There are hundreds of free guitar lessons and demonstrations on Youtube. Many of them link to websites where you can find more free lessons, and, more frequently, packages of instructional videos you have to pay to access or download.
How effective are free guitar lessons like this? Can they be as good as traditional lessons involving a face-to-face teacher?
Not all lessons are of the same quality or effectiveness
It hardly needs saying, but some online lessons are good and some are bad. Some teachers have a great way of communicating with their viewers and some don’t. Some hit just the right subject matter, and some talk about stuff you’re completely uninterested in, or not ready to tackle.
So the first thing you should look for – whether you’re at the beginner, intermediate or advanced student level – is an interesting and engaging presentation. The teacher should speak clearly, get straight to the point, and not waste your time demonstrating what a great guitarist he or she is.
Secondly, and even more important, the subject matter should be appropriate to your own level of development. If you’re a raw beginner there’s no point in watching an advanced presentation of blues soloing, or even an intermediate level demonstration of barre chording. You’ll just get frustrated trying to do things you can’t possibly master yet.
There are different levels of instruction
A lot of guitar instructors are accomplished guitarists, and they want you to know it. They will often begin each video with a dazzling display of their soloing capabilities. This is supposed to inspire confidence that they know what they are talking about. But in my experience, students – especially beginning students – don’t care how well the teacher can play. They just want assurance the teacher knows what they are talking about.
One of the greatest golf instructors of all time, Harvey Penick, spent part of the last few years of his life in a wheelchair. I don’t think his students minded one bit. In fact it might have made them more attentive, and more impressed by his devotion to teaching than they otherwise might have been.
Back a few years ago when I sang in the university choir – the next best thing to a professional choir – I can’t ever remember our choirmaster actually singing. In fact I think most of us would have been shocked if he would have broken into song. Occasionally he’d give us the pitch with his voice, but to call that ”singing” would be a stretch.
The point here is that teachers can inspire confidence in their students in surprising ways. Students get value from instruction that is geared to them personally, and that is suited to their particular level of accomplishment.
Is it possible to do this in a series of online videos? Yes, of course it is. But just remember that there is no such thing as a lesson suitable for everyone.