Many years ago, I took classical guitar lessons. These were taken with a live teacher and I enjoyed them very much. At that point learning guitar was a much different affair. There were very limited resources. I remember hanging out at the Spanish Guitar Center on 48th Street in New York trying to soak in the ambience. There was no YouTube and there was no internet. If you did not see it live, you just didn’t see it.
I studied while I was in school in the 70’s and did manage to keep it going for a bit after I graduated, but then life intervened and I put my guitar away. I would take it out periodically, but never had the same drive to keep practicing. I was never able to get back to where I had been.
Several years ago, I decided to make a concentrated effort to play again. I had been trying to establish a pattern and a habit and was doing fairly well, but I could feel myself slipping. I was looking for some external motivation when I found an online school called the Classical Guitar Academy (see the resources page).
This was something that just didn’t exist “back then.” CGC was a global community of classical guitarists. If there is a “common” thread it is that there is no common thread. There are old folks, young folks and folks in between. There are beginners, almost beginners and some pretty experienced players, some of whom have even released recordings.
On the site there were recorded video lessons, exercise books and grades, so three years ago I joined. So, what is it like taking lessons online?
Well, it certainly is different. But it is also very much the same. Practicing any instrument really comes down to how much you are willing to do by sitting alone with yourself, practicing something until it comes smoothly.
The good differences are that the lessons exist as recorded artifacts and if you don’t get it the first time you can hit the replay button – there is no waiting for the week to go by so you can say “what did you mean by this…”
You can also see the curriculum laid out in front of you. I remember “back when” always wondering what the next piece I was going to get to play would be. This might be because I started playing before anyone had developed a real curriculum, but since there are several standardized courses this might not be such an objection any longer.
What is not the same is that the teacher is not in the room with you. You do not have someone looking at you in the same room, grabbing your hand to examine your nails, or any of the other things that occur in a one on one live lesson. There are live video chat sessions and I have begun to take advantage of these. These are becoming a real benefit and I have managed to fix some very basic mistakes I was making.
The one thing that cannot be duplicated on line, as least not that I’ve seen, is the ability to play with other people. This is something that I underestimated for years, but which I have started to do with regularity. Fortunately, I have the Classical Guitar Society of Lancaster as a local group that regularly plays live.
Next time more on ensemble playing.