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How Anyone Can Learn To Play The Piano: Part 2

Music teachers these days have three powerful categories of digital tools:

  • Multimedia
  • Apps
  • Internet


Thanks to pervasive technologies like smartphones and tablets, recording audio and video has never been easier, or more useful for teaching music.  And with the ease of free programs like GarageBand, students can explore soundscapes and multi-track recording possibilities that were once the sole prevue of high end recording studios.


Tablets like the iPad have revolutionized personal computing, particularly when it comes to apps for musicians.  From poly-rhythmic metronomes to music notation flashcards, to apps that can recognize the music you’re playing and display the notes simultaneously, there’s never been a richer resource for finding the right apps to reinforce critical ear-training and theory skills for music students.


Instrumental music has been somewhat slow to adapt to online pedagogy, mainly due to the inherent limitations of effectively transmitting audio and video of a high enough quality to make teaching effective, as well as the reservations of most musicians unfamiliar with digital technologies. But as bandwidth and Internet connection speeds improved, we’ve seen a remarkable jump in the amount of online content available to prospective music students.

Here’s some of the many benefits of online learning:

  • the elimination of geographic boundaries
  • access to nearly unlimited content; ability to re-watch  material
  • the ability for a single teacher to teach thousands of students online

Here’s a brief overview of 4 types of online learning models for music students:


From learning how to iron a shirt, bake bread, or play a song, YouTube is without question the ultimate resource for video learning that's completely free. Search the name of any song and you're almost certain to find somebody somewhere has made a video tutorial in one form or another. YouTube is great for learning short, quick songs, but the learning gets mighty scarce mighty quick when you want to start advancing beyond an early intermediate level. And for the most part, you're on your own - beyond leaving comments with the videos, there's no way to directly interact or get feedback from a teacher that can help you progress beyond that one song you're learning.

Pro: Easy, free access to learn almost any song out there

Con: One way learning; no interactions with teachers

Video Courses

I learned to play some basic guitar chords by buying a little book with a tape cassette way back when there was no such thing as an "Internet". In the digital age, we still see DVD lessons being sold, but more and more of them are moving to online video formats with options to buy workbooks to accompany the lessons. Disc or no disc, the basic principle is the same: watching videos of lessons being taught. With video courses, you're more likely to work with a teacher that has carefully thought through a logical progression to help you improve your skills systematically, rather than just getting by with what you can muster for one song at a time. The better courses will offer some sort of online component (email, forum, etc.) where you can send questions to the teacher, but it's still primarily up to you to make progress and to catch your own mistakes and bad habits. Prices will vary from fixed one-time purchases for an entire course, to an ongoing subscription for as long as you decide to work with that teacher/course.

Pro: Lessons will tend to be organized to help you make progress. Supplemental materials such as workbooks can be a big help to understanding what you're doing away from the video.

Con: It's still mainly up to you to make sure you're following the lessons properly. Limited to no teacher oversight to help you progress beyond the purchased materials.


There's nothing like having a real, live teacher to tailor lessons to what will help you make the most efficient progress in playing an instrument. A teacher will help correct bad habits, avoid new ones, and set up the best foundation for you to really enjoy making music. And don't forget the motivation factor! Fortunately, more and more teachers are offering lessons using live video technologies like Skype (and to a lesser extent, Facetime), so where you live relative to a teacher is a relatively minor issue (unless you want to work with someone in the opposite time zone...). The only issue (besides latency and connectivity issues) is that you and your teacher need to coordinate times for your lessons that fit with both your schedules.

Pro: Live, realtime interaction with teacher. Next best thing to being in the studio with them like a traditional music lesson, but without the geographical hassles.

Con: Need to coordinate schedules for lessons. And unless you have some way to record the live video stream, there's no way to review what you've learned beyond whatever notes you mark down in your music and your memory.

Video Exchange®

Video Exchange® learning is a rather unique model of asynchronous learning, and exclusive to ArtistWorks where I teach piano. On the one hand, you have access to a complete library of progressive video lessons, much like what's presented with the Video Cource option above. On the other hand, you have the added benefits of uploading your own videos for the teacher, and for the teacher in turn to post a video response to yours, pointing out things that you can do to improve whatever you happen to be working on. Since the videos are not streamed live, the teacher can post videos of much higher quality, and you can refer back to them over and over until the lesson really sinks in. This unique approach lets both teacher and student work within their own respective schedules - no need to coordinate lesson times. Students can post lesson "questions" whenever they want, and teachers can post lesson "responses" in between gigs or whenever they have some free time during tours. That's where the word "asynchronous" comes in: the lessons aren't live, they're exchanged whenever the student or teacher has time in their own schedules.  Got a burning question about a nasty lick in the middle of the night? Post a video! Wait a few days and you'll have your own, personalized answer. And the act of making videos can be a great teaching tool in itself, as you'll force yourself to "perform" to the best of your ability. 

Click here for Video Exchange piano lessons with me at ArtistWorks

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