Friday, December 18, 2009

[Open Comment Thread] How Do You Feel About Online Piano Tutorials?

Opening a can of worms here...

The route that many young musicians take in starting their encounter with the piano is changing very quickly these days. I'm speaking about the rise of online piano tutorials, which are increasingly becoming part of the piano pedagogy world, with their informative, engaging, and (mostly) free content. As blogged about by David Story in the Hamilton-Halton ORMTA blog and Patrick on Piano Street, online video tutorials (including popular ones by Yoke Wong, Hugh Sung, and webpianoteacher) can be both a blessing and a curse. And while I'm still a champion of the power of one-on-one teaching, I'm increasingly asking my students to watch some of these videos as a supplement to what they learn in lessons. After all, they're on YouTube (where students hang out anyway) and they're free.

My questions to the Collaborative Piano Blog community:

Is the genre of the online piano tutorial a natural evolution of the piano lesson that can easily be integrated into one-on-one instruction, or is it a use of technology that will wrest increasing numbers of beginners from traditional lesson/class instruction into the more streamlined business model of online mass instruction? Should piano teachers be excited or worried about this development? How can piano teachers take advantage of online lesson videos both from the content delivery and content creation vantage point?

(Image from piblet's photostream on Flickr)


  1. I think we should be worried.

    On the other hand, it may be a blessing like Guitar hero was for guitarist teachers, and American Idol was for vocal teachers.

    For better or worse I'm convinced that it is already changing our way of doing business. I don’t think a revenue model can be derived from it though. These kids have the expectation of getting this information for free. Good for the hosting sites though, and Google ads.


    David Story

  2. David, thanks for the comment. I disagree - an online video channel can easily be monetized by using it to advertise one's own studio or sell products/premium content.

  3. I am not a piano teacher, but I am a voice teacher trying out video teaching. I do NOT post free videos - I have been working with a company called Ashbury Music Hall and reviewed it on the Music Teachers Helper blog (here: I do post YouTube videos on my studio channel - but the only certain ones are open to the public. I also believe, especially with voice, there MUST be interaction between the teacher and student.
    Another recent post on the Music Teachers Helper blog is about teaching online piano:
    Check these out - I think it's possible, but does require interaction of student and instructor to really be of value (and therefore worth payment). Thanks for opening up this thread, Chris!

  4. I checked out some of the links mentioned in this article. This is what I found in my travels. There are lots of interesting questions contained below.

    Ashbury music hall offers: Piano from Scratch: "Clair de lune" Hugh Sung $350.00

    Youtube offers, apparently the same videos for free

    Hugh Sung's website offers apparently the same videos for free as well. But he does have for sale Pianoteq, the Virtual Piano Program and other things. Mr. Sung must read this blog. A few questions: I’m curious about your effective teaching rate. I.e. Hourly rate of computer time/$. Mr. Sung is everywhere, twitter, face book, etc. How many hours a week do you spend marketing? How many hours teaching?

    Ashbury music hall: Lists about 17 teachers on its site. They appear to charge about the going rate for music lessons $60.00 per hour of work or so. Martin Moyano offers to evaluate 3, 5 minutes videos per week. He follows up with assignments based on what he sees. That is interesting. It is also interesting that he works from South America.

    David Gottesman of Ashbury Music Hall has sent me an email. I plan to follow up. He suggested I check out Berklee’s online courses. I have in the past. I know that their school is very successful after spending presumably millions of dollars developing, managing, and marketing the programs.

    Rachel Velarde reviewed Asbury Music Hall last September with positive thoughts on its potential. She follows up in responses here.

    Rachel, have any of your private video exercises shown up on Youtube without permission? Has your time and technology investment been paid for at your normal teaching rate?

    Has anyone reading this blog made money giving internet lessons? That is money equal to or greater than their normal teaching rate? How much non-billable time to you spend preparing to make money? Does anyone know someone who has stopped giving regular one-on-one lessons and gone completely on-line?

    I’m beginning to be intrigued.

  5. Hi David -
    Currently, I haven't had enough students come through Ashbury to repay my time investment, but David Gottesman has been a great help and I'm willing to stick it out. They're working on advertising and promotion - I've had a few students interested in the past few weeks. I follow up immediately, but as with any new student, often they don't respond to your response. I haven't had any of my videos show up on YouTube, that I know of.
    I know that working with Ashbury has changed how I use technology in my physical studio - I will frequently video my students and post them as completely private videos on YouTube so that they can see themselves singing (and I can see how often, or IF, they watch the video).
    I think there is a future in this - I want to be at the forefront, not the tail end. So...

  6. Student opinion here: when I decided to learn piano, youtube was the first place I went, to see what people were doing. I quickly decided that I needed a real teacher, and went out and found one. I wanted someone who could see what I was doing, and see where I was headed off the tracks. Youtube can't do that.

    I don't think you folks need to worry too much.

  7. I tried it today. And it worked. Used Skype. There was no lag, the sound and picture were clear. We've booked another time to meet. The student emailed the fee.

    Very cool. Jazz piano lessons live.


    David Story

  8. I learned to play the piano in middle school... my friend and I took lessons from a very nice woman who would always ask our opinion on what her daughter (who was a year younger than us) should wear or do! We only stuck with it for a few years...
    studying piano

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