Online Piano Lessons: Questions, Challenges and Tips

Sarah Collins
Mar 08, 2024By Sarah Collins

I've taught piano both in-person and online for 15 years and I've chosen online-only lessons because I've consistently found them to be more effective than in person lessons for most people. Students tend to learn more material per lesson and retain that material more effectively.

I think that's due to a combination of the students being able to play on their home piano + the amount of playing back and forth that we're able to do because we're each sitting at a piano + the close up views of the keys and music that the camera is able to accomplish + the option for the student to do the whole thing in PJs lol.

But this format is VERY new in the long history of piano teaching and that involves some adjustments.


1. What device should I use for the lesson?
My first answer to this is: whatever you've got! If you have an iPad, that can be particularly nice for younger kids especially.
If your resources are plentiful, it's wonderful to have two devices available for lessons. Use your phone for the lesson call and have your iPad ready for reading digital sheet music and working with the APP. 

2.  Where do I put the phone/tablet/laptop?
Ideally, close to your face with a good view of your hands. I'm going to get into the details more in the Challenges section. 


1. Playing duets
- This is, for me, the biggest bummer of online lessons. It's nearly impossible to play duets together. 

The primary purpose of teacher duets with the student is to challenge the student to be able to continue to play their part while other notes and rhythms are playing. While I will go on continuing to miss live duets, the Faber app has each of those duets recorded with multi-instrumental tracks that the students play along with regularly. Because of that app, people get more duet-playing time than ever before and can access it all week long.

2. Technical difficulties: hearing/seeing each other well
- I bet you already know a lot of tricks for this... closing out any other open apps on your device, restarting your WiFi if needed and even restarting your device if needed tends to get our video reception where it needs to be. 

For FaceTime folks, there's a fairly new audio setting that can make a world of difference. 

During a FaceTime call, open the Control Center and make sure the audio setting is "Wide Spectrum."  Once you've set it, it'll remain until you change it.

3. Seeing students' technique
 - This part is really just a matter of camera set-up. As I mentioned earlier, it's great to have options:

Piano student smiling at teacher during online piano lesson

Front view. This can be accomplished by simply resting your tablet/phone on the piano music stand. It's excellent for teaching sheet music and/or book assignments, helping students 6 and under read their music, and relationship-building with students of all ages.


Side view. For this, you'll likely need a stand. If there's a table near your piano, a tabletop stand could do the trick. If you'd like a bit more flexibility from your tabletop stand, this is a good option.

You can also setup a side view by attaching a phone/tablet holder to a standing lamp (or mic stand, if you're fancy :) ).

Side view shows me the full picture of a student's technique, which includes not only their hands, but also their posture. It's also terrific for recording, whether I do a screen recording during the lesson or the student sets up their own device for recording.

There's one other option that allows for all of the above and the only thing we miss with this is getting to check out posture:

Piano Student playing with round hands during an online piano lesson

Above/Front view. As you can see, this provides a great view of the hands and allows us to see and hear each other easily. This is the view I use most myself and is most easily accomplished with a stand attached to the wall behind the piano/keyboard.


Finally, a few tips:

1. Setup before lesson: have all current piano books ready plus a pencil, a metronome if you use one and a bottle of water or other drink if you like.

2. Keep assignments handy at the piano.

3. Keep piano and the area around the piano clean of any items that aren't used for lessons/playing to increase focus both during lessons and practice.

4. Have a plan for receiving and reading assignments... printing or writing them into your own notebooks works best for kids. Viewing digitally works well for adults!

5. Have a plan for receiving and reading sheet music... printing or viewing digitally* (same notes as above)
*if viewing digitally, it's helpful to have a way to write on the PDF
If you experience a challenge with online lessons that I have't addressed, please let me know! I'd love to help you explore solutions!

All the best,