Tuesday, 30 September 2014 00:00

4 Ways To Learn Music Online

Online music lessons, once regarded with "artistic disdain" (and perhaps more than a helping of technophobia), are quickly becoming commonplace and surprisingly effective.

What could be more convenient than learning from the comfort of your own home or anywhere you have your instrument and a decent WiFi connection? Sound and video quality can still be an issue affecting the quality of the lesson, but with the right equipment and a high-speed Internet connection, those problems are quickly fading into the past. 

If you live in a remote region that's lacking in quality music teachers, or just want to knock one more thing off of your bucket list, then online music lessons might be the solution for you. There are a variety of lesson formats, each with their own sets of pro's and con's. Let's take a look at 4 of them.

1. YouTube

From learning how to iron a shirt, bake bread, or play a song, YouTube is without question the ultimate resource for video learning that's completely free. Type in the name of any song in the search bar and you're almost certain to find somebody somewhere has made a video tutorial in one form or another. YouTube is great for learning short, quick songs, but the learning gets mighty scarce mighty quick when you want to start advancing beyond an early intermediate level. And for the most part, you're on your own - beyond leaving comments with the videos, there's no way to directly interact or get feedback from a teacher that can help you progress beyond that one song you're learning.

Pro: Easy, free access to learn almost any song out there

Con: One way learning; no interactions with teachers

2. Video Courses

I learned to play some basic guitar chords by buying a little book with a tape cassette way back when there was no such thing as an "Internet". In the digital age, we still see DVD lessons being sold, but more and more of them are moving to online video formats with options to buy workbooks to accompany the lessons. Disc or no disc, the basic principle is the same: watching videos of lessons being taught. With video courses, you're more likely to work with a teacher that has carefully thought through a logical progression to help you improve your skills systematically, rather than just getting by with what you can muster for one song at a time. The better courses will offer some sort of online component (email, forum, etc.) where you can send questions to the teacher, but it's still primarily up to you to make progress and to catch your own mistakes and bad habits. Prices will vary from fixed one-time purchases for an entire course, to an ongoing subscription for as long as you decide to work with that teacher/course.

Pro: Lessons will tend to be organized to help you make progress. Supplemental materials such as workbooks can be a big help to understanding what you're doing away from the video.

Con: It's still mainly up to you to make sure you're following the lessons properly. Limited to no teacher oversight to help you progress beyond the purchased materials.

3. Skype

There's nothing like having a real, live teacher to tailor lessons to what will help you make the most efficient progress in playing an instrument. A teacher will help correct bad habits, avoid new ones, and set up the best foundation for you to really enjoy making music. And don't forget the motivation factor! Fortunately, more and more teachers are offering lessons using live video technologies like Skype (and to a lesser extent, Facetime), so where you live relative to a teacher is a relatively minor issue (unless you want to work with someone in the opposite time zone...) One way to find a Skype teacher is to check out websites like http://privatelessons.com and search for the word "Skype". The only issue is that you and your teacher need to coordinate times for your lessons that fit with both your schedules. 

Pro: Live, realtime interaction with teacher. Next best thing to being in the studio with them like a traditional music lesson, but without the geographical hassles.

Con: Need to coordinate schedules for lessons. And unless you have some way to record the live video stream, there's no way to review what you've learned beyond whatever notes you mark down in your music and your memory.

4. Video Exchange®

Video Exchange® Learning is a rather unique model of asynchronous learning. On the one hand, you have access to a complete library of progressive video lessons, much like what's presented with option #2 above. On the other hand, you have the added benefits of uploading your own videos for the teacher, and for the teacher in turn to post a video response to yours, pointing out things that you can do to improve whatever you happen to be working on. Since the videos are not streamed live, the teacher can post videos of much higher quality, and you can refer back to them over and over until the lesson really sinks in. This unique approach lets both teacher and student work within their own respective schedules - no need to coordinate lesson times. Students can post lesson "questions" whenever they want, and teachers can post lesson "responses" in between gigs or whenever they have some free time during tours. That's where the word "asynchronous" comes in: the lessons aren't live, they're exchanged whenever the student or teacher has time in their own schedules.  Got a burning question about a nasty lick in the middle of the night? Post a video! Wait a few days and you'll have your own, personalized answer. For an example of Video Exchange® Learning at work, check out http://artistworks.com/piano 

Pro: The best of options 1, 2, and 3, and then some when you can watch other students' lessons along with yours. And the act of making videos can be a great teaching tool in itself, as you'll force yourself to "perform" to the best of your ability.

Con: Lessons aren't live, so you'll have to wait for the teacher's response. Response times will vary according to how busy (and how popular) a given teacher is.


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