Wind of Change: An Alternative to Zoom


Toronto based piano teacher Pavel Markelov has created an app specifically for online music lessons. This is a great alternative to Zoom or Skype and is a great tool for music teachers and students alike. The app is still in development and will be released sometime this year. Pavel teaches piano lessons here at Neighbour Note.

Wind of Change

The world is changing and many of us are anxious about these changes. We are used to the familiar and are uncomfortable with change. However, these novel circumstances push us to change, which is ultimately what drives progress and development. For instance, digital technology was not commonplace several decades ago. In fact, people were reluctant to switch to e-mail, e-books, or online services. But now it is impossible to imagine our lives without these things – they have become a convenience for us today!

These digital changes have now also affected education.

Today, there is a growing trend of online learning in all areas of education – even music! In the past, it was impossible to imagine learning guitar or piano online, yet today, we simply accept it as fact; it is no longer possible to reject it...

But don't jump to conclusions! Let's look at these changes from the other side – from the side of the development of progress, with a discussion about both the negative and positive aspects of learning music online.

Lesson "tete-a-tete"

Let's be honest, what can replace the in-person student and teacher interaction that occurs in a one-to-one lesson? The obvious advantage to the in-person lesson experience is that the teacher, working with the student, can point to the score and direct the student’s attention to certain parts of the music. The teacher can interrupt the student, asking them to repeat particular passages or work on their musical phrasing. Sometimes, the teacher can even physically adjust the student’s fingers, hands, or instrument to guide them in the right direction.

However, according to feedback from teachers, students take this experience for granted and get relaxed – they place the initiative in the hands of the teacher sitting next to them with a pointer. And sometimes, the opposite occurs: they do not feel comfortable being near the teacher because of mistrust from the student, anxiety, or in rare cases, extreme pressure from the teacher.

Online Lesson

Now, consider online lessons: of course, there is a big physical "gap" between the student and the teacher. Communication becomes more difficult across a screen. It is harder to interrupt and stop the student. It becomes harder to provide guidance through the screen, in terms of finding the right words to explain and in perceiving the student’s performance and reaction. There is also a question about quality – today’s video messengers do not meet the requirements of musical sound transmission because they were not created for such a purpose. They work great for conference calls, where only voice is transmitted. However, latency issues exist and it is very difficult to make out the fine, intricate details of a student’s performance and tone. Many difficulties arise in terms of communication.

However, there are also advantages: according to teachers' feedback, many students – being physically alone in the room – begin to focus their attention more. Being "alone", they begin to think faster; they organize their playing and prepare everything that is needed for the lesson, realizing that the teacher no longer has the ability to help them physically. They now have more responsibility on their part. Students themselves have to find the notes in the score from which the teacher requests them to start playing (sometimes the scores themselves:)). Instead of passively listening to the teacher in the same room, they now have to put in more effort and attention towards the teacher, who is on the other side of the screen. The student also feels more comfortable and confident with this "buffer zone of protection" through the screen. Perhaps, the most significant advantage to online piano lessons is the saving of time and money since students do not have to travel to a teacher for lessons.


Our team is led by a professional teacher and talented European programmers that make applications for online learning. With the support of other highly qualified teachers, we have developed an application that combines all the advantages of online and one-to-one lessons, helping bring teachers and students as close as possible while solving communication problems.Considering all our experience working online, we have improved the quality of audio transmission, taking into account musical features such as the transmission of sound with minimal lag and the ability to play together on different ends of the connection.

The teacher will be able to support the student's playing with different signals, musical symbols, rhythmic notation, articulations, dynamics, and even the ability to save various symbols for frequent use.For convenience, there are also tools such as a built-in keyboard, metronome, music board, and fingering charts for different instruments.

Sonatico Dashboard

Our application also has a student’s account feature with a dictation book for any homework, e-scores, notes, and teachers’ remarks. Additionally, there is an included log feature which can be used to check in and out of each lesson. This log can be referred back to as a record of the student’s class history and their progress.

In the online school, for the safety and security of children and teachers, we have also created the ability to video broadcast the lesson. Now, parents can feel more comfortable leaving their children to work with the teacher online during any time of the day.

We would be happy to hear feedback from you both students and teachers!