Online Learning

Mike Lawson • Archives • March 27, 2009

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People’s lives have become busier than ever before and with higher transportation costs, tight schedules, and other limiting factors, both private lessons and music classes have not always been convenient or accessible. However, as computer technology has become more and more advanced, online learning has become a practical alternative. Online learning was once the realm of more traditional classes, in subjects like math, sciences, and history, and the type of feedback was less intensive and could be done through forms. But these horizons are rapidly expanding.

Internet classes are now allowing music students from around the world to study with teachers independently or at colleges, as well as through private instructors. According to master trombonist Ed Byrne’s Web site,, which is now offering jazz instruction, “These lessons are live and in real-time. While you are in your space with your instrument, Ed is in his studio listening to you. You will have real-time conversations with him, getting feedback on your playing. The entire process is an extremely intimate experience.” Some music colleges like Berklee offer a passel of e-courses, including arranging, music business, music production and many others. There are also some very interesting free classes offered on the Internet from a school in Australia at which may be more appropriate to younger students. Boston University even offers doctoral-level classes online, including one that “will provide a wide-angled and narrowly focused examination of the blues in both its musical and cultural dimensions.”

To many of us who were born during the Kennedy administration or earlier, this paradigm shift is significant, and yet the technology to implement this type of study is not as difficult to learn as it once was. With the cost of computers, recording devices, microphones, and video cameras coming down, as well as the improving quality of these devices, it’s conceivable that a student could study with a teacher for a significant length of time and never meet the teacher in-person. An additional advantage of the online lesson is that they can be easily recorded, reviewed, and archived as a continual resource for future study. I am not suggesting that this is necessarily the best or only way to study music, as nothing is better than face-to-face lessons, but it certainly offers excellent supplemental learning opportunities. As a teacher, this technology could significantly expand the reach of your teaching studio with only a small investment of time and capital…

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