By Sean Stone-Ashe
Before 2020, there were very few music students opting for a virtual education. But, as the pandemic came, our ways of learning, and even our ways of life were challenged and we were forced to adapt.
While this moment in time is largely in the rearview mirror, it undoubtedly led to an increase in virtual human interaction, including in the field of music.
Given this changing landscape, it is worth considering the advantages and drawbacks that are offered by traditional in-person music lessons, and their online alternative.
1. Advantages of In-Person
One of the biggest advantages of learning music in-person is the natural feeling that comes with in-person human interaction. When people are in a room together, everything flows a bit more seamlessly, and this can make learning music a smooth sensation.
Furthermore, being in the same room as your teacher gives them full access to you as a musician. This means the teacher can see and hear whatever they would like in a way that feels a bit more fluid than virtual lessons.
2. Drawbacks of In-Person
The largest drawback for in-person lessons is that they are inconvenient. Between all the school-related activities and other structured events going on in a student’s life, I find that private music lessons are often one of the first things to get canceled, rescheduled, or even quit altogether.
We all want to think that when we start lessons that we will give 100% effort every week, and attend every lesson without exception. But the truth is that students never reach that standard, and often lose significant momentum with just a couple of missed weeks.
For that reason, it actually makes a lot of sense for casual music learners to opt for virtual lessons.
3. Advantages of Virtual Lessons
Despite an amount of initial uneasiness, virtual lessons provide many advantages to the private lesson experience that traditional in-person lessons lack.
For instance, virtual lessons tend to be more practical for both the student and teacher, and this added practicality allows for more flexible scheduling. I can’t tell you how many lessons I have been able to make up through virtual lessons that previously would have just been forfeited by the student due to an odd schedule for the week, or other last minute cancellation.
Additionally, virtual music lessons improve students’ comfort with computer skills that not only have future professional applications, but also are increasingly in line with music’s changing role in higher education. In fact, many colleges and competitions are turning to video auditions to help broaden their pool of applicants. This means that prospective students with experience recording themselves, and understanding audio technology have a leg up in the competitive musical landscape of today and the future.
4. Drawbacks of Virtual Lessons
Virtual lessons do have drawbacks associated with them. The most glaring drawback is that the sound quality is likely to be different than it is in person. While the microphones in cell phones and computers are better than ever, there will always be a bit of a gap between somebody’s recorded sound and reality. So, it is certainly helpful to get the full picture of somebody’s sound in-person.
In addition, some teachers have hands-on teaching styles that simply don’t translate well to a virtual setting. I know many of my colleagues had to rethink how they teach during the pandemic to teach effectively online.
Similarly, there is something special about being in the same room as somebody that simply cannot be replicated online. On an intuitive level, we value that proximity, and I always appreciate it when I get to see one of my virtual students in-person.
When contemplating how you would like to learn music, there are many factors to consider. How serious is your music learning? How consistent do you plan to be with your schedule? How much do you value in-person human connection?
One thing I appreciate about Century Fine Arts is that they offer both virtual and in-person music lessons. Additionally, the school hosts many performances and other events that allow students who are learning virtually or traditionally to be a part of the musical community and enjoy the hallmarks of an excellent musical education.