Review: VIP Peilian for online piano practice

UPDATE JUNE 2022: VIP Peilian is no longer in business. This is one of the risks with online businesses which sprout up from China. It was great for us, but clearly the business wasn’t great. It’s a shame there are many great music teachers now who have lost their livelihoods and not been paid for months, and many families will have lost much in prepaid packages. There is however a lovely US-based service who has helped to re-employ some of these teachers. If you’re looking for online violin or piano classes taught in Mandarin Chinese, I would recommend you look at Bilin Academy.

[Below post is from 2020, and sadly this business is no longer in business]

The concept is so simple – an online music education platform, offering to help your child practice their instrument, with a live teacher (based in China) who listens and provides encouragement, at a fraction of the price of the typical music lessons.  That is the promise of VIP Peilian, and it has a smoothly executed app which enables booking of classes at 2 hours notice, and trained coaches to give real-time feedback, using a special lens for the iPad/tablet so the teacher can better see the instrument and fingering.

I’m especially fond of the concept of VIP Peilian because I’m always looking for more ways to increase the spoken Mandarin around our house, without taking formal Chinese tuition: learning piano from a mainland Chinese speaker certainly ticks many boxes for us!

What is VIP Peilian?

VIP Peilian is aimed at children aged 5-16, already learning a musical instrument.  It’s said to be the first service in China to provide “online one-on-one instrument training”.  It’s certainly the only one we know of (based in China at least…. I do know of a few other online piano classes, but their costs are astronomical).

It really is a practice buddy, not a long-term substitute for real music lessons.  The word “Peilian”, meaning training or sparring reflects this.  The classes are intended to be a supplement to in-person learning (in that they will not develop a curriculum for you).  In our experience, the VIP Peilian coach has focussed on teaching my daughter how to practice, and systematically goes through the songs which have been set by her real in-person teacher.     During the ‘lock down’ which our city had for Covid, we did take a break from physical piano lessons, and relied merely on apps, but I’m glad we’re able to do the real thing once again too.  There’s certainly no substitute for a physical teacher, but VIP Peilian is a nice way to ensure regular practice sessions are effective.

How the Peilian online classes works

  1. Classes are booked through the app (either 25 minutes or 50 minutes). 
  2. Once a lessons is scheduled, there is an option to photograph and upload the music.  The app also has all the common music books (split by instrument and grade).
  3. The lesson is conducted over their app, and uses a free attachable fish-eye lens, so the teacher can see the fingering better (in our case, it points down for the keyboard, and has a split mirror allowing the teacher to see half screen the keyboard/hands, an the other half screen being the child). The lens will be express couriered to you before your first class.
  4. After the lesson, the teacher provides short written feedback summary, and it’s also possible to watch a replay of the lesson.
  5. Child can earn points during the week, between classes, through extra practice and use these to get virtual clothing/food/features for an online monster pet.

We do 3 x 25 minutes per week, and it feels just about right.

What instruments are offered by VIP Peilian?

Piano, violin, viola, oboe, guitar, clarinet, saxophone, drums, ukulele, cello, flute, accordion, and guzheng, among 20 instruments offered.  Interestingly, nothing for voice. We’ve only tried out the piano option (it’s been great), and we’ve heard varying reports about the effectiveness of other instruments.

Pricing of VIP Peilian?

Packages are sold in packages of 50, 80, or 120 “credits”. 

If you take a standard teacher, 1 credit is 50 minutes.  We do 25 minute lessons, so that’s 0.5 credits.  Hence, the 80 credit package gives us 160 lessons, which need to be used up in the space of 18 months.  The credits can be used across different children (in the one family) or across different instruments.

Note:  if you choose a higher charging teacher, they may charge 1.2 units per 50 minutes or even up to 3 units for 50 minutes for a fancy teacher.

There is a free trial lesson (message me if you would like our referral code).  After that, lessons must be done from a package and booked through the app.     Yes it’s possible to pay in USD using Paypal, and there is also a myriad of options in RMB pricing through Alipay, Chinese credit cards, etc.

