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Why Choose Online Guitar Lessons?

Online guitar lessons are an increasingly popular choice among those wanting to learn to play the guitar. They offer enjoyable, easy to use multi-media content that it now easily accessible to more people, thanks to the proliferation of powerful computers and faster internet connections, and there are many other advantages to learning to play the guitar online (and some disadvantages too of course). Are online guitar lessons the best choice for you? This article looks at some of the pros and cons of downloadable guitar courses.

What Are Online Guitar Lessons?

Firstly, exactly what do you get with an internet guitar course anyway? This varies a lot depending on which site you get your material from, but most online lessons will include most or all of the following:

  • Written instruction, with diagrams and/or photos (frequently in the form of PDF ebooks)

  • Video lessons to show you exactly what to do
  • Audio recordings to demonstrate how the music should sound. Some lessons also include audio tracks to jam along with
  • Software designed to help you develop skills, such as reading music or accurate pitch recognition and other ear training

The way in which online training material is delivered varies too – some lessons are downloadable (this is preferable, especially if you don’t have a reliable internet connection), whereas others are accessed online via the teacher’s site.

Advantages of Online Guitar Lessons

Some of the main advantages of choosing to learn to play guitar online include:

The cost

Most web-based guitar courses have a one-off fee, which will give you access to the material for life (usually this includes future updates too). Others have a recurring membership fee, which is usually paid monthly or annually (sometimes the annual option includes a discount). There are also sites which offer free online guitar lessons, although the quality of these tend to be more variable. Whichever option you choose, you will certainly find that online lessons are much, much cheaper than instruction with a private teacher, which involves significant ongoing fees for as long as you keep it up.

Flexibility

A second advantage of learning guitar online is that you can progress at your own pace, in contrast to learning with a private teacher, where you may experience pressure to conform to their schedule (or, if you want to take your time, you’ll end up paying a lot more!). With online lessons, they’ll always be there whenever you want them, and you can also use the videos and other materials to go over tricky bits as many times as it takes to get it right.

Multi-media format

laptop computerMost high quality downloadable guitar lessons are provided in a multi-media format, incorporating a combination of text, video and audio, and sometimes guitar software as well. This is useful because different people learn in different ways (such as watching, reading, listening etc), so you’ll be able to get what you need from the course regardless of your primary learning style. Video in particular is great for demonstrating technical skills that are hard to describe with just text or photos, and seeing the technique in motion on a video is the next best thing to having a teacher sitting next to you (and video is better in some ways, since you can watch it repeatedly if you need to). Audio recordings show you how an exercise or song should sound, and also give you the chance to jam along, which is almost as good as practising with other people in a band or ensemble.

Up to date

Another plus point to online guitar instruction is that it should be up to date. While the fundamental techniques of guitar playing remain the same, modern teaching methods differ from those of the past, and to many people, good online lessons will usually be more enjoyable and often more effective than a decades-old instruction book. They’re easier to revise and keep current too, and reputable online teachers will provide existing customers with free access to future updates.

Bonus materials

Online lessons often come with a variety of bonus materials, which can offer a very useful complement to the main course. These extras include things like software metronomes, tuning aids, ear training software and much more, and they can help you to become a better guitarist and musician in general. Not all online lessons include bonuses, so check to see what’s available when you’re choosing your course.

Disadvantages of Online Guitar Instruction

So, learning guitar online can be great – but bear in mind that no teaching method is perfect, and there are a few disadvantages to going this route too.

Lack of personal instruction

One negative aspect to online lessons (in common with learning from guitar books and other self-teaching methods) is that you don’t get in-person instruction. Not everyone will learn best by having personal lessons with a teacher, but some people will, and if you’re one of these people, self-teaching may not be the best choice for you. If you’re a complete beginner and are not yet sure whether you want to learn alone or not, it might help to book a couple of lessons with a local teacher, and see if that feels best for you. Since all good online courses have a money back guarantee, you could try online lessons too, to compare the experiences.

Cost may be an issue

As we saw earlier, online guitar lessons are relatively cheap in comparison to private lessons. However, a good course will still cost some money, and generally this will be more than you’d pay for a simple guitar tutor book, so if money is really lacking right now, an online course may not be the best option, although it’s still worth saving up for. Of course there’s also no shortage of free instruction available online, though if you go that route you’ll need to be prepared to spend time wading through some dross to find the good stuff, and you’ll also need to ensure that you’re getting a thorough grounding in all the knowledge and techniques that you’ll need to become a great guitarist – this may be challenging, as most sites offering free lessons only focus on a few things, and don’t provide a complete course that follows a logical sequence.

Quality issues

You must be aware that some people who offer beginner guitar lessons online don’t really know what they’re doing. The net is great as far as freedom of expression goes, but unfortunately this also means that anyone can present themselves as an expert, even if they’re not really a very good guitarist or teacher. It’s very important to learn the correct techniques when you’re starting out (or spend lots of time later on unlearning your bad habits), so don’t put your trust in just anyone – look for professional instructors who are skilled in both playing the guitar and teaching it to others (the two don’t always go together!).

Other quality issues can arise too – the materials might be poorly recorded, badly written or just generally sloppy, the website might be slow to load or difficult to navigate, or you just might not like the teacher’s style. Fortunately reputable teachers usually offer some free material, so you can get a taste of what’s on offer, and there should also be a money back guarantee (typically for 30-60 days after purchase), so you can buy with confidence. All these points apply to free material as well as paid lessons, though you’re more likely to find poor material on the free sites. But whether you pay or not, be careful not to allow any person with sub-standard skills or materials have an influence on your development as a guitarist.

Computer issues

Another potential issue with learning guitar online is that you obviously need a computer and internet access. Now anyone who’s reading this article has at least some access to both, but even if you’ve got a great PC and a fast connection, it can sometimes be a hassle to have to be near your PC when you’re practicing, especially if your practice area is in a different room (a laptop makes things a little easier). Also, many people simple prefer to read a physical book, and be able to make notes etc, although you can always print out the text part of online lessons. Still, the digital format does have some limitations as well as strengths.

Hopefully the advantages and disadvantages of learning to play guitar online are now clear. In my experience the pros far outweigh the negative aspects (I’ve used Jamorama, and highly recommend it – see my Jamorama review), and if you like the sound of internet guitar lessons, check out the next article – Which Online Guitar Lessons Are Best For You?, which looks at some things to consider when choosing online guitar lessons, to ensure you find the right course for you, and avoid those which are just a waste of time.

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