Learn Banjo, Guitar & Mandolin with a Webcam

When I first started to learn a fretted instrument, my choices for instruction were limited.  While there were plenty of guitar instructors, it was very difficult for me to find a qualified banjo or mandolin instructor.  Today, many options are available and in one particular case, I can travel or stay at home and still take my lessons.

Live Interactive Lessons

Live Interactive Lessons

I am not speaking about independently learning a fretted instrument from books or instructional DVDs.  Instead, I am addressing how technology allows for video conferencing over the internet and thus, live interactive lessons are now possible over your laptop or home computer.

Last night, while in Florida, I provided a student in Chicago with a lesson on guitar theory, with a demonstration of how to play pentatonic scales on the fingerboard. Imagine sitting in an airport terminal with your laptop and using your time wisely by hooking up for a video lesson.  Whether or not you have your instrument, there is much to learn about music in general.

To arrange for online lessons, you simply need a computer, a modem and internet connection, and a web camera that can be connected to a USB port.  Depending on the computer you use (Apple Mac with OSX or a PC with windows), the web camera may already be part of the computer.  For instance, the latest Apple IMacs have built in web cameras. If you have a PC without a web camera, you may be surprised at how inexpensive the peripheral costs.  You will find an affordable web camera at your local store where computer products are sold.

Computer with a Web Camera

Computer with a Web Camera

Once connected, you need to download to your computer the software for making video conference calls.  One such free service for video calls is called Skype.  The download is simple and the video calls, according to the Skype website are free (as long as you connect to another Skype user).  A simple registration with a user name and password, followed by activating the software is all that needs to be done.  Of course, you must place a video call  from your computer, as though you were dialing a phone, and then wait for the other user to accept the video call to initiate the call.

If two Apple Mac users are arranging a video call, the process is quite simple. A feature in Apple’s Leopard software called IChat will allow two Mac users to not only engage in a video chat but to also share screens.  This is quite useful for interactive lessons ,where the student wants to download music lesson plans and tablature.  Instead of Skype, the Mac users will use IChat and engage in a video chat through an instant messenger site such as AOL Instant Messenger, Bonjour or other instant messengers.  Once again, the instant messenger is free and requires the user to register.

While the online lessons are not as personal as a face to face lesson, and while there is a slight delay in the video stream, the sound  quality was excellent.  For those who want to learn from a qualified instructor but can’t seem to locate one nearby, these remote lessons provide a good substitute for continuing your music education.


About fretmentor

Born in Detroit, Michigan, David F. Jakubiak has been involved in music since the age of 7, beginning as a clarinet player and then at 9 turning his attention to stringed instruments. He earned trophies in group talent competitions while a student at the University of Michigan. The instructor earned a BA degree in Organizational Psychology from the University of Michigan and a Masters in Public Administration at the University of Kansas. At college, he also studied classical music and music history. His passion is teaching music and in performing as a musician. In addition to on-stage performances, David has played in various venues from outdoor festivals to small nightclubs. He plays, performs and teaches various styles of music, including rock, pop, blues, jazz, classical, country and bluegrass styles. He performs and teaches acoustic and electric guitar, five-string banjo, and mandolin. His styles range from Scruggs, melodic, Reno and old-time style on banjo, to finger-style and flat-picking technique on guitar, to various styles of mandolin. For over 45 years, Mr. Jakubiak has taught all age groups, taking a personal interest in each student to ensure that they receive the attention and lesson plans that meet their needs and interests. His lessons and instructional materials place a strong emphasis on the practical use or music theory to ensure that the student understands the instrument and learns how to improvise to develop their own style. Mr Jakubiak teaches group and studio classes, webcam lessons over the internet, and individual private lessons to students of various ages. He has compiled and produced eight instructional books on CD as well as numerous instrumental arrangements. David has written for Banjo Newsletter, a monthly publication for the banjo enthusiast and has published an article in Issue #37 of the Fretboard Journal. He is the founder of www.fretmentor.com. To contact David Jakubiak, please feel free to e-mail him at david AT fretmentor.com (substitute the @ sign for the word AT)
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One Response to Learn Banjo, Guitar & Mandolin with a Webcam

  1. avatar Jim Joyce says:

    Great idea………this ought to be very useful for long-distance lessons and even professionals needing to work up a new song. I recently discovered Skype as a great communication tool for my 8 year old granddaughter to communicate with her parents regularly while 2000 miles away vacationing with her grandmother and me. I actually thought about how that technology could be used to get someone to show me a short banjo lick…….the teaching, practicing, etc use has all sorts of possibilities!

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