Video Lessons: The Future of Music Instruction?

Video Lessons: The Future of Music Instruction?

webcam guitar lessons

Sometimes surprising things land in my inbox via Google Alerts. Today it was this…

Imagine taking in-depth, one-on-one guitar lessons from Jackson Browne or Richard Thompson. These are among the rarefied experiences offered by On The Music Path, a new iPad app designed to teach users to play real instruments with instruction from world-class musicians.

Also among the initial slate of lessons … “Intro to the Classical Guitar” from Scott Tennant, member of the Grammy®-winning L.A. Guitar Quartet.

via PRNewsWire

Scott Tennant is a big name to get on board with such a product. But he’s not the first pro guitarist to jump on the video lesson bandwagon. Martha Masters did a series of 20 lessons for a company called WorkShopLive a few years ago.

ArtistWorks is an advanced platform for video lessons and membership communities that a few artists teach with. There are probably many others as well.

Can You Get What You Need from a Video Lesson?


To some extent the first lessons on any instrument are the same for any student. Certain technical and musical foundations are laid out, and, from there, the teacher introduces new ideas that constantly relate to the fundamental principles.

Here’s an example:

A student walks into their first guitar lessons. Step one: teach them how to sit with the guitar. What does it entail? What does it feel like? Where does the footstool go? Etc. Every single day of practice following the lesson the student reinforces this sitting position. When that student comes back the following week, the teacher can give some feedback about improving the position. The same process repeats again and again (with any technique or musical element).

And there’s the rub. Learning music is about continually evolving: growing what you know by adding new features to it and constantly relating anything new to what you did before. How do we do that? By getting good feedback.

A teacher can help a student shape their technique or musicianship into something great.

Video Lessons and Their Foundations in Community

Are video lessons the future of music instruction? Probably. But apps like the “On The Path” don’t excite me. A passive experience? No thanks.

The video lessons that are effective are built on a community where virtual students can ask questions of the teacher and get answers in a (relatively) public space. One person’s questions benefits the entire subscribed community. Or, to put it in business jargon, the best video lessons & communities are subject to the effects of network externalities: the more people use the service (and ask questions) the better it is for everyone involved.

If video lessons are the future of the music instruction world, the most interesting thing is going be seeing how their creators will give the students the ability to ask questions.

Image by mshades

Posted on in Editorials


  • Derek Penn

    Hey Christopher,

    Saw your comments come across my Google Alert dashboard and thought I’d drop you a quick reply:

    I think you’re (mostly) right. We see the recorded lessons within our app as just the scaffolding for a whole set of activities involving community support and one-on-one interaction over the internet. But we also believe that a great music education starts with well-structured lessons taught by musicians, like Scott Tennant, who master their craft and the art of teaching.

    If you’ve got an iPad and want to check out our lessons for yourself, we’d be happy to send you a review copy of the app and hear what you think.


    Derek Penn
    Chief Software Architect
    On the Path LLC

  • Nikolay G

    Chris, this is a very good blog entry and an extremely important topic. I’ve been trying to tell people for years that with the current advances in technology and faster internet, video lessons are definitely the future of (music) education. People are getting lazier and more distracted, it only makes sense that online learning is making its way into classical guitar territory.

  • Frank Hanner
    Frank Hanner

    It isn’t a matter of lazy or distracted people in my opinion. Many people don’t live in areas with grifted teachers in music or most fields. Also, even if they do, work schedules ect. prevent them from taking advantage of traditional educational settings. Look at the number of opportunities for college courses and degrees offered by legitimate institutions.
    There are great guitar lessons being produced for all styles of music. That being said, nothing beats lessons from a skilled professional player who knows how to teach. Teaching is an art.

    • Jim Doyle

      I recently lost a student to online video lessons. While I am a big advocate of technology, and even download youtube videos to help learn songs, to me, more serious students need accountability. No video lesson can replace the interaction between student and teacher, with the student knowing that they had better practice or “teacher” will know next week that it didn’t occur. Video lessons don’t care whether a student practices, whereas real teachers do. I think videos/video lessons are great to enhance the learning experience, or perhaps get a different perspective on a song, but never to 100% eliminate a teacher.

  • Johnston Dechstra
    Johnston Dechstra

    Hi Chris!

    I just saw your comment on my iPhone, supra-itelli act plugin “classical guitar”app, via my iPad2iPhone forarding-sw.

    I really agree with what you and Derek Penn from On the Path LLC say.

    Johnston from DoubLeL iPhone App classical guitar Configuras Plus

  • Orbiterred (Rob)

    Video lessons are great but only if they’re used in conjunction with a real teacher, at least thats my opinion.

    I have some of my classical students work with various videos they have bought and I’m able to help the along with the concepts and it really makes for a ‘pre-made’ lesson which is nice for me too 🙂

    • Orbiterred (Rob)

      I guess not “only” if they’re used in conjunction with a good teacher, but it certainly makes a huge difference.

  • Dustin S

    I totally agree with you. The ONLY reason I would consider providing skyped lessons or some other form of internet lessons would be the following:

    1.) To gain more money for my studio. Children leave school at 2 to 3 pm, meaning from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, there is nothing to do except … build links for your studio homepage and practice, sleep in. So this is prime time to give lessons to someone in a different time zone – You get more money when you have free time.

    2.) To provide some level of music instruction to families or poor starving college students that don’t have the funds to pay me my hourly rates. You can still learn something from skyped lessons or recorded studio lessons posted on You Tube.

    But I wouldn’t consider this the ‘upcoming way to teach’ – in person lessons are ALWAYS and always will be the trump card.

    • james conquer

      I don’t believe that online lessons will ever match the interaction to be had during a private lesson with a professional teacher. There are so many tiny areas to be explored and advanced that online teaching must miss due to time constraints.
      Teachers online put up there ideas, students reply with a video, lesser quality footage, no left or right hand fingering close up shots, sound quality is not what it should be hence little mention by the teacher, of the subtle nuances to be found and mastered.
      Weeks to wait for the response at times when the teacher is touring / on holiday spending your subscription money or can’t be bothered that week. Private tuition, your teacher is there for you or he doesn’t get paid.. Online teachers get paid whether they are there or not!..
      Like group tuition music schools, they make money and please some, but won’t produce anything special I wouldn’t imagine.
      Keep the faith