Today I read Deborah Rambo Sinn’s entry in the Oxford University Press’s blog, in which she highlighted some crucially important issues regarding the problems of music teaching being an unregulated profession and also the widely varying quality of resources and advice available on the internet and subsequently posted on Facebook. Deborah drew attention to the problem of ‘separating the wheat from the chaff’ with regard to professional musicians and educators as opposed to, ‘Untrained teachers whose main goal is keeping kids happy […] by using well-marketed, but substandard and mostly self-published literature that is woefully lacking in sound pedagogy.’ (See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2014/11/music-teacher-presence-facebook/#sthash.s9apELDQ.dpuf)
Not so long ago, in fact, I wrote an article for EPTA’s Piano Professional magazine on a similar theme regarding Youtube videos which, already ubiquitous when I wrote the article, are now multiplying at an alarming rate. Youtube is an amazing resource – I use it frequently both for myself and in my teaching. The videos are often inspirational, instructional and informative. Often, they are sadly lacking in musical integrity, technique and even, in some instance, accuracy. The worrying situation is when videos of poor musicianship or technique are emulated by other students as examples of how to play.
We have a growing culture of embracing free access to information via the internet, which is wonderful and it is my own opinion that every professional and each company using the internet to promote or sell their service or products ought, if possible, to give something worthwhile for free.
The problems arise when people become unwilling to pay for the quality that a true professional provides. It would be good, in a way, to wish that one could provide a free, quality service for the good of music students on a simply altruistic basis, but in a society where professionals need to earn a living this is not only impractical but also unethical. It is generally true, as the saying goes, that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
At E-MusicMaestro we provide free Youtube videos to help students and teachers with the basics of keeping up accurate piano practice of repertoire pieces and exam pieces in between lessons. Our main internet business, aside from our individual teaching and examining work, is providing online music education resources such as Aural Test Training online, which teaches as well as tests aural perception and helps to prepare students for taking ABRSM and Trinity practical exams. We give a few free examples for those students who already have highly developed aural skills to run through the format of the tests and for potential subscribers to try out the resource. We charge for full subscriptions to our resource because we are professional musicians and because the creation of resources is massively expensive, not least in terms of time. We do need to earn a living!
What goes into creating a professional internet music resource? Here’s a brief summary of what was involved in creating Aural Test Training:
- Decide on the format, according to what we want to teach and test online
- Brief our web developer, who comes up with a design
- Talk through and refine the design
- Write wording of examples
- Write The E-MusicMaestro Guide to Aural Tests
- Buy use of copyrighted artwork for the web pages
- Pay our web developer for the initial creation of the structure
- Create examples that are similar, but not identical to, typical exam-type questions
- Compose music for the examples and spend hours sourcing out-of-copyright examples
- Have the piano tuned (again!)
- Record the examples on our conservatoire model grand piano
- Hire professional singers for the sung tests
- Record the vocal examples
- Edit, master, produce the recordings
- Produce high definition videos that are annotated to help with the learning process
- Load videos to video hosting company (and pay fees)
- Load files to the content management system of our own website
- Create soundfiles that help with learning
- Set hundreds of questions and answers
- Have everything checked independently to ensure accuracy and quality assurance
- Back to our web developer for setting up the payment system – hours of work again – and payment
- Test the system before going ‘live’
- Consult with lawyer on various business-related issues
- Put high level security measures in place to protect our copyright
- Put the system ‘live’ – at last!
- Respond personally, every day, to every enquiry from subscribers
- Pay for costs such as web server and site maintenance
- Liaise with examining boards to keep them informed of our latest developments
- Advertising costs
- Social media management
- Continue development, monitor use of our resources
- Onwards and upwards to Grades 6 – 8 Trinity aural …
How many hours does this take? How much does it cost? It’s infinite and it’s partly a labour of love … of music and of those who play and sing.