With the advancement of technology, information is constantly at our fingertips. Tutorials for just about anything can be found for free online. Because of this, many parents and students find themselves asking the question, “why should I take music lessons with a teacher when I can learn anything on the internet for free?”. It is a good question, and definitely one worth answering. I wasn’t able to get a guitar teacher until much later on in life so for many years I learned off of the internet. As both a student and a private guitar instructor I can speak from experience on the benefits of taking lessons, as well as some of the dangers of relying solely on the internet for learning an instrument.
When I was first trying to learn guitar online I didn’t know what I was looking for. I often watched whatever random free tutorial videos I could find. I wasn’t able to gather information in an order that made sense because the videos weren’t linear. In addition to this, many of the free videos I did find were usually part of a bigger set of lessons that had to be purchased. With free online lessons/tutorials I only got bits and pieces of information in an order that was difficult to put together which often left me frustrated and discouraged. It has been my experience as both an educator and a student that clear and well sequenced information helps students achieve deeper comprehension during the learning process. Private lessons allow you the opportunity to have someone who has already gone through the learning process guide you towards mastery.
When learning online it can be kind of a toss up whether or not the information you are receiving is accurate. It is important to remember that anyone with a camera can post a video online. Learning an instrument online can be difficult because free video lessons and tutorials are full of contradictions. One video might say a certain technique is the best, while another video says that same technique is the worst. The mixture of this can leave you confused, frustrated, and can greatly slow down the pace at which you are learning. It is always much safer to take lessons from a teacher with a respectable reputation for understanding music, and the credentials or performance experience to back it up.
Real Life Application
When I first started learning guitar, YouTube was a great resource for what I thought was fast results. However, as time went on I realized that much of my understanding was very surface level. Although I had learned a lot of chords, I had no understanding of how to apply them. Many of the videos I watched didn’t explain why or how chords and scales work. Having an understanding of how to apply what you know is difference between knowing how to play a song on the guitar and actually knowing how to play the guitar.
Students (especially younger students) are much more likely to stick with an instrument when they have someone to guide them. For many students, researching free lessons online can feel overwhelming and confusing. Even great tutorial videos can be difficult to comprehend without previous experience or a general understanding of musical terms. In addition to this, there is often no way of asking questions to help bridge the gaps in your understanding. Not having the opportunity to ask questions can leave you feeling stuck in areas that are actually pretty easy. Wise 1 on 1 feedback can greatly increase the speed at which you or your student is learning.
As an instructor I cannot count the number of times I have had new students tell me that they spent money taking lessons online with reputable websites and curriculums, but still never learned to play. Without someone to keep them accountable many of these students put off watching all of the videos they paid for, and even if they did they never practiced. Before they knew it they had wasted both their time and money, leaving expensive instruments to become home decor collecting dust. Learning an instrument is not always a glamorous process, it is hard work. Having someone to keep you accountable for practicing can help you (or your student) stay inspired during even the most frustrating parts of the learning process.
Looking back I can see how the teachers in my life were able to fast track my learning and positively influence me as a musician. Now that I am a teacher, I am able to show my students all of the things that I wish I knew earlier. Many times I get to see my students learn in a month what took me years to achieve because I had to piece it together from fragmented information off the internet. There is an old saying “Give someone a fish and they will eat for a day, but if you teach someone to fish they can eat for a lifetime.” Free videos off of the internet may teach you how to play a song but having a teacher will show you how to understand an instrument, allowing you to have a new skill that will last a lifetime. With the help of a teacher I learned more in 1 year than I had in 5 years from learning off of the internet. Having someone to walk you through learning an instrument step by step was the difference for me between learning 7 chords in a week and 80+ chords in a week. The internet is a good resource! However, it can be difficult to navigate on your own, especially when you don’t know what you are looking for. Even if you do find what you are looking for it is not always reliable and can often be difficult to comprehend without previous experience. It is not impossible to learn an instrument online, but it will take much longer. If you are just looking for a new hobby or you just want to learn how to strum away to a few songs than you can probably learn that online for free, but if you are serious about learning an instrument and playing to the best of your ability than a teacher is a must!