What To Expect From Your First Online Guitar Lesson

Obviously things are a bit weird right now, but with all the restrictions come some good opportunities. Even as things start to open up, we're all spending more time at home than usual, so it's a really great time to learn guitar online. Having spent the last few months giving online lessons I can give you some idea of what your first few sessions will be like, what some of the drawbacks of online lessons are, but also what advantages they can have over in-person lessons!

1. Getting set up  If you're one of the eight people left in the country that doesn't have a free Zoom account you should probably get one. Online guitar lessons can also be done by Skype and other services, but Zoom has some really useful features that have helped it become the music teacher's platform of choice recently. One of the best things about it is that you can join a meeting with multiple devices. So you could join a call with your laptop, but also use your phone to get some better camera angles for zooming (pun totally intended) in on certain aspects of your technique. In order to have an effective zoom session you're going to want to do a couple of things before you get started. 

  • Turn on 'original sound.' Zoom has a feature that, in any other scenario would be great. It picks up on constant noises like, fans, typing, traffic and so on and cancels them out. This is obviously pretty annoying for a guitar lesson because if you play for more than ten seconds Zoom recognises your guitar playing as a persistent background noise. (rude!) To sort it, on the mobile version go to the Settings menu, and then Meeting Settings. On the desktop version it's in the meeting itself, under Audio Settings, then Advanced and then selecting disable on 'suppress persistent background noise' and 'suppress intermittent background noise.' 

  • Check your microphone and speaker levels. This one only really applies to desktop users as phones are pretty much built to do this sort of thing and manage the levels anyway. The first five to ten minutes of every first lesson with a new student is mostly about calibrating the audio. If you can get a head start on that you can get to the fun stuff so much quicker! To test your levels, host a new meeting by yourself, go down to the audio settings panel and select 'test speakers and microphone.' Zoom will play a ringtone and ask if you can hear it. It will then ask you to talk and play the sound back to you. This is the important one. Strum your guitar instead of talking, and listen to what it sounds like coming back. If it's too loud, turn your microphone down or move away from the computer. If it's too quiet try moving closer or consider purchasing a microphone or joining using your phone's audio instead. A lot of things can be worked around in a Zoom guitar lesson, but if your teacher can't hear your playing that's basically game over!

  • Make sure you have a decent internet connection. The basic packages that most internet providers offer these days will be more than adequate for a guitar lesson. But if you're at the lower end of the scale for bandwidth you should consider setting up as close as possible to your router to ensure a solid connection, and timing the booking of your lessons around when other people in your house are likely to be making video calls. If your partner or parents are working from home and they're on video call too, you're probably both going to have a bad time!

  • Tune up! There's nothing worse than playing brilliantly, only for your out of tune guitar to make it sound like you're doing it wrong. You should be tuning your guitar every time you play anyway, but if you don't know how get your teacher to show you at the earliest opportunity and turn up to every session tuned up and ready to go. 

2. In Your Lesson For the most part you'd be surprised how similar to a real life lesson an online guitar lesson can be. Your guitar teacher can still share notes with you, give you backing tracks to play along to, see you well enough to correct errors in your posture and technique and demonstrate how to play passages back to you in real time. The main drawbacks in taking your guitar lessons online come from the time delay. It's pretty much impossible to have latency free music lessons online because the signal has to travel several thousand miles and to several different satellites even if your guitar teacher lives right next door to you. Since the tiniest little drag in timing can make music sound horrible, instead you should be prepared to play along with backing tracks that your teacher should provide, or to a metronome, which can be found for free online or on the app store of your choice. It's pretty great being able to play along with another guitarist. Hopefully we'll all be able to do it soon, but for now practicing to a metronome will give you a sense of what it's like to try and keep time with someone else so you're as prepared as you can be to jam further down the line.

3. After Your Lesson. Your guitar tutor will hopefully give you some things to work on in between lessons. Where possible, try to record videos of yourself throughout the week as you attempt your exercises and songs. Not only is it a great opportunity for you to assess the good and bad in your own playing, but it will give your teacher a really good insight in to what your playing looks like. Especially if you occasionally get a weak internet connection in the middle of your lessons.

Hopefully it won't be long before we can do all our lessons in person again. But fortunately we're lucky enough to live in a world where we can still do something that's almost as good! If you'd like to book a free trial online lesson get in touch here.