How To Find Low-Cost (and Free!) Music Lesson Resources Online

The following is a guest post by Aaron Schulman.   Aaron and his wife Jen are homeschooling parents. Aaron has been an avid guitar player, teacher, writer and enthusiast since 1990, writing and maintaining several acoustic guitar reviews on his site, Strumviews.com to help people find the right guitar for their purposes. He has recently written a thorough review on finding the best guitars for kids, in order to educate parents on the difference between toys, junk budget guitars, and a true instrument upon which a child can learn and grow musically with confidence.

Many home school parents choose to homeschool their children for significant reasons:

  • Having more influence on their child’s early years of development
  • Instilling their foundational beliefs and family values
  • Helping their children develop under their loving care
  • Believing they can offer a better, safer education through critical development years
  • Being a better “gate-keeper” on their early social influences and more.

For these two homeschooling parents, we chose to home school our child after 5th grade because we believed it was the best direction for her to develop in a safe environment (among many other personal reasons not listed above). We simply knew it was the right time and the best thing to do for our daughter.

Among the many challenges of finding the right curricula and programs to fulfill a child’s home school and state education requirements is the often daunting task of helping them to develop an appreciation for “extra-curricular” activities, including sports, the arts, and music appreciation. In addition to the task of playing principal, teacher, curricula developer, provider and parent, home school parents often operate on limited resources when looking to round out their child’s education. Often times, parents make a decision to sacrifice a second income in order to make the more important investment in their children’s development.

With this simple little guide, we have developed some common sense steps to help you in the online search for your free or low-cost music education for your child. While we don’t give away resources for particular lessons, we are sharing some methodologies to help you find great resources (from a home school parent, guitar and music performer and teacher, and former licensed public school educator). Whether you are looking to help your child explore general music, excellent choral and voice development, or you desire to help your child become the best beginner acoustic guitar player he or she can be, there are some simple guidelines to consider when searching for resources.

Tip #1: Do you have an exit strategy?

Being aware of future possible music scenarios with your child:

While looking online for great resources to train and teach your children music theory or a specific instrument, be first aware of the possibility that your child may develop quickly and beyond your ability to teach him or her. While online sites run the gamut of quality, professional, free music training resources to shoddy, questionable authority in the music training realm, it is very possible that your child may, at some point, require the investment of personal, private lessons and/or local homeschool music groups and organizations. Having this on your radar will simply help you to be prepared in the event your child outgrows the free online resources. When it comes to coaching and training in any endeavor, especially music, there are certain levels of achievement that can only be attained through private lessons, coaching or “team play”. If you begin teaching your child music and he or she has a gift or bent that begins to flourish, will you be ready to support that child’s gift at a higher investment or commitment level that may require more from your entire family?

Tip # 2: Evaluating the instructor’s credentials

Great teachers do not always make the best musicians. Likewise, the best musicians do not always make the best instructors. It’s one thing to be able to play a piano, drums or guitar to recognizable level of mastery, but to be able to convey the process to other learners in a way that most can digest and apply the information is a different “animal” altogether.

Additionally, just because an individual has an advanced degree in music theory from an elite university does not make him or her a great or effective teacher – especially for your child. One of the best ways to check out the instructor’s materials and whether he or she would be effective with your child is to start by cross-referencing the legitimate testimonials of students that are similar to your child’s profile. Though this is not always possible, connecting with honest reviews is a great measure of social proof. Looking for some simple guarantees and a clean, easy navigation process through the lessons (instead of a hodge-podge of lessons with no specific direction) can be a clue as to the instructor or instructional material’s ability to walk a beginner learner through the process with ease of understanding and application. Additionally, some music lesson sites and communities offer various selections from various teachers. Having a bit of variety in instructors can help to prevent your child from reaching a “bottleneck” in his or her learning process due to personality conflicts, teaching style problems, or other teacher-student limitations.

Tip # 3: Evaluating the instructor’s “community”

Beyond the instructor’s credentials is the oft-missed social influence of the instructors beliefs, community and philosophies.

1- Does his or her philosophy clash with your values?

2- Does his or her community open your child up to influences of which you might not approve?

3 – Does his or her community create easy access to other channels of values that clash with your own?

One of the reasons you may have decided to homeschool your child is to be a gateway for philosophies and ideas that you do may not believe are beneficial for your child. One of the ways to resolve this is to do “long tail search” research on the Internet to discover more about the person and his or her other connections, social groups, philosophies, and other entanglements that can influence your child by exposure and association. For example – if you were to research more about a guitar player named “John Smith”, you could find out more about John Smith at his website, including his location (if he has a mailing address posted on the site). Then you could use some long tail searches to find out a little more about his associations simply by typing in different combinations of his full name, location, and perhaps his instrument or area of expertise – for example:

“John Q. Smith Anytown California guitar teacher (or player)”

Long tail keywords do not always mean “long combinations of words” but actually refer to a more highly targeted, less general and less frequently searched phrases. In most cases, long-tail key word phrases do include more words than words in the same category that are more popularly searched. This little strategy can also be used when searching for answers to tip #4.

