Dr. Cory Hall, Founder/President of BachScholar™, answers some frequently asked questions pertaining to piano lessons and sheet music.
1. I am an adult with no previous experience. Will Skype lessons work for me?
Absolutely! Skype is the perfect medium for intimate one-on-one instruction. Whether you're an adult with no experience or a child prodigy, my methodology is proven to bring results to pianists of all levels.
2. What is the best way to connect for lessons via Skype?
Today, there are several ways of connecting for quality lessons. I personally use a desktop PC with a Logitech HD webcam plugged into a USB port. All webcams like this one have built in mics for sound. We also have students who use a variety of tablets as well as iPhones, which all have built-in webcams and mics. The most important thing is to have a good internet connection, preferably high speed. If for any reason either me or the student experiences connection problems in a lesson (like for a few minutes, for example) I always go overtime so that the student gets what he paid for.
3. What is the best way to position the webcam?
The best camera position is an angle that shows the student's fingers, hands, and arms as well as most of the keyboard. I prefer a side view at a slight angle much like the position shown in many of my "hands only" YouTube videos. Eye contact is not necessary for effective Skype lessons, but much more important than this is a clear hand view and good audio quality.
4. Do you use a particular "method" or "school" in your piano teaching?
I do have some preferred method books I use for children and adults. As far as overall "schools" for more advanced students, I conform mostly to the "no nonsense" school. That is, I stress the most efficient use of arms, fingers, and hands so that students are able to express the music in a natural and non-artificial way. Watch any of my YouTube videos and you will discover that I belong to the "least movement as possible" school. In order to achieve this, one should ideally be able to work up to playing a variety of exercises in all major and minor keys. I usually spend about the first quarter of each lesson on technique and exercises.
5. Tell us about BachScholar's sheet music. What makes it so good, as you claim?
Before establishing BachScholar Publishing and what led up to the formation of the company, I had developed a big dislike for and a huge gripe against most of the digital sheet music available on the internet. I noticed that the quality was awful in a variety of ways, for example: poor typesetting; fonts too small, margins too big, sloppy ties and slurs, uneven 1st and 2nd ending lines, just to name a few of the glaring problems. I noticed that digital sheet music had become synonymous with "cheap sheet music" and by around 2010 I was filled with a burning desire to change this. Hence, I established BachScholar Publishing which is the first and only publishing company in the world to publish exclusively digital sheet music. Moreover, ours is by far the finest digital sheet music in the world today, which is delivered instantly via PDF files. No special programs or apps are needed to download our sheets, but all one needs is a simple PDF reader. Compare our digital sheet music with that of any other company and you will be amazed how crisp, clean, and precise our manuscripts are. Use a laser printer, and you will see that our sheet music is of even higher quality than most hard-copy music books and is on par with the great classical publishers like Henle or Peters.
6. What is the optimal age to begin piano lessons?
If a child knows his ABCs and 123s, this is a good time to start. The average age is around 5-7 for children; however, older youth up through high school age are still within the "quick learning" stages. I know through experience that even if a student begins piano at, say, 14 years of age, but quits in college and relearns in mid-life, that they still retain most of what they learned 30 years previously. It is NEVER too late to begin or relearn piano. Ultimately, one gets out of lessons what one puts into lessons whether one is 7 or 70!
7. Which is more effective, live lessons in person or lessons via Skype? Is Skype good for young children?
In my opinion, both are equally effective. As long as both parties' internet connection is at a high enough speed that prevents long lag times and the webcams are positioned well, Skype lessons achieve virtually the same results as live lessons. I can't do anything in a Skype lesson that I cannot do in a live lesson. I simply enjoy teaching piano either way and strive for perfection in both settings. Skype is great for young children; however, children under the age of around 8 may need some adult supervision. My youngest student on Skype was 5, and the lessons worked very well with some assistance from his dad. From my experience, by the time a child is 8 or 9 he/she is usually able to log in and out and have lessons without any parental supervision.
8. Are other long-distance lesson options available instead of Skype?
Yes. The most popular way to connect after Skype is via Google Hangout, which is Google's equivalent to Microsoft's Skype. Both work equally well and if a student requests lessons via Hangout, we can easily make this arrangement.
9. Do you teach only classical or do you include pop, rock, country, and jazz in your lessons?
Most books and learning materials include a mix of classical to modern pieces. I always tailor my lessons according to the student's interests and enjoy teaching popular styles. However, In order to play more popular styles well, one really needs to learn the basics of classical piano technique.
10. Do you prepare students for international leveled exams, such as ABRSM, RCM, or Trinity?
Yes, I always enjoy teaching students who have high goals and aspirations; however, it is the student's and parent's responsibility to supply the requirements and materials. These can easily be sent with PDF files via email -- that is, repertoire lists and pieces to be worked on in lessons.