Complete Guide to Taking an Online Class

In this article:zoom

  • Key Words Used in this Article
  • Equipment
  • Lighting and Placement
  • Signing Up for a Class
  • The Class Page
  • Scheduling
  • Class Levels
  • Credits
  • Class FAQ
  • The Class Experience:  What to Expect
  • The Class Experience:  How to Get the Most Out of It

Key Words Used in this Article

I’m going to be talking about online classes in the context of so I’ll mention “Zoom,” the service we use to connect students and teacher (it’s easier and more reliable than Skype).  You can learn more about this at

We’ll talk about the “Class Page.”  There is a section below discussing this.

A “Tunelearning Page” is a presentation of sheet music boxed and labeled by phrase, with audio buttons for each phrase.  This helps students learn a tune more easily and musically.  You can find a number of Tunelearning Pages available on this site, but the format is also used sometimes to help class students work on a tune on their own.


As a student you don’t need any special equipment.  All new computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones (yes, you can take a class with any of these) are equipped with a camera and microphone.  If you have an old computer without one, you can buy a cheap one that will work fine; you plug it into the USB.  As a teacher, I have a better camera so that you can see more clearly what I’m doing; as a student, there’s no particular need for that.

If you have your own microphone, make sure it is not close to the speaker.  Also, please avoid making background noise, such as crackling papers, ringing phones, radio or TV.

Lighting and Placement

To join class, you can just click the link provided on the Class Page.  Since we start class with a few hellos and sometimes have to wait for someone, you can make adjustments at that time.  But if you want to check your lighting and placement in advance of class, open the Zoom app or program and click “Start with video” to see what you look like.  (When finished, don’t forget to click “End meeting for all” in the lower right to stop that session with yourself and move on to join the class by clicking the link on the Class Page.)

Make sure there’s enough light on yourself so others can see you.  Light coming from behind you will turn you into a silhouette.

Sit so that we can see you and your fiddle.  That will mean arranging the angle of the camera and also making sure you sit far enough away.  If you sit too far away, though, we won’t be able to hear you speak.

Signing Up for a Class

Once you log into you can click on “Online Classes” in the top menu of any page.  The Online Classes page provides info, signup buttons, links to past class materials, and sometimes a survey where you can submit your input about what you’d like to have in the way of classes.

There’s a signup button toward the left side; below it will be a description of the class and a sample audio of the beginning of the tune we’ll work on.  To sign up for a class, click on the button, which will say something like “To the 27 Jan class”.  The first time you click this, a message will pop up to confirm the cost of the class and to allow you to proceed or go back.  If you proceed, you will be be taken to the Class Page and charged for the class.  (For more info about credit charges, see section below on Credits.)  Please note:  on some browsers, the class page can go blank the very first time you visit.  Just refresh the page (click F5 or point to the URL and hit Enter) and the page will appear correctly from then on.

The Class Page

You can visit this page at any time from the moment you sign up, to 30 days after class.  Before class, this page will give you a link to click at class time (learn more about this below in the section about Taking a Class).  In addition to the class link, you’ll find audio and sheet music for the tune we’ll work on.  There may also be a Tunelearning Page presented, in case you’d like to learn the tune before class (optional).

After class, additional materials, such as relevant tune or technique videos, will be added to the Class Page for followup.  These materials will remain available for 30 days after class.


Current classes are taking place on Wednesday evenings (Eastern time) but based on member surveys, it appears that Thursday mornings and Monday afternoons might work for many; if those times suit you, please speak up by emailing (click “About / Contact”) or filling out the survey on the Online Classes page. There is also a survey that is offered when you join (you earn 2 credits for filling it out the first time!) and one part of it allows you to check off which days/times are good for you to take classes.  You can redo this form at any time by clicking “About Me” in the dropdown menu under “About / Contact” in the top menu.

Class Levels

    Beginners:  Survey forms on the site when you join or on the Online Classes invite beginners to let me know if they’re interested in beginning classes, which are offered when there are enough students keen to take them.Intermediate:  Most classes are geared toward intermediate players for tunes and techniques.  Advanced beginners can get a lot out of the discussion, practice and class materials.Advanced players can make use of the more advanced musical ideas and techniques in classes; a video is often included in class materials showing advanced ideas to strive for in learning a tune.


When you click through to the Class Page the first time you’ll be charged credits for the class.  If you don’t have enough, you’ll be taken to the “Out of Credits” page.  At any time, from any page, you can click the “Credits/Account” page at the top to view how many credits you have, see a list of what you’ve used credits for, and a place to purchase more credits.  You can also subscribe to get monthly credits added to your account, plus a bonus.  There is also a link to the Credits Store, where you can use credits to buy CDs, a Finger Finder, a private lesson, etc.

Class FAQ

There is a Classes FAQ page that may answer questions for you.  It can be found in the drop-down menu under the “Online Classes” item in the top menu.

The Class Experience:  What to expect

We start with informal chat, to make sure everyone’s there, they can see and hear, and to see if anyone has any questions to begin.

When new material is presented, the teacher mutes all the students’ microphones temporarily.  This allows you to play along with the teacher, try things out, and not be distracted by the sounds of other students.

Note that there is a lag time on the internet of about a half second in each direction, so it’s hard to carry on a quick repartee in conversation; you need to speak and allow the other person to hear you before you speak again.  Same with playing, which is another reason for muting student microphones — hearing everyone with a lag time would not make a lot of sense to the ears.

There is always time to ask questions and students are welcome to play a bit for the teacher to make sure they’re getting the idea.  This is very helpful for other students as well, as they listen and watch the answers.

While your mike is muted, or at any time, you can use the Chat Box.  If you place your mouse on the Zoom screen, the Chat option will appear at the bottom toward the right.  Click on this will open a chat box (you might just keep it available) which allows you to type in a question or comment to be addressed to everyone, or to the teacher or any student.  It will send when you hit Enter.

The Class Experience:  How to Get the Most Out of It

Your main goal will be to listen and try to play along with the teacher, and then ask a question or two to make sure you’re understanding what’s being talked about.

Taking a live class online from your home gives you lots of freedom.  You can participate as much or as little as you wish.  You can even mute your own microphone if you want to try something on your own, though if you do too much of that, it can defeat the purpose of being part of a class.

Don’t expect to master a tune or technique.  Instead, try to get a handle on it, a window on how to work on it.  You’ll have 30 days with followup materials to keep working and improving.  Don’t forget:  nobody gets good, they just get better!  By taking a class, you’ll learn a lot about a tune, how it’s made, how it’s played, how it’s used, and how to work on it.  Usually you’ll also learn special techniques about bowing, fingering or ornamentation, to bring the tune to life.


©2016 Ed Pearlman

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