David Hicken ~ Pianist & Composer

Advice For Pianists

Advances in technology over the last decade have opened up more possibilities for piano students all over the world to improve their skills than ever before.  Music apps exist for just about everything from free metronomes to ones that can help with sight reading, note recognition and music theory.

Advances in WiFi and internet speed, as well as smartphones and tablets which have built-in high-quality cameras, allow us to communicate with people all over the globe, and can of course help to connect piano students with piano teachers.

Although there are many piano teachers advertising their services online, parents and older students are hesitant to embrace this type of learning because it seems to strange.  Many people still wonder if it really does work.

Not only does it work, but there are many benefits to taking online lessons. If the lessons are conducted correctly by a competent teacher, the pros certainly outweigh any of the cons.

Online lessons via Skype, FaceTime or some other medium, allow students the luxury of a much wider choice of teachers than they might find in their own town.  It is possible to find a brilliant teacher in another country or even half way around the world, and if it doesn't work out with one teacher, it is simple enough to find another. If you need a teacher who specializes in a particular area such as jazz or improvisation, again, you will have a wider selection of teachers online.

Getting started with online lessons is easy.  Once the camera of your computer, smartphone or tablet is set up properly with a good view of yourself as well as the keyboard, there is not much difference between having a piano teacher sitting next to you vs. having them see you through a camera.  Having good lighting can be a great help, and a headset might improve your ability to hear the teacher clearly.

A little more effort is required on the part of both the student and the teacher, but more so on the part of the teacher.  This is because the biggest and most significant difference between online lessons and taking lessons in-person, is that the teacher cannot quickly and easily point to section of the piece of music that you are playing.

The  piano teacher must carefully follow along with their own score of the music while the student plays, and errors need to be explained verbally, such as  "look at the upbeat of the third beat of measure nine, and make sure it is a B flat rather than a B natural".

This takes a little extra time, and the student will have to think more carefully about what the teacher is asking for.  In-person it is easy when the teacher simply circles the offending note on the page.  Of course, the teacher can actually hold their copy of the music up to the camera and point to the area in question, but it is a little more awkward.

Online lessons have to be conducted slightly differently than they would be in-person.  For example, it is not so easy to have the student stop playing at a certain point during their piece, because they might not hear the teacher speak while they are playing.  A teacher may have to prepare for this by having the student play only one portion of the piece at a time.  In-person, it is easy for the teacher to point and say "play from here", but online they will have to explain where to start from,

Correcting posture and or hand position when teaching online is a little more challenging, but can be accomplished when the teacher demonstrates what is required on their end.

Good teachers shouldn't need to play for their students very often, but if the teacher needs to demonstrate a particular passage of a piece, it is easy enough during an online lesson if the teacher is sitting at their own piano.

It is more challenging to teach music theory online, but it can be done - particularly if worksheets and assignments are sent back and forth via email, or even through the Skype program itself.

During an online session, both student and teacher are at the mercy of the internet connection, so it is advisable to purchase the highest-tier internet speed that is available to you.

There is a slight delay when using this technology, so playing along with your teacher at the same time will not work at all, and ear training tests can be a little more challenging.

Teachers who are experienced with online lessons, will have learned to creatively find ways to overcome these few small challenges.  Some teachers are even able to get all of their students online at the same time to hold student recitals - a brilliant idea!

If you live in an area where good piano teachers are scarce, then give the online lessons a try, and if you are struggling to teach yourself (never a good idea), then you really should look into this option too.

Read my previous post about how to find a great piano teacher, because there are far more bad ones than there are good ones.  It all begins with asking the right questions.  I explain all of this in my book.

Happy practicing!

David Hicken

All of the concepts that I write about here are detailed in my eBook "Secrets To Better Piano Playing" .  Click the image below to find out more.