More Comments on Online Music Lessons. This presentation by Terry B. Ewell addresses the common issues with online lessons and provides practical solutions. BDP #278,

[Music: Hummel Bassoon Concerto]

Welcome, I am Terry Ewell and this video will provide common problems encountered with online music lessons and some practical solutions. I will assume that you have already viewed my earlier video, “Teaching Skype Music Lessons” and that you know how to adjust the volume on your equipment.

First let’s hear a comparison between a video recording in the room with the student and a recording of the Skype transmission. This well illustrates some of the challenges with Skype lessons.

[Musical example]

Notice the problem of transmission of lower pitches with Skype. Here is that portion again in the room and with Skype. 

[Octave Bb]

Low notes will always be problematic for the smaller microphones. Using a larger USB microphone such as this will greatly improve the quality of sound for all notes, especially the lower notes.

Also, in the full example at the end we heard distortions of pitches and timbral changes as the student increased the volume.
Here is a visual comparison of the two wave forms. Let’s listen to that again.


You can see how the wave forms are clipped in the beginning and then suddenly Skype readjusted the volume settings creating a drop in dynamics.
So, what is the solution to this? This can be remedied to some degree by changing the microphone settings. As noted in the last video, the device broadcasting the student should have the automatic adjustments turned off and the microphone volume needs to be adjusted downward. Make sure that the volume doesn’t peak or clip.

Another common problem encountered with Skype music lessons are what I will call “hiccups” or interruptions in the sound. Here is an example recorded in 2008 with a student:

[“hiccup” example]

Let’s explain what is going on here. Skype and other Voice over Internet Protocols (VoIP) divide up the audio and video into packets of information on the broadcasting device to Internet. These packets do not all stream to the same cloud locations but may be separated in transit when they are received on the other device. Skype on the receiving device compiles all of these packets according to their order or time codes, but sometimes packets arrive late. In that case Skype skips over the missing packets and proceeds to the ones it has. This causes the added noise that might sound like extra tonguing on wind instruments or extra bowings on strings. In more extreme instances this can even alter the tempo.

Fortunately, over the last decade I have noticed a marked improvement in transmission quality as bandwidths and speeds have increased for computers and mobile devices. The solution is to provide both teacher and student with the best connections possible. When my wife and I teach at our home we use a direct cable from our router to our computers rather than using WiFi connections. We have a very long cord to go from one room to the next.

Now a few last extreme solutions. When the Internet connections are particularly poor, turn off the video altogether. Since video takes much more bandwidth than the sound, this should improve your connections.

Another solution is to use phones for the audio sound and Skype for the video. If you choose this solution, remember to still make use of ear buds or headsets to avoid audio feedback.

I know that these are difficult times for many of us around the world as we confront the Coronavirus and economic shutdowns. This video was made in March 2020 in the middle of the crisis in the USA. Let me close with words of comfort from the Hebrew Bible, Psalm 23:

23 The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD
Forever. (NKJV)

 [Music: Hummel Bassoon Concerto]


Skype Schematic
From: (Accessed 2020 March 19)