Switching to Video Lessons

A guide for beginners by an almost-beginner

Guest Post by Garreth Brooke

Switching to video lessons at short notice is stressful!

I live in Frankfurt, Germany, where all the schools are now closed and I made the switch on Thursday afternoon. I’ve taught 6 lessons so far and overall it has gone pretty well. Here are some things I learnt that you might find useful…

Keep it simple. 

In these early days, your phone, laptop or tablet can probably handle a basic video chat, and that’s all you need for your first few lessons.

I used Facetime on my MacBook on top of a pile of books on a chair next to the piano and it worked fine. Take some time to find out how you can make video calls with whatever bit of kit you have to hand. 

If you’ve got an Apple product, think Facetime. If you  have a Chromebook or Android phone, think Google Hangouts. Skype works on almost everything. Download it, test it out with a willing volunteer, ideally another music teacher (thank you Brenda!) If it doesn’t work properly and you’re not sure what to do, ask for help from someone who knows more about it than you. At the bottom of this post is a list of resources where you can get more information.

Communicate well. 

This is always important, but particularly so when peoples’ emotions are heightened because the potential for misunderstanding is far greater. Andrew’s email to his clients (included in his article here) is a paradigm of clear professional communication: adapt it for your own needs and use it.

Calling clients can also be a great way to de-stress a situation — remember that text is much more easily misinterpreted than speech.

Accept refusal professionally. 

Try not to be upset if not all of your clients are willing to take video lessons. A significant minority of my students immediately said no, saying they’d prefer to wait until we can have face-to-face lessons again.

In times like these it can be hard to accept the financial losses that result from those decisions, but we can’t teach unwilling students and it’s definitely not a good idea to force people to give you money for something they don’t really want. 

Instead it’s much better to focus on the students who are willing to give it a go. Once you’ve practised it with the willing, you’ll have a better idea of how to make the lessons work well for everyone. Yesterday morning I called one of my reluctant students and we chatted about what I had learned from the video lessons I’d already taught and gave him some suggestions for things we could try in a trial lesson next week. He was persuaded to give it a try and I’m hopeful that’s another bit of income secured. 

Remember, also, that things can change — once parents have spent a week at home looking after their bored and lonely children, they’re much more likely to gratefully allow the piano teacher to take over for 45 minutes a week!

Collaborate with your clients. 

Remember that for most of them it will also be their first online piano lesson.

Remember that, like you, they won’t necessarily have the perfect high-tech setup. Try to foster a spirit of “we’re all in this together”. They’ll be more forgiving of teething problems.

Be prepared for online lessons to be different.

The thing that really struck me after my first few lessons was just how tired I was.

On reflection I realised it was because I was having to invest much more energy than normal into trying to connect with my student, because they felt further away. Dan Severino has a great short blog post about this and other differences, which is in the resources section.

Get smart about money. 

One of the reasons I’m able to feel more relaxed about this situation than some of my colleagues is that I know my business can survive losing a significant proportion of my income, and I know this because I’ve got a budget.

There’s no doubt that the next few months are going to be financially tight, but I also know that my budget will help me make good decisions to deal with that income shortage by telling me what not to buy and what payments I can put off to a later date.

If you don’t have a budget and you’re nervous about your finances, now is definitely the time to get one! There is some excellent advice in the resources section below, and you can also download several paid apps that will guide you through the process and simplify it significantly. At the risk of sounding like a massive nerd (disclaimer: I am a massive nerd), once you’ve started budgeting you’ll never want to stop.

One last thing. 

If you’re feeling stressed, take a deep breath. There’s no denying that this is a bad situation, but it’s not that bad.

You are much more resourceful than you think, and difficult situations help the human brain become more ingenious. We have so many tools and so much information around us, much of it available for free. Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help. You can get through this.


Garreth Brooke is a composer and pianist. He teaches piano lessons in English to a busy studio in Frankfurt, Germany. His music has been released on 1631 Recordings / Decca and published by Editions Musica Ferrum. 


The blog exists thanks to generous DONATIONS from readers like you.
Regular supporters are welcome to join the TEA ROOM COMMUNITY.

Never miss another post – receive free email notifications:

Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a widely respected piano educator, published author and composer based in Milton Keynes UK, where he runs a successful private teaching studio.

3 thoughts on “Switching to Video Lessons”

    1. Hi Jodie – lovely to hear from you, all well I hope?
      Absolutely, please do. If you could just credit Garreth Brooke as the guest author, and the Pianodao site.
      Thank you, and I hope it helps!


      1. Andrew-All is well. I hope all is well with you. Garth’s information is most timely. Denver South Festival was to have been held yesterday. We used FaceTime for at least 22 of the entrants. I must say the children felt this real need to connect and play. Thank heaven we are able to allow our students to continue to grow and develop while this crisis is going on. Thank you for all you do for piano teachers around the world. Thank you to Garth as well.

        Liked by 1 person

Please leave a Comment:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.