ONLINE LESSONS – technical requirements:
To take on-line lessons with me, the pre-requisites are:
• You must have high-speed internet connection (DSL, cable modem, etc.). For high quality video, download and upload speeds must be at least 380KB/sec, according to the specifications of Skype. Dial-up connection will not work.
You can check the speed of your internet connection by going to http://speedtest.net/. That website indicates your local access point/city with a spinning gold star. Click the star and the site conducts testing, finally displaying your upload and download speeds in kilobytes (KB) per second.
• You need to be sufficiently “computer skilled” to:
– Download and print out the lessons material that will email you in PDF, day or two before each lesson.
– Test your home setup, and resolve all audio and video problems before our first Skype lesson. I suggest you to do a testing with friend or relative who also has Skype and a webcam, so we do not spend valuable lesson time on technical issues instead.
– Regularly check your e-mail. My primary channel of communication is e-mail, cell phone is in second place.
• It is good to have a PayPal account to pay for your lessons in advance. If that doesn’t work for you, then a check or money order must reach me and clear my bank before lessons begin.
NOTE: all lessons – audio / video, printed materials are Copyright © Henrich Novak and is for your personal use only. They are not be given, loaned or sold to someone else and may not be posted on YouTube or other websites. You are required to sign an agreement to that effect before we start the lesson.
How to set up your computer and prepare the instrument:
Your instrument and the computer must be ready next to each other, so I can hear and see me and vice versa. Ideally use a laptop that you can easily move around the instrument for Skype lessons. I have a desktop PC at home and for teaching purposes using a MacBook.
• Audio: to hear the sound of my voice and my instrument is best if you plug your headphones directly into the computer. This eliminates possible feedback that can occur when you listen to incoming sound via built-in computer speakers, which, especially on laptops, are usually very close to the microphone.
In order to hear my audio in your earphones, plus the sound of your own instrument is a good idea to avoid using of large hardshell headphones which considerably eliminate outside noise, while the best are the so-called open-ear headphones.
• Video: You need a webcam, and the better its audio and visual quality, the better I can monitor how you’re doing.
Your webcam can be also built into your computer (iMac, most laptops), but I found, however, it is better to use an external webcam and connect it to the microphone stand with the arm, or goose neck, allowing better movement of the camera around and show me close-ups of your right and left hands, or other useful views.
Even if you use a laptop or computer with built-in webcam, you can connect external web camera and switch as needed between two USB devices in Skype settings.
If you choose to use an external webcam, get a good quality one.
Products on the market are constantly changing and improving, but at the time of this writing (January 2012), I have personally tried and I highly recommend this model:
For PC: Logitech QuickCam B905 – it has CarlZeiss glass lenses, 2 megapixel resolution, excellent autofocus, great imaging capability at very low light conditions, built-in microphone and great sound. In addition, you can capture video and still images. It is ready to cooperate with the vast majority of today commonly used applications such as Skype, ICQ, AOL and so on. The current price might be around 60 – 70 €.
For Mac: Logitech QuickCam Vision Pro – is essentially the same webcam and the specifications are similar to those of QuickCam B905, price is also about the same.
These models are only a tip. I recommend a bit of Google search, there are available many similar devices now and online retailers offer discounts on many older but still very well-to-use models.
Another great thing about an external webcam, particularly one with a built-in mic, is that the camera/mic is able to be much closer to you, so I hear better audio on my end. If you are listening to me on your computer’s built-in or external speakers, then the external camera/mic is usually distant enough from your computer speakers to avoid a feedback loop.
If you choose to use an external camera/mic, be sure to go into the settings of video and audio in prefs (Mac), or audio and video settings in the Control Panel (PC) and select your external webcam as the video input, and the webcam mic as your audio input.