Can you learn an instrument online?

As technology develops at a quickening pace, the way that students look to learn music is changing. YouTube channels devoted to music tuition are increasingly popular and many teachers often post online content to add to and enhance the learning experience. But can you really learn an instrument online? Is this content an evolution of the traditional music lesson – an accessible way to give users a chance to learn music at their own pace and in the comfort of their own home? Or is it merely offering a lite experience that detracts from the work of professional music tutors? And how can online content enhance your teaching work? We fire up YouTube and take a look at just how easy it is to learn an instrument the 21st century way.

If you tap “music lessons” into YouTube then the most viewed content is an American beginner piano lesson, promising a guide on “How To Play The Piano”.

A few early observations jump out at you. Firstly the sound and image quality makes following the lesson tricky. The tutor seems engaging but the lesson is certainly a basic guide. With over 16 million views, it is obviously popular and as a beginners resource it could be a good gateway into learning the instrument. But without the practical presence of a tutor, it is debatable that you could learn the piano with only videos of this quality for company.

Other tutors such as this English guitar teacher also have popular beginner lessons.

Here, the quality is certainly improved and he even alludes to this being a good sample of one of his one to one music lessons. Used as a marketing tool, a sample session like this can give learners and their parent or guardian’s a greater grasp of what they could have to look forward to in lessons. A wide reach on social media could theoretically drive pupils to your lessons and increase your business.

Another popular type of music tuition video is that of individual songs. Contemporary chart hits arranged for piano, guitar and other instruments. Hits such as John Legend’s All Of Me have a host of lessons focussed on them, such as this video:

Some users also arrange unexpected tracks into versions that are increasingly creative. The only issue with some of these lessons is that there is a lack of focus on technique, so beginner students may pick up bad habits. This is a criticism that can be levelled at specialist mobile apps like Yousician (yousician.com). Although intelligently delivered, they lack the grounding and personalised experience offered by a one to one or group music lesson.

So how should you use media to develop your own lessons? Besides trading off the bespoke learning that teaching in a school or at home provides, tutors may borrow some of these video ideas to add to their lesson plans. Developing video resources could encourage students to practise at home while not in lessons, or to aid revision for music exams. Some tutors even offer real-time video lessons to encourage distance learning (lawrencegilesdrums.co.uk). Skype can give the personal feel of a typical music lesson but delivered with technology to give lessons to learners across the globe.

Video lessons may not be able to provide a complete experience at mastering a new musical instrument. However, professional teachers and tutors can borrow some of the ideas that these videos apply. Whether it is to help drum up new business, provide a learning resource for current for potential students or to teach using online communication, technology can give your teaching a boost and give your pupils another way to learn.

If you are a teacher, student or a parent let us know what you think in the comment section below – can you really learn an instrument online?

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