How to Get the Most from Your YouTube Learning Experience
Want to improve your playing, but don’t have money or time to dedicate to private lessons? The popular video sharing website YouTube.com is a great resource. Whether you’ve used the website before or not, it’s fairly simple to jump in and take advantage of it.
“It’s really convenient,” says California-based drummer Niels Myrner, who has his own YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/nielsmyrner) full of drum lesson videos. “You can do it on your own time, anytime. It’s at your own pace.”
Myrner has between 40 and 45 private students that he teaches each week. He originally started creating lesson videos to supplement the time his students spent with him in person. Now his videos are available, not only to his private, in-person students, but to people all around the world—for free via YouTube.
One of those people is Russian drummer Julia Krasnikova, who has been playing for less than a year. Most of what she can play now, she credits to Myrner’s videos. She says, “If there is no other opportunity to learn, YouTube videos are a good way to start.”
Watching videos that other musicians have uploaded is the simplest way to use YouTube to improve your playing. This doesn’t even require you to register an account. Perhaps the biggest challenge, when it comes to online music lessons, is finding the ones that are right for you.
“When you go onto YouTube, it’s a jungle,” Myrner says. “There’s good stuff and there’s bad stuff, so it can be a challenge to find quality.”
A search for “drum lessons” on YouTube yields approximately 40,000 results; “guitar lessons” yields more than five times that. One way to filter through this is to be specific. Include in your search exactly what technique you want to learn, what aspect of your playing you want to improve, or what your skill level is. Searching for “beginner drum lessons,” for instance, cuts that number of results to less than 3,000. YouTube’s sorting button can also come in handy for finding the videos with the most views or the highest rating.
One of the drawbacks of learning from YouTube is that you can’t get immediate feedback from a teacher. That’s why it’s so easy to develop bad techniques,” Krasnikova says.
While it may not be immediate, you can still get feedback on your playing if you choose to upload your own videos. All you need is a free YouTube account, a camera that records video, and a thoughtful setup.
“Lighting is the key,” says Myrner. “The quality of your camera isn’t nearly as important as the quality of the lighting that you use.” One relatively inexpensive lighting solution is to use shop lights that can be bought at most hardware stores. Two of these should suffice: one on each side of the camera pointed at a 45-degree angle toward you and your instrument. This can vary depending on the rest of your setup and how advanced you want to get, but it’s worth putting some thought into.
Camera placement is also very important, but often overlooked. You want whoever is watching your video to be able to see your instrument and your interaction with it clearly. Myrner uses an overhead cam, which is a good idea for drummers because all drums, cymbals, and kick pedals can be seen in the shot. For guitar or bass players, frontal shots with a good view of finger movements are more suitable.
Of course, if you want to perfect your videography, you can learn that on YouTube as well. Detailed tutorials are available on lighting, camerawork, and microphone placement.
“A very important element of music is that people play together,” Myrner says. “Being involved in it, instead of just being an idle observer, will lead to a fuller experience.”
There are a number of ways to interact with the YouTube community in addition to watching and sharing videos. If you’re learning from a lesson video, consider asking questions in the comment section, clicking “Like,” or simply thanking the person who uploaded it. You can even share videos of yourself practicing with a YouTube teacher, like Krasnikova has done with Myrner.
If you’ve uploaded a video open to the whole world for critique, be open to conversation with those who comment, and also comment on their videos, if they have any.
“It’s a mass information exchange and it’s open to everyone,” Myrner says. The amount of free musical knowledge available on YouTube is growing by the day. There’s bound to be something for you.
Visit Making Music’s YouTube Channel at www.youtube.com/user/makingmusicmag.