Along with finding the right instruction, you may be interested in finding the right equipment. Whether you are searching for instruction, doing a background search on the instructor, or looking for solid reviews on training or a specific instrument, the same search strategies apply. A more specific example of learning how to search for the right guitar for a specific budget would be comparable as well. If you searched “best acoustic guitar”, you might get a much more general return and less direction than if you searched “best acoustic guitar priced under $1000”. By adding more specific context to your search, you will be able to dial in more specifically on the needed information you review.

Tip # 4: Finding the best online instruction (or instructor)

Now that you have a few solid strategies for finding and evaluating your instructor, or the material produced by the music instructor, you can use similar strategies to find, evaluate and compare. If you have no musical experience whatsoever, it will be difficult to navigate through the plethora of information that is available on the Internet when it comes to music instruction, especially through all of the free content that is available. A few key pointers to keep in mind in order to give your child the best chance at growing his or her musical aptitude:

  • Make sure your child has some chemistry with the instructor or material. In the event your child becomes discouraged early, try a different instructor or instructional material.
  • Be sure that your child is age-appropriate for the instrument of choice. For example, a child can product quality sound at an earlier age with instruments such as a piano or drum versus a guitar due to the coordination of producing a quality sound.
  • Be aware and sensitive to your child’s desired pace of learning. If the child is highly encouraged and can handle more instruction, try to provide more if possible and within reason to other forms of child development (social, academic, practical and physical health). On the other hand, if the child seems to weary easily, try not to push him or her too much to avoid any discouragement or burnout.

Keeping these ideas in mind, you can use the Google Keyword Tool to find other relevant search phrases for your online research endeavors. Just because a page ranks in the top 10 for Google Search Results, does not mean that it will be the best instruction for your child. However, it would be difficult to reach the top 10 in Google if the content were not quality content. Going to the Google Keyword Tool and typing in search phrases relevant to your research will return plenty of other related keyword phrases you can use to find alternative resources online.

In all, using these simple tools and guidelines can help you, a caring and loving parent, to gain a better quality return for your child’s music development, as well as his or her overall development. After all, you chose to home school in order to give your child a better education in a more suitable and caring environment, encompassed by the family values that are most important to your and your family. Choosing the right external music instructional influence is essential in maintaining your goals for homeschooling education.

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  • Hi Aaron,
    So is there a YouTube channel or some other resource you would recommend for free beginner lessons?  Thanks.

  • Aaron

    Hi CaptiousNut, –

    I think it would depend on whether I were setting up for a child to learn guitar  or an adult.  My reasoning, initially, would be to protect kids who are using the internet – simply because there is not a lot of discretion in the advertising and similar video shuffle and kids could easily view or get entangled in videos or even thumbnails that don’t seem to respect women, children, men and family.  Therefore, if I were setting a child up for some initial free lessons online, I would be first concerned about related content and distasteful advertising.  

    As far as a particular Youtube channel that gives some great lessons, I do not know of any particular lessons or channels on Youtube-

    However -I do have a friend who owns one of the top free guitar lesson sites online and has an advanced degree in music and guitar from Berklee 

    – Shawn Bradshaw at http://cyberfret.com/ – 

    he has a ton of free lessons and is a man of integrity as well so there won’t be anything questionable at his site.  His guitar teaching will all be based off of authentic music theory and he also teaches guitar for a living.  It’s a great place to start for some thorough and sound guitar lessons.  

    Hope this helps!
    Aaron

    • Anonymous

      Aaron:

      That looks like a great resource!  My husband has been playing the guitar since his teens (almost 40 years) but never found the time to teach my son due to the amount of hours he works as a building contractor.  

      My now 17-year old son decided to pick up the guitar and teach himself a couple of years ago.  He had a good background in music already, having played saxophone in the homeschool band for five years.  He has a great ear too and just started picking songs out – he made progress pretty quickly.  

      He now has an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar we bought him last Christmas.  I showed him your friend’s site “cyberfret” and he was definitely interested.  Thanks for sharing that as well as all the helpful info in the post!

  • Aaron

    Thanks Anne,

    Sounds like your son will do great as a self-taught student.  That is how I learned to play.  I actually played brass instruments through grade school and high school, and then picked up my first guitar as an early teen (it’s been a few decades).  There is so much information out there on learning guitar (as well as other instruments) that many people can become fine intermediate players just by study, research and persistent / consistent practice.  I think where private lessons can give an advantage are in 2 areas – 

    1)  In speeding up the learning curve (teachers can sometimes give specific tailored pointers to help a student past certain mental and skill-based “hurdles”  and 

    2)  In taking a student beyond where he or she can go alone simply due to wisdom that can be imparted from years of study and skill.

    Sounds like your son is setting himself up for a lifetime of music enjoyment!  Thanks for the response – Aaron

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