I have just received a newsletter from Bradford Werner from Classical Guitar Canada, that he will soon be completing a free classical guitar technique book, with corresponding support videos online at thisisclassicalguitar.com. Add this to other free and next to free online classical guitar resources such as Rob Reid’s headstartclassicalguitar.com and TheSixStringAcademy.com, Artistworks Online Classical Guitar Academy with Jason Vieaux, and also Classical Guitar Complete with Scott Morris through Midshelf Music.
Some of these online courses do involve fees of some sort. With Scott Morris, you purchase his method books, and the corresponding support videos are free online through YouTube, which is where I found him. If you like, you could access his videos for free without the purchase of his books, but that would only get you a glimpse of what he has to offer. Rob Reid offers a low, onetime fee to access their whole library and expertise. Artistworks maintains a monthly subscription fee, that is reduced with a longer subscription, to as low as roughly $20 per month for a one year subscription.
One thing a new or experienced guitarist must realize is that these lessons and courses are delivered either by top elite performer master educators, or high level experienced instructor and performers with University backgrounds, generally working towards a masters degree. So this isn’t some fly by night market or make money scheme. These are people who are truly passionate about their craft and working to make accessible their knowledge and experience. The information given will be of top level professional detail and address the latest technical aspects of guitar playing. There is also opportunity to correspond with the instructors in one form or another which gives you further personalized depth to your study.
What does this mean to the private classical guitar teacher? If a private teacher can be threatened by free lessons from a school system or community project, then how about lessons being offered globally through the internet? Is this a threat that they should be worried about? Short answer YES!
The private teacher of classical guitar should be worried and justifiably threatened by such resources. That is, if they wish to sit back in the standard fashion and teaching at status quo. This isn’t to knock private teachers, but it reflects a change in the times and technology. The format of showing up for a class, a bit of talking as student unpacks their things. Teacher noodles around some while student settles in. Some more talking as the student noodles a bit to warm up. Then you go through some excuses why the student didn’t practice, and then settle on reviewing last week’s lesson, or introduce a new page from some technique book or from some new song. This is the minimum standard for the average student. Students also don’t always have time to practice and show up unprepared for class, making the lesson very difficult. Some days, the class is brilliant with eye opening ah-ha moments, other times they are not so inspiring, bogged down with difficulties of one form or another.
In this situation, the free online classes can seem to be a threat as it gives the student the opportunity to bypass the private teacher, and work on their own, at their own rate without the time pressure of monthly fees, and the hustle to make it to their weekly class on time. Why would the student go through all that effort when they can get the information for free online? In some cases for a casual student, online classes are perfect and an ideal alternative to a private teacher.
That would be a superficial impression of the situation. In reality, these free or next to free classes are a great asset to teachers of guitar, so long as the private teacher is willing to embrace them, recommend them and work with them along with their student. The drawback to online classes is that there isn’t the immediate correction and real time dialogue with online classes that you get with private classes. This is the major advantage for private classes. Likewise, the online classes will reinforce the lessons and technique taught in the private classes. A private teacher can use this as an educational resource to direct the student to the online classes, and review what the student has learned and clarify issues in the weekly private class time. In this way, it makes more efficient use of the private class time. The student can also use the online classes to review ideas that were covered in their private class. Sometimes it just takes a different angle in explanation to reach the student on a given topic.
Perhaps it’s time to abandon the status quo that has been established for private classes. A modern teacher of classical guitar has to look at ways of increasing their value as a teacher, it’s not sufficient anymore just being a monster player with lots of chops and technique. New ways have to be found to enhance their value for their students, and to look to new ways to connect with their existing students and to reach new students to classical guitar. Online classical guitar classes also add potential for student studies in remote areas where there are no teachers or educational programs for a student to access. In these cases, free online classes offer critical support where there may be a classical guitar enthusiast with limited experience helping other beginner guitarists. It can also facilitate including classical guitar into an educational program at a school where musical expertise is present but not specifically on guitar.
Many guitar students don’t perform. Partially, because they aren’t accustomed to it, nor do they have an opportunity for performance and they are not taught to perform. Often times, their teachers do not perform classical guitar either. The online guitar courses are taught by seasoned and expert performers of classical guitarists. Working with these courses, a private teacher can build up themselves, and their students to bridge a performing regiment into their class structure. Often times there are excellent resources specifically on performing with the online classes. As a guitar teacher, especially a classical guitar teacher, recitals can be arranged so that their students can showcase their work for family and friends. Students will also gain valuable experience that will carry them through examinations or for future performance opportunities for family, friends, weddings or other community functions. It also builds a community for the students to network in. To see performances by their peers and connect with other enthusiasts in a constructive manner. Too often classical guitar is sheltered in solo, private study. These recitals can help break down those walls and develop a further sense of value in classical guitar study.
Technology is changing, and it is strongly affecting classical guitar. We have seen the development of tab notation for other forms of guitar entering into the classical guitar realm. In some ways enabling those who can’t read standard music an opportunity to experience some aspects of classical guitar. So prevalent is tab form that many classical guitar collections and works include both standard notation and tab. This may also be a detriment as some may believe there is no need to learn to read music as they can always reference the tab. Free internet lessons are just another technical development for classical guitar, and I believe it is a very advantageous and desirable addition that will enhance the field of classical guitar education both for the private teacher and especially for the student.