As musicians, we’re always looking for ways to improve our playing. Listening to a song that inspires us, seeing one of our favorite bands live, or simply playing by yourself can all serve as inspiration to improve. Speaking for myself, I always feel most inspired when I go to see a live concert – I always ask myself: “why don’t I do this more often?”
Whatever inspires you to get better, there’s only one way to actually improve: practice. Sweat equity. Elbow grease. Sitting down with your instrument and playing until your fingers bleed. For me, that’s always been the ukulele, but I’ve dabbled in other instruments as well. I actually started playing the guitar, and learned a few Beatles riffs. My son plays the drums, and he’s improved his playing tremendously through online drum lessons. He’s proven to be very resourceful (and I’m a proud papa) in finding the info that he needs online, since there’s such an immense wealth of knowledge out there on music. In this post, I’d like to walk through a few of the best resources we’ve found for improving your playing, on whichever instrument you’ve chosen.
First things first, we have to talk about the incredible volume of information available on YouTube. Everything from new instrument unboxings to cover songs to advanced tutorials, you can go from zero to hero very quickly with YouTube on your side. Simply search for “Learn An Instrument” and you’ll see what I’m talking about – there’s content available for every level of player for every instrument – it can be pretty overwhelming. My recommendation: pick a few channels that you really like (Harry Miree has a fantastic channel for drummers, for example) and stick with them. Many channels have progressive lessons (part I of V) on a particular technique or playing level, which can really accelerate your learning. Go get it!
In Person Lessons
Let’s go old-school for a second. Yes, I’m talking about learning something outside of the internet! My parents enrolled me in music lessons as a kid, and it really had a positive impact on my playing. Outside of the regimented structure (you know that you have to practice, or it’ll show at your next lesson), in person lessons are the best because they can improve your technique in a way that a video on YouTube just can’t. In other words, if your fingers are mashing the stings and muting them, you might not get hands on feedback from an internet teacher, but you’ll definitely get feedback from a teacher sitting 3 feet away from you. For this reason, in person lessons are really the best way to learn an instrument, especially at the beginning of your music career. Once you’ve got the foundation down, you can learn from classes online and improve your technique, but you will quickly plateau if you don’t have the proper technique. Call a local teacher on Craigslist, or better yet, go to a local music store & ask if they provide lessons.
Online classes (Udemy, Linda.com, etc.)
In the last few years, a few platforms have really taken off. Linda, Udemy, and other similar platforms allow users to learn everything from basket weaving to web development, but their music learning resources are really fantastic. On these platforms, users can either subscribe to the platform (like Linda) or buy individual courses that cover a topic of interest (like Udemy). For most people, buying a single class on Udemy is probably the cheapest option, since it’s only a one-time, upfront cost. With these lessons in hand, they can access the video tutorials for life & come back to them when they need a source of inspiration. Many of these lessons are taught by world-class performers, giving musicians the opportunity to learn from the top stars in their field. Pretty cool!