A piano lesson over Skype: shaping and phrasing scales (Video)

I sometimes chuckle at the surreal nature of teaching to a computer screen, and as illustrated in a graphic videotaped sample, meeting up with an adult student mid-week. She has a real flesh and blood teacher on Mondays in the Bay area–ME. I’m otherwise located in the Central Valley where air pollutants practically choke me each waking day of my life.

Still another student who beams in from Australia sometimes complains that he’s not used to a teacher being right on top of him, which I find amusing since thousands of miles separate us. (Where are the crocodiles?) It’s his web cam placement that makes all the difference. I find myself hopelessly peering over his shoulder. And because it’s something new for both of us, adjustments will made as we move along.

Now that I’m a few months into Skyping, I can say with reasonable confidence that credible teaching can take place if certain rules of etiquette are observed.

1) Don’t play at the same time as the student.

2) Don’t talk, clap, or snap while the student is playing. Find a convenient time at cadences to insert a comment, or better yet, between short note values with rests intervening in the same measure. It takes a bit of practice, pacing, and finesse.

3)If you get knocked offline, decide ahead of time who will initiate the call back–same for starting the Skype connection–have the rules in place.

I have to admit that this morning I was caught off guard because I slept past my alarm and found myself disheveled when my student cell phoned me saying she was trying to connect without success. Oops, that was a first for me, but it won’t beat the time my NYC teacher forgot about my scheduled lesson and was in the shower when I arrived. You just never know.

I like Skyping, but for beginning students I would not recommend it, especially children who need a teacher to work with hand position, relaxation, follow through, and basic fundamentals of note reading, rhythm, etc.


It’s definitely going well with adults who want and need a supplementary lesson to keep up their practicing momentum, and for the more advanced student who could stand to polish phrases and shape them.

Nothing’s perfect in this world and Skype has its ups and downs. For now, I’ll take a few weekly “flights” out of Fresno without all the airport hassles and x-ray machines. Besides, I get to see places I would not have dreamed of visiting except on Netflix.

More Skype lesson samples:

Between California and Oregon


Skype transmission between California and Australia


Poking fun at Skyped piano lessons:


A Skyped supplement to “live” weekly lessons:


About arioso7: Shirley Kirsten

International piano teacher by Skype, recording artist, composer, piano finder, freelance writer, film maker, story teller: Grad of the NYC HS of Performing Arts, Oberlin Conservatory, NYU (Master of Arts) Studies with Lillian Freundlich and Ena Bronstein; Master classes with Murray Perahia and Oxana Yablonskaya. Studios in BERKELEY and EL CERRITO, California; Member, Music Teachers Assoc. of California, MTAC; Distance learning and Skyped instruction with supplementary videos: SKYPE ID, shirleypiano1 Contact me at: shirley_kirsten@yahoo.com OR http://www.youtube.com/arioso7 or at FACEBOOK: Shirley Smith Kirsten, http://facebook.com /shirley.kirsten TWITTER: http://twitter.com/arioso7 Private fund-raising for non-profits as pianist--Public Speaking re: piano teaching and creative approaches
This entry was posted in Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Skype, skyped piano lessons, Skyping piano lessons, slow mindful practicing, slow piano practicing, Sydney Australia, Teach Street, teaching piano, teaching piano scales, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A piano lesson over Skype: shaping and phrasing scales (Video)

  1. Taryl (Arctic Mama) says:

    I can definitely see how that might work better with a teen or adult than a beginning child! I’m so glad to hear the skyped lessons work fairly well, it is something I’m thinking of researching, as my teacher is moving back to Oklahoma and finding a teacher in my somewhat remote area who works seriously with adult students (rather than humoring them as leisure players and not pushing them to advance and achieve any real skill with the instrument) is almost impossible.

    It is encouraging to hear such an option isn’t completely sub-par (I bet much of that depends on what the student and teacher both put into it, rather than the medium itself. As with any other lesson!)


  2. Well said.. When I read your references to “humoring” and “leisure players” it clicked in with my blog https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/are-adult-piano-students-stigmatized/

    I tried to cover all bases…If I left anything out, please let me know.


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