The internet offers an abundance of resources for learning music along with any subject, but how good are videos that teach you how to play a musical instrument? It is an exploding area, whether one wants to play the piano, violin, guitar or virtually any other instrument.
To cite but one example, the 32 year-old Canadian pianist Andrew Furmanczyk has drawn 52 million views on his YouTube channel that provides instructional lessons on how to learn piano. Then there is Tasmanian-born, UK resident, Justin Sandercoe, about whom we have written before: his online guitar lessons have clocked up a phenomenal 157 million views.
Because earnings through advertising revenue are proportional to view count, channels like these can be highly lucrative. Another guitar teacher, Marty Schwartz from San Diego, reportedly earns an income in the hundreds of thousands of dollars from the seven million views a month he receives on his YouTube channel.
For the student, there are some distinct advantages in going to teaching videos available on the net. Cost is one. Being free, they are an option for those who cannot afford regular music lessons from a teacher. Another is accessibility: they may be the only choice for those outside towns and cities where teachers are not near at hand.
However, there are also major downsides. Pre-recorded teaching videos such as one sees on YouTube are clearly never going to be the same as face to face lessons. The teacher cannot provide feedback, and there is no possibility for the kind of individual, tailored approach that proper real-life teaching affords. Bad habits go uncorrected. Only rarely does one hear of instances in which a student has learned an instrument such as the violin from YouTube videos and has subsequently gone on to pursue music at university level. In most cases, teachers will strongly advise against pursuing this path.
A distinction needs to be made here between teaching videos available on the net and interactive online teaching in which the teacher and student hook up for a lesson, via Skype or other platform. The latter can be entirely different, and indeed has brought about remote learning for one-to-one instruction on instruments such as the piano where this did not exist before. A limiting factor however, is the sound quality of microphone setups and audio quality available over the internet.
A more sophisticated approach is provided by the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. In conjunction with Yamaha Music Australia, it runs a remote lesson program that enables up to four Disklavier pianos to be connected over the internet at any one time. Performance data that includes key and pedal movement can be shared between the teacher and student that allow performances to be recreated at either’s site. Adam Wilson, as Music Laboratory Supervisor, is the staff member at Sydney Con who makes the logistics possible in this program. Read more about it here.
Generally though, teaching of musical instruments over the internet is always going to have serious limitations. The best advice is to view it as no more than an aid, and certainly not as a substitute for face-to-face lessons. As always, look for registered teachers in one’s area, through directories such as the Australian Music Teachers Register (founded in 1997), Music Teachers Online (2000), Australian Music Teachers (2017), or various State branches of the Music Teacher’s Association as listed by the AMEB. Local schools can often help too, both in providing and locating teachers.