Best platform for teaching music online?
August 20, 2017 6:36 PM   Subscribe

I would like to be able to offer music lessons online to students outside of my geographic area (piano and vocal coaching), but have always been deterred because of a lack of simultaneous audio in both directions between myself and the student.

This is less of an issue with piano lessons, but a bigger issue when I want to work with a vocalist while I'm at the piano. Both Skype and Facetime seem to allow audio only one way at a time and can encounter significant latency. Also, Facetime is platform-dependent.

Is there an online platform - mobile or otherwise - with a solution to these issues? I am not interested in a service where I have to give the site a cut of my lesson fees or be a part of their teacher registry, I just want to pay a predetermined rate for solid two-way audio and video communication. And if there's something I'm missing with Skype or Facetime - what is it?
posted by pianoboy to Education (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I seriously doubt you'll ever find a long-distance digital audio delivery method whose latency is low enough that an accompanist would not to have to account for it.

If you want your singer not to have to account for path delays, you're going to need to play far enough ahead of them to compensate for the delay between you. The only way your brain is ever going to have any chance at achieving that is if you're wearing headphones that block out most of the local sound so that almost the only thing you're hearing is what's coming back from the other end, and even then it's going to take a fair amount of practice to achieve the frankly weird technique that will be required.

It won't be impossible: good church organists use a very similar technique to overcome the fact that the valves operated by the keys don't instantly shove the air through the pipes. But you absolutely will need to treat Skyped piano as its own instrument, because it's not going to behave like an ordinary piano.

Skype can indeed transfer audio both ways simultaneously, but by default it includes a fair bit of audio processing that's going to get in your way for this job: specifically, echo cancellation built to get rid of the delayed copy of your own signal that you're going to need to rely on, and automatic gain control to reduce the effects of ambient noise. Both of these things make for clearer and easier one-at-a-time voice conversation but they'll screw up musical accompaniment bigtime. Fortunately the Googles are full of hints for turning them off.
posted by flabdablet at 4:54 AM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Flabdablet, this is exactly the information I was seeking, but didn't know what exact terms to search for. Going to give it a shot; many thanks!
posted by pianoboy at 7:27 AM on August 21, 2017

Sorry, I'm a bit late, but...

I came in to say the JustAnotherFlutist on YouTube gives flute lessons over the internet. IIRC, she uses Skype. Obviously, that's the like the piano problem, not the piano+vocalist problem, but you might check with her via email to see if she has any ideas.

You might also check out this article which I found by Googling "duets over the internet." I think I've seen it before because related to a previous AskMeFi question (which I didn't find, but you might) and that it depends on the ISP in some way. One of the answers here mentions eJamming which is a paid service that apparently does the job.
posted by SemiSalt at 8:49 AM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

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