Music Education Research

July 2, 2010

Online Music Lessons

Filed under: Technology Based Music Instruction — Rick Dammers @ 10:35 am

Orman, E. K. and Whitaker, J. A. (2010). Time usage during face-to-face and synchronous distance music lessons. American Journal of Distance Education, 24(2), 92-103.

This experimental study closely compares multiple aspects of applied instrumental music lessons in face-to-face and online lesson settings. Three middle school students (one saxophonist, two tubists) had lessons with a saxophone and tuba instructor respectively. Each student had a mix of face-to-face and online video lessons which were videotaped and coded for a variety of factors. When on-line lessons were compared to face to face lessons, there was a 28% increase in student playing, a 36% decrease in off-task comments by the instructor, a 28% decrease in teacher playing (modeling), and an increase in student eye contact. In the online lessons, less than 3% of the time was spent on technology issues, although audio and video quality concerns were mentioned.

I am personally interested in this study because I had conducted a similar qualitative study, which was published in 2009 in Update: Applications of Research in Music Education. The findings in both studies seem to be similar: that online applied lessons are functional and perhaps more efficient in some aspects, yet compression issues, particularly audio quality, remain a central concern. My personal conclusion is that this format is not yet ready to be a replacement for face-to-face lessons. Instead, I find this approach most exciting where it can be used to overcome issues of distance and create musical interactions where none were possible before.



  1. Wow. May I link this article on my webcam lesson page? This is exactly what I have been telling people about online lessons. The amount of progress my students make has been impressive.

    Comment by Thomas J. West — July 2, 2010 @ 4:33 pm

    • Feel free to link. I thought you might find this study interesting.

      Comment by Rick Dammers — July 2, 2010 @ 5:21 pm

  2. […] Online Music Lessons – RESEARCH STUDY: Orman, E. K. and Whitaker, J. A. (2010). Time usage during face-to-face and synchronous distance music lessons.  American Journal of Distance Education, 24(2), 92-103.  ~Summary by Dr. Rick Dammers […]

    Pingback by Monday Morning Music Mix – September 20, 2010 | MusTech.Net: Music Education, Music Technology, & Education! — September 20, 2010 @ 9:50 am

  3. I’ve been wondering if this type of instruction might help our current crisis in PA. MANY elementary instrumental programs are being cut completely. Since we don’t want to wait until grade 5 to begin lessons, a combination of video lessons with an occasional face-to-face seems a possible (but hopefully temporary) solution. Thanks!

    Comment by Daniel Long — April 2, 2011 @ 7:30 am

    • In what part of PA are you residing? While video lessons may be an option, partnering with a nearby university’s music program may be a way to get the crucial face-to-face time beginning students need. Most of the PA State System schools, as well as many PA private schools, have music education programs with pre-service teachers eager to gain practical experience. As a faculty member in the Department of Music at Clarion University (Clarion, PA in western PA), we are exploring outreach opportunities to provide this service to area school districts whose budget cuts have resulted in music-program cuts/elimination.

      Comment by Jeffrey Wardlaw — June 27, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

  4. This is study is very interesting, thanks for sharing! Our company has traditionally offered face to face lessons, but we are testing the success of online lessons at the moment. I agree that online is not necessarily a replacement to traditional teaching, but is a great way to spread music expertise to rural areas where qualified teachers may not be accessible.

    Comment by Marc — July 31, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

    • Hi Marc, what is your company? How is the testing going? Are you finding online lessons to be successful? I’m caught up in the controversy of virtual vs face-to-face.

      Comment by Danielle — September 3, 2012 @ 5:13 pm

      • Hi Danielle, I work for The testing has been going well so far. We have had positive feedback from a number of students, and they are sticking around longer than we expected! Face-to-face still has its benefits, but it might not always be a feasible option, depending on where you live.

        Comment by Marc Peterson — September 14, 2012 @ 6:23 pm

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