Technologies available today make it easier than ever before for musicians to learn to play their instruments. From digital recorders, advanced metronomes, and iPhone apps to accompaniment software, YouTube, and web-based learning, musicians have multiple resources that make the learning curve easier to deal with.
There is, however, one big problem with instructional CD-ROMs, teachers’ YouTube videos, and educational websites: They don’t give you any feedback.
Sure, they’ll tell you what to play and how to play, but there’s no evaluation of your actual work as you’re playing. The closest thing these technologies have to giving you a live assessment of your playing is a report that shows you which notes you played correctly and which you missed. This feature is available from software applications like SmartMusic and eMedia’s piano and guitar methods.
Knowing which notes you missed is important information, and these technologies are amazing. Still, they won’t help you as much as a really good music teacher will.
In a private music lesson your teacher watches you play and makes small corrections in what you’re doing. This kind of feedback goes far beyond just playing the correct notes. You’ll get advice on posture, breathing, the position of your shoulders, elbows, forearms, wrists, hands and fingers–all the physical subtleties that can drastically change your sound.
Your lesson teacher will also advise you on phrasing, dynamics, tone, tempo and other musical elements. Plus, they will offer you ways to fix any difficulties you’re having–in your technique or in playing the notes of a specific piece of music.
A private lesson teacher gets right to the heart of the matter: your personal progress and streamlining the process so you develop as fast as possible. Your teacher is an expert who watches you like a hawk. It’s almost like you’re under a microscope, and they’re looking at details of your playing you didn’t even know existed.
You might be able to create a strong level of self-awareness if you videotape yourself playing and then carefully watch the video. But, the truth is, your teacher will see and hear more than you ever will.
At your lessons, there is a certain give and take between you and your teacher. While you’re playing, your teacher will offer specific suggestions you will try immediately–without stopping your playing. This process is the secret sauce of music lessons. It adds the special ingredient that accelerates your playing and is what makes music lessons so valuable.
It would be fantastic if a technology existed that offered this same level of oversight of your playing. But, as of now, it’s unavailable.
So, what I recommend to music students is simple: take advantage of every new technology that will help you learn music AND take private lessons for the personalized attention your playing deserves.