Choosing between online and traditional guitar lessons
by Kyle Melton
Learning to play any instrument is a potentially daunting task. For anyone seeking to attain rock god status with a guitar in hand, the obstacles abound. From choosing an instrument and maintaining it to learning both basic and advanced skills takes years to master. In the Dayton area there are a number of traditional instructors from which aspiring axes lingers may choose, as well as a new web-based guitar instruction site, JamPlay, which offers flexibility combined with guitar expertise.
In 2007, Beavercreek-based entrepreneur Kevin Wimer, with partners Jeff Booth and Chris Dawson, realized the potential for an online guitar instruction website, as technological capabilities reached a level that finally enabled individuals to effectively communicate in real-time via Internet, and thus JamPlay was born.
“We first started with some local guitarists we were familiar with,” recalled Wimer. “As the JamPlay brand grew, our teachers referred us to other guitarists they were familiar with. Slowly but surely, we worked our way up the chain and now have access to the top talent in the world.”
As JamPlay expanded over the last few years, the site now offers more than 600 hours of video lessons, as well as 10 hours daily of live guitar instruction from 50 different instructors at a single, low subscription rate. For anyone looking to begin playing guitar, the site offers lessons at different skill levels in a variety of musical styles.
“The main thing is convenience,” said Wimer. “People can learn from anywhere in the world at any time. There’s no driving or making appointments. We have content for absolute beginners or seasoned veterans. It doesn’t matter if they haven’t touched a guitar or are playing professionally for a band; JamPlay will improve their playing. Another great aspect of JamPlay is the diversity. With our 50 teachers, students are able to take their pick of who they want to learn from. Some of the lesson material even overlaps so if a student tires to learn from [one instructor] and don’t quite get it, they can watch a similar lesson from another instructor; an instructor they may mesh well with.”
Although the flexibility of an online guitar tutorial is appealing due to the modern pace of living, there are still plenty of instructors in the region that prefer teaching face-to-face with their students. In this more personal setting, students may find the more direct access to their instructor enables them to ask questions and receive more personalized instruction that would be difficult in an online situation.
Having taught guitar locally since 1999 at Mehas Music and currently at his home studio, College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati graduate Evan Wheeler said, “Teaching in person is far superior. I can assess posture, technique and rhythmic concepts very quickly and easily in person. Online situations tend to be less personal and create a barrier when individual musical struggles arise among students. I also believe firmly that in-person teaching allows the ability to create a student/teacher live ‘feel’.”
Fellow CCM graduate Brad Myers currently teaches at Moeller Music, as well as conducting private lessons and feels that while personal instruction is preferable, there are certain advantages to online instruction: “With learning the guitar sometimes a ‘hands on’ approach is necessary for demonstrating certain techniques or hand positions.” This would seem difficult to convey over the Internet unless there was a good webcam involved. Beginning/younger students are going to be much more responsive to a live teacher sitting in the room with them showing them the ropes. Intermediate to advanced students who are older could potentially get a lot out of a web based lesson either through email or online chat/webcam, as long as they are pretty self-motivated and have the right technology to participate in something like that.”
As a guitar instructor at both Sinclair Community College and Hauer Music, Steve Langemo likewise sees the value in both personal and online instruction: “I think that when teaching face to face, an instructor can immediately and adequately address a student’s needs and questions,” Langemo said. “Of course, this could be accomplished well through a live video format such as Skype. With beginning students, I often have to help them with tuning and guitar set-up issues and this would be difficult in the online environment. I am very interested in the possibility of teaching guitar through a live, online format. I think the technology is at a point where this could be as effective as face to face lessons for many students.”
Whether an aspiring guitarist chooses to learn with a personal instructor or via online lessons, the ultimate goal of the instructor is the same, as Langemo concluded: “When one takes any type of class or lessons the results depend to a large degree on how much they apply themselves and that is out of the instructors control, but a big part of a music teacher’s job is to provide ample inspiration so that a student wants to do the work.”
Reach DCP music editor Kyle Melton at MusicEditor@DaytonCityPaper.com and read his blog at thebuddhaden.net.