Online piano class in Chinese

How the free lesson trial works

  1. Register for a free trial (I think if you provide my referral details you’ll get 2 free classes too).  This can be done online through their website, which is totally in Chinese.  Otherwise, contact them via their Site Chatbot or WeChat, and request to speak in English.
  2. A course consultant will call you to arrange a trial appointment.  At this stage, they’ll ask for information about the child’s age, instrument background, personality etc to determine an appropriate match in teacher for the trial.
  3. Online 1:1 trial class with the teacher – done through phone/iPad, and requires downloading the VIP Peilian app.
  4. After class, the sales consultant will ring you to give feedback on the trial and give you A HARD SELL! It’s a little off putting, but it all melted in comparison to the joy I saw my child having, and the light-bulb moment when I realised she’s be able to practice independently with this service.
  5. There are a range of packages available – as explained above in ‘Pricing’ section.

Pros of VIP Peilian online piano class

  • Prices are cheap – US$12 for 50 minutes for a basic teacher!  It’s like peanuts if the intention it to simply get a child to happily practice for 25 minutes, several times a week.
  • Increases practice time without needing my supervision – I get 1.5 free hours a week, because my daughter will happily practice three times a week with the online teacher, and it happens without any nagging at all!  My daughter’s patience and attitude to practising has improved immensely through VIP Peilian, which in turn, it making her actual in-person lessons more worthwhile too.
  • Flexible timing –  classes can be booked around the clock, and they have help desk to assist 24-hour, that can speak (some) English.  If not, they’ll get an English speaking consultant to call you back.  Classes can also be cancelled at 2 hours prior notice, which I think it very fair.
  • App includes written feedback from the teacher and video of lesson – in case parents want to review afterwards
  • Good alternative to other online music lessons during Covid – the teachers are very positive and encouraging, and the special free fish-eye mirrors lens enables hand position and shape to be critiqued, which is an added bonus that might not be available for other Zoom-style music lessons being offered as alternatives to physical classes.
  • Practice for spoken Chinese:  It’s possible to get the lesson in Chinese or English.  We chose Chinese, although the teacher’s English is good enough that she can explain concepts that way too if needed.  The Chinese is extra welcome, as our usual teacher doesn’t speak in Chinese.
  • Ability to choose a teacher (or teachers):  There are a range of teachers, from less experienced music conservatorium students through to prize-winning pianists who have taught for year.  It’s possible to view the biographies and qualifications of each teacher, and make a choice.   The  prices do differ by experience.   Apparently, all teachers have professional music school backgrounds and have been screened and trained by VIP.
VIP Peilian practice piano

Cons of VIP Pielian

  • The initial sales tactics were a little off putting – in that they call up to schedule a trial lesson and say “it needs to be today” and then afterwards they try to make you sign up for some gigantic package with classes three times a week for the next three years!!  It’s probably not a bad deal when you do the maths on it, however it’s also quite a lot to stomach upfront, and I’ve never liked being locked into long term plans.  Usually that type of hardsell scares me away forever, but here I am writing a blog post about how good it is!  It is actually possible to get shorter packages, and you never have to deal with the hard-selling salesperson again after the original purchase because you then are connected with the teacher and a service help/lesson scheduler who is much more accommodating.
  • The app is 100% in Chinese – it was a lot of work for me to figure it out original set up. Thankfully the customer consultant spoke reasonable English and held my hand throughout the setup.  Now, thanks to Google translate, we’re able to continue on a day-to-day basis in terms of booking/cancelling classes, uploading new music scores, and reading feedback from the teacher.   Still, there is heaps to the app which I don’t understand and I’m sure we’re missing out on (such as free credits for different things, new music, fun music theory games, online competitions, etc).
  • It’s not for brand-new beginners – the child would need to be able to read music and know where the keys are.  We tried one class on my second daughter (who’d had about 4 physical piano lessons), and she was very frustrated by it all.  In fact, she was nearly in tears by the end unfortunately.  I think the Chinese speaking didn’t help, as that also takes a lot of concentration for her.  So, we won’t be trying it again on her for some time. It’s also not great if the child has a hand position issue or needs help learning to read the music ….. . it is predominantly voice-only guidance, for practising playing and rhythm.
  • Teachers could be varied – just like any school or organisation which relies on different individuals (in this case, hundreds of teachers), I’m sure they won’t all be great and there can be some personality clashes.  We were lucky to have a great trial class, and have kept the same teacher, who is easy going and motivating.  We’ve heard of another family (whose child was actually a very advanced violinist) who had a bad experience whereby the trial teacher effectively said the child wasn’t as good as their mother thought they were, and it was a less-than-professional discussion which evolved where the teacher stated to question the mother about why she was Chinese but couldn’t speak Chinese.  Not a great advertisement.   They do say on the website that over 80% of the business is from word of mouth, so it cannot all be so bad!

