Blog, Tips & Tricks

Successful Online Lessons Require Taking Ownership of Learning

I don’t know about other teachers, but I have had a fair amount of new students asking about online lessons. It’s probably due to coronavirus, and the desire to maintain some level of normalcy in a pretty crazy time.

Of course, I’m a big proponent of online lessons – afterall, I’ve been doing this for years, right along side my in-studio lessons. Many students developed a hybrid approach that balanced their time and desire to keep their musical comittments. That said, everyone is online right now! I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get back to normal. I’m tired of having rehearsals cancelled, tired of having all of our music stores closed, and most of all, just plain tired of being told how to live.

Until we can get back to our normal lives, online learning is the only way to go.

With that in mind, here are my best tips to make it a success (even if you plan to go back to in-person ASAP).

Take ownership of learning. Online learning requires that you (or your child) take the reigns and be in charge of their own learning. If you require a high degree of external structure and externally imposed deadlines, this will be difficult – but not impossible.

Taking ownership is a big deal, and why many people have difficulty completing classes online. Without having a professor physically in front of us, nagging for assignments and going to a classroom or other facility, the slacker in all of us just blows it off.

This whole coronavirus nightmare might just teach us a little personal responsibility, with regards to learning and education. Then again, it might not – the choice is yours.

Here’s how to buckle down and take ownership:

  1. Schedule yourself.
  2. Turn off all the distractions.
  3. Set reasonable, but challenging, goals.
  4. Commit to the process, not the results.
  5. Take frequent breaks.
  6. Enlist a friend.

Schedules are what keep most of us on track. They lend structure to our days, and help us keep moving forward. Without some form of structure, we tend to flop unless we’re very motivated.

Create a schedule, complete with a getting ready routine, and do it. Think you can’t? Think again. If you have a morning routine, you can do this.

Distractions are motivation killers. I am certain you have either heard or said this many times. Now, you get to actually take your own advice (or help your kids take it!). Turn off all notifications during your scheduled practice time. Stick you phone in do not disturb mode, close your email and turn off the TV.

Goals can be motivating as deadlines. Set a goal for yourself to accomplish within a reasonable time frame. Whatever the goal, it needs to be reasonable, but challenging. Once you decide on that goal – add a performance date. The best goals cause you to feel a little pressure, have real and measurable signposts along the way, and a deadline that must be met.

The process leads to results – so focus on it first. Yes, results are important, but when we’re overly focused on the results we tend to lose the joy in the process. Take joy the process, and celebrate each step you take towards the goal you set! The results will come – just trust the process, and become committed to it and you’ll see the results you seek.

Breaks aren’t bad. In our culture, being a workaholic is often seen as dedication, and it is, but it’s also a direct cause of burnout. Whatever your musical goal, you must rest too! Our brains do a lot of the processing for those things we learn in the background while we’re busy sleeping or doing something else. Work on your music while you’re focused, for most people this is anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. The moment you feel your focus begin to waver, change it up. Get up, stretch, get a drink of water or a snack…you get the idea. Chances are, after a short break you’ll feel refreshed and ready for more.

Friends are awesome. Introverted or not, we are social creatures and often need the support of a friend – sometimes it’s a kick in the pants, but support is good and necessary, no matter the form. Find a friend with whom you can share your journey. They don’t ave to also be a musician, although that’s nice.


I teach privately online; but if you’re near the 35W and I20 area of Fort Worth, Texas I would love to see you in my studio! I also give workshops on how to Practice Like a Pro

Contact me to find out more or to schedule a workshop at your school.

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