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Do You YouTube?

Mike Lawson • Archives • November 10, 2008

YouTube.com, which is a relatively recent phenomenon, has an astonishing variety of offerings, with subjects ranging from how to vote to motorcycle maintenance to a view of the Orion constellation and everything in-between. YouTube surfers can also find the sublime and the ridiculous. However, this site is an extraordinary source of musical knowledge that can provide a wealth of benefits to the student musician, teacher, professional, or hobbyist. The speed at which one can access a world of musical performance, lessons, ideas, and technology would simply have been unheard of even as recently as five or 10 years ago. As a teaching tool, YouTube is easily adaptable for music lessons, as its format can benefit students and teachers and serve as a continual refresher in between music lessons.

More advanced students or musicians who want to expand their horizons may view a tremendous selection of lessons online for all levels with teachers from around the world. YouTube could even be used to allow a student to audition a teacher, and vice versa! There are some exceptional video “lessons” available on YouTube, including a standout one from the 1950s featuring the famed Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim and the legendary saxophonist Gerry Mulligan; Clark Terry, the extraordinary trumpeter, can be seen giving a beginner and an intermediate lesson; and there is a fine series of trumpet lessons by a U.S. Army Field Band musician on range and endurance, starting as a beginner, warm-ups, warm-downs, and much more.

The September 2008 issue of The Strad magazine featured an in-depth case study highlighting a violin teacher who used YouTube regularly to provide supplemental lessons at home. She would upload short videos twice a week featuring simple rhythm and bowing exercises, playing the bottom part of a duet, and demonstrating the relaxed bow hand. The links to the lessons, which were directly related to their most recent class, were e-mailed to the students each week. Evidently, the results were astonishing. The students benefited from the repetitive nature of the on-line video, which served as a constant reminder of the proper methods for playing their instrument. Additionally, “They even seemed to feel a closer bond to me, because they ‘saw’ me more often. In less than a year, all of them could play Suzuki’s Twinkle variation no. 1… compared to only a handful from the previous year.”

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