(12) Tips to Studying Flute Online

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

(Article updated on November 10, 2020)

Here are 12 steps you need to do to make your online flute lessons effective, successful, and productive. This is the guide I use with my own studio, Boston Flute Lessons, and I hope it will help parents of students and other teachers to get the most out of their online flute lessons. 

  1. Use a desktop computer or laptop—not a phone/tablet if this is an option for you.  Be sure it has a webcam and microphone—but, most do. The sound quality is not great on phones and tablets. 
  2. Select a video/audio conferencing application to use (e.g. Zoom).  Most teachers will have a platform of choice for teaching online that allows almost-real time video and audio between the student and teacher. I found that the Zoom platform works the best, and it is what I use in my studio (download free): 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 the flute 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 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. If you have the Google Home app with Nest WiFi, it will also tell you your upload/download speeds. 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 bandwidth 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 your lesson to be optimized for the flute. As of September 2020, Zoom made a few updates to their audio settings. The new feature called “high fidelity music mode” improves audio quality in ways that make the Zoom platform much better for music lessons: 

    Install the latest version of Zoom (you want version 5.2.2 or later)

    After installing the latest version, you will need to make a change to your Zoom audio settings. Note: these settings are only available for MacBook and Windows computers so no action is required for other operating systems. The new high fidelity music mode can be enabled by going to:

    Zoom Settings > Audio > Advanced > Show in-meeting option to “Enable Original Sound” from microphone > High fidelity music mode > Use Stereo audio

    This is what my advanced audio settings look like on my MacBook Pro:
    Image 1
  5. Here are screen captures showing this step by step: 
    1. After you download ZOOM, go to Zoom.us in the task bar and select Preferences menu. Choose Audio on the left menu panel. 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).

    3. On the same screen, in the bottom left 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.”
      2. Check box with the “High Fidelity music mode” 
      3. Check box with “Use stereo audio” 
      4. Leave “Echo cancellation” on “Auto”
      5. Close the window to save the changes

    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
  6. (Optional): Upgrade Your Microphone (highly recommended)
    For online lessons and recitals, I suggest purchasing an external USB microphone rather than the built-in microphone in the computer. It will tremendously improve the quality of the flute sound. Here is a microphone I suggest that works very well for the flute: Blue Microphones Yeti Multi-pattern USB Condenser Microphone.
    You can also use an XLR condenser microphone (with a 3-pin audio connector), however these microphones require a special piece of extra hardware (a USB audio interface such as a FocusRite Scarlett) and are more difficult to set up. 
  7. (Optional): Upgrade your Webcam (highly recommended)
    For significantly better visibility during your online lessons and recitals, I recommend purchasing a webcam than using the built in computer camera. External webcams will greatly improve the clarity and quality of your visibility. Here is a webcam that I suggest purchasing: AverMedia Live Streamer CAM 313: Full HD 1080P Streaming Webcam
  8. The next step is to prepare the physical room in which your child will take their online lessons: 
    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 webcam).
    3. Make sure your webcam captures the child’s body from the hips up to the top of their head.
  9. 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 not using it during the lesson or resting.
  10. Turn off sound on all other electronic devices (cell phone, tablet, or iPad)
  11. On your computer, close all other applications, especially messaging and email applications.
  12. On your computer and phone, enable the “Do not disturb mode” as it’s called in iOS (or the equivalent in your operating system). This will suppress notifications and inbound calls/messages, allowing your child to be focused 100% during the lesson.

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

Happy fluting!

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