Yes! With real-time one-on-one lessons, you get most of the advantage of in-person lessons.
“It all works surprisingly well.” Kaylé Brecher
Can I learn to sing online?
You can get a college degree online, but how effective are singing lessons when taken online? In order to answer this question, I asked several experienced singing teachers to share their thoughts about teaching online.
Their consensus is: Yes! Online singing lessons work.
Amanda Chmela, of Long Island Voice Lessons, says “Overall, I feel I am equally effective online as I am in person.”
Skype has been around since 2003, so singing teachers have been offering lessons online for a while. But when the Covid-19 pandemic arrived in March 2020, more and more singing teachers have offered online singing lessons. And they are getting better and better in adapting their teaching techniques to live video sessions.
Jeff Costello, surrounded by music gear, teaches a lesson in his studio in Zeeland, Michigan.
Benefits of online singing lessons
I was thrilled to hear teachers say that learning to sing online actually has clear benefits.
“I do feel like we can get a lot done in online lessons and I think I’m almost effective as I am in person.” Lara Troyer
An obvious advantage to studying singing online is that you don’t have to travel! Getting a singing lesson is as close as your nearest internet connection. It’s important to have a good internet connection, though, and I’ll speak more about technical details below.
Not traveling is a benefit for your teacher, too. They can spend more time preparing for your lesson. There are a ton of things that top singing teachers do outside of your actual lesson time. Michelle Markwart Deveaux wrote an excellent article about this.
Online lessons mean that you can study with anyone, anywhere. Andrea Wolper, a jazz singer, and singing teacher says “online teaching makes me available to more people.” https://www.andreawolper.com/home
Once a lesson is over, most online platforms will give you nearly instant access to your lesson video footage. This makes it super easy to review and practice on your own.
Technology for online singing lessons
Because there is technology involved, it may be a benefit to work with a teacher who has experience in live sound or recording technology. Jeff Costello, founder, and owner of Zeeland Academy of Music (https://www.zeelandacademyofmusic.com/ ), has a background playing and singing in rock bands. “I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had an immersive background in sound and recording equipment. That experience has served me, my students, and other teachers who’ve reached out to me for help and advice.”
But deep knowledge of technology isn’t an absolute requirement for students. Recent updates in video-conferencing software have made higher-quality audio possible. The popular and easy-to-use Zoom application, for example, included a “High Fidelity Audio mode” in their software update for September 2020.
Zoom recommends a “wired connection” for best audio results, and teachers agree that this makes the single biggest difference in the quality of your lesson. This typically means using a computer instead of a phone, since it’s easiest to connect your computer directly to your internet router.
It’s also super helpful for both you and your teacher to use headphones. If you are committed to the best experience for your online lessons, you will eventually want to consider is an external microphone. Your voice teacher should be able to make recommendations.
Challenges of online voice lessons
Among the teachers I spoke with for this article, a common concern about online teaching was creating opportunities to sing for one another. Cymber Quinn, who teaches voice and harp online, has a great solution: Online recitals! Ms. Quinn says: “The hardest part is keeping my students motivated when there aren’t performances, and they still want to sing and play. I’m doing another Zoom recital in November to give them something to work toward…because I have students from Florida to Hawaii, that was the first time they had ever seen or heard each other…and it’s still a little mind-blowing for some of them to hear someone six times zones away.” https://cymber.com/
In her studio in Denver, Colorado, Cymber Quinn leads a student in a vocal exercise.
Many teachers observed that there are special considerations for people who are taking their first-ever singing lessons. Singing exercises are typically simple patterns that you will learn quickly, and if you’re a beginner, these may be new. During a face-to-face lesson, your teacher can help by playing the notes along with you while you sing. When online, this is difficult or impossible, depending on the amount of latency.
You’ve probably noticed a delay in regular Zoom or Facetime calls…a lag between when you speak and the other person hears your voice. The tech term for this is “latency.”
Any lag of more than about 40 milliseconds means your teacher won’t be able to play the piano while you sing. There are some low-latency programs out there, but they often require expensive gear that most people don’t have.
This is a positive for some teachers, however. Amanda Chmela, of Long Island Voice Lessons, says, “I find that having to slow down slightly due to the delay gives students’ minds and bodies more time to absorb and process the work that is being done.” She loves that this helps students to work on their intonation and sing pitches more “mindfully.” Jeff Costello agrees: “I actually enjoy the fact that students have to sing all the exercises unaccompanied. It’s a great ear-training tool as they do not get the piano for help, other than to hear the notes before singing.”
Teachers also commented about the visual aspect of online lessons. Seeing a talking head works well for voice communications, but teaching singing involves the whole body. Lara Troyer, who teaches voice at Kent State University, misses “the three-dimensional aspects of seeing the whole student in real life.” So, don’t be surprised if your teacher asks you to back up from the camera. You use your whole body to sing, and your teacher needs to see it!
Step up to your computer and start singing!
I’d like to give credit to Linor Oren, who teaches from Amsterdam. She wrote a great article on this exact topic that inspired me to write this one. https://singwell.eu/online-singing-lessons/ Give it a read! She says she’s able to be about 90% effective in online synchronous lessons. This is in line with comments from the teachers I spoke with.
If you have a laptop or desktop computer that you can connect via a hard line to your router, then you should definitely consider online voice lessons. If you can only connect via Wi-Fi, it is still worth a try. You may encounter some technical glitches.
If you are unable to see a voice teacher in person, you should absolutely try online singing lessons! Based on conversations I had with the teachers above and from my own experience teaching online, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone who wants to begin singing lessons. As with any skill-building endeavor, you must learn to be patient with yourself and trust the process. There will be difficulties – with your voice and with the technology. Patience and humor will see you through!
“I’m OK with it all. I think both live and online have their own advantages, actually. Do I prefer to live? Sure! However, online is just fine with me.” Kaylé Brecher