Offline vs. Online Piano Lessons

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I received a most unusual question:

Are you trying to kill piano teachers around the world?? You HAVE to know that one-on-one, in person instruction is better than ANYTHING online.

What exactly is your agenda??

Most of the time, the quality and soundness of the articles on key-notes – which already number in the hundreds – speak for themselves. I’m honored to receive very many emails thanking me for the wealth of professional information I make freely available on this site. I had therefore hoped that I could silently address the dearth of serious musical instruction online simply by publishing quality material myself.

As long-time key-notes readers know, I stress the importance of private, one-on-one lessons with artist-level teachers for serious students throughout this site. My aim (agenda, if you will) is to provide expert musical instruction and to increase the love and appreciation for quality music in the process. I also hope that professional music teachers will continue to find the teaching methods and resources useful in their own instruction, as many already do.

In corresponding with my colleague, the director of a music teaching studio, we immediately agreed that the quality of music education online is exceedingly poor overall. I discovered virtually nothing but very poor, often inaccurate and sometimes outright misleading information on learning music online by amateur musicians who also happen to be good marketers. Sadly, many of them advise students not to “waste” money on an in-person teacher, as if their course is all the music education they’ll ever need. I’ve discovered that the courses themselves are almost always full of the most elementary falsehoods – the authors often literally don’t even know what a [time signature][time-signatures.html] or beat is. That’s the musical equivalent of a would-be doctor who doesn’t even know where to find your pulse.

That’s also part of the reason why I started the site. key-notes is in part an attempt to offset the plethora of musical snake oil – and also well-meaning but nonprofessional information – with serious, professional material of the highest quality and reliability.

I’m forced to disagree with one of the questioner’s sentiments, however: I don’t believe that one-on-one instruction is better than any online piano lessons. The reason is the unfortunate lack of standards in our profession. Very few music teachers are conservatory-trained concert performers, because that distinction is reserved for the most talented, most determined, hardest workers. Fortunately, however, more and more music teachers are obtaining music degrees. Although a degree in music does not make an artist, it is a sign of professional competence.

Some people lack all training and qualifications yet see fit to set up shop as the local music teacher. I’ve even seen one popular piano teaching method, an effective franchise that charges very high fees for “teacher training” as well as teachers’ per-lesson licensing costs, greedily advertise that being an accomplished musician, or even having a musical background at all, is not even necessary to teaching music… you have only to follow their expensive method!

Needless to say, I do not advocate charlatanry of any sort. Not everybody can or should become a music teacher, nor is everyone equally musical. I do not think it a radical idea that to teach music, you need to be a musician, and that a mediocre musician cannot be a great good teacher.

A professional approach to learning music is not very sexy. It will not appeal to the instant gratification crowd. Teaching someone who’s never touched a piano before to play “Chopsticks” or “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is the easiest thing in the world to do. I could do it in a minute or three. It’s not the least bit impressive. The problem is that the student will not have learned anything at all – no musical knowledge is gained, no skills learned. The student has the superficial satisfaction of having played some familiar melody while being blissfully unaware that he has been done a disservice.

key-notes is dedicated to teaching genuine musical skills, for only authentic musicianship built on a solid foundation of [ear training][ear-training.html], [music theory][piano-theory.html], [reading music][reading-music.html] and proper [practice skills][piano-practice.html] makes for a true musician. Anything less is a house of cards.

The good news is that true musical skills are absolutely attainable – all you need are the right strategies and concentrated effort, as well as the guidance of an expert piano teacher. May key-notes help to offer that guidance.

Serious music students interested in online piano lessons may contact me; otherwise I always recommend finding the best-qualified teacher in your area.

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