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This time next month it will be six years since I started offering violin, viola, fiddle, and cello lessons via Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom, and shortly thereafter realizing the world, quite literally, was opening up to me. I’ve since toured all over the US and Canada with all my students in tow online, and I enjoy seeing what the day’s like in Africa, Saudi Arabia, London, the Virgin Islands, Germany, the Arctic Circle, and often just a state or city over.

I’ve found a few things can help make virtual music lessons work especially well. Many are common sense ideas that will help support efficiency and effectiveness in any lesson, in-person included, while a few are particular to connecting online via Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom.

Online and in-person lesson check-list:

  • Violin or viola tuned beforehand
  • A pencil, notebook, tuner (if you use one), and metronome close at hand
  • A stand and all your music books/sheets
  • Rosin and a rosined bow
  • A recording device, or better yet, a camera set up to record part or all of your lesson for further study during the week. It’s also possible to download recording software that can capture all or a portion of your lessons (from the teacher’s chair I use one specific for Mac to record demos to upload and send to students).

Overall, this all sounds very basic, but on a surprisingly frequent basis at least a few of these are AWOL at the beginning of a lesson, wasting precious time.

Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom online lessons check-list:

  • Ethernet (preferable) or strong wifi connected and all computer applications and websites closed for the best connection. I’d also highly recommend double checking that others in the household aren’t downloading large files, playing online games, or streaming video and movies. All these will eat the bandwidth you need for a successful lesson.
  • Lamp set up for a spotlight on the student. I like to use an adjustable desk lamp angled straight at me with a paper cover to diffuse the light bulb.
  • A computer location where the camera can capture you above the waist, including left hand and extended bow arm.
  • External mic and/or webcam (if you use one or both of these) connected. I like the Yeti mic from Blue microphones as a simple USB mic that can plug right into your computer without the need for a mixer or phantom power and yet captures a pretty decent sound from a violin and has both gain and volume, and a number of microphone patterns to experiment with. (UPDATE: I’m now using the RODE NT-USB mic and love it!)

I hope this helps you make the most of your lessons, whether giving or receiving!

Wednesday January 21st, 2015

Please email Laurel at if you have a violin, viola, fiddle, music biz, or practice related question you’d like answered in the blog or on a podcast, have a story or insight to share, or if you’d like to inquire about violin, viola, or fiddle lessons with Laurel, in-person or via Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom.

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Laurel Thomsen Violin, Viola, Vocals Performance, Instruction, Recording Based in Santa Cruz, California

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