Zoom Flute Lessons: What to Expect When Studying Online

Written by Elzbieta Brandys-O'Neill

A parent’s guide to making flute lessons online effective for children 8-12 years old 

This is the guide I use with my own studio, Boston Flute Lessons, but I thought it could help parents who are studying with other teachers to get the most out of their online flute lessons. Here are a few steps you need to do to make online flute lessons effective, successful, and productive:

  1. Use a desktop computer or laptop, if this is an option for you, but be sure it has a webcam and microphone. I don't recommend using a smartphone or iPad for online flute lessons, as the quality of the sound is not so great.
  2. Download the right software for the lesson (which is Zoom, for my students):  Most teachers will have a platform of choice for teaching online that allows real time video and audio between the student and teacher. found that the Zoom platform works the best, and it is what I use in my studio. You can download the software for Zoom free at https://zoom.us/download (you will not need a paid plan as a student). Another reason I use Zoom on the desktop is because it offers special audio settings to improve the sound of flutes that are not available in their phone and tablet apps.
  3. Make sure the child's internet connection is optimized for the lesson. I recommend checking your family's internet connection speed via https://www.speedtest.net; the most important number is going to be your "upload" speed. You probably want 6 to 10 Mbps upload speed to have a successful lesson where the teacher can hear and see your child effectively. Check with your internet company to see what service level/package you have, and use the SpeedTest app or link to see whether you are getting the speed you are paying for in your plan. Call your internet provider if you are not getting speeds close to what you are paying for (note: the upload speed is typically much lower than the download speed). To maximize the best speed during your lesson, either use a wired ethernet connection, or set up the child's flute and music stand as close to your Wifi router as possible. You might also want to limit the amount of streaming video or audio taking place in your network/house during the lesson (from other family members).
  4. Adjust some of Zoom’s default audio preferences before the lesson to optimize for the flute: The default audio settings in Zoom are set up for meetings and business, not music. However, we can adjust them (on desktop version of Zoom only!) to make our flute lessons more effective:

    1. After you download ZOOM, to go Zoom.us in the task bar and select Preferences menu. Choose Audio on the left menu pane. This will launch the audio settings we need to adjust. Note: you can also do this from an “active” meeting by going to the bottom left of an active Zoom meeting and selecting “Audio Settings” as shown here:
      Audio Settings for Zoom Flute Lessons
    2. Within the Audio settings, make sure the Speaker and Microphone are set to the right hardware devices, if you have more than one. I recommend children 8-12 use the computer speakers (not headphones).
      Audio Settings for Zoom Flute Lessons
    3. On the same screen, in the bottom right corner, click “Advanced.” In the advanced settings dialog box:
      1. Make sure that a blue checkmark box is on in the “Show in-meeting option to ‘Enable Original Sound’ from microphone.” Note: you may need to ask your teacher to enable this checkbox to appear. 
      2. Set “Suppress Persistent Background Noise” to “Disable”
      3. Set “Suppress Intermittent Background Noise” to “Disable” 
      4. Leave “Echo cancellation” on “Auto”
      5. Close the window to save the changes.
        Advanced Audio Settings for Zoom Flute Lessons
    4. That’s it, however there is one more thing to do to ensure all of Zoom’s native audio processing has been disabled and we get the best flute sound possible using your microphone’s original sound. Once you are inside an active meeting/lesson window, a button in the top left corner of the active meeting/lesson window will say “Turn On/Off Original Sound.” For every lesson you take, you want to turn ON the original microphone sound, after which, the screen will look like this:
      Enable original sound option in Zoom
  5. The next step is to prepare the physical room at your home: 
    1. Make sure the lesson room is well lit, with the light to be behind your webcam (e.g. behind and above your computer) shining toward the child’s face and body. 
    2. Avoid having lights behind the child’s body (the teacher will have a difficult time seeing you if lights are being captured by your camera). 
    3. Make sure the camera on your device captures their body from the child’s hips up to the top of their head.
  6. Make sure you have all these materials available and set up before each lesson:
    1. music stand
    2. flute 
    3. Sheet music (while digital/PDF music is ok, I prefer the student use real sheet music written on paper/books)
    4. pencil and highlighter 
    5. metronome and tuner (there are many apps that have both functions in one app, however I prefer using separate apps: Pro Metronome and TonalEnergy Tuner)
    6. A nearby table/desk or flute stand where the child can set down their flute within reach when we’re not using it during the lesson.
  7. Turn off sound on all other electronic devices (cell phone, tablet, or iPad)
  8. On your computer, close all other applications, especially messaging and email applications.
  9. On your computer and phone, enable the “Do not disturb mode” as it’s called in iOS (or equivalent) if you know how to do so. This will suppress notifications and inbound calls/message, allowing your child to be focused 100% during your lesson

I hope this guide will help you achieve the best results possible when studying online. If you have questions, please feel free to email me at ela@boston-flute-lessons.com.

Happy fluting!