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I have used Zoom almost exclusively since I’ve done online lessons. It was better than other platforms. However, as I’m sure other music teachers have noticed, the audio quality leaves much to be desired!

Sometimes it’s great, depending on the student’s audio equipment, device, and internet connection. But many times their audio cuts out, it sounds like they are under water, I can’t hear the full sound of the piano, there’s a noticeable lag, and many other problems.

Although I do like a lot of its features, and it’s great for video conferences, for online piano lessons, I have wished there was something else. . .

Good news!

There are some other options available that were specifically designed for music lessons!

Both Muzie and Rock Out Loud Live are a better alternative than Zoom for online music lessons. You can try both of them for free, but here I’m comparing the $10/month membership for each.

Below you’ll find a comparison chart and then descriptions of each platform.

*Zoom’s new “professional music mode” was announced to be released by the end of September, but only works if both parties use external microphones, headphones, and an audio interface. It’s also only available on computer, not tablets or phones. 

Muzie

Main positives:

  • audio quality better than zoom
  • designed for music lessons
  • the waiting room is also a “practice room”

Main negatives:

  • students must have an account
  • can’t share computer audio
  • no group lessons unless you upgrade
  • views are limited
  • can only test audio settings in your profile
  • forced to rate the quality after each lesson

Muzie is designed for music lessons. According to Muzie, the internal audio driver is designed to favor audio over video and will send any available bandwidth to increasing audio quality when possible.

One interesting feature is that the waiting room is also a “practice room” where students can access their files, chat, and more.

To set up an online lesson, you have to schedule a lesson then invite a student. They have to login and then connect. It is possible to have the same meeting room for everyone, but then the waiting room (“practice room”) doesn’t make sense, in my opinion, because everyone’s files and chats will be in there.

For me, I don’t want to have separate links and scheduled lessons for anyone. I like just having a virtual lesson room that all my students can join whenever it’s their time. However, some teachers may like this feature.

In a 1-on-1 lesson, the views are limited. It’s just locked into a side-by-side view. Sometimes the student or teacher wants to be able to see the other person as full as possible, but you can’t do this on Muzie (see photo below):

You can click to have the student full screen, but then you can’t see yourself.

There are no group lessons available unless you upgrade to $20/month. Even then, you can only have 4 people. With an “Institution” account, you can have 50 in a group, but that’s $40/month.

There is a dashboard with number of lessons given, total minutes, etc. (see photo below) There is a teacher portal where you can see previous chats, files you’ve shared, past lessons, scheduled lessons, and student list. This is a nice feature for teachers who don’t already have any kind of management software. However, most teachers want more than just a student list and upcoming lessons. Or they already have this information somewhere else. And many teachers use management platforms like My Music Staff or TeacherZone which has a lot more features (calendar, billing, etc.).

Online Lesson Experience

It’s pretty easy to use and the audio quality is definitely better than Zoom! There is still lag, and I tested it several times with different people. Even with high speed internet directly in using ethernet, we couldn’t manage to play at the same time. They claim on their facebook page that duets are possible, but the videos show a slight lag (see below). This is expected because there’s always some latency with anything over the internet.

You’ll see in this video it’s not exactly in sync, but it’s still much improved compared to Zoom. You wouldn’t be able to accompany your student on Zoom, that’s for sure!

In my own tests, I was able to somewhat talk while the other person was playing, and vice versa. There’s still some cutting out, but not as bad as Zoom.

There is a metronome tool, but it doesn’t show up on the student side and the student can’t hear it, it’s just for the teacher. You can share files, and the student can open them up. On a browser, it shows up pretty large on the right half of the screen, and the teacher and student videos are smaller on the left. You can’t download a pdf from there, however. You’d still have to send it to your student.

After every lesson, it asks “how was the audio and video quality?” and you have to rate it. If you skip it, it won’t let you come back to the teacher portal until you do it. I understand wanting feedback on the quality, but it would get a bit annoying to constantly have to rate the quality after every single lesson.

There was a glitch for my iPhone when I was testing it out as a student: I couldn’t press the mute audio, turn off video, or hang up. I had to touch/tap many times over and over.

You can’t share computer audio. This is a really important feature because many teachers like to play a youtube video or an audio track for students, and it’s great to be able to share the audio directly instead of having to rely on the sound to play on our own device and be picked up by the microphone and then sent through to the student’s speakers.

CLICK HERE for more information on Muzie

Rock Out Loud Live (ROLL)

Main positives:

  • audio quality better than zoom
  • designed for music lessons
  • students don’t need an account
  • view sheet music directly on screen with teacher
  • music annotation
  • database of thousands of pieces of music already there
  • easy-to-see stats on connection, bitrate, bandwidth, etc
  • new audio codec coming soon allows duet playing with virtually no latency!

