone settings” is UNchecked. When this box is checked it means that when you play loud or higher notes, the microphone will adjust to them. When you put the flute down and begin speaking, having this box unchecked means that you will be able to be heard.

Do your billing via automatic PayPal billing.

Image representing PayPal as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

This is a lifesaver. Because with Skype lessons you generally don’t have to worry as much about school being out, snow days, etc. lessons go on on a pretty regular basis.  All of my Skype students live in different states from me.  I have a one that prefers to have me invoice them and they have their bank cut me a check, and for some families that works best. However, I’ve found out that having your students sign up via PayPal automatic billing takes a huge hassle out of the payment process. Their card is charged every month on the same day for the same amount. This ensures continuity on everyone’s end and there’s no worry about “oh I forgot the check this week, can I mail it you later?” Originally, I had PayPal buttons on my website and I would just direct parents to click on these to sign up for automatic payments. Now I use Music Teacher’s Helper and when students sign up with me, not only can I invoice them, they can sign up for automatic billing thorugh it.  If you would like more information about that program I wrote an article about it here: Music Teacher’s Heler: Your New Studio Assistant.

With these things in mind Skype lessons can be a really viable option and I’m glad I’ve been able to utilize it in my studio.  It definitely gives students an opportunity who might not otherwise have it, to have lessons.

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