Friday, October 23, 2009

Guitars and Online Learning

The last time I said something about trying to learn the guitar I cross posted the same message here and on my Music blog. It seemed appropriate since it was about learning and about music. I've just posted a progress report but rather than just duplicate the post, I thought I'd discuss some of the education issues it raises here instead.

I've been using GarageBand to learn guitar and there are many things about it that I really like but I'll start with a couple of frustrations. First, the lack of feedback that you would get from a "real" tutor is a problem. I'm sure a real tutor would have picked up and dealt with many of the bad habits I have developed, and that I am now trying to unlearn. For example, some chords I manage to form by putting all my fingers in the right place more or less at the same time, but others (e.g. the G chord) I seem to form by putting one finger on at a time. Clearly for smooth transitions, it would be better to develop the muscle memory and form the chord in one smooth movement but unlearning the bad habit I've already developed is extremely difficult. I suspect a tutor would have spotted and nipped that particular problem in the bud.

Similarly, the gap in my strumming pattern would have been picked up by another pair of ears listening to my efforts. I wonder if there's a GarageBand forum/Ning/whatever somewhere where learners could post video/audio and ask for feedback from the community of learners. {Thinks: must have a look around and see what I can find.}

My only other real frustration with GarageBand, is that I'd like a few more backing tracks/tunes so that I can consolidate what I've learned. I learn a few chords, practise some strumming patterns, get fairly good at playing along to the backing track... and then it's onto the next lesson. It would be good if you were given the choice of a few tunes that used the same chords but perhaps different styles of strumming so that you can consolidate what you've done.

The Good
Other than these reservations, I am very impressed with GarageBand's lessons. The directions are clear, the videos helpful, the tutor easy to follow and tools like the tuner and the playback speed adjuster are fantastic. I especially like the idea of learning to play tunes by getting lessons from the artists who wrote and performed them. For example Sting will teach me to play Roxanne (which is listed as "Easy", so I may try this soon) and Alex Lifeson will teach me to play Tom Sayer (listed as "Medium" and if I ever get that far, I will be well chuffed).

...And finally
To summarise, learning the guitar using only online/computer based resources is not without its problems but I'm enjoying trying.

And, once again, I have to put in a plug for the guitar I'm playing in the videos. It's the one Daughter Number 2 built at Bailey Guitars - the one I won from Rock Radio. It is gorgeous to look at, it sounds great (when played by someone that knows what they are doing) and it is easy to play - much easier to play that the Squire Stratocaster that I generally practise on. I cannot recommend Bailey Guitars highly enough.


MrStrathmore said...

I also commented over on the Music Musings blog but I'll also summarise here.

On the other blog you focus a lot on your failings. You kinda highlight it here also, all the things you think would have been picked up by a face-to-face teacher.

Now, it is hard to point out all the education points (since I am only starting on the journey so don't know it all yet) but the obvious bit (to me) is the understanding you already have in the learning task. The reflection on your progress shows a perfect example of your own metacognitive approach and the opening of adjustments you can make.

I said this over on the other blog but the focus on the failures you perceive should actually be re-framed (I like re-framing) as the success and progress you make in the task. Isn't this the sort of approach you would take with your own children/students?

David said...

Thank you Mr Strathmore

I think on this post I was trying to give a critique of online learning rather than my progress. Therefore, I'll pick up your substantive points on my music blog.

You raise the need for self-reflection and I think that's right. The software provides tools to help with this self-reflection but the irony is, although I know it's important, I didn't take advantage of the opportunity. It's good to recognise that and it should let me do better over the next few weeks of practise.

MrStrathmore said...

I usually do not like any kind of elearning but I think this comes from a previous career where these were just powerpoint/video things which just totally turned my brain into mush.

The addition of some sort of interactivity must greatly increase what you can take out of this sort of learning. The 'old' pyramid of recall %age and delivery method (which I believe has a lecture at 5%) is probably way more than the method I describe above. At least in a lecture you sort of need to focus, others can watch you sleeping and laugh.....

I guess it is down to the web1.0 and web2.0 idea. Online/computer/tech learning also needs to get into the 2.0 phase. The two way street can be enhanced by the addition of some nice signs and the odd passer-by (virtual or real) who can give advice to aid in the reflective part.

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