By Alexandra Few
Learning how to play an instrument can make such a large impact in one’s life. However, anyone familiar with instruments knows just how important it is to regularly practice, and this is where music lessons come in. There are many resources one can access to acquire lessons, whether it is through traditional in-person lessons, or through an online method. Which one is more effective?
This cannot be easily answered, as it is very dependent on the individual and their lifestyle. Considering information from both sides is an important first step in making this decision and will make it easier to assess which method best fits one’s needs and goals better.
Traditional “In-Person” Lessons
When one thinks of music lessons, this method usually comes to mind. The more “traditional” type of music lessons have been proven effective in many instances, and can be beneficial for a variety of individuals.
A. ABC Academy of Music
The ABC Academy of Music, located in various parts of Toronto, offers a variety of group and private music lessons. With qualified and experienced instructors, the ABC Academy of Music provides lessons on various instruments, such as guitar, brass, cello, piano, strings, woodwinds, choir, singing/vocal, bassoon, drums, and music theory.
Barnaby Kerekes - director of ABC Academy of Music, discussed some of the key factors as to why having an “in-person” instructor is important when learning an instrument. Barnaby says: “When you are an expert in an instrument, regardless of the instrument, you need a 360-degree view of your students. There is a number of reasons for this, primarily posture is very important. It is very easy to do these things wrong and no instrument is built to be ergonomic to the human body. So, in order to make sure people aren’t actually hurting themselves in the short, medium, and long-term, it’s very important to be able to see them, and [you can’t do that] unless you’re physically around them or have a 360 degree view of what they’re doing.”
In regards to the limitations of online music lessons, Barnaby says: “You have to make sure you’re holding it well. Something like a piano, you need to have a very good view of the person’s hands [and] how do you have a good view of a person’s hands if you don’t have a fixed camera?” He adds: “Not only do you have to have a broad 360 view, you need specific views of the small details. If you’re playing something like a trombone, you really have to observe the person’s mouth on the instrument piece. That’s incredibly important because that’s where the sound production has its root. So, if that’s not working and you don’t get that set up properly, then it’s a real problem.”
Barnaby subsequently warns that “during an online lesson, it’s very hard to get an accurate reproduction of the full range of sounds. In terms of the actual output of sound, the ability to hear the nuances of sound coming out of an instrument is compressed over the internet [and this] is really problematic”.
Barnaby does think that online music lessons can be beneficial in some cases, but more so in remote communities where access to education and good service is extremely limited. However, Barnaby describes that the fundamental message is: “When you can get the real thing, it’s better to go see a specialist in person. When and where there are specialists, they are always the primary choice and are the people that deserve first consideration.”
B. Toronto Institute for the Enjoyment of Music
The Toronto Institute for the Enjoyment of Music (TIFEM), located at 821 Queen St. West, has studio rentals and private, group, and group drop-in classes for a variety of instruments for all ages and levels. The lessons are offered for a variety of instruments, many of which they supply themselves, including banjo, cello, clarinet, digital music, drums, flute, guitar, piano, saxophone, violin, and much more.
Howard Goldbach, Musician at the Toronto Institute for the Enjoyment of Music believes that, “it is important to discover what works best for you. If you are having success with a certain style of learning then I say keep it up. I have found, personally, that I benefit from all styles of learning, but I love the energy you get when you are in the same space with the instructor”. When asked what the benefits are of going to music lessons and having an instructor, Howard compares it to going to the gym and exercising. He says: “A lot of people buy expensive machines for their homes but never really use them. The energy of going to a place devoted to learning music has built-in momentum”.
It is evident that there are benefits to having in-person music lessons, such as allowing for physical guidance, ensuring proper sound and placement, and it provides motivation to practice.
Online Music Lessons
There are a variety of online music lessons available that one can access for music lessons. With the click of your mouse, you can start learning how to play an instrument in an instant.
ArtistWorks has hand-selected online music teachers that provide anyone, anywhere in the world, interactive access to music lessons. Patricia Butler, CEO of ArtistWorks describes that their music students are “looking for expert instruction and at ArtistWorks they get access to all the teachings of a master musician, who has chosen to pass on their art through teaching. They learn from hundreds of sequential videos that breakdown important concepts, into small “digestible” bites, that serve as building blocks toward mastery of the instrument. Students can watch the videos as often as they want, at whatever time of the day they want and can loop specific sections that they need to isolate and review”.
Lessonface is an online music lesson service that connects students to music teachers, with face-to-face online live sessions. Claire Cunningham, co-founder and CEO of Lessonface, states: “We have an extremely diverse set of students in terms of age, geography, skill level and instrument. Most of our audience is North American, but we do have students and teachers all around the world. We see a lot of interest from folks who are in rural areas that might have fewer teachers within driving distance, and older students who might have mobility issues. But we also attract students in metropolitan areas who don't want to add any more time to their commute, and busy families who like being able to have a lesson while they are in the background doing other things, rather than perhaps waiting in the car or in a waiting room at a lessons studio”.
Willem Moolenbeek, a Canadian saxophonist and educator who has been using Lessonface for about two years, says: “Online music lessons provide the opportunity to study from anywhere, with a large pool of experienced players and teachers who have specific areas of expertise. There are no travel expenses, nor travel time. From the parents' perspective this can be a huge benefit. I have students halfway around the globe. I have also taught lessons when I was travelling. A few of the students from my home studio, now often request to see me online for convenience. Once they try it, they like it."
Live Music Tutor
Live Music Tutor is an online resource that offers music lessons for a variety of instruments. Ted Gee, the President and CEO of Live Music Tutor describes it as, “a safe, convenient, affordable solution to traditional music lessons in a studio or other inconvenient locations that may or may not have the quality of instructors one is seeking. This is especially true in rural or remote areas, where quality instructors are not available or the costs for private lessons are expensive. We provide live, online music lessons to individuals, groups, schools, and governments in over 221 different countries 24/7. We have over 2000 vetted instructors to choose from, whether the interest is learning a song or two or even an entire curriculum. We have tailored solutions for all. Our instructors offer solutions for beginners to advanced music professionals, different genres of music and in many different languages. In addition to music lessons, we provide a full offering of instruments and accessories for purchase or rent/lease for a true one stop shop experience. There are also many features built in the system that will allow for continuous learning and engagement”.
Ted states that Live Music Tutor is a great resource because: “the cost of private lessons continues to increase, and the quality of local instructors often decreases or is not existent. We provide access for anyone that has a high-speed Internet connection.” It is also beneficial to parents, as Ted states: “In general, parents don’t have to worry about the inconvenience of travel and the gas prices, the high cost, selection/availability of instructors, or any opportunities for unsupervised inappropriate behavior that might happen in traditional lessons.”
As mentioned, there are many resources available for either in-person or online music lessons. Depending on your preferences, music lessons can be readily available to you and offer a wide range of benefits. Which method will you choose?