Pros and Cons of On-line Lessons

Are On-line Lessons A Good Idea?

By Chris Apps

Online lessons are an excellent alternative to being face to face with a tutor and are often the only option a player has to receive world class tuition. When you take into account the sheer size of a country like the United States and the distance some would have to travel to sit down with a teacher, online lessons make a lot of sense. An online lesson can also be more focused as there are no distractions and the time slot available (usually an hour) is rigid so it’s down to business from the start. The tech side is really not difficult to master, even for the over 50s like myself.  There are a few limitations but all in all it is a viable option.  

I was a little anxious about offering Skype lessons as I’m not particularly savvy on the computer. But I took the plunge and found it was easier than I ever imagined. I didn’t pull out ALL my hair and I didn’t blow up the computer. I usually use Skype but have also had success with Face Time.  Skype took just under an hour to set up and test.  I imagine if you know your way around the computer it would take a fraction of the time.  The Face Time set took less than 20 minutes.

Both Skype and Face Time are free. The Skype site has clear and easy to follow instructions. It’s best to download the full program rather than use the preview. It works better in my experience. A basic laptop computer will have all the things you need to get started such as a web-cam and microphone. One concern I had was my internet connection. I wasn’t sure it would be strong enough. I live in a very rural area and have no cable. I used my phone as a hot spot and as I have a 4G connection it worked remarkably well. The faster your connection the better the experience will be.

Face Time is a free app for your phone. Just download and add the phone number you want to connect with. Obviously the phone screen is smaller than the computer screen but if the connection is good it makes little difference. The beauty of using the phone is that you can literally have a lesson anywhere.

The availability of online lessons gives students a chance to find a teacher with a style that really works for them. Even in a large City the number of local bagpipe teachers will be limited. Online lessons open the field of available instructors considerably. Book just one lesson and if it doesn’t work out, find someone else.  No drama.

The main downside to online lessons is the slight lag that makes playing together impossible. To combat this, I record tunes and email the recording to students so they can play along in their own time.  Some students have an app like which will slow tunes down without altering the pitch so they can play along at a slower pace. There is also, of course, no ‘hands on’ with setting up the pipes. There is a lot that can be done by observation and ear. Some things can be demonstrated via Skype including some reed manipulation and setting up and tuning the pipes. Playing pipes through the basic computer microphone can be problematic. I have chosen to buy a better, separate mic that can be plugged into the computer.
Despite my early misgivings I have found the online lessons to be both simple and fun. The short time it takes to set up the tech part is well worth it. The set up is a ‘one and done’ deal . Subsequent lessons are just click and go.  As there is no travel involved lessons can be arranged at almost any time of day. No travel time also means that a one hour lesson takes just one hour of your time.  

Thinking of giving it a try? I’d be happy to hear from you.

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