I have mixed feelings about music tutorials on YouTube. On one hand, I love that they offer many students a chance to work independently on music they’re excited about. Learning a brand new song in a matter of a few hours both exhilarates them and works wonders for their confidence.
Yet there’s something always something missing when one of my students plays a tune learned this way. Sometimes it’s a technical thing, like an odd chord choice or off-sounding rhythm. Other times they omit a difficult part of the song that the video didn’t really explain it well, and quite often a student will admit that there’s something fishy about the way the whole thing sounds.
It never manages to surprise me.
I’m not trying to put down anyone who uses or makes tutorial videos; it’s a daunting task to try to fit all the necessary instruction for an entire song into a short video. I don’t hold it against you, but I think it’s only fair to shed light on the things you’re missing out on. Here’s a reason or four that having a teacher in the room (or on your screen) will always–always–yield better results than watching a video.
Teachers Give Feedback on the Spot
Have you ever tried to teach yourself something watching YouTube? I’d be surprised if anyone hasn’t in this day and age. You can easily find videos telling you how to change your sparkplugs, cook a goat cheese soufflé, or build a hovercraft using household items.
With most of these projects, you’ll know if you’ve succeeded or failed: the car will start or it won’t, the hovercraft hovers or remains a simple craft, and the soufflé will at the very least resemble food or you’ll call Domino’s.
Music doesn’t work quite the same way though. Not everyone has a discerning enough ear to tell when they’ve got it. I’ve taught enough to know that even when a student tells me they’ve mastered a piece of music, more than likely they’re still way off. What’s worse is when a student holds their instrument in a way that could cause injury or plays with disadvantageous posture without knowing it because the YouTube video they learned from never told them.
The bottom line: receiving feedback is a cornerstone of learning, and it’s worth every penny to hear it from someone who knows what they’re doing.
Teachers Help You Practice as Wells as Play
We all know what the road to Carnegie Hall demands: practice, and loads of it. Believe it or not, there’s an extraordinarily thin line between practicing and simply playing. When my students can’t seem to grasp a piece after weeks of honest work, my first suspicion is that they’re not practicing it properly. We usually go over the piece and pick out the sections that need the most attention and come up with a better practicing routine. More often than not, this is how they end up making their biggest breakthroughs.
Yup, my ability to devise practice strategies is why they pay me the big bucks. There’s just one catch; I need to be able to hear and see you play to do it.
Teachers Are on a Mission to Make You Better
If you’ve ever known a music teacher, you’ve probably realized that we’re determined individuals. When one of our students struggles with something, we’ve been there before. We’ll pour over our own years of experience and dig up every trick we’ve ever learned until you start to get it. We never say die and we don’t except excuses. Think PianoMaster1337 (whose name I have made up for legal purposes) will offer the same level of perseverance and dedication? Me neither.
Teachers Teach more than Just Notes
Every good teacher I’ve ever worked with has their own version of this maxim, so here’s mine: Music is not a melody, a series of chords, or a smattering of dots and lines on piece of paper. Music is how we shape these things, how we express what otherwise could never be expressed by such simple means.
Through all my years of instruction, this was the most essential thing I ever learned. Don’t get me wrong, my teachers had to work hard to teach me the basics too; I had to have my sense of rhythm forcibly beaten into my skull with a metronome. But it was worth it because instead of only learning to play music, I learned how to play musically, and that’s something no video can teach.