I first switched over to teaching online Skype lessons to keep teaching students while on tour with the Killers. I soon realized that online lessons had several benefits, the greatest being the flexibility in scheduling it gave me and my students to plan our meeting times.
My main focus is to help my students acquire the skill set they need so they can have fun and express themselves musically. To achieve this general goal, I like to focus on a detailed study of melody, chord progressions, song forms and the marriage of lyrical themes to the accompanying music. I also share supplemental videos to reinforce concepts covered during our lessons. The value of these videos is simple but powerful — they allow students to review the examples covered in the lessons as many times as need at their own speed.
While I am flexible on modifying this general lesson plan, I believe that sight-read music is a skill that every music student should work on. The benefits of sight-reading are great; for it allows a musician to quickly learning songs; improve their timing, tone and pattern recognition; and summarize a song’s melody, pace and overall arc at a glance.
Making recordings on a regular basis allows students to hear exactly what they are doing well and what they need to improve. It also allows them to track their progress and grow accustom to presenting their musical work. Consequently I require my students to send mp3s of them playing their homework assignments at tempos determined during their weekly lesson. (Students can easily make recordings using their phones or computers using free open source software such as Audacity for PC users or Garageband/Logic for Mac users.)
The following materials should be purchased before the start of our first lesson:
The student needs a computer with a solid high-speed internet connection, a camera and microphone. Most new computers (such as MacBook Pros) have a camera and microphone already built into the computer. To improve the audio quality of the lesson, I suggest that you use a set of headphones with a mic attached on the cord.
Given the requirement of students to submit their homework in the form of digital recordings, a student needs to have access to recording software GarageBand or a simple recording device on their phone or iPad to make mp3s/files that can be shared with me via email or Dropbox.