Make-up tips, talking animals and instructions for building a house - you can find virtually anything on YouTube these days. So why not music theory? One musician has put it to the test.
Dressed casually in jeans and a t-shirt, Klaus Kauker sits in front of his mixing console, next to him are his computer and grand piano. He's a natural in front of the camera, explaining - in German - how the keys of a piano are structured, what an interval is and how one best keeps rhythm.
The 24-year-old started his video lectures while preparing for his entrance exam in composition at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen. He considered the reading materials he had to study pretty dry, and also didn't find much on the Internet to help him prepare. So he decided to change that, uploading his own videos which explain music theory basics and analyze pop songs.
Teaching via the computer
Kauker's teaching channel "Musiktraining.de" on YouTube has not only drawn around two million clicks, it's also garnered him this year's Online Award from Germany's Grimme Institute, which devotes itself to the study of media culture. In audience voting, he came in second, just 35 votes behind an app produced by Tagesschau, a news program on Germany's main public broadcaster.
People who watch Kauker's videos are from all walks of life, and the audience varies with the subject. While many of his channel subscribers are between 13 and 17, there's also a range of users 60 years old and upwards. Seniors in particular, he says, are grateful for music lessons on the Web. After all, sitting down in the living room and taking a stab at the piano is a lot less daunting than signing up for lessons at a music school.
Quality, not gimmicks
Kauker is picky about his videos and emphasizes quality - making sure to record in high definition. And he's learned what makes for a really good YouTube video.
"It's amazing to see how people hold cats on their laps in their videos because people think it looks so sweet," he noted. "I can only caution against that because it sends the signal that the content must be compensated for."
In choosing the topics for his videos, he consults his users' suggestions - like analyzing the official song of this summer's Olympics, which he promptly did.
The video in which he presents the song he composed in the style of a typical winner of "Deutschland sucht den Superstar," Germany's version of "American Idol, was clicked on by some half million users. In yet another video, he gives a detailed explanation of the characteristics of such a song.
The "music police"
Kauker has also revealed a few cases of plagiarism - musicians who have copied others' compositions - along the way, making him somewhat of a music detective.
But it's Kauker's soundly researched presentations that won him the Grimme Online Award this year. He says the prize motivates him to improve on his ideas.
"A lot of people unrelated to music have looked at my channel now, and have told me that they think is especially good," he said. "That's helped me a lot to determine which direction I want to go in."