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How to Take Piano Lessons Online: a Compromise on Quality?

Updated: Aug 2, 2021

In this age of misinformation, online piano lessons can feel like yet another labyrinth. This article untangles the web of misconception, shows you how to learn online effectively, and finally answers the question: what are the best free online piano lessons?


*sigh*


Here’s a clue: it’s not an app!


Read to the end.


Are online piano lessons any good?


As 2021 takes shape, and as some of the events of 2020 seem behind us, there are few things that divide opinion with less fervor than – you guessed it – online learning.


For many parents, adapting to online learning has been a real effort during an uncertain time. For teachers, the Skype theme has become an hourly jingle, and Zoom fatigue is real. For students, six-hour days at school were swapped for screen time at home.


Basically, the term ‘online lessons’ – which was virtually unknown a few years ago – is now on par with Brexit and Marmite! Great…


FYI, the case for online learning doesn’t get any better for beginners! Many piano learners starting out today search:


- piano lessons free

- free learn piano app

- learn piano free online

- piano lessons free for beginners

- piano lessons online for free

- free learn piano

- beginner piano lessons online free


Did you notice the trend? That’s right – ‘online’ and ‘free’ are synonymous.


Unfortunately, common sense seems to have taken a side step to slow, inexpressive, and painful playing.


Cut the corner, get ahead. This is the new mania – and unfortunately it’s the beginners that pay the price.


It’s no wonder most give up after signing on to the latest app after a few weeks – when the free trial expires and the direct debit kicks in, incidentally!


So much for a free lunch.


All-in-all: a bit of a mixed bag!


Do online piano lessons work?


Yes. This may seem contradictory given the last section of this blog, but those who took lessons online with the right teacher with the right setup over the past year have gained one of the best opportunities in the history of music education.


If this seems hyperbolic, it’s only because online lessons have been framed by a barrage of misconceptions over the past year. This is mostly due to software companies, educational institutions, teachers, and parents scrambling to adapt to the changes brought on by the pandemic. What most don’t realize is that many teachers – myself included – were teaching online well before 2020.


This is because we knew the advantages that online lessons offered our students over face-to-face lessons.


For those who are skeptical, allow me to give you an example. A 13-year-old student of mine took lessons online during the pandemic. We live 300 miles from one another, and yet this student achieved 147/150 in Grade 8 – all during the height of the pandemic.


In a nutshell: like anything, online lessons work if you know how to make them work.


How do online piano lessons work?


The good news is that it’s very easy your end. You just need a laptop and a phone as a backup.


However, this is now where it gets more challenging. Many teachers have a similar setup to their students, and this causes problems since the student requires the teacher to provide more advanced technology to meet their needs.


This includes the ability to:


1) view the score and the teacher’s annotations in real time and with ease


2) hear the nuances in the sound of the piano, voice, and room


3) see the teacher’s physical expressions clearly.


This equipment is required to bring the quality of online lessons in line with face-to-face lessons.


However, there are additions which make the online experience more effective and more rewarding than in-person-lessons. …I didn’t say there wouldn’t be marmite!


This includes:


1) Engaging with Online Resources

- Scores, recordings, videos, music games, and websites can be accessed and engagement driven in ways that is much too challenging in face-to-face lessons. You can upload your score for annotation with ease..


2) Video Recording


- The lesson can be recorded (with permissions) and watched back for key lesson points and for developing posture, for example. Parents can also review lessons.


3) Overhead View


- A view of the keyboard from above is a unique experience that allows for a clear view of the hands and notes. It’s advantageous for developing technical passages, and cannot be easily replicated in person.


4) Two pianos as standard


- No switching and getting up and down. Your teacher can demonstrate instantly and easily.


5) No meet and greet


- Lesson time is maximized since there is no need to arrive, get ready, and then leave at the end.


Really, it needs to be seen to be believed!


How much do online piano lessons cost?


Free, apparently! :)


No, really – you already know my view on the apps!


Seriously, though – online lessons will save you a fortune in time and effort if you find the right teacher with the right setup.


For example, a student who travels just 3 miles each week for their piano lessons saves £40 per month on average for travel and time cost combined with online lessons.


This is essentially doubled – to £80 per month – when the parent travels with their child.


This cost reduction in travel may even pay for your piano lessons!


Also, can you begin to imagine the amount saved if you live 300 miles away or more?


Remember: this is a cost saving of £80 per month with at least 5 additional benefits over one-to-one lessons!


It's an unfortunate truth that many learners are so deeply scripted into traveling to their local piano teacher that they never stopped to consider that online lessons could actually be more effective than face-to-face lessons.


They may never fully grasp that the money and time they save on travel could be used to improve their theory knowledge, for example, which would in turn increase their time, productivity, and progress in practise.


Many will continue with hum-drum travel and practise routines post-pandemic, blissfully unaware there is a better alternative.


How much do you pay for your lessons again?


If it’s less than £100 per month and you are not taking theory lessons, then you may want to consider how much you value your time, rethink the value of your online lessons, and get on that!


Saving on travel cost and time becomes especially important for advanced learners working towards Grade 8 piano and Diplomas, or for those wishing to maximize UCAS points for university applications (as I showed in my article 'University Application Success with ABRSM Grade 8 Piano Pieces? A Guide to UCAS Points').


Not everyone is able to access the level of education they would like to. Many students have had to travel from one country to another, or tens of miles to the nearest major city – and that’s just one way.


Grade 8 and Diploma learners not only need access to the right teacher, but also need more time to practise than the average learner. This was contradictory until recently since most needed to use practice time to travel to their teacher. Now the teacher provides the equipment to eliminate the travel, and everyone benefits.


Extraordinary.



How to take piano lessons online?


Find a teacher with the experience and qualifications to meet your needs – typically holding a Master of Music in Solo Piano Performance from a UK music college (or equivalent) – and ask them about the 6 requirements detailed above, which you’ll need to learn online effectively.


Here are the questions summarized:


1) Will I able to view my score in real time as you annotate it?


2) How will I be able to hear the nuances in the sound of the piano, voice, and room? How many microphones do you have in place? (A: 3 or more)


3) Will I be able to see you clearly? What type of lighting system do you use? (A: 3-point)


4) What online resources do you use, and what system do you have in place to access them quickly during the lesson?


5) What system to you use to ensure the relevant permissions for video recording during lessons?


6) Do you have an overhead view of the keys?


Avoid asking the teacher if they teach online. It’s too straightforward – and a bit like asking the barber if you need a haircut. Be specific about what you are looking for, and if you get a detailed answer, then go ahead.


Aim for 7/7 for your 7 questions – it’ll be the opportunity of a lifetime.




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