Someone emailed me some months ago to ask if I could recommend a video or online lesson program, and if I thought it would work. Some “online” lessons probably work, as do some video programs, although I can’t recommend one over another. The only type of “online” lessons I’m familiar with are webcam lessons, which are as live as a lesson taught in my living room to a flesh-and-bones student. Other studios (I use the term loosely) offer “online lessons”, but they seem to be a bunch of QuickTime videos posted to a website. Some are free, others are by subscription. Personally, I’ve never used a DVD lesson series: they seem a little pricey, and most do not include live personal consultations or tech support in the purchase price. Others offer these services by subscription. On the other side of the pricing coin (pun intended), if a student isn’t going to commit to paying for regular weekly lessons, it makes sense to price the package beyond what would be considered reasonable. I don’t have sales figures, since I don’t deal in DVD lessons, but since they’re still offered, somebody must be buying them.
For DVD or online lessons to work, it takes a student who has exceptional powers of concentration, observation and patience. I think that a DVD can give a student ideas on how to practice, but I’m not sure that they really get very deep into the “how-to”. And I also think that most students take the ideas as suggestions, not, as the DVD author probably intended, as “Practice it this way, and you’ll have a shot at learning how to do what was in this lesson.” Of course, just about any teacher faces the same kind of thing with live students — this isn’t a phenomenon that is exclusive to DVD or online lessons. However, I have students who have used DVD lessons quite successfully and I can’t argue with the results. A beginning student needs feedback, positive and constructive, to avoid developing bad habits. About the only way to get feedback that’s worth a grain of salt is to find a teacher. I honestly believe that working with a live teacher, whether in-person or by webcam, has merits far beyond anything promised by a DVD. And in fact, if you use them together, you might get one of the best musical educations around!