Other alternatives for online piano classes

Online apps:  For online practice we also purchased the Joy Tunes app, with Piano Maestro and Simply Piano.  These are fun and being in English, we can make more use of the apps.  They provided video lessons and an intuitive gamification function where it listens to the piano music being played, and gives a rating.  We’ve used them for over a year now – however, I see this as more fun than learning support or practising.  Unless the child has excellent concentration and ability to not give up, it’s easy for a child to become slack with these apps.  Also, they miss the interpersonal connection! 

Other online lessons: We’ve seen a couple advertised, such as Fireworks Music School based in London, but doing a heavy sell into Singapore.  Fireworks Music School offers ”Online Live Music Lessons with London’s Best Music Professors” through Zoom.  From the look of the website, the iPad needs to be placed beside the keyboard so as for the teacher to view the playing technique, so it might be a bit of a logistic exercise depending on the layout of your room (we certainly don’t have a bookshelf sideways next to our piano!).  A good thing about this is that lessons are paid one-by-one (2 days beforehand via TransferWise), so there’s not the commitment risk which Peilian has.  However, their rates are SG$45 for 30 minutes, of SG$70 for one hour… so it’s like five times the price of VIP Peilian. I know which one I’d choose!! 

How about you?

What great apps or techniques do you use to assist your children with their music practice? I’d love to know!

Meanwhile, if you are interested to try out VIP Pielian, and if they ask you for a referral code, I’m happy to share ours. Likewise, we signed up after a referral from a friend, and it was much appreciated.

If you’ve arrived at the end and are still looking for more classes, perhaps there are other posts on my blog which might help you go down some more rabbit holes to find the ideal class:

21 thoughts on “Review: VIP Peilian for online piano practice

  1. Hello do you have a contact with someone English speaking there? We just joined it, as the trial class seemed pretty decent but after joining and booking our 1st class, we seem to be having a pretty horrible experience so far… as you mentioned the sales people are super hard sell and promise heaven and earth but the reality so far seems hugely different!

    1. Hi, that’s really disappointing. I feel for you. Do you still have the contact details for the sales person? If you can phone / WeChat them, I think you should let them know exactly how you feel and ask them to assist you, since I suppose they spoke good English? I do have an English course consultant, which we communicate with via WeChat. If you send me a private message with your email address, I can pass you their details. Otherwise, the way we use the app is simple to upload music and book classes. I use Google Translate camera view to understand it, although now we basically know it off by heart. I know there are tonnes of other features to the app (music stones, free sheet music, special monthly promos, etc etc) but we just ignore all that. So for us, it’s simply classes. We haven’t had any problems in the past year (it’s very transactional use though), and the biggest issue we had was a replacement teacher whom I didn’t like the attitude of, and when I let the course consultant know, they changed us away from that teacher immediately. Hope it gets much better for you.

