Learning to play piano on the Internet

Good ways to learn stuff

The Swan Method is a new series of online piano lessons devised by Richard Swan, a London based musician and teacher.

Richard has an idiosyncratic teaching method which he has distilled into a set of online piano lessons. Basically it’s my favourite method, learning by doing. You learn a tune, and while you’re learning that tune, Richard talks you through how that tune was put together, and helps you understand the theory behind the music.

I took  a look at the first training video during the test phase. They are very basic,  but clear introductions to the keyboard, showing the names and positions of the notes.

Richard employs a split screen method, with a headshot in the  top half of the screen, and an overhead shot of the full piano keyboard in the bottom half of the screen, so you can see what he’s talking about. You can rewind and replay demos, and the site is built in WordPress, which makes it mobile-friendly.  Conceivably, you could balance your smartphone or mobile device on the keyboard, and play along, replay, play along again, repeat until done.

I’ll confess to being one of Richard’s piano students, so I’m familiar with his teaching method. He doesn’t expect students to learn to read music before trying quite complex pieces, and much of his technique relies on making you remember how a tune goes, or a chord sequence, rather than writing it down for you. It’s great for giving you the confidence and the musical building blocks to try things that you wouldn’t normally think were pieces for beginners, and you end up playing quite complex tunes in a matter of weeks.  I can now play some semblance of jazz after a total of twelve lessons over a year or so. However, I had one-to-one lessons, sitting at that very piano in Richard’s parlour. I do wonder how well his very personalised and tailored methods will transfer to an eLearning setting. Also, how can you measure success? He might get several hundred subscriptions in the first month or even year, but how can he measure his students’ progress, and how will he help them move on to more “difficult” pieces without the personal interaction afforded by traditional piano teaching?

All rather interesting. The music world is full of self-taught musicians, so I’ve no doubt that this will succeed, but I’d be interested to see to what level.

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