Thursday, October 11, 2012

Singing Skype's praises for delivering music lessons

Kara Tsuboi/CNET

Skype has done wonders for connecting people around the world. We see it in schools, where a class in California chats with kids in Chile. Of course we see it in the home, where grandparents and grandchildren can catch up on the day's events over a meal together. And now we're increasingly seeing music instructors use the videoconferencing technology to offer lessons to students around the world.

Our video team at CNET connected with a Nashville, Tenn., based guitar teacher named Lance Allen. We observed a lesson he gave to a student here in San Francisco and were thoroughly impressed with the quality of instruction and how little was lost in translation, even though teacher and pupil were stationed 2,300 miles apart. Both student and instructor had up-to-date laptops running high-speed Internet, so there were no latency issues or problems with one person talking over the other.

Encouraged by the success of that lesson, I decided to give it a try with my brand-new ukulele. Now keep in mind, I am a complete beginner when it comes to playing a musical instrument. I've never even taken an in-person lesson! The first thing Lance did was help me tune my instrument. Now that's a keen ear to be able to discern an off note through the computer! From there, he was able to guide me on how and where to place my fingers to strum out different notes. At no point did I feel the lesson would be better with him sitting next to me. I will admit, though, the lesson was a bit slow-going, but that was most definitely because of my lack of skills and not the quality of Lance's instruction or the method in which he delivered it.

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