Teaching piano over the Internet

Chad Fryling has started Web Academy of Music, teaching piano lessons to students over a live Internet connection. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
Chad Fryling has started Web Academy of Music, teaching piano lessons to students over a live Internet connection.

Chad Fryling is bringing music lessons into the 21st century.

The metronome has been replaced by an iPod Touch that keeps time. Binders filled with music sheets have made way for pdf files on a laptop.

The stern teacher who enforces endless repetitions of scales is now a webcam linked over a high-speed Internet connection.

Fryling, 39, recently launched the Web Academy of Music, giving live online piano lessons from a studio in his Burnaby condo to students at their own keyboard wherever they may be.

For the jazz and classical musician and longtime teacher it’s a way to fuse his passions for playing and technology. For his students, it’s a way to learn the instrument in familiar surroundings, at their own pace.

Fryling hopes that comfort and ease will bring people who once played piano back to the keyboard, and attract new students who can’t always get across town to attend private lessons in a home or music studio.

“It’s easy to let your passion slide,” says Fryling. “This enables busy adults and young people to fit music into their lives.”

To do that Fryling has rigged his keyboard with a professional mic, an overhead video camera trained on the keys and a laptop computer with a built-in webcam where the sheet music stand used to be. Students use their own webcam-equipped computer to link up over the Internet for private 30- or 60-minute lessons.

But the technology also allows him to add new dimensions to his teaching. Like demonstrating passages by linking to performances by other musicians available on YouTube. He’s also set up an online recital site that allows his students and other musicians to upload their own performances for evaluation or just sharing.

“There are so many resources online,” says Fryling, who has a Bachelor of Music degree from Capilano University and a diploma in classical studies from Kwantlen, as well as his Yamaha teacher certification. “You just have to get comfortable with the technology.”

That’s been a boon for his younger students, who are only too eager to apply their computer know-how to their musical inclinations. Older students are still a little dubious.

“Music lessons are pretty far behind the technology curve,” he says.

To help bring them up to speed, Fryling is also in the process of creating a video exchange that will allow students to download prepared lessons they can then follow at their own pace. He’s also looking to expand his repertoire of teachers to include other instruments like guitar.

“By managing time zones, it can turn their teaching into a day job,” says Fryling. “The neighbourhood from which they can draw students is now the whole world.”

• To find out more about online music lessons, go to


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