On The Path: Ipad Music Lessons
August 25, 2011 1:20 PM   Subscribe

Jeff Bridges digs this app, ..man. What might be a whole new way of studying music in general. “What I like about the app,” says Jackson Browne, “is that it is very much like a book in that you can open it whenever you want, it will keep your place, and you can come back to it whenever you want. It kind of defeats the constraints of time and space, all the barriers of getting together with a teacher at a particular time.” Reviews are varied, and the lessons aren't cheap.
posted by thisisdrew (29 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Priceless walkthrough by Jeff Bridges. He seems so high all the time, but also he's clearly so sharp. Unless there is a incredible editing job to make him appear sober.
posted by Napierzaza at 1:23 PM on August 25, 2011

I'm curious about the business model. If it's the case that the artists get most of the money from a lesson purchased, this could be an amazing new way for musicians to make a living that they deserve. Eric Johnson teaching me Cliffs of Dover? Hell yes I'd pay $20 for that.
posted by jbickers at 1:24 PM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

$20 to watch Jackson Browne play for an hour? are you kidding me? i'm unconvinced that technique is something that can be communicated effectively or succinctly; it's the result of playing, and playing with others. it's something that develops over time.

this app is not geared at beginners and it doesn't teach you to play the guitar. it assumes a level of proficiency that suggests you should already be able to absorb elements of style from listening and recreating. paying $20 to watch his hands in a split screen window play a minimal selection of songs seems like a waste of money to me given how many alternative methods for absorbing this kind of information exist already.
posted by radiosilents at 1:28 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, that's exactly what I thought too jbickers.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:29 PM on August 25, 2011

Yeah, I can see people paying for specific tips from their heroes. But technique videos? You can find a zillion of them on YouTube & they're still (in general) no substitute for having someone actually being there & telling you where you're going wrong.
posted by pharm at 1:31 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Relatively speaking though, you would pay at least that much, likely a lot more, for guitar lessons from your local music shop. These instructors have decades of experience and you can watch them over and over again. So really, you are saving money by purchasing these amazing lessons.

Aping Jackson Browne is not the same thing as receiving instruction from someone watching and listening.
posted by munchingzombie at 1:32 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I learned to play the guitar by listening to CDs I liked and downloading tabs and playing along. That's it.

This app is that, but like, a lot more in-depth. Seems pretty awesome to me, radiosilents. There isn't really an alternative method to that combination of tabs, listening, watching, and instructional for people that want to learn alone. At least not that seem polished enough and accessible that I would actually buy them.

I'd pay $20.00 to watch Seth Avett teach me 4 tracks off of any record. I'd pay $40-$50 (triple the cost of an audio cd or downloaded cd) for a favorite performer of mine to record their whole album in that app.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:34 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Years ago, I sat in front of my record player, with Jackson Browne's first album (vinyl, natch), and worked out "Something Fine" and "My Opening Farewell" (along with "Song for Adam" and a few others) and could pretty much play them exactly like they sounded on the records. All my friends learned stuff that way also. I am not convinced that there is a better way than to just sit on your butt and figure this stuff out, however long or short it takes.

However, if and when Dave Rawlings does a video lesson like this, and when I have a money-back guarantee that I would be able to play his parts even 5% as well as he does, I might consider plunking down some money for this.
posted by Danf at 1:37 PM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Is this all guitar oriented? I'd like to check out something like this for keyboards.
posted by crapmatic at 1:48 PM on August 25, 2011

I've already got instructional DVDs from some of these cats.

What's the "...a whole new way of studying music..."? I do not see it.
posted by superelastic at 1:53 PM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is different from how I like things. Therefore it is wrong.
posted by eoden at 2:03 PM on August 25, 2011

eoden : it's not "get off my lawn" so much as "you believe this is worth how much money?"

if you want it and it helps you, by all means plunk down your dollars. the rest of us, for literally all of history, have dnoe it a different way. you're paying money to emulate the style of a man who learned the skills you'd like to emulate via other methods, which seems kind of ironic to me.
posted by radiosilents at 2:10 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's just a more elaborate and expensive version of "Guitar Playing for Dummies!" A player who has been studying for years and knows how to practice and play already would probably be interested in this, but it seems a little gimmicky.
posted by ReeMonster at 2:11 PM on August 25, 2011

I just liked how it sounded like Jeff had only learned the word 'app' an hour before and was hestitating ever so slightly whenever his brain reached for the new word.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:16 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

the rest of us, for literally all of history, have dnoe it a different way. you're paying money to emulate the style of a man who learned the skills you'd like to emulate via other methods, which seems kind of ironic to me.

