Not so long ago, learning a new instrument required finding a local teacher and heading over to his or her house or studio for lessons.
But the Internet has changed the way music is being taught and raises a larger question for teaching overall: As teaching moves online, will there be as great a need for many teachers as there has been in the past? Or will be there be a few video-teaching stars who teach the masses and then many other teachers who offer private lessons in person or by Skype?
The Wall Street Journal reports that the world of guitar lessons provides a useful crystal ball.
Already, the Internet has changed the $9 billion music education industry: musicians have been exchanging cheat sheets online for over a decade, and online videos and teaching apps have further expanded the ways that a novice can learn more.
One guitar student, Thomas Sundboom, tells the Journal, "I don't know if in-person classes are really necessary." And he's not even a Gen X- or Gen Y-er who grew up using technology. He's a 62-year-old who used to pay $100 a month for traditional face-to-face lessons and now pays $40 a month to subscribe to yourguitarsage.com, a site run by a Nashville-based guitar teacher named Erich Andreas.
The Journal lays out two ways technology will impact music education:
The first transition in this marketplace is what is best called a "media model," in which a handful of personalities have become do-it-yourself broadcasters. They include instructors like the 43-year-old Mr. Andreas, who uses a series of free YouTube videos and live lessons via webcam to draw students to his $40 monthly subscription plan. Today he has 170 subscribers.
In this stage, just a handful of people make it big in the Internet teaching game. But, the second way that technology influences music education might help all music teachers, not just a few stars.
This second step is comprised of new ways of learning that capitalize on mobile, graphics and cloud computing. For instance, a device could "listen" to a student play and judge her performance using streaming sheet music.
One company is working on technology like this: California-based Chromatik will enable students to perform digital sheet music and submit a recording of that to a teacher to review. The teacher will then "mark up" that performance and the student can get his or her comments.
The Journal says, "Robert Hutter, managing partner at $65 million venture fund Learn Capital, says that these new programs don't cut out teachers, but rather extend 'the power of the teacher to many more people in the same amount of time.'"
What do you think? Will technology winnow the field of teachers not just of music but in other disciplines as well? Or will we still always have a need for many teachers because teaching done online lacks some essential quality?
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photo: x-ray delta one/Flickr