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The Guitarist's Guide to Being a Tutor: Part 6

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In the previous tutorials of this series I’ve looked at private and school tuition. Both of these are based on direct interaction with students.

The other methods of tuition are based on indirect interaction, and are referred to as remote tuition.

Remote Tuition

Traditional direct tuition is tempered by distance, in that either students come to you or you go to them. This physically limits the available number of potential students. Furthermore, time is lost in terms of travel, and any loss means reducing your earnings.

Remote tuition can, in theory, occur between people anywhere in the world. Furthermore, some forms of tuition can be earning you money at any time without your direct involvement.

I'll look at four methods of remote tuition. The first two can earn money in real-time, whereas the remaining two can earn repeatedly after the initial creative work’s occurred.

Real-Time Video Lessons

In simple terms, this is a video call between tutor and student. The lesson’s conducted as it would be face-to-face, albeit with allowances for the fact that neither of you are in the same room. These have been around for a few years now, but gain in popularity as technology improves.

A sign of their increasing prevalent is that more respected and/or high-profile guitarists now offer video tuition. Obviously, these are more highly-subscribed and expensive than with a less well-known guitarist. In terms of your pricing, do some research among guitarists of your own level.

Requirements

From a technical standpoint, you’ll need the following:

  • A good internet connection. Whilst it’s possible to do this on a non-fibre system, you’re more likely to encounter issues due to reduced upload and download capacities. The higher the capacity of your system, the better. Check your broadband package, as you may need to speak to your provider accordingly.
  • A decent camera. HD-capable webcams are plentiful and cost from as little as £20. Obviously, check compatibility with your computer.
  • Microphone. Your webcam will have a built-in mic, but it’ll distort quite easily, especially if the guitar’s close to it. It’s better to have a dedicated audio mic, as you can also position it independently of the webcam.
  • Communication. In order to communicate, you’ll need a dedicated video conferencing system. Skype remains an extremely popular example.

From a teaching perspective, this kind of remote tuition presents a different set of challenges. 

You’ll need to be aware continuously your student’s not in the same room, so be more demonstrative in your actions and descriptions. Never assume they can see or hear what you’re doing. 

You’ll also have to pay particularly close attention to their playing, as problems are harder to diagnose at a distance.

Delayed Response Video Lessons

Rather than tutor and student conversing in real-time, this is where a student videos themselves, posts it online to the tutor, who then creates a video in response accordingly.

There’s no requirement for an instant reply, allowing the tutor to go into greater depth. As it’s a video, it can be edited, so different camera angles can be shot, giving a more detailed answer.

Obviously, the great disadvantage remains that it’s not an instant response, so the student will have to be patient.

A high-profile example of this tuition form is ArtistWorks. Purely from the world of guitarists, tutors include shred monster Paul Gilbert, and jazz luminary Martin Taylor.

You wouldn’t necessarily need a dedicated website like this. An email address and a storage facility like DropBox would be sufficient.

In terms of pricing, the aforementioned research should be carried out.

Non-Response Video Lessons

The simplest example of this would be a YouTube video, where you create and post a video discussing and/or demonstrating a concept, with no facility for real-time questions. 

Questions can be asked in the ‘Comments’ section, but there’s no commitment or timeframe to respond.

As a working musician, you should have a YouTube channel, even if it’s just to display promotional material. In terms of creating content, you’ll need the same equipment as conducting real-time lessons. 

You can decide whether each lesson is a one-off, or if you intend to create a themed series. YouTube allows you to create ‘playlists’, so you can group lessons accordingly.

Like most equivalent services, YouTube makes money from ads placed on your video, of which you’ll receive 68% of the revenue. However, rule changes in 2018 have made this route significantly less profitable. Eligibility requires 4,000 hours of annual viewing plus over 1,000 subscribers. If your channel really takes off, there’s money to be made, but it’s a big ‘if’.

There are alternatives to YouTube, such as DailyMotion. However, they’re less popular than YouTube, and the pay-out threshold tends to be higher.

Published Tuition

The single oldest form of indirect tuition still exists. If you were born before the advent of the internet, you’ll probably own some tuition books. These may even have come with some form of audio content, be it CD, cassette, or even floppy vinyl record.

Whether YouTube’ll kill off this form of tuition isn’t clear, but it’s still hanging in there, and remains a route for tutors accordingly. If you’ve written a lot of lessons, it’s worth considering publishing them accordingly.

You don’t even need to get a publishing deal these days, as you can self-publish. One of the most high-profile routes is via Amazon’s Kindle

Of course, the success of this is predicated on how well it’s advertised, and a large proportion of that’ll be down to your own efforts.

Conclusion

These four forms represent the familiar aspects of tutoring but with their own unique challenges. They can be further revenue streams, but require more initial work than traditional direct tutoring.

To recap, these methods are:

  • Real-Time Video lessons, using tools such as Skype
  • Delayed-Response Lessons, exchanging questions and answers via videos
  • Non-Response Lessons, such as YouTube videos
  • Published Tuition

If you’ve read this six-part series, I hope it’s given you some ideas, and perhaps given you the incentive to start sharing your knowledge.

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