SKYPE LESSONS! with Guest Mike Oft

Many of the students I teach are the Only Double Reed Student in their Band, maybe even Their School and sometimes in Their district.


In the past, a student’s location and teacher availability in the area would dictate the ability to take private lessons. But the development of technology has shifted this dynamic, allowing students from all over the world to study with the teacher of their choice.


 My dad, Mike, is the King of Skype lessons! His teaches at least 5 students, daily via internet private trombone instruction.

My Double Reed Skype Studio is a bit less ambitious, due to my full time schedule at Jacksonville State University and Professional Gigging Contracts.

We both teach lessons via Technology throughout the United States, from the West to East Coasts with ease.

Together we have composed “A How-To Guide: SKYPE LESSONS” to help Teachers and with Technology and What to Expect if you are a Student and would like a Skype Lesson.


Side-note: If you would like a Skype Lesson with ME- Please fill out My CONTACT ME FORM (linked here) for us to Talk Prices and Find a Time!


I Love Getting to Know You Guys and Working with you-One on One!


1. Make Sure Your Set Up is Wired!  You can’t do a wifi connection and expect Clean Streaming: without Blips in Video or Breaks in Sound.

Hopefully the person taking the lesson also has a wired connection. If possible suggest it to the student or parent; they will want to get the most out of the lesson and might not know this could make a difference. 


2. Be Prepared with a Landline Telephone– even when both parties have a wired connection, there are times that the computer has to Catch Up: i.e. An exercise of straight quarter notes becomes eighth notes with pauses… That’s the computer/internet catching up. 

When this happens, we (student and teacher) both turn off the sound on the computer and I call them from my LANDLINE Telephone. Gasp! Yes, a Landline Telephone will stream more efficiently than a cell phone. We both use speaker phone. If distortion for a demonstration happens, take the phone off of speakerphone. That should fix the problem.

3. Don’t Worry about Buying Fancy Speakers! Use the Speakers in Your Computer. When the sound is coming through “tinny”, it’s much less likely that the teacher will let any bad quality: like thin sound, intonation, length of the notes, etc. pass by without correcting the problem.

Many times, Skype is better than being there in person…  We’ve all listened to performances that we thought were better when we were there in person. Often the eyes will excuse poor quality. 

4.  Have a Great Background and Good Lighting.  My dad has a quilt directly behind him that my mom designed and made (she’s a professional quilter). My background has a signature giraffe print on the wall. And- Good lighting Makes You Available.

This is the Background for My SKYPE Lessons. He is SO Astute! 

The Goal:  Your Studio should look Professional. The student must be able to see you as well as if they were in the room with you. It really helps if the student also has great lighting, but as a rule, this rarely happens. 😊

5.  Take a Moment to Look in the Mirror before You Start– I hate to say it but Appearances Matter. Be sure you look professional and that you’ve cared for yourself (hair combed, teeth brushed, etc). Technology seems to show our bad side more extensively than when we’re actually in the room.

guy in mirror

6. Standard Warm Up Exercise.  The teacher should always have a standard warmup excerise that the student starts the lesson with each week.  In addition to modeling for the student that this is how the student is expected to begin each practice session, it gives the teacher a chance to make sure the internet connection is perfect!

7. Have A Paypal Account: The ease of Paypal allows for quick worldwide payment, just before the lesson. No Waiting on Checks that are In The Mail! Here’s how I do it: I confirm the family has a PayPal Account and the Email linked to the Account, then I Create and Send the Student an Invoice  in Paypal the Day of their Lesson, The Student Receives an Email that an Invoice was Created, They Log into their PayPal Account and Pay the Invoice, and I get an Email Confirming Payment. They we are all set to start the lesson.

Although Paypal charges a small fee for this transaction, to me It’s Worth It! I don’t need to wait on checks to arrive in the mail. It saves me the Mileage and Time of running To and From the bank to deposit/cash checks. I can link it directly to my bank account for deposit or use the money to pay for MORE Bassoon Goodies in Online Purchases.  And for students that are Abroad- Paypal does the monetary conversion.

For Business Purposes and Taxes, I note the small fee in my Year End Spreadsheet as part of the cost of doing business and submit it to my accountant.


1. Greet the student the same as if you were welcoming them into your studio.  A few minutes of conversation gives the teacher a great sense of the internet connection, the audio volume, etc. It’s also a great way to get to know more about the student.

2. Be Aware! Keep up on the local news, weather, and interests in the student’s home town. The more you do as a teacher to make the student feel like you’re just down the street, the more connection you’ll have during the lesson.


3. Maintain Eye Contact and Prepare! Memorize the music the student is working on, if at all possible. Show that you are engaged teacher. Play through their music before the lesson so you know the “Danger Zones” of the piece and how to best help the student avoid any pitfalls

4. Budget to send the student music (snail mail).  If the student was coming to your studio, you would give them printed music, never expect the student to print a PDF. It might not happen (printer is out of ink) and then the student may not progress.  GOAL: Make it easy for the student to succeed. 

At the END of the LESSON:

As with all lessons, Have a Lesson Plan and point out at the end of the lesson the 2 or 3 Main Points that were covered so that the students and parents can see what they received for their money. This really makes a difference in recessions when families begin trimming the budget. It helps families see that private lessons are the necessities, and not the frills that are among the first things to be cut. It will also help the student focus their practice time on key goals to achieve throughout the week.

I like to send a Follow Up Email of Key Points we covered and links to any videos on my YouTube Channel that pertain to ideas covered, to serve as reminders.

good feeling

Sometimes Students finish the lesson FEELING GREAT– they sounded so good and they know it! Then they forget all the progress they made the following day. They know they have the potential to Sound Amazing but can’t remember how to get there. Yikes! Reminders Empower the Students with the Tools for Achievement! 

Here’s to hoping you found this helpful! Maybe even offered some Tips and Tricks to Teachers that Already Have Their Own Skype Studio. If you have Additional Ideas, We’d Love to Hear from You. Please Comment and Share!


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