Although it is always preferable to have a lesson in person, many people live too far away from expert teachers to have a lesson in person. Now video-calling technology makes it possible to meet for lessons from all over the world!
Webcam lessons are available with The Well-Balanced Pianist Director Teresa Dybvig. These are private lessons, with the student and the instructor at their own pianos. Read on for information from Teresa Dybvig about these lessons.
You will need a high-speed Internet connection, use of Skype, and a Skype contact name. Obviously, you will also need a webcam, and it's best if you have a laptop computer. An Ethernet cable that allows you to attach your computer directly to your router will give us the clearest audio and video, if you normally use a wireless Internet connection.
A webcam that you can connect to a USB port is ideal. It allows you to attach your webcam to a tripod that you can move around so I can see your hand and arm from many angles. At the same time, you can position your laptop in front of you, on your music rack on your grand piano, or on the top of your upright piano. With the computer in front of you, you can see my demonstrations easily. You may need to attach your webcam by rubber band to your tripod, although webcam manufacturers are beginning to include a tripod thread in some products. Check that carefully before purchasing a webcam, and choose accordingly. A webcam with three or four feet is difficult to secure to a tripod.
As of this writing, I use a Logitech C910 webcam. The updated model is a Logitech C920. All my students who have this model are happy with it. Whe I got the C910, all of my students celebrated, because the sound is good and the zoom is clear. The most inexpensive webcams don't have a zoom. Some webcams have a zoom option, but the zoomed image is fuzzy. So while you don't have to get a Logitech C920, please do look for a webcam that zooms, and do check out reviews carefully before buying.
Use the tallest tripod you can find. It's important for me to be able to see your hand and arm from above. Another option is a Joby "Gorillapod." It has short, flexible legs that allow people to secure it to many locations. I can see hands and arms adequately from above when students use the Gorillapod.
It is also possible to have a lesson with a webcam embedded in your computer, but there are enormous drawbacks. Turning to see my demonstrations can cause you neck pain, and you cannot move the camera around so I can see what I need to see. A good webcam and a tripod will be your allies.
RECORDING YOUR LESSONS
My students who record their lessons progress faster than others -- often much faster. Please try to find a way to record your lessons that will be convenient for you to listen to or watch after the lesson. Some of my students use a simple audio device, and others use a separate video camera. There are also a few Skype-call recording programs available. An inexpensive Skype-call recording program which works well for some of my students is Call Recorder, which is for Macs only. I used to have Vodburner installed on my PC. However, using Vodburner slowed down the connection so much that the video image and/or call sound was often useless, so I abandoned it. Hopefully that problem will disappear with continued Vodburner upgrades.
Some of my students only make recordings after they have understood something fully in a lesson. This is helpful in two ways: first, describing the new skill helps them understand it even better; second, they end up with only a few minutes of recording per lesson -- making it easier to review the recordings afterwards.
Your first lesson (I encourage you to take 90 minutes) is free of charge. This is to establish that our technology is connected well and that you learn effectively in an on-line lesson (people who need the kinesthetic experience of the teacher moving their hands and arms may not find webcam lessons effective). While we will likely exchange important information during this time, please do not expect to answer all your questions in this one 90-minute session.
You can schedule an initial 60-minute lesson just to be sure it works for you, or shedule a longer initial lesson. 1½ hours (90 minutes) is my preference for the first two lessons -- you will have many questions, but I still want you to get a good idea of something important during that first lessons. Some people prefer 1½ hour lessons for the long term too, although most people cut back to one hour after the first two lessons.
If you would like to schedule a trial lesson, please start by filling out the webcam lesson request form.
When you schedule your first lesson, I'll send you a link to a webppage through which you can pay for lessons through PayPal. Fees for webcam lessons:
1½ hours (90 minutes): $140. As I said above, I prefer this length for the first two lessons.
1 hour (60 minutes): $95. The standard length.
½ hour (30 minutes): $55 Useful only for quick checks and for students of my students whose teachers are present.
WEBCAM LESSON POLICIES