My Best Online Teaching Tip

My Best Online Teaching Tip Piano

Like everyone else, I have experienced a very steep learning curve by embracing online teaching. I have developed skills I never thought I’d have: camera use, audio adjustment, screen-sharing – the list goes on! Teachers have been SO generous in sharing their insights, discoveries and expertise with each other that I think I have actually become a bit overwhelmed with all the information.

So this short post is about the ONE thing I have found to be most useful in online teaching.

And this one thing is…


Before you roll your eyes and wonder how this could possibly be a revelation, I will say that it’s not like I have never used recordings before now. From time to time I would record students in the lesson, or occasionally ask them to send me a recording when they think the piece is done.

But now, recordings have become an essential part of every lesson I teach. Here are my three main reasons for this:

1. The quality of the recording is usually far superior to the quality of the audio in the online lesson

2. Instead of students playing a piece for me in the lesson, we listen to the recording together. This means the student is actually LISTENING to and reflecting on their own playing

3. I can stop/start the recording whenever I like and start talking immediately, with no lag time and without the student feeling interrupted. We both have the score open and/or I annotate it on screen.

This has revolutionized my online teaching experience!

I love being able to discuss with students what we are hearing. I say things like ‘did you hear much of a crescendo there?’ and if they didn’t, they highlight that dynamic on their score and they play that little bit again. Usually, I can hardly hear the different over Zoom, but I’m confident the student has processed the change.

I also love it when they are surprised at how they sounded, and have a deeper understanding of what needs addressing. AND… we can also refer back to previous recordings, to compare how they have improved.

Some Practicalities…

• I generally stick to audio recordings only, because the file size is smaller so they are easier to send
• The Voice Memo app on iOS devices works a treat – no need for any fancy microphones
• I use the app Tonara and I have been asking students to send me recordings of their pieces in the chat
• I’ve been asking students to send recordings at least 24 hours before the lesson time. Sometimes I listen before the lesson, but it is usually more useful to listen at the same time and discuss. So, this is pedagogically sound as well as being a time-saver 😊

What’s YOUR single best online teaching tip? I’d love to hear it!

Samantha Coates

Samantha Coates is a professional pianist and teacher with over 25 years experience in both private and group tuition. She is the author and publisher of BlitzBooks, the music education series that has captured the imagination of students across Australia and transformed the teaching of music theory, sight reading and general knowledge.

5 thoughts on “My Best Online Teaching Tip

  1. Joanna Burley says:

    I am new to online teaching since the recent situation with Coronavirus! Your top tip is really helpful and I intend to follow up as soon as possible – THANK YOU!
    Ps – I always teach theory with your Blitz Books and recommend them to others with 100% success 🙂

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  3. Joy Ellis says:

    I use recordings too, well Videos that I make just using my phone and share via WhatsApp. I find this essential, time-consuming but effective. I haven’t listened together during lessons though; I’ll have to digest that, great idea, just not sure how to implement it. Thanks, Samantha.
    Plus, with a beginner, (omg, a beginner I haven’t met, how on earth is that going to work, she worries), I have enjoyed using some of your one-note rote pieces, and I’ve discovered he has a great ear and has loved “Meanie Moo” and is about to launch himself into “Beginner Blacks”. Again videos, essential.

    • Samantha Coates says:

      This is great news, Joy! Yes, you are brave, starting an absolute beginner on Zoom! Regarding listening together, I simply play the recording at my end and they can hear it. There is also an option to ‘share computer audio’.

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