I seriously doubt anybody is under the illusion that they can learn guitar from an iPad app without practicing. I thought the part that everybody in history had to do was the practicing, not a specific methodology for lessons. And if people want to buy the app and the lesson because they're Jackson Browne fans and want to see what he's got, more power to Mr. Browne and his colleagues.
posted by immlass at 2:18 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

So you want to be a rock and roll star
Then listen now to what I say
Just get an electric guitar
Then take some time
And learn how to play

Yeah, I wish it was this easy. A beginner is still going to have problems with certain things that a personal instructor could observe and fix in about 2 minutes. The iPad has a built in forward facing camera, that could be really useful for videoconferencing with an instructor.

This seems more like "master classes," which could be awesome in its own right.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:27 PM on August 25, 2011

I'll think about it when they get, like Kim Theyil or Tony Iommi. Hey, Chuck Berry's still alive. I hear he gives great lessons.
posted by cmoj at 3:36 PM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

posted by austinurbani at 3:39 PM on August 25, 2011

When they say it's a "whole new way", they're talking about the pricing structure.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:53 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think I would listen to Jackson Browne for an hour if you paid me $20.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:33 PM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm of two minds on this.

On the one hand, whenever people ask me how to learn to play guitar, I give them the same standard advice I got in the pre-Internet age: Get the Mel Bey chord book and a decent fake book. Pick a few songs and play them every day until you can play them with your eyes closed. At some point, when you're not hesitating as you make changes, learn Hotel California, because if you can play all the chords in that song on a guitar-type instrument, you can play just about any popular song from the past 75 years. After you get comfortable with the instrument, take the time to learn the pentatonic/blues scales so you can take a passable solo when the time comes. Keep adding new songs as you go. If you do that every day for a year, you'll have learned to play (rock) guitar.

On the other hand, having videos of respected guitarists to follow along with seems like a pretty good idea, especially if your aspirations tend more towards lead guitar. Then again I've played with guys that could bang out Satriani solos note-for-note, but couldn't take a turn holding down the rhythm on Sweet Home Chicago.

I just think that if you are going to spend close to $40 on learning to play guitar, you'll be better off with the tried-and-true method, even if it is from the technological stone age. I'm worried that more technology-minded young people might get turned off to the instrument entirely because they think an application like this will make it easier to learn, when it looks to be just the opposite. If a beginner absolutely wanted to buy an app for their phone, they'd get more for their money spending $10 on iReal ♭ or $3 on Ultimate Guitar Tabs in my opinion.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:38 PM on August 25, 2011 [6 favorites]

LOL a friend of mine told me "Neko Case told me I should get a guitar, it's the easiest instrument to play." I am sure she actually knows Neko Case. So she bought a cheap Telecaster clone (I disapprove, I told her to get a cheap Epiphone Les Paul). I gave her my original Mel Bay chord book, it must be 40 years old.

But I have my doubts that it's the easiest instrument. I remember an old advertising matchbook that was pitching guitar lessons. The slogan was "Learn the basics in 15 minutes, take a lifetime to achieve mastery." It's true, but I don't know if it was very effective at selling guitar lessons.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:10 PM on August 25, 2011

I don't think I would listen to Jackson Browne for an hour if you paid me $20.

If only that meant there would be more Jackson Browne for me. I just love him. When I was young & self-absorbed, he was writing about relationships and doing a lot of navel-gazing. When I was in my 20s & politically ... um ... intense, he was writing about politics. When I was settling into a middle-class adulthood, he was writing about complacency and eco-awareness. Always intelligently and with that gentle, steady, world-weary voice that (to me) is a voice of authority. I've grown up & matured with his music in the background as a guide, in pretty much the same timeframe. I would pay to listen to him read the phone book for an hour, if they still had phone books.

