Online vs. Private music lessons

There is no right or wrong way to study music — in fact, for most music lovers out there, we would argue that deciding to take lessons in the first place is a step in the right direction. For those wondering about taking online or in-person music lessons for yourself or your child, we want to help.

Your Online Music Teacher

You can learn just about anything on the internet today — but the question is, can you learn it well? The jury is still out, especially when it comes to specialized skills such as learning a musical instrument.

More and more people are turning to video sharing sites such as YouTube for their music lessons. Search on the platform today and you can easily find introductory piano lessons with more than 17 million views, and guitar lessons that promise to have you strumming harmoniously in just 21 days. With large audiences and ambitious promises to boot, it’s difficult to not be attracted to online lessons.

But there are a couple of issues with free online learning. The first has to do with technique — a key element of learning to play an instrument. No matter how many comments you leave on a YouTube video, it is never going to be the same as having a trained instructor carefully observing your breathing patterns and hand techniques. While observing technique on a video will work fine for someone just starting out, improvement beyond the basics requires in-person attention.

While technical tips are customized to each music student, so too are entire lessons. Despite being the only person in the room when you complete a YouTube music lesson, the fact is that the lesson has not been created solely for you. By producing videos for many musicians, you risk holding back your personal growth.

There is no question of one area where online music lessons can trump private ones: price and convenience. With free, on-demand tutorial videos, you or your child can learn in the comfort of your home at anytime of day. For those who are shy about making mistakes as they start out, YouTube lessons offer the privacy of pressing stop and rewind on a video without fear of judgement.

Online Video Music Lessons

A compromise between online and in-person lessons is to have private lessons, online. Some music teachers offer lessons over Skype or Google+ Hangouts, and these are often less expensive than instruction held in their personal office. While it may seem like a good compromise, Skype music lessons are far from perfect. In addition to suffering from that same lack of in-person observation, Skype lessons also depend on high speed internet connections, and a quality webcam and built-in microphone. Without these, their effectiveness can quickly plummet.

Another challenge facing online lessons is the question of sheet music. Sheet music can be expensive and difficult to find, especially if you’re in a different city than your teacher. Plus Skype teachers cannot scribble notes on your sheet music over the computer, leaving all the crescendo reminders up to you.

So before you get too comfortable in front of your computer, let’s look at the value of in-person, private lessons.

The Best Option: Private Music Lessons

Private music lessons are an investment that will pay off over time. In addition to providing the solution to all of the computer-based challenges listed above, in-person lessons allow for a much more personalized musical experience. Whether that is providing immediate feedback on your playing, or being able to adapt a lesson to meet your personal strengths and weaknesses, face-to-face lessons mean faster and more effective learning.

If you’re just starting out and looking to pick up the basics, online lessons may fit your needs. But if you’re looking to really grow and improve your musical skills over time, you can’t beat the good old fashioned private music lesson.