Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Truth IS out there... but it's nowhere near enough.

I'd like to tackle two considerations as one in this post.  The first is a suggestion I've received from many fellow players (but never from potential students) -- that if I want to teach, I should work for one particular company who seeks out notable musicians to sit in front of a camera so they can sell prefabricated video lessons on a website. Second, I'd like to address the growing perception among non-musicians that "YouTube Will Save Us All" when it comes to music education.

Some people have an incorrect idea of what they're paying for when they hire a private music instructor.  I have, more than once, dealt with someone who wanted to haggle over price. Their justification for this is usually something along the lines of "Oh, I can get all the information I need off of YouTube for free.  I just need you to help me with a few things I'm not getting the hang of."

And nine times out of ten, I AGREE with that statement. It's true: almost every bit of information necessary to perform at a professional level on the bass guitar IS available for free on YouTube, or elsewhere on the internet.

But if that was enough; if that was the magic cure-all... every private instructor would have gone out of business a week after YouTube became popular.  

That hasn't happened.

So the people who haggle usually have it correct: they really DO only need help getting the hang of a few things.  Those things are usually…

-proper technique
-accurate ear training 
-the vocabulary necessary to understand musical and instrument-specific terms 
-the ability to communicate and understand music through reading and writing

Truly learning the technique of playing an instrument requires observation from multiple angles (not one, or two if you're lucky, in those tiny web videos), and you can't experience ear training without some kind of interaction. The other two things can be learned by reading, but they take far less time and are learned much more appropriately when given proper context by a teacher who already understands them.

So how do you know which of these things you need work on?  How do you know which of these things you need more work on than others?  How will you know how to practice the things you're working on so you can actually improve?

You can't know this stuff on your own, and you can't learn what you need by watching a one-size-fits-all, edited-for-length-and-content video that won't stop when you have a question, or slow down and show you something from a different angle when you don't understand what you're looking at or listening to. That celebrity on the screen won't repeat and define that word you've never heard before.  What if the information you need is being explained only in terms of note names, scales, and chords… and you don't understand any music theory? 

These are real problems, and this is the stuff you need someone like me for; I'm not simply going to "show you where to press your fingers" -- I'm going to teach you that music is a LANGUAGE, and I'm going to help you develop some fluency.

But I'm not going to charge you "per note learned".  I'm not going to price the information you get from me like a menu, where the major scale is cheaper than learning slap technique. I'm going to make sure everything I teach you applies to you specifically, and the fee you'll pay me is for my TIME - the time I take each week to make sure you're learning and improving; to make sure that you aren't getting stuck or frustrated…

…and to make sure you're moving forward so that you can actually enjoy making music. 

That IS why you wanted to play in the first place...  isn't it?  :)