Are Pre-Taped Video Lessons a Good Replacement for Traditional Lessons?

Search on YouTube for ‘guitar lessons’ and you’ll see thousands of videos offering free beginner to advanced lessons. Many offer new students an opportunity to learn their favorite songs, techniques, or even classic rock solos. But are these pre-taped video lessons a viable option for new players?

Are Video Lessons a Good Replacement for Traditional Lessons?

Are pre-taped online lessons a viable option for new players?

Our take on it is this: YouTube lessons are great for someone who has some experience playing their instrument (I’ll admit that I use it all the time), but can be discouraging and even a show-stopper for new players. That being said, there IS a place for them. Let’s look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of pre-taped video lessons, and how they can both fit in with, and be a compliment to your learning program.

  • YouTube lessons are free: Here’s the most obvious benefit – if you have an internet connection, you have access to thousands of music lessons on YouTube and other sites for no additional cost.
    You can take your lessons when it’s convenient for you: Unlike traditional lessons, whether in the morning, after work, or at 2am, your lessons are there – you’re no longer on a set schedule.
  • Some lessons can be very good: There are some players that offer great lessons which will save experienced players the time it would take to figure our songs on their own (I use it often for this purpose).

So there are definitely some benefits to pre-taped lessons: they’re free, convenient, and are (sometimes) very good. What are the drawbacks?

  • YouTube lessons are not adaptive: A pre-taped video does not, for example, discern between a 7 and 70-year old learner. As you may have guessed, private lessons are adapted to many learning aspects of the student, and are therefore (in theory) more effective and encouraging.

    Are Video Lessons a Good Replacement for Traditional Lessons?

    Feedback is an important component of in-studio lessons

  • YouTube lessons do not provide feedback: Feedback during lessons is such an important element of the learning process. A video won’t tell you if you’re doing something wrong… or right. Bad habits, which can stall a musician’s progress, can be very hard to break. Positive feedback can be encouraging and inspiring to a student, and in part can keep them motivated and learning.
  • There are no performance opportunities with YouTube: Music should be shared, and performance skills are such an important part of overall musicianship that many studios (ours included) offer their students regular performance opportunities and encourage their students to participate.
  • There are no guarantees that YouTube lessons are correct: Yes,there are some great lessons on YouTube, but there are many that are just plain wrong on so many levels that it can be discouraging to new players.

There you have it; the main pluses and minuses of pre-taped video lessons. Can they be helpful? Sure! Can they be unhelpful and even discouraging? Definitely.

How can they compliment your learning plan? In our opinion, pre-taped video lessons can be helpful to those with some playing experience under their belt. Someone who knows the basics can filter the lessons and learn a lot from them. I use them all the time to quickly learn new songs (I, however, often go through 2 or three videos before I fine one that’s ‘right’ – and this is where experience is crucial). Pre-taped lessons can be great for someone with some skills and experience, but can be discouraging for new players.

Unfortunately one of the biggest concerns about pre-taped video lessons, with the lack of feedback, is that it can be discouraging to new learner – perhaps so much that it will eventually stifle their desire to play. We hear it all the time from new students – “I tried to learn online but got nowhere”. Those same students usually become successful learning at our studio with traditional private lessons.

So some advice to new learners: take traditional lessons out of the gate, develop a level of proficiency, then incorporate YouTube lessons into your learning to expand your skill set and repertoire. With some experience you’ll see that YouTube lessons can be a valuable part of, and compliment to, your ongoing learning plan.

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