Use your isolation time wisely. Learn skills that will be with you for life.
With most of the world turning to self-isolation in attempt to avoid the coronavirus, the demand for home-crafts and entertainment is on the rise. Sure, there are plenty of shows and movies available to stream and this could make for a few nights of pleasant, albeit mindless, viewing, but with experts reporting that we may have to continue our self-imposed quarantines for up to 5 months, we might soon need a new pursuit to stimulate our minds. Preferably, one that imparts to us a skill.
In the Catholic University of America’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, they have a saying: “Skills for Life.” The phrase simply means that the musical skills taught to their students will be with them for the rest of their lives. This is one of the true beauties of playing music: that its practice becomes ingrained within our muscle memory. The skills may rust in disuse, but they are always there, waiting for just a little bit of polish to make them shine once more.
With this unexpected downtime, each of us has been given a rare opportunity: to try out an instrument that we may never have considered (perhaps one that we always wanted to play, but never had the time to devote practice to). Many of us may have one lying around the house, just waiting to be picked up, but even those without an heirloom guitar or piano are still equipped with a voice and with a little bit of effort that voice can become an instrument in its own right.
So now we’ve chosen the instrument we wish to focus on. The next step is to learn play it! Under normal circumstances, it would be highly recommended to find a good teacher, but as we are in isolation, let’s turn to that great information superhighway: the internet.
There is an abundance of musical lessons to be found on YouTube for musicians of all instruments and skill levels. It is an invaluable resource to both serious musicians and those who are just in it for fun. Some of the teachers are better than others, but all of them will teach you different aspects of your chosen instrument.
We’ve assembled a list of some fine YouTube channels that will make it easy to learn to play some of your favorite songs, but first, we have some tips for those who feel a little overwhelmed by all the strings, buttons, or whatever else you’ve got on your instrument.
1. The most important thing for a new musician to understand is that it will never sound great at the beginning, but this is OK! Even the greatest guitar players, like Clapton, Hendrix, and B.B. King, started out with poorly formed chords so you’re in good company.
2. While perfection is demanded from a professional musician, we’re just learning for fun! This is not meant to be a stressful endeavor, but rather a chance to broaden our horizons and find some joy in these troubled times through music. In fact, you may just discover for yourself that playing music is an excellent form of stress relief.
3. You will only get out of it what you put into it. If you practice for hours a day you will see your skills grow much faster than if you just fiddle around for 10 minutes at a time. As we said, music becomes ingrained within muscle memory, so the more you practice, the easier your muscles will learn the proper forms. This is as true for the voice as it is for the guitar.
4. If you’re not in the mood to work on a new lesson, just pick up your instrument and fiddle around, maybe even play along to a song you like. One of the most important parts of becoming proficient on an instrument is learning to identify where each tone is placed. Once you have become acquainted with the tonal layout (be it on fret board or keys) it will be easier to understand how chords are built and this knowledge is the basis for improvisation.
Keeping these tips in mind, let’s take a look at some great places to go for online lessons.
Guitar – Marty Music
New guitarists may enjoy the beginner’s guitar series by Marty Music. Marty is a really skilled guitarist who’s been teaching since long before YouTube and he knows all the tricks. His YouTube channel offers 48 unique lessons geared towards those who know nothing about the guitar. Once you’ve made it through his technical lessons, check out his playlists to learn to play 172 pop songs, 323 classic rock songs, and 129 blues riffs.
Piano – MangoldProject
The Mangold Project will teach you the theory and forms of piano playing. The videos feature a digital keyboard above the teacher’s so that the student is never in doubt as to what key was touched. While there are not as many lessons here as there are in Marty Music, the lessons are very well done and they don’t waste any time. The YouTube channel also contains lessons for more advanced players in jazz piano and music composition, and there are even videos that explain how to read sheet music!
Vocals – Superior Singing Method
Superior Singing Method has several teachers who contribute to their channel, all of whom are very knowledgeable about singing. These lessons are unlike instrumental lessons, because they are less about singing notes than they are about technique. Singers don’t have to worry about notes that much, because the notes live in their heads and they can bring them out quickly. Instead, these lessons will teach you support, posture, where to direct the sound within your own body, tone improvement and much, much more.
Ukulele – Jim D’ville
The ukulele has surged in popularity over the last two decades, and now it’s quite prevalent and one of the most affordable stringed instruments. It’s really easy to teach yourself how to play, because with only four strings the chords are quite easy to make. This channel will teach everything about the uke from its history to how to play it. If you get through all 26 lessons, head on back to Marty Music (featured above), who also has some ukulele lessons.
Catholic Chant – OPChant
We’ve written before about Brothers Stefan Ansinger and Alexandre Frezzato, who run the OPChant Youtube channel. These two Dominicans are on a mission to teach the glorious and ancient tradition of Catholic chant. They have quite a number of performances online and they do their best to add more weekly. Along with each of their videos they offer the sheet music so that students can learn by singing along with them and following the score.