  2. Hello – Thank you for your reply. Not sure how I can send you a private message? As for the sales person we had, she was chinese speaking only (as we had been referred to her by another mum) and quite honestly, I have 0 interest in speaking to her any further, as it was simply a waste of time and energy. From the very beginning (after the trial class), when she was trying to hard sell us into buying 200+ classes, I told her we were concerned about language issues but she brushed them aside and told me don’t worry, we even have all English speaking teachers. Never once, though, did she ever tell me that an English speaking teacher would cost double the normal rate. What annoyed me even more though is not the language issue as my daughter was able to cope with the trial class after I asked the teacher to use English words for the music terminology, which the trial class teacher was able to do. But the bigger issue was that during our trial class, we were able to see the teacher and vice versa. However when it came to the “real” class, the teacher we had been assigned appeared horrified when we asked her to switch on the video so we could see her. We were then told that if we wanted to see the teacher on video, that would be by special arrangement only and again, the cost would be higher. At this point, I then asked if we could have the same teacher that we had had for the trial class and was told she was some kind of special teacher who would cost 3 times more, even though the trial class teacher looked very young and in fact, my impression was that she was a student at a music conservatory. Again, at no time had any of this ever been mentioned prior to purchasing the package. So for anyone who is looking to sign up, be aware that this appears to be predominantly voice only guidance and while this might work for piano, I am not sure if it’s feasible for violin/other instruments as the kids (or at least mine) need to see how to correctly place their arm for the bowing which is the main reason we had signed up!

    1. Hi C,

      You can always use the “Contact” tab on my site to send a private message, and I can email you back. If you were referred by another mum, maybe you want to ask the other mum about their experiences. And, if you’ve already bought a package of classes, I would suggest you try to find a better teacher and make the most of the classes. If you remember the name of the trial teacher, you could look her up in the system and read her bio / see her rates.

      Your experience is totally different from ours, although we have only done piano through the app. I don’t want an English speaking teacher, as the aim of it is for my daughter to learn Chinese. But, we have noticed that even the basic-priced teachers will slip into English explanations when needed (and often I need to remind them to switch back to Chinese, please). You’re right it’s not a replacement for a real in person teacher, although for us it’s more than voice guidance. The teacher will switch on the camera and show us their hand position on the keyboard (they also have a special lense to focus on keyboard). I think it would be more of a challenge with violin! I hope it improves for you.

  3. would you by chance have paid via PayPal and can send me their PayPal information? the email address I received to PayPal them looks very shady ( I just want to make sure this isn’t a scam and that I’m going to lose $700.

    1. I did use Paypal. The name was 上海妙克信息科技有限公司.. I’m unsure what about an associated email address. We have only had great experiences with the for past 1.5 years now.

  4. Hello there, do you mind if we also got a referral code and the contact of an English speaking learning consultant. I’m not having much luck with the one I have now.

    Also, do you think if my son is able to follow the text book and I am able to choose the songs, we could do this in lieu of a real teacher? My son has learned piano in China for the past two years but we will be moving away soon. Classes in my home country would be 6x the price. This would be a great option for us to “kill two birds with one stone” (continue learning Chinese and piano).

    Thank you for your help!

    1. I’ll email you the WeChat contact. You can choose your own songs yes. It could replace a real teacher for a few weeks (perhaps months?) but I don’t think it fully can, because so much of it is about the hand positioning, style etc. I know there is the camera, but I feel it’s limited how much can come across and be expressed over the screen. Perhaps you can have occasional in-person classes to ensure technique is also not sneaking in bad habits? And be sure to choose the most experienced teachers on VIP, so they’re really passionate about being his teacher, rather than just a practice buddy.

      1. Thanks for the great tips! You’re right, I’ll probably have to get a real life teacher anyway, but this will be an awesome option for us anyway. Thank you for writing about it. I just checked my email and I couldn’t see anything from you. Is it possible to try again?

  5. Thank you for updating the current status of VIP peilan. I’m a parent who bought their package couple times during last a few years. Because they haven’t paid the teachers for last two months, most of the teachers don’t teach in their App anymore. I still have over 300 50min classes in the account that I paid via PayPal last July. Very disappointed!

    1. That’s a really big loss. Always an inherent danger in large prepaid packages …… whether that’s spas and nail treatments, or online learning. I’m sorry you have experienced this too.

      1. what’s the name of the “US-based service who has helped to re-employ some of these teachers”? I wasnt sure from the wording of your update if it is Bilin academy

    1. They’re a small US-based business that provides extracurricular language classes online….. they have great teachers. We’ve used them for many things including sketching, water colour, chess, calligraphy and debating, all taught in Mandarin.

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