From America to New Zealand, Russia to the furthest islands off the coast of Scotland, I have students all over the world. Hear how online lessons work, what you'll need and how to get started.
Teaching the harp online. Some traditional teachers gasp that it could even be a possibility whilst others look on intrigued with interest. The truth is, with the amount of technology we all have now, it really is now a possibility to learn the harp from the comfort of your own home. But how do we set it up and how well does it work?
During the twelve years I’ve been teaching, I started online lessons a number of years ago when one of my students moved abroad. She’d been desperate to continue her harp lessons with me and at first I had been apprehensive about her suggestion of using Skype, but when there proved to be no teachers in her local area I realised that this might be the only way for her to continue learning. From there, my Skype teaching flourished as more students wanted to try it out.
So how does this all get set up? Students wanting to take lessons via Skype will need a computer, tablet (or even just a smartphone!) with free Skype software downloaded. Usually any device contains an inbuilt webcam, microphone and speakers, which I have found is sufficient for most lessons. Therefore, it is not necessary to spend a lot of money on equipment. Nowadays, I find FaceTime a very strong contender for Skype as it often has a better connection. Lesson notes can be emailed and notations on the music can be scanned or photographed to be easily shared with students.
Let’s have a look at the positives and negatives of this online method of teaching. The obvious advantages are that students all over the world can benefit from lessons with no travel costs. This is particularly useful for harpists in remote areas where there are no teachers available. Travelling to lessons is time-consuming, expensive and tiring – we don’t play the most portable instrument! From a teachers’ point of view, lessons can be taught from anywhere in the world which is particularly useful if you are touring or away from home. Online lessons allow more flexibility for both learner and teacher as without additional travelling time, it’s much easier to fit in a lesson here and there. I have found that when learning online, students are empowered to become more responsible for their own learning and take notes for themselves. As an additional aid to support their online learning, my students also have access to a student resource centre. This is a password-protected part of my website where they can sign in and access a range of materials including new sheet music, exam syllabi, theory trainers, videos, games and useful information.
Even though online teaching can open students to a new world of information, there are some disadvantages to consider. Depending on broadband connections (which varies in different areas), delay times can often make it difficult to play together. A slightly ‘fuzzy’ image sometimes proves difficult to pay attention to detail. Teachers might find it problematic at first when working with a slight time delay from the music they are hearing, compared with the image they are seeing. It requires a bit more planning from the teacher’s side of things, because they must scan in materials before the lesson and can’t work as impulsively as you might in face-to-face lessons.
In conclusion, online learning opens harp tuition to a new audience making learning more accessible all over the world. I feel it can help any level of student become a proficient player but the individual must be self-motivated and hard-working. Ideally if harpists are learning online, they should try to ensure their lessons work in partnership with face-to-face playing sessions and opportunities. After all, if students are only ever performing to a computer screen they are missing out valuable real-life experiences of performing with others – that buzz is what musicians thrive on!
For more information and FAQs about learning the harp online look here or contact me at