5 Tips on Teaching Traditional Music Online

Teaching Traditional Music Online. What do those four words mean to you?

In my last blog on teaching traditional music, we started the conversation about teaching online. We raised the possibility that the problem may not all be wrapped up in the ‘online’ part of that phrase. I suggested that you stop trying to shoehorn your old, pre-Covid, in-the-room teaching practices into your new virtual teaching room. Instead, I recommended that you embrace this virtual space for teaching traditional music as a blank canvas. This presents an opportunity for you to get creative and completely re-imagine and re-design how you teach traditional music. Transform your teaching so that it really works effectively within the online environment.

How to Re-imagine Teaching Traditional Music Online

Here are 5 ways you might start to re-imagine your online teaching practice:

1.      Communication

Communicate clearly with the parents of your student. Let them know that your face-to-face teaching and your online teaching are two different things, both equally valid. Explain to them how this will work, what will be provided by you, and what is expected of them. Often this falls down, because that communication is not clear enough.

2.      Duration

Change the duration of your classes online. You may have always taken your beginner class for 30 minutes in-person. And you are wondering why this is not working well online. The reason? It’s probably too long. A 10-15 minute sprint class might be far more effective.

Now before you switch off, thinking that’s ridiculous, hear me out.

3.      Learning Between Lessons

Ensure that your teaching offering includes what you do face-to-face with your student. But also ensure it encompasses the learning you curate for them for the days in between lessons. We have created a culture of teaching and learning where we put all the emphasis on the lesson itself. Do we give enough thought and planning to the learning that goes on between lessons?

So, create a learning plan or learning programme for your student for an entire week. This includes a shorter online lesson with you. But it also includes a range of activities, so the student continues learning through the week in a guided way. Thus, you are curating and supporting the students learning – both in their time with you plus their self-directed practice time. This equals value for money and can result in far more engagement and progress for your students.

Now your online teaching offering looks different. It involves a week’s learning plan, carefully laid out and with appropriate resources provided – plus an in-person online lesson. You are devoting the same amount of time to the students learning. You are just delivering it in a completely different way. It involves less face-to-face time, yes, but more day-to-day learning activities.

4.      Set Guidelines

Create a set of guidelines or a code of conduct for your online lessons. I’ve seen so many teachers become totally despondent about students who don’t engage online. Top of the list of teachers’ worries are when students don’t turn their screens on. Another major concern is that they spend most of the class on Chat with their friends. Take charge of what happens in your virtual classroom. Explain to your students what you expect of them. But do take their needs  into account. If you know they love the social aspect of their music lesson, then deliberately build it in to class time.

Also, outline what your students can expect from you in these lessons. Be a model for good online engagement yourself. For example, position your screen so they can see you and your instrument properly. Turn your mobile off or switch it to silent…. Some simple guidelines can make a massive difference.  

5.      Teach more slowly.

If we persist in trying to teach online the way we teach in-person, we will drive ourselves crazy. Think of all those little things that we do in passing …. We may tune an instrument, change a string that snaps mid lesson, model posture. These things can’t be dealt with quickly online.

We need to recognise that and accept it. We need to figure out how to build that reality into our new way of teaching. It might mean that we spend a class – or several classes – teaching students how to tune their instrument. Or we might show them videos of other players in order to highlight instrument hold and posture.

There is no rulebook that says we must teach a tune in every single lesson. Trust me! This online opportunity might be the moment we realise that there is so much more we can offer our students. So take that pressure off yourself. Teach more slowly. Think beyond the tune….

Sign up now to our online courses which take you through these tips and more. Discover our  specially designed framework to help you teach more effectively. Find out more here about our online courses for teaching traditional music online. Or check out our short courses and workshops here. For enquiries, email  liz@iTeachTrad.com.

You May Also Like …


5 Reasons why Reading Music can Help Traditional Musicians

5 Reasons why Reading Music can Help Traditional Musicians

Yes, I know. We are traditional musicians. We do not need to be able to read staff notation in order to perform, or to learn. And, we can, of course, rhyme off a list of legendary musicians who never learned to read music, and managed just fine, thank you very much....

Join Our Free Community For more blogs & Teaching Tips