Friday, March 13, 2015

The Super Amazing Musical Academy of Low End Witchcraft & Wizardry dot com

I don’t make bass instructional videos. I teach individual students in real time. Without thinking too deeply about it, maybe those two approaches sound interchangeable.

I get asked by prospective students if I’m willing to reduce my rates to ‘compete’ with some of the web-lesson-sites out there. You may have heard of them. There’s Scott, Thomas, Tony, Dave, and maybe more than a dozen others who have started online sites and communities dedicated to sharing the knowledge of how to play the bass.

I’m not competing with them. They’re not selling what I’m selling. And it seems okay to me that they charge less than what I charge for private bass lessons.

They’re providing access to information.

I’m providing my time and personal attention.

So why is that more valuable? 

A few reasons.

1.) The internet is enormous. Point of fact: EVERYTHING there is to know about music is very likely available on the web already.

For free.

Anyone who has browsed through the large number of bass instructional videos on YouTube knows that for any question you may have, there are at least a dozen videos with the same answer. These bass-lesson-websites are all offering access to the same information; they’re just packaging it in different ways and reducing it to a condensed form. That way, the increasingly limited attention span of today’s internet-surfer won’t be tested, and they’ll watch through to the end.

My point is that ‘lesson sites’ are, for the most part, aggregators; they compile stuff that’s available elsewhere and put it all in one place… or the proprietor of that particular site makes his own videos to impart the same information… which is just ‘branding’.

NOTE: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS. If you are diligent, you can probably find all the facts and theories in existence in written or video form to take you from knowing nothing whatsoever to becoming an accomplished and proficient musician — without a living, breathing human being you call a “teacher” to get you there.

But this brings us to….

2.) Every student is different. No two aspiring bassists start for exactly the same reason; they don’t start on the same make and model of instrument; they don’t all start with the same amp (or maybe without an amp at all).

They start with interest in wildly different genres of music, and more importantly, with wildly different ideas of what the bass IS, what it DOES, and why it would, should, or could be approached in a specific way.

Here’s the big one: they all process information differently. Some people are good listeners. Some people need constant repetition of the same information before they really take it in.

Some people ‘connect-the-dots’ quickly; others either don’t or are too insecure to try at first.

Some people have big vocabularies. Others don’t know what anything is called. Regardless of how many terms a player understands, they may feel insecure about what they don't know, and constantly pretend to understand things that they really don’t.

A further problem develops when a student doesn’t even realize that they don’t understand a concept, and will just keep plowing along, getting frustrated about the roadblock they will inevitably hit not long afterward.

3.) A video can’t answer your questions.  A few of the teachers who run lesson sites are good communicators. 

A few are… not. But due to the complicated equation that creates each individual student, even the best communicator cannot anticipate every issue a student will face.

Even the best instructor doesn’t know what terms he keeps using that are going right over the heads of the people he’s speaking to. A student can’t just raise a hand and say “what does that word MEAN?”  In some cases the answer may come after rewinding the video… or it may be lost due to the student becoming distracted by something else that’s being presented. In other cases, the answer the student needed was never presented in the first place.

4.) Forums aren’t famous for quality control. The way a few sites deal with the aforementioned issue is by including an online forum; a place where bassists of all different backgrounds and ability levels can convene to discuss the information. Anyone can join; everyone is welcome...

…including some of the people I mentioned earlier, who THINK they know things they really don’t know. Also present are those folks who don’t communicate well; who may know the answer, but whose explanations lead to further confusion. There are even plenty of folks on forums who are just as uninformed as the people asking the questions, but who respond ANYWAY, either out of a well-intentioned impulse to be ‘social’, or out of a malicious impulse to be a troll.

By the time a student has watched a video a few times without progress, then gone and searched the forums for an answer, registered and asked questions, waited for responses, and then weighed the responses for apparent accuracy and potential trolling… 

..well, that could have been cleared up in five minutes at an actual face-to-face lesson with a teacher.

Sure, maybe it didn’t ‘cost’ as much to do it the way I just described, but time is money. 

Just how long do you want it to take to become the musician you want to be?

So no; I’m not competing with "dudesbasslessonsdotcom" or "onlineacademyforlowendawesomeness" or anyone else offering a similar service. Those guys explain things once to a camera, post it on the internet, and accumulate clicks so that YouTube will pay them some advertising revenue. 

For some learners, the quick, non-personalized explanation is enough, and that’s cool.

But for others, this style of education is a nightmare, and I am 180ยบ away from it. Everything I offer is personalized; reinforcement is given where it’s needed, and the lessons are tailored musically to the student’s interests.

A bunch of my students can testify to their experiences. If you’re curious about that, you can read what they have to say HERE (working out some formatting issues, but it's readable): 

Thanks for hearing my side. I hope the next time you hear someone extolling the virtues of mechanized music education on the internet, you’ll remember that it is NOT the only option.