ArtistWorks, based in California’s Napa wine country, is taking online lessons to a whole new level, combining some of what’s best in the online lesson format with a personal interaction between student and teacher. Fretbase was given exclusive access to the Martin Taylor Guitar Academy where students can get one-on-one interaction with Martin Taylor himself, an award-winning British jazz guitarist. We’ve also included some sample lessons at the bottom of the post. Check it out!
Before the days of the internet, guitar lessons were mainly a personal experience between a teacher and student. You’d sit face-to-face and have a personal interaction that allowed the teacher to correct mistakes in technique and allowed the student to ask questions.
Today’s online guitar lessons are mainly a one-way street. You usually sign up and pay a monthly fee for access to videos that demonstrate a certain technique like Travis picking or how to play a scale in multiple positions on the neck. While some of these videos are certainly useful, they lack the teacher – student interaction that can lead to a deeper understanding and better fundamentals.
ArtistWorks is looking to change the online method by recreating the teacher-student interaction on a social media platform. ArtistWorks was founded by David Butler – an early AOL employee that built AOL v1.0. The ArtistWorks platform allows for the exchange of videos and messages between the teacher and the students, forums where students and teacher can discuss technique or questions, downloadable backing tracks for practice and a host of other tools and features geared towards helping the student learn the course work. ArtistWorks has deployed this platform to create a set of “schools” for guitarists and other instruments. For guitarists there’s the Martin Taylor Guitar Academy, the Andreas Öberg Guitar Universe and the Jimmy Bruno Jazz Guitar Institute. Beyond the guitar schools there’s the Tony Trischka School of Banjo, the Howard Levy Harmonica School, the Peery Piano Academy and there’s is even a DJ school – the Qbert Skratch University with DJ Qbert.
Fretbase had a chance to take a closer look at the Martin Taylor Guitar Academy which recently launched on April 15th, 2010. The service costs $60 USD for 3 months and your subscription is automatically renewed every 3 months. When we logged into the site we found a small but growing community of guitarists that all shared a passion for jazz and for Martin Taylor’s style of playing. The home page serves up the latest updates from the community as well as any news from Martin Taylor. From here students can jump into lessons and begin working on the course work. We found that students were already actively posting videos and participating in the forums. It looks like already in a few short weeks the Martin Taylor Guitar Academy is becoming a dynamic community of guitarists.
Next we took a look at the lessons. It should be noted that Martin Taylor has created the course work himself and the course work is not just videos of Taylor performing various pieces either. Martin walks you through techniques and fundamentals that will help you become a better guitarist. These fundamental lessons then culminate into actual songs you can play. Most of the songs we saw were jazz standards like “Satin Doll” or “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”. The lessons themselves come in video format similar to traditional online lessons. But ArtistWorks takes the extra step of helping re-create the intimate interaction by including “Top View” videos. The “Top View” gives you an over-the-shoulder perspective of Martin playing the piece – a very useful tool to help learning. You can also watch the lessons at 1/2 speed as well which obviously will help for practicing the part.
Once you’ve mastered the lesson – or at least feel comfortable enough with the piece – you can create your own video of you playing the lesson and upload it to site. Martin Taylor himself will watch the video and provide constructive feedback on the playing and technique. In some cases Taylor even creates another video to demonstrate what he’s trying to teach in order to help the student better understand the piece. It’s pretty incredible that you can get that level of interaction with a professional guitar player. We were shown one video response from Martin that was video taped backstage at Yoshi’s in San Francisco before a gig later that night.
The depth and breadth of lesson content was very good as well. We found over 150 lessons on the website and we’re told that number will grow over time as Martin continues to create new lessons and upload them to the site. Along with the lesson videos there is downloadable sheet music and backing tracks to let you practice at your own pace. There’s enough lesson content on the site to keep you working for months.
Overall we found the Martin Taylor Guitar Academy to be a unique and interactive way to learn the guitar. There’s also a big “cool factor” if you’re a fan of the teacher as well. The Martin Taylor Academy is definitely not for beginners and you’ll need some experience with creating and uploading videos if you want to participate in the video exchange but if you’re willing to participate in the community we think you’ll be well rewarded for the effort.
As we mentioned above the service will cost $60 USD every 3 months – a cost we think is totally reasonable when compared with other online lesson services. Even more so if you consider the fact that you’re able to interact with Martin Taylor and receive direct feedback. And it’s obviously cheaper than in-person lessons with any of these ArtistWorks instructors.
One concern we had was that student/teacher interaction could become a victim of it’s own success. If enough students sign up for the service, we could see it becoming more and more difficult for Martin to keep up the personal communication with each student. But at this point we don’t think that’s a problem and if ArtistWorks runs into this kind of problem that means they’re on to something and you can expect they’ll develop features and functionality to help mitigate interaction problems.
If you give the service a try or you already use the ArtistWorks platform let us know what you think in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!
- Andreas Oberg Guitar Universe sample lesson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtIu2SNkOTo
- Martin Taylor Guitar Academy sample lesson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lhVpMapniQ
- Jimmy Bruno Guitar Institute sample lesson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XlEXkb9ufc
- Tony Trischka School of Banjo sample lesson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfnN2QoGE9o