Author’s Blurb: Many of us have had to learn one skill or another at the behest of our parents when we were children such as dance, martial arts, or musical instruments. For me, it was dance, but due to my abysmal concentration and lack of practice, I never made it far.
Jit Koh and Jaclyn were no strangers to these problems, but they’d both experienced it from slightly different perspectives.
When Jit Koh was a kid, he took up learning the organ, but gave up on it after 2 years.
Jaclyn is a piano teacher with 11 years of experience, and she’d seen many children slowly lose confidence in themselves over time.
However, they shared the same goal: to help kids learn musical instruments without losing their confidence or their drive.
In January 2020, they launched String Soul, a mobile-based online piano tutoring app, where children can have one-on-one virtual piano lessons with a professional tutor.
Lack Of Practice Does Not Make Perfect
According to Jit, lack of practice is the most common factor in why kids (and adults too) give up so easily on piano lessons.
To find out more, he and Jaclyn conducted further research by interviewing parents from various backgrounds and jobs.
“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 continue to grow and progress,” revealed Jit.
Likewise, Jaclyn said, “In my 11 years of teaching piano, I’ve witnessed first-hand the trouble and stress parents go through to get their child to practice.”
According to her, young children are naturally excited to learn, but give up due to the difficulties and challenges that hinder their path.
“We believe our platform will help both young students and parents overcome this problem,” Jaclyn said.
String Soul hosts a variety of tutors from both Yamaha and ABRSM schools who undergo a vetting process that comprises 4 steps:
- Initial interview and background check (all candidates should have 5 years of experience and at least a diploma in music education),
- Mock teaching (to demonstrate teaching skills),
- Training session (on how to use the app),
- Lesson observations (conducted quarterly to ensure performance is up to standard).
They don’t have to pay to be listed either. Once they’re accepted, the tutors are expected to fulfill 20 hours a week.
Starting Off Simple
“Even though majority of our students are young kids aged 5 and above, adults are definitely welcome as well,” Jit said.
“We have one husband who is learning an Ed Sheeran song to surprise his wife and we have a 60-year old retired grandmother who is learning classic Teresa Teng hits!” he added.
Skill levels aren’t a limiting factor either, as hobbyists and people without prior experience with the piano can take their first lessons with the app.
“Each new student is entitled to a free trial session, so this allows them to test out the app and see if our platform is compatible with their learning style,” Jit explained.
Packages are subscription based so that students get a structured practice routine (i.e. 3 sessions a week for a month).
A 25-minute session costs roughly RM27, and the rates remain the same regardless of grade.
“Only then are they able to see progress in the long run. Otherwise, it’s no different than their existing once a week lesson,” Jit added.
If your schedule’s packed and you can’t fit two separate sessions, you can combine them into one long session (at the price of two sessions, of course).
String Soul can also help to arrange exams for the serious student, and for those who don’t want exams, they’ll simply progress onto harder lessons once they’ve mastered the previous one.
From Books To Basics
On String Soul, users can opt to take a session as a lesson on theory or practical, but Jit discouraged mixing both in one session as this could prevent effective learning.
Students can upload pages of their music books onto the mobile app, and tutors will teach them based on what they’ve uploaded.
String Soul has 2 finger and hand positioning features that allow tutors to correct their student’s positioning techniques.
One of them is a live view feature that lets students see their tutors (and their hands) clearly.
The second feature is, more interestingly, a free-of-charge custom-designed wide-lens camera that kids can clip on their iPad or smartphone so tutors can see their students’ hands from their end. However, this isn’t available for the lowest subscription package.
Coupled with instant feedback, this is how String Soul’s tutors ensure that their students don’t end up playing the piano the wrong way.
An Entire Orchestra
String Soul now has students from both Malaysia and Singapore.
“We are confident that we will be on track to hit 600 students and above by the end of this year,” Jit said.
Jit and Jaclyn plan on expanding String Soul’s tutoring to include other common instruments, such as the violin, ukulele, and the guitar.
However, they don’t intend to optimise their app for PC.
“To ensure better user experience, we believe that mobiles and tablets are the most convenient/portable and accessible in terms of device options,” Jit explained.
They’re currently growing their user base by spreading awareness of online piano practice and plan on spreading String Soul further across SEA.
“We want to encourage and help people love music, so we’re going to work really hard to ensure our end goal is met,” said Jit.
Bottom Line: Personally, I’ve never learnt piano, so I don’t know how well it’ll work, or if people would take to it. However, as things progressively go online, it might be worth a shot to try.
- You can read more on other Malaysian startups we’ve written about here.
Featured Image Credit: String Soul