Getting Started with Online Guitar Lessons
Welcome to Lessonface! If you’re new to the concept of learning and taking guitar lessons online, here’s an idea of what to expect from your classes. Once you get used to the technical differences, learning guitar online is pretty similar to learning guitar in person.
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Can you use the guitar you already have?
For many, taking guitar lessons is a long-standing interest that you suddenly have time to pursue or restart. If you already have a guitar, here are the questions to ask to determine if it suits your current needs.
1. What kind of guitar do you have, and is it appropriate for the kind of music you want to play? Acoustic guitars project sound on their own, and electric guitars need to be plugged into an amp. Acoustic guitars come in steel string and nylon string varieties. Some styles of music can be played on any sort of guitar. For example, you can strum and sing or learn fingerstyle tunes on acoustic, electric, and nylon-string guitars. Other genres only make sense on one kind of guitar. For example, flamenco guitar uses right hand techniques that work properly only on nylon strings.
2. What kind of condition is the guitar in? Is it set up properly, well-maintained, and ready to play? Does it have all its strings, and do the strings still have some life in them? Under ordinary circumstances, it’s best to take your guitar to a local shop and have it inspected and, if needed, adjusted or restrung. During stay-at-home orders, consider booking a ‘Guitar Set Up’ lesson to see what you can do to optimize the guitar you have. ‘Guitar Set Up’ is one of the categories you can choose when searching for a teacher on Lessonface.
3. If the lessons are for your child, does the guitar size suit them? The right arm needs to be able to rest over the body of the guitar to allow the right hand fingers to naturally reach all the strings. The child’s left hand needs to comfortably reach all frets. If that’s not the case for your child, small, three-string Loog guitars are terrific for small beginners, and Lessonface features several Loog-certified teachers to choose from. Older children who are ready for six strings often do best with a three-quarter size nylon-string guitar.
If you have doubts about the suitability of a particular guitar, many teachers offer a free 15-minute trial lesson. That’s a great opportunity to get an expert opinion on your instrument, as well as to meet and talk to a teacher you’re considering learning from.
Choosing a teacher
If you’re new to guitar and don’t know what kind of music you want to play, choose a general category like ‘Acoustic Guitar’ or ‘Electric Guitar’ and browse teachers’ profiles. As a beginner, your priority should be to find a teacher you click with and enjoy learning from. Regardless of the genre(s) they specialize in, any guitar teacher can teach you basic guitar technique and guide you in figuring out what you like. If you eventually develop an interest outside their expertise, you can always change teachers later on. We’re usually excited to see a beginning student go far enough with their music to ‘graduate’ to a different instructor.
If you already have some experience playing and know your interests well, be sure to choose a teacher who specializes in your genre. One great advantage of taking lessons online is the range of specialties available. Even the most unusual instruments and music styles have several teachers to choose from. Browse profiles and reach out to one or two teachers who seem like a good fit. Give them some information on your musical background and goals, ask them any questions you have about their teaching style, and schedule a trial lesson if they offer it.
What to expect in online lessons
At its core, learning guitar online is pretty similar to learning guitar from an in-person teacher. The differences lie mainly in communication details.
How music is taught online
Just like with in-person lessons, the teaching method used depends on both the genre and the instructor. Most styles of guitar don’t require reading music, so don’t worry if you don’t know it or would prefer to avoid it. Some guitar instructors teach primarily by demonstrating slowly and repeatedly, and they record videos to help you recall the material and key points later. Other teachers prefer to work with written guitar tabs, method books, and (if appropriate) music notation. Most of us use a mix of these teaching methods. If having lessons videos is important to you, choose a teacher whose profile features ‘Lesson Recording Available’.
More explanations and demonstrations, no ‘hands-on’ teaching
Online lessons don’t offer a 3-D view of your posture and hand positioning, and your teacher can’t physically move your hand to the correct position. Teaching online relies more heavily on verbal explanations and demonstrations. This works fine for most students, and creative camera angles and recording demonstrations are a big help in getting across hard-to-explain techniques.
Playing together is more complicated online due to mic and audio technicalities. Teachers often get around this by muting your side as they lead you in repeating a phrase together. Likewise, teachers may mute THEIR side as you play through the new material on your own, and showing you with their hands if you get stuck and forget a part.
If you’re working from TABs or music notation, both you and your teacher will need a copy of the music you’re learning. It’s best if you have a way to view the music that’s NOT in the same screen as the video chat. That means you’ll need to either print it out, or have another screen or device available for viewing it during class. When your teacher wants to point to a section or make a note on your score, they may share their screen and mark up the music on their end. Then you can copy the notes to your own score, take a screenshot, or have them send it to you later.
Depending on your child’s age and ability to interpret spoken instructions, you may need to be very involved in your child’s first month or two of online lessons. Consider yourself your child's classmate for these beginning classes. Learn how your child should hold the guitar and how to use the left hand fingertips to press down on the frets, and help convert the teacher’s explanations into physical adjustments. As your child becomes more comfortable with the guitar, you should still plan on being in the same room as your child, but you don't need to pay close attention the whole time. Just be available to help with potential technical and communication issues. Touch base at the end of each class, so that you can get a re-cap of the lesson and an overview of the week's practice objectives.
Alternative learning styles
If you have a learning difference that may affect your approach to the guitar, explain it to your teacher. We can often find ways to adapt the learning environment to suit your needs. For example, some students would prefer to see their teacher as a mirror image of themselves rather than flipped, which can often be done by changing a screen setting. Similarly, if the numbers and lines of guitar tab are more of a hindrance than a help, just say so! It’s often easy to avoid written music in guitar lessons and work exclusively from demonstrations and recordings.
Remember that the whole point of taking private lessons is to have instruction tailored to your needs and goals. Everyone thinks about music in different ways, and learning music poses surprising new challenges to the mind, body, and ears of any beginning guitarist. Even if you wouldn’t classify your learning style as atypical, the more feedback you can give us on what sort of teaching strategies work best for you, the better we can guide you.
Tech Tips For All Guitarists
Know where your mic is on your device, and position yourself so that the mic will pick up both your voice and instrument equally. For guitarists, it’s best not to use a mic attached to a headset, as it makes your speaking voice louder than your guitar.
Plan to sit a few feet away from your camera, and use your self-view to adjust your sitting position. Your teacher needs to see your whole guitar, and it helps to see your face too.
If you use written music or TAB, print it out and have it on a stand. Alternatively, have it on a screen or device that is not the same one you’ll be using for video chat.
If at all possible, have your lessons on a relatively modern device (the last three years, give or take) over a strong, reliable internet connection. There have been dramatic improvements in built-in camera and mic quality recently. A modern device and a good internet connection are the best ways to minimize technological complications and frustrations.