Video Lessons: The Right Tool for the Job?

How could I send my eighth grade shop teacher into orbit? Easy – open a gallon of paint with a screw driver instead of a paint can opener. Without exception, this would elicit the timeless man-truth, “Use the right tool for the job!”

Music students often ask me about the online resources that they’ve stumbled upon. Should they use them? Will they conflict with in-person lessons? Which is better? You would think that free online resources (like YouTube lessons) would compete with a local music studio. However, I view the onslaught of digital information as a blessing instead of a curse. It has stirred up interest in music education and put learning an instrument within reach for many people. Our instructors often use these resources as supplementary material for our students. You can find a list of our favorites at the end of this post.

Video and in-person lessons are not opposed to one another – they are both important tools in the learner’s toolbox. They look similar at first glance, but upon closer inspection you will find that they function in different ways while working toward the same goal. Each has it’s purpose and should be used for the right job.

To effectively utilize video and in-person lessons in your journey as a learner, you must understand the benefits and challenges of each.


  • Free! The price is right, that’s for sure! There are lots of quality lessons available online for free. See our list at the bottom for our recommendations.
  • Wide selection of teachers, topics, styles & songs. If you don’t like your local instructor’s personality, repertoire or teaching style, you can browse the outer reaches of the earth until you find one you like. My favorite is a Tasmanian guitarist who lives in London!
  • Learn on your own schedule. If you want to learn at 7AM when you get off the graveyard shift, you can do it! You are not confined to the availability of the local instructor.
  • No need to leave your house! You can take your lesson in your pajamas. Score!


  • No personal accountability. There is no one to look you in the eyes and ask, “How did your practice time go this week?”
  • Designed for a general audience. The lessons are written with a generic student in mind who has a general set of skills and challenges. You may find that certain knowledge or ability is assumed in the lesson that you do not have. This can create a significant roadblock to learning.
  • Less community. Video lessons do not offer the relational aspect of learning in a local music studio.


  • Accountability. Meeting with an instructor for a weekly appointment is a built-in motivation to practice.
  • Instruction on your level, at your pace. A live instructor can stay focused on your learning style and needs. He/she will challenge you when necessary while also leading you at a pace that works for you.
  • Help with overcoming specific obstacles. Sometimes we need a person to say, “You’re doing well, but let me help you in this specific area.” A live instructor can identify obstacles that are hindering your learning and help you overcome them.
  • Lessons customized to student goals & musical tastes. In any learning endeavor, your goals should be personal. A live instructor can help you establish these goals. He/she can also take your musical tastes into consideration when building lessons.
  • Real relationships. Community is one of the biggest benefits of learning in an in-person environment.
  • Supplementary experiences. A live instructor can help you find or create opportunities to use your new skills, like playing in a local coffee shop, at church or at a Student Showcase.


  • Expense. Quality live lessons are rarely free or cheap. Some learners simply cannot handle the financial commitment.
  • Scheduling. A top-notch instructor will have limited availability. You may have to take lessons at less than ideal times in order to get on the schedule… or hang out on a waiting list for a while.
  • Student/instructor chemistry. When looking for in-person lessons, you are limited to whoever lives in your area. Some students may struggle to find an instructor with whom they “click”.

Video lessons are a product created for your use. You are expected to figure out how they work and how to implement them for your good. In-person lessons are a service provided by a professional whose mission is to help you achieve your goals. Both are valuable and should be used in your learning process depending on how they meet your needs. Determine what tools you need to accomplish your goals as a music student and you’ll be rockin’ in no time!

Do you have any experience with video or in-person lessons? What were they like?

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