Author’s Blurb: Many of us had to learn one skill or another at our parents’ request when we were children, such as dancing, martial arts, or musical instruments. For me it was dance, but due to my abysmal focus and lack of practice, I never got far.
Jit Koh and Jaclyn were no strangers to these issues, but they had both experienced them from slightly different angles.
When Jit Koh was a child he started learning the organ, but dropped out after 2 years.
Jaclyn is a piano teacher with 11 years of experience and she had seen many children slowly lose confidence over time.
However, they shared the same goal: to help children learn musical instruments without losing their confidence or dynamism.
In January 2020, they launched String Soul, an online mobile piano tutoring app, where kids can have one-on-one virtual piano lessons with a professional tutor.
Lack of practice does not make perfect
Lack of practice, according to Jit, is the most common factor explaining why children (and adults too) drop out of piano lessons so easily.
To find out more, he and Jaclyn conducted further research by interviewing parents from various backgrounds and occupations.
“Despite their different lifestyles, 9 out of 10 parents face the same problem–they just don’t know how to encourage and inspire their children to keep growing and improving, ”Jit revealed.
Likewise, Jaclyn said, “In my 11 years of teaching piano, I have witnessed first-hand the issues and stress parents go through in getting their child to practice.
According to her, young children are naturally excited to learn, but give up because of the difficulties and challenges that stand in their way.
“We believe our platform will help both young students and parents overcome this problem,” Jaclyn said.
String Soul welcomes a variety of tutors from Yamaha and ABRSM schools who go through a verification process that includes 4 steps:
- Initial interview and background check (all applicants must have 5 years experience and at least a degree in music education),
- Simulated teaching (to demonstrate teaching skills),
- Training session (on the use of the application),
- Lesson observations (done quarterly to ensure performance meets standards).
They also don’t have to pay to be listed. Once accepted, tutors must complete 20 hours per week.
“Even though the majority of our students are young children ages 5 and up, adults are also welcome,” Jit said.
“We have a husband who learns an Ed Sheeran song to surprise his wife and we have a 60 year old retired grandmother who is learning classic hits from Teresa Teng! he added.
Skill levels are also not a limiting factor, as hobbyists and people with no prior piano experience can take their first lessons with the app.
“Each new student is entitled to a free trial session, which allows them to test the app and see if our platform is compatible with their learning style,” Jit explained.
The packages are subscription based so that students benefit from a structured workout routine (i.e. 3 sessions per week for one month).
A 25 minute session costs around RM 27 and the rates remain the same regardless of grade.
“Only then can they see long-term progress. Otherwise, it’s no different from their once a week class, ”Jit added.
If your schedule is busy and you can’t run two separate sessions, you can combine them into one long session (at the cost of two sessions, of course).
String Soul can also help organize exams for the serious student, and for those who don’t want exams, they will simply move on to more difficult lessons once they have mastered the previous one.
From books to the basics
On String Soul, users can choose to take a session as a lesson in theory or practice, but Jit discouraged mixing the two in one session as it could prevent effective learning.
Students can download pages from their music books on the mobile app, and tutors will teach them based on what they have downloaded.
String Soul has 2 finger and hand positioning functions that allow tutors to correct their students’ positioning techniques.
One of them is a live view feature that allows students to clearly see their tutors (and hands).
The second feature is, more interestingly, a free custom wide-lens camera that kids can attach to their iPad or smartphone so that tutors can see their students’ hands on their side. However, this is not available for the lowest subscription plan.
Coupled with instant feedback, this is how the tutors at String Soul make sure their students don’t end up playing the piano the wrong way.
An entire orchestra
String Soul now has students from Malaysia and Singapore.
“We are confident that we will be on track to reach 600+ students by the end of this year,” Jit said.
Jit and Jaclyn plan to expand String Soul tutoring to include other common instruments, such as violin, ukulele, and guitar.
However, they do not intend to optimize their application for PC.
“To ensure a better user experience, we believe that mobiles and tablets are the most convenient / portable and the most accessible in terms of device options,” Jit explained.
They are currently expanding their user base by promoting the practice of piano online and plan to further broadcast String Soul through SEA.
“We want to encourage and help people love music, so we’re going to work really hard to make sure our end goal is met,” Jit said.
Conclusion: Personally, I have never learned to play the piano, so I don’t know how well it will work, or if people would practice it. However, as things get online it might be worth a try.
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Featured Image Credit: String Soul
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