The idea of learning a musical instrument through lessons on the internet is relatively new. Back in the day, if you wanted piano lessons for your child, you rocked up to the piano teacher who was usually known in your community and signed up for weekly lessons. Although this is probably still the most usual way to learn successfully, there is another option that today’s parent might look into: internet lessons via YouTube or online courses, i.e. a self-taught way of going about things.

I teach music in person and also some one on one lessons with pupils in another country via the internet. Along with this I will soon be offering an online course through video lessons and provided pdf files for parents who want to learn the piano themselves with a view teaching their own children. I thought it might be helpful to have a brief look at some of the the pros and cons of both styles of teaching, so you can assess what we can gain from both.

Teacher in Person

Pros

  • One on one lessons with a real tutor on a weekly basis is the best way to progress, because a good teacher gets to know what you are capable of, how they can steer your learning very specifically and because of their skills they know what you need to know. They can address the areas you have difficulty with on the spot.
  • Qualified teachers have at their fingertips a range of resources that will suit your particular learning needs, so the learning is specific to you.
  • You get weekly feedback on how you are learning that keeps you encouraged, but also accountable, knowing you need to practice to have something to show for it at the weekly lesson.
  • The relatively higher cost of tuition makes you put the time in to get your money’s worth.

Cons

  • If there is a disconnect with the tutor for whatever reason, you may not get what you were hoping for.
  • You usually have to fit in with the tutor’s timetable, so there may not be the flexibility you need.
  • The on-going cost of weekly lessons can be expensive.

 

Online video lessons

Pros

  • You can look for something that suits what you are looking for. For example, you may be advanced in playing by ear, but need some help with reading music. So you may focus on looking for something to help with that particular skill.
  • Pre-recorded online lessons are much cheaper than one on one lessons.
  • You can stop and start at any time to suit your schedule.

Cons

  • You don’t always know what you need to know. Someone can sell you an idea that sounds good, but there may be things left out that would be good for you with your particular background to know. As a basic example, you may want to learn how to play a piece of music that uses a melody beyond a basic 5 finger position. But if you don’t want to learn scales (because you think they sound boring), you may not learn how to move effectively around melodies beyond that 5 finger position.
  • You get what you pay for. Even with excellent tuition in an online course, there could be specific things that are not being addressed, because they have only surfaced with this particular learner and the teacher is not present to actively point these things out that could become a roadblock to his or her learning. A good example of this could be when someone keeps looking at their hands when they are learning to read music. A teacher is going to pick up on this if it is happening beyond what is acceptable for best practice in their pupil at the stage they are at. A self-taught student is not necessarily going to see it as a problem because it seems to be working okay in the moment.

 

My brief summary is that a one on one teacher will always be the best option, but that there are ways to supplement what you want to learn with online courses. If you are going to look at some online options, maybe you might like to get someone who teaches music to give you an idea of whether what you are looking at is going to be worth your time and/or money.

With a very full teaching schedule I find it very hard to turn prospective pupils away and so providing an online course might be one way to tutor those I can’t physically help. But there needs to be a way for these folks to have questions answered as they go through the course. For an online piano course, I think this is important to make sure the self-learning student is going through the processes correctly.

I would be very cautious about doing a course that has no way of assessing that the right progress is being made. A checklist of what is covered can help the student to a large extent, but there needs to be some sort of access to professional help when needed. I’m certainly giving this serious thought as I come to make my course(s) available. It’s a sort of quality control.

What do you think? If you would like to add some other thoughts I’ve not covered and give us your perspective, I’d be delighted. Do leave a comment below so we can all benefit.