The internet has changed pretty much everything and the ability to learn music definitely hasn’t avoided its reach. A lot of teachers actually reject the idea of their students learning things online, but, while there are some disadvantages, I think it is overall an amazing tool. To be honest, I think teachers who reject their students using the internet to supplement their musical education are just afraid of losing their job. I welcome it. I use it alongside my normal instruction and have had great success with doing so. Here are some ways that you can use the internet to further your musical pursuits, along with some tips and things to watch out for.
Online Lessons: The most obvious things that can help you out are just online video lessons. There are an enormous amount of these online that can help you with pretty much anything, and I think that’s great. I like to use these to supplement my own students’ lessons. Sometimes, having someone explain something in a slightly different way can really make the light bulb click in the student’s head. I’ll have a student find a song they want to learn and have them start by trying to learn it on YouTube. I think this also helps with the student trying to listen for and fix things on their own, which is a skill that they’ll be using a lot through their career. Then, when they come back I just help them out with some technical points or other ideas they might be having issues with. The only problem with a lesson video is that it’s one sided, and the teacher can’t see what you’re doing to help you if you get stuck. This is obviously where a private teacher comes in.
Transcriptions and Tablature: You can also find an enormous amount of sheet music or solo transcriptions written out for you. This can make it extremely easy to figure out and analyze some musical ideas in a hurry. My only issue with this is that because you can find so many things online, I think that a lot of students aren’t learning to use their ear. They should still be trying to learn things just by listening to it; this is essential to being a musician. If you’re in a hurry, however, these are great.
Tablature, or tab, has made it extremely easy for guitarists especially to learn their favorite songs. Once I show a guitar student tablature, I always tell them the whole world has opened up to them. This makes it easy to learn almost any song they want in an easy way, because admittedly, reading standard notation on guitar is much harder than on other instruments. However, standard notation is a skill that still must be learned, and every guitar teacher should still push their students to have a fundamental understanding or reading music on the guitar. We should also make sure that again, they’re still taking time to train their ear and figure out songs by listening, rather than just going the easy way out with tab.
Skype and Hangouts Lessons: Skype, and more recently Google+ both provide services that can take online lessons to the next level. A teacher can take a specific topic, or whole series, and teach it to people from all over the world at once. This is especially cool when artists can give master classes on very specific topics. Maybe there aren’t enough people in your city interested to warrant having someone come and give a master class on economy picking, but with Skype and Google+ Hangouts, that problem goes out the door. Another great advantage is they break down a barrier that standard YouTube lessons have by making it possible to interact with the other students as well as the teacher themselves. Most of the time, the end of an online class is the teacher answering specific questions for the people who watched. This makes these amazingly valuable. We are happy to say Falls Music School will be providing these soon, both with guitar instruction and general music theory instruction.
Backing Tracks: I personally take advantage of the enormous amount of backing tracks online, and encourage all of my students to do the same. If you’re working on improvising over a particular song, chances are there are plenty of options for you to play over. They basically put a band behind you. This makes it more exciting and more applicable than just the standard metronome practice. I also love that you might find different versions of the same song. Why not take the jazz standard “So What” and make it funky? Sometimes I even have my students practice their scales over backing tracks. Not only does it still have them keep in time (again, while being a little more fun than a normal metronome) but it solidifies how certain scales sound over chords, which can really help out a student’s ear.
You don’t just have to use these just for improvising though. If you’re working on just nailing a song, having the rest of the instruments being simulated behind you is invaluable.
Apps: Pretty much anything you need for your musical pursuits can be found in an app. Whether it’s a metronome, a backing track, a chord library, or a tuner, all of your needs can be put on your phone. If you need something, search for it and it’s probably there. Not only does this make things more convenient, it also can save you money. An electronic tuner generally runs from $10 to $30, but there are tons of apps you can get that honestly work pretty well and are free. I use a slightly fancier tuner app and it only cost me $3.99. I use it every day.
A lot of teachers don’t embrace the power the internet has when it comes to teaching music. Obviously, I still find private in person lessons to be irreplaceable, but you’re definitely missing out if you don’t get the best from both worlds.
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Guitar Instructor, Co-Owner
Falls Music School