Free Music Lessons!

Jul 30, 2023 | Welcome Column

Free is good but in some cases you get what you pay for. As an aspirant to many instruments which I still can’t play well enough to my liking, I appreciate every opportunity to sit down with an expert and work one on one with everything that might make me a better player. There’s no substitute for a personal teacher and there may be some good teachers close to you if you explore the CBA web site.

Learning a new instrument is too much fun to forego any opportunity though. New players (and experienced players) should explore every opportunity to improve on their chosen instrument. Music camp is one of those options. So are festival workshops. Sometimes the class or session might be crowded with “learners” who just want to show off their so called skills to the instructor but in general you can learn a lot from a good teacher even if it’s not one on one. Some music camps have time allotted in which you can work on problems individually with the instructor.

We live in an internet age now and countless videos are available to enhance your learning of any instrument. Not only that but video conferencing apps make it possible for you to connect one on one with a real teacher without having to travel many miles. You can get feedback from famous musicians even. Lisa Burns is famous enough for me. She really helped me a lot via Zoom as I prepared for a one time gig on an instrument I was not very proficient at, the bass.

You can improve your music skills a lot via the internet. A couple of years ago my son Ethan entertained me with some excellent renditions of classic rock tunes he learned on finger pick guitar. I was blown away. “Why didn’t you ever play the fiddle that well?” I asked (having shelled out mucho dinero for as many as eight instructors to make him a violin and/or fiddle player). At my insistence he even picked my banjo, an instrument which he had never played, and rattled off a fairly credible version of Foggy Mountain Breakdown.

After that demonstration, Ethan told me two things of importance. Number one the fiddle lessons were not wasted because it gave him the musical knowledge to master an instrument he enjoyed playing much more. Number two he learned his guitar skills all on YouTube by watching videos and playing along. No matter how good your teacher or the medium you choose, most of your improvement on an instrument comes from the careful practice you put into it.

Maybe I should give free YouTube lessons a try, I thought. I worked up some songs I was having trouble with on my usual instruments and it was pretty helpful. There’s always a new wrinkle to be found in a tune you like to play and a free video might be even more instructive than watching your peers at the next jam.

What about learning a brand new instrument from scratch? Could you do that from the internet? I’m sure you can but again I’d like to emphasize that a qualified one on one instructor is probably your best bet. And start young!

That’s not an option for me and I have always wanted to learn to play the banjo. So I consulted YouTube and found a free course, Thirty days of Banjo by Eli Gilbert. I’m only 10% through the course at this point but I can already tell that Eli is a very good teacher.

I’ve noodled around a bit with the five string banjo I bought for my daughter ten years ago. I even took Bill Evans’s class at music camp. It’s fun to noodle around on an open tuned instrument like the banjo but if I really want to learn how to play it I have to work at it. I’ve completed most of my first week and it’s great. I’ll let you know how it goes. We can always use more banjo pickers in bluegrass. I hope I’m up to the challenge.


Read about: