Skype Lessons

As of November 2010, I have opened up my studio doors to students from around the world for regular weekly lessons and one-time consultations or vocal assessments via Skype. These webcam lessons offer the same quality voice instruction as my 'in studio' lessons do - yes, I was initially skeptical and hesitant, too! - (although there are sometimes some minor limitations due to the sometimes fickle nature of Internet connections and computers).

Skype is a highly convenient way of taking voice lessons. No commuting is required, students from other countries or time zones can take lessons with me, and lesson times may be more flexible because I have openings outside of my regular teaching studio hours (e.g., I teach until very late one evening a week to accommodate students in earlier time zones, etc.). It is also a extremely useful teaching and learning tool, and I have had very good success with my Skype students. Progress is made at no slower a pace than it is for my 'in studio' students.

At the scheduled lesson time, the student will make a video call with Skype, which is a free service. (Skype user names will have been exchanged via e-mail and the new student and I will have 'accepted' each other as contacts before the initial lesson.)

A Skype student should not attempt to call in before the lesson is supposed to begin, as I may be giving a lesson to another student at that time and may not be able to accept the call. In the event that I do not answer the Skype video call promptly, the scheduled student should remain on-line and not hang up or log out of Skype. He or she should wait patiently while I wrap up with the student before him or her. If I decline to answer the call - whenever a video call request comes it, it blocks my view of the current student on the screen, so I may need to deny the call request so that I can re-establish a complete and clear image - please try again in a minute or two, or wait for me to call you back. (If I am running a few minutes behind that day, I will usually send an instant message to the next student's Skype account to notify him or her.)

If I begin the lesson a little late, I will usually notify the student via a Skype IM, and then make up the lost time at the end of the student's lesson so that he or she will receive the full teaching time for which he or she has paid. If, on the other hand, the student calls in late, I may not be able to make up that lost time (unless I have no other student scheduled after that time).

Due to the limited spaces available in my teaching schedule, I may need to cap lessons at a half hour each week per student in order to accommodate more students. If a longer opening or a second time and day become available, a student who would prefer a longer lesson or a second lesson during the week will be informed and given the opportunity to extend the length of his or her regular lessons or schedule a second lesson time.

I generally encourage Skype students to warm up their voices before calling in for their lessons so that the amount of time that can be devoted to working on developing technical proficiency during the lessons can be maximized. (If a student does not know how to properly warm up the voice, I am always prepared to offer some guidance.) I will never have the student jump immediately into challenging exercises that involve singing at the lowermost or uppermost pitches of the student's range, and will continue to proceed delicately and 'warm up' the voice further together through vocal exercises, but it is still helpful for a student to vocalize a little (for five or ten minutes) immediately before calling in for a lesson.

In order for me to teach effectively and for the student to be able to make progress during Skype lessons, I need to be able to both hear the voice clearly and consistently and see what is happening with the singer's posture, breathing and vocal tract (e.g., the larynx, mouth, tongue, jaw, etc.), as well as movements of the neck muscles, solar plexus, torso, etc.. Therefore, the student's webcam and microphone must produce a clear image, preferably in HD, with sufficient lighting in the room, and good quality sound. (Expensive studio equipment is not necessary.) The microphone also needs to be able to cope with the volume of the student's singing voice, and not mute the sound or cut out completely because it is 'overloaded' with excessive volume. Cameras should be adjusted so that I am able to see at least from the navel to the eyes. (For students who do not have access to higher speed Internet service or higher quality webcams and microphones, Skype lessons are still quite possible, but it does become more challenging for me to see and hear during the lessons as the video quality is typically inferior.)

Because there is sometimes a slight (one to two-second) time delay on the audio, I am unable to accompany students while they sing. (I generally can't hear the student over the keyboard, either.) This time delay seems worse during times of high Internet traffic and with students who are learning from farther away or who have slow Internet speed. During a Skype lesson, I will play and demonstrate an exercise. However, as the student prepares to sing back the exercise, I am only able to play the starting pitch or chord for reference. In the end, having the student sing a cappella actually benefits me because I am able to listen to the voice in isolation. It only becomes problematic if a student struggles a great deal with matching pitch accurately, (in which case, the lesson plan would be adjusted to meet that student's need for improving pitch). This time delay also affects the 'tempo' of the lessons, as they move along at a slightly slower pace than 'in person' lessons do.

Also, because I am unable to play along throughout an entire exercise, I often stick with simpler and shorter exercises, depending on the student (e.g., more advanced students tend to be able to maintain pitch accuracy and tempo even when singing without accompaniment, and are generally not limited to shorter exercises during Skype lessons). Many of the 'simple' exercises that I introduce are actually deceptively difficult when one's focus is on mastery of all the intricate aspects of technique rather than on simply singing the pitches correctly, so technique can still be developed using brief but challenging exercises. (I am currently working to remedy this problem by providing pre-recorded exercises - accompaniment tracks - in MP3 format that my students can sing along to during the lessons.)

My rates are $35 per half-hour lesson and $60 per full hour lesson. To schedule a Skype lesson, please go to Book A Lesson on this site.