Also he's just so lovely to look at.
posted by headnsouth at 7:12 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

After visiting Khan Academy a while back, I got the idea to do the same thing for music. They beat me to it and did a great job, I think. Being able to set difficult parts on replay and adjust the speed w/o messing up the pitch are both very useful features.

You can argue with their choice of artists and what they teach (and the app's kinda pretentious name), but this seems like the future of learning music. If they keeping building the library, it'll be well worth the money. Especially if they focus on building a whole curriculum, not just random "here's how to play this song!" videos.
posted by Camofrog at 8:52 PM on August 25, 2011

Is this all guitar oriented? I'd like to check out something like this for keyboards.

My reaction exactly. It isn't so much that information like this isn't available elsewhere. The editorial selection, packaging and coordination, along with easy access on a portable device would make the low price easily worth it for me.
posted by meinvt at 9:00 PM on August 25, 2011

here's the first thing you do - you turn the radio on - and then you play with it - sure, records are just fine too, but you never know what they're going to play on the radio next

do this long enough, you will get good

playing a lot with other people is great experience, too

there's a lot of videos out there, but currently, i've been trying to get to the next level - outside the pentatonic and blues scale boxes - and there is no substitute for books, if you get the right ones

two i've learned a lot from this year, even though i've barely scratched the surface of them

l'esprit manouche - romane and derek sebastian - this is about django style gypsy jazz guitar, which i don't play and don't want to, but it explains some things that i have found very useful

three-note voicings by randy vincent - i don't think i've looked at more than 20 of the 194 pages so far and i'm still trying to digest that

i've also got copies of mickey baker's jazz method and it's going to take me years to work through that

four lessons i can give you right now, although i've barely started to really learn them myself

1. carol kaye and a lot of the old school jazz musicians will tell you - it's not about scales and modes, although those have their uses - it's about CHORDS - you play chords over changes, not scales

2. i was reading an interview with i think it was pat martino, who said that the structure of the guitar is based upon augumented and diminished chords - i've barely begun appreciating the depths of this

3. victor wooten says that no matter what you play, you're only at the most a half-step over or under - i'm still figuring out that one, too

4. a long time ago in college, 1976, a couple of detroit jazz musicians told us that it wasn't about the notes we played, it's about the rhythm and confidence you play them with

5. bonus lesson - if you're playing blues, you're not stuck with the 1 minor pentatonic scale - you can work in the 2 minor and the 6 minor at will - and of course, other root notes for pentatonics can work with care

frankly, watching jackson browne teaching us "these days" seems pretty basic to me - i learned that by ear when i was 20

my advice is to turn the radio on and jam - and crack open some advanced books from the jazz field, even if you're going to play rock, and get what you can from them

and be on the look out for used guitar mags - a buck a piece is a good price for them and there's often some very useful information in them

and no matter what instrument you play, learn piano well enough that you can pick out a e7-9, or -13 and hear them - you don't have to play it well, just be able to find the notes so you can listen to them
posted by pyramid termite at 9:06 PM on August 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

victor wooten says that no matter what you play, you're only at the most a half-step over or under - i'm still figuring out that one, too

He does this analysis in one of his ltp videos...
posted by mikelieman at 6:41 AM on August 26, 2011

that half-step off thing is an old Jamey Abersold tip!

pyramid termite - that's a serious curriculum. I'd add, especially for rhythm section players, all the Sher Publishing books. Concepts for Bass Soloing, Afro-Cuban Grooves for Drumset, etc
posted by thelonius at 10:05 PM on August 26, 2011

Oh, and to the Jackson Browne haters: who do you think helped get Warren Zevon a record deal? JB. Who then had a smash radio hit, with Zevon's song "Poor Pitiful Me"? Jackson Browne's girlfriend, Linda Rondstadt.
posted by thelonius at 10:08 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

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