Main negatives:

  • can’t record the meeting (although I’m told it’s coming in the future)
  • limit of 35 in a group

Rock Out Loud Live boasts high quality audio, focused on low latency for online music lessons.

I like how students don’t need an account. You can just send the link and they click it and join.

I love how you can share a PDF of sheet music or anything you want right in the virtual lesson. You don’t have to send it via chat or share your screen. The student sees it on their screen, like Muzie. However, on a browser, the student can still see the teacher full screen with the pdf to the side. The student can download it right from there, even if they’re on their tablet or phone!

There is a library of sheet music with thousands of pieces of music already in the database that you can share and pull up for you and your students. You can also upload your own library and have those ready as well.

A unique feature is guitar tabs and piano chords! As the teacher, you can click to show the student and it shows up right on their screen.

Here’s a screenshot showing the sheet music and guitar chords right in the video!:

A little detail that is great is the “mute everyone else” setting. So if you’re doing a group class and one person is talking or playing, you can click them and “mute everyone else!” This is brilliant! In Zoom, you can mute everyone, but then you’ll have to mute that specific person.

ROLL seems more “bare bones” than Muzie because it doesn’t have the extras of a dashboard and scheduled lessons, etc. However, it focuses on one thing and it does that thing really well: online video lesson. It’s great for teachers who want an easy-to-use platform to just get on, connect with students, and not be bothered with the technology so they can focus on teaching.

Here is the dashboard:

The app is also super simple. It just has a place for the student to enter their name and then enter your meeting room ID. That’s it. Super plain, super simple. You don’t need an account. Just put your name in and enter the room ID your teacher gave you.

Online Lesson Experience

It’s very easy to use and intuitive. The audio quality is so much noticeably clearer than Zoom. You can interrupt the other person and talk while they’re playing, and it doesn’t cut anything out at all; similar to talking on the phone where you can hear the other person even if you’re talking.

Like any platform, it’s better if you are connected directly via ethernet. However, I used WiFi and it was great!

The audio quality is definitely “full spectrum” meaning you hear the whole range of frequencies unlike Zoom. The patented E.A.R. (Enhanced Audio Recognition) technology which is coming out very soon is like magic! I did a demo with the creator and we literally played and sang at the same time with each other! There is always some amount of latency with anything over the internet, but as long as you have a good connection, the latency is so low, you can’t even detect it. We’re talking just a few microseconds!

Listen to the difference in audio between Zoom and Rock Out Loud Live:

 

CLICK HERE for more information on Rock Out Loud Live

 

Conclusion

Both Muzie and Rock Out Loud Live are great alternatives to Zoom. They were designed by musicians with online music lessons in mind. They prioritize the audio quality.

Both platforms require the teacher to host the lesson from a desktop or laptop computer, but students can join from computer, tablet, or mobile phone. If students join from a tablet or phone, they need the app.

Muzie would be great for teachers who also want a little bit of organization as well, since it provides a dashboard with students, lessons scheduled, etc. However, you’ll have to upgrade to get larger groups if that’s your thing.

Personally, I prefer Rock Out Loud Live, mostly because of the added features, ease of use (students don’t have to have an account), and the upcoming release of the new audio codec which I tried, allowing virtual duet playing!

Be sure to sign up for free demos so you can try them out:

CLICK HERE to schedule a Muzie Demo

CLICK HERE to schedule a Demo with Rock Out Loud Live

I wish you the best with your online teaching!

Clinton (Piano Sensei)

(Muzie logo was designed by and is the property of Muzie.live. Zoom logo was designed by and is the property of Zoom.com. Rock Out Loud Live logo was designed by and is the property of rockoutloud.live)

 

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5 Comments

  1. Cathy Baxter

    Well, that was very useful. I am just in the process of choosing a platform for my piano lessons in the fall. Thanks!

    Reply
    • pianosensei

      I’m glad, good luck!

      Reply
  2. Laura

    Thanks! Very useful.

    Reply
  3. Alice

    Thank you for the informative blog post. Very helpful. These platforms are underdevelopment and seem to change frequently, so it’s worth a teacher’s time to check back every week and see what’s new on each platform. A correction needed above: Muzie does offer filesharing of sheet music without having to share screen–I did it just a couple of days ago in an a muzie tutorial.

    Reply
    • pianosensei

      Yes, thanks Alice, I fixed that. It’s a file share where the student can see it. But they can’t download it from there, so the teacher would still have to send it another way.

      Reply

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