Youtube vs Tutor

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It’s no doubt that the digital age has brought us a vast haul of goodies to make use of. For you, it might be online shopping, social media, online entertainment or digital media. But, today we’re going to focus on something that’s a bit more relevant to most of you reading this on the Muso Mirror website. Something that might, just maybe, help settle some of your music learning decisions.   

Youtube is certainly a major product of the digital age, with videos from millions of uploaders offering information on just about anything you could think of. In particular, there is an abundance of tutorials from musicians across the globe; videos offering full lessons in drums, piano, guitar, accordion and even the didgeridoo are not at all hard to find. 

It’s certainly not surprising that music students are taking to youtube to begin learning an instrument. I was even a youtube student myself - skip back to 14 year old me finding a guitar in my house, with the desperate urge to play but a serious lack of knowledge. This inevitably led me to my computer screen; with time I was mimicking the strums of ‘Marty Music’ and ‘Andy guitar’. And, yes, so long as you have self-motivation and persistence this method of learning definitely works! 

guitar youtube education

Whilst I managed to learn a load of songs through these tutorials, copying off a video did seem to have some musical limitations. That is something I slowly began to realise, as it’s not quite obvious at first. Having had traditional music lessons on drums, I’m experienced in both departments of tutoring; there are clear benefits to each method that I’m sure are evident to anyone with the same experiences. I can outright say I’m a LOT better at the drums compared to guitar, whether that’s because of the tutoring methods, time I put in or overall passion is a debate for another day… Despite that, I enjoyed the process of learning guitar on my own however that definitely doesn’t mean it was a more efficient way of learning. I rarely thought of form or posture the whole 2-3 years I was actively teaching myself guitar. In comparison, that was always a note from the teacher in my drum lessons. Of course, price is always a factor to play in this debate. On one hand, free lessons sound great, but do the benefits of a teacher outweigh the no-cost method of youtube?

I found it hard to perfect anything other than copying a song when learning guitar this way. That, compared to detailed rhythm training on drums giving the ability to recognise how to play a song before trying it, was quite an interesting factor. The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, a major UK music exam board which awards traditional grade 1-8 certificates, said it realised a decade ago that many students were learning via the internet but were finding it hard to find ‘online support of quality’. It seems that the majority of youtube tutorial videos (or the pile that I have personally sifted through) forget to mention key information about form. Not to mention they can’t give you REAL TIME FEEDBACK - something so, so helpful!

guitar tutor learning music instrument practice

Despite the obvious differences, clearly there are reasons why people would prefer to use youtube tutorials to learn rather than traditional lessons with a teacher and vice versa. We can take into account all the benefits and limitations of each process to ultimately get a clear understanding of them. After all, I feel that a fair markup would do this topic justice. 

Firstly, the one main consistency between people is that EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT! Whether it be your learning style, performing habits or personality, there’s differences in everyone. That said, a youtube video certainly can’t pick up on these differences (or not currently anyway!). As a matter of fact, they can’t really pick up on anything specific to the student watching it. Keeping that in mind, a real life tutor can offer real-time feedback, immediately steering you away from bad habits like problematic form. 

Furthermore, what if you’re playing along to a tutorial and a bright, impeding question explodes in your brain… Maybe you can search through all the comments (if there are any), trying to find a glimpse of anyone with a similar idea who has been lucky enough to get an answer. Yes, this is another major factor in the debate. Having that musical relationship with a person you get on allows you to ask questions; this is something youtube certainly cannot offer you. Asking intuitive questions about the instrument you are exercising is extremely rewarding in your understanding of the music. These questions might be regarding your technique, your form or the methods being taught to you, but one thing’s for sure… If you speak to youtube, i’m afraid it’s not going to answer back. 

Despite this, there are of course reasons someone may want to solely use youtube to learn. The prime factor I can notice is the cost difference. Theoretically, you can spend your whole life watching youtube and not pay a single penny. This contrasts massively with the cost of hiring a professional tutor, in which the Musicians Union says a fair price should be around £35 per hour. This does of course vary, with many tutors dropping way below that (I even saw a Brighton vocal coach offering training at £12 per hour). You may be thinking ‘no brainer, youtube is free’. Well, just consider that, so long as you have a good teacher, you’ll simply learn more efficiently. You can be told about every little mistake you’re making when playing, ensuring a driven progression in your ability.

Figures show that in 2018 alone, ‘piano tutorial’ video views grew by 80%. Since then there has undoubtedly been an increase in not only people going to watch these and similar videos, but also people offering and uploading video tutorials. This highlights the exponential growth of this learning method. This is of course a shame for many music teachers in the industry, but hopefully there are still enough students with the eagerness to learn traditionally. 

That said, in my eyes this dispute ultimately comes down to the difference in pricing. There are clear benefits to come from one-to-one tutoring that you simply cannot get with youtube tutorials, so for most people the deciding factor would be whether they can afford, or justify, the cost. Constantly recognising problems and making small improvements to the way you play an instrument is a recipe for success, and a teacher can help with all of that. On top of this, whether you are a teacher or student, using a mirror during practice will aid your instrumental skills massively! That’s the main aim of Muso Mirror and the reason for its creation; to help musicians of all kinds develop stronger skills. Why do you think a lot of solo sports is practiced in front of a mirror? And if you think it’s different for practicing instruments, well, think again.   

This first blog post definitely hasn’t been about debunking one of the methods of learning, but rather to shine some clarity on it for those who hadn’t yet understood the differences each one can make to your musical ability. It is obvious that lots of people prefer lots of different things, so if you’re thinking of learning an instrument, or already are, then hopefully this has provided some useful information!

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