Music is creative, enjoyable and an excellent means of expressing oneself. Even better: playing an instrument is one of the best workouts you can give your brain. Even if you don’t intend on pursuing a career in music or starting a band, you only need to know the basics of an instrument to enjoy it.
YouTube can teach you to do just about anything, and that includes playing an instrument. Today we’ll focus on piano, guitar, bass guitar and drums, but if you look hard enough you’ll find crash courses in everything from the bassoon to the melodica.
TEDed has created a video detailing, to the best of our knowledge, what happens when a musician picks up their instruments and starts to play. Over the last few decades of technological progress we have come up with bigger and better ways of monitoring brain activity in real-time. Recent technologies like FMRI and PET have given us brand new insights into musicians’ brains, by monitoring them as they play.
As the video above explains, playing an instrument engages virtually every area of the brain at once and results in a “jubilee” of activity. Just like going to the gym improves your physical condition, giving your brain regular and structured workouts is believed to improve those brain functions. While the technology is fairly new and the insights even newer, we’ve never had a better excuse to rock out before.
Aside from the fact that playing an instrument improves brain function, it’s also fun. For beginners, music has never been so accessible thanks to the Internet’s abundance of resources. There are millions of guitar tabs, online tuners, websites that teach you to read music and whole courses online than can take you from complete beginner to self-taught musician without forking out for lessons.
One thing: If you’re really serious about learning an instrument then you should be weary of developing bad habits which can be hard to break. A music teacher will correct these and help you beat them, whereas a YouTube video will not.
The guitar is incredibly well-represented on YouTube, with a huge number of channels set-up to sell courses that will make you a “genius” in no time. The fact is that the guitar, like any instrument, requires practice to master – and you’ll need to get the basics down first. This lesson comes courtesy of Erich Andreas, who calls himself “Your Guitar Sage” and covers the absolute basics in a little over 14 minutes.
Erich’s channel is a great resource for beginners and experts alike, and it’s possible to learn far more than just the basics here. Above you can see an introduction to dexterity exercises, for building hand strength and speed, and below you can learn a mainstay of the rock guitarist, the 12-bar blues.
Bass guitars are just like standard electric guitars, with an emphasis on rhythm and far lower frequencies. Learning bass is a bit like learning drums and guitar at the same time, and there are few better resources for beginners than Scott & Phillip’s jazz bass lessons, provided by the North Carolina School of Science & Math (oddly enough). It’s a bit like sitting down for a proper music lesson in that it feels complete, and doesn’t skimp on theory or detail.
If you’re looking for a more self-contained introduction to bass Tom Wills’ video above should teach you everything you need to know about starting out, including what to expect in terms of progress and how to start covering some of your favourite songs. As Tom says, it takes years of practice to become a great player – so keep plucking!
Q: What do you call someone who hangs around with musicians?
A: A drummer.
…as the tired old joke goes. Being a drummer is not a choice you should take lightly, as you’ll be the primary time-keeper for anyone else on stage with you. Rhythm can’t necessarily be taught, but the basics of forming drum beats fortunately can. Above you’ll see an entire introductory course of beginner patterns from professional drummer Niels Myrner. There are seven in total, each played progressively faster, and each with an example of how they are used to improvise at the end.
Not only has Niels created base patterns, but also introductions to the various different styles of drumming. Above you can learn the basics of rock, below you’ll find the blues and he’s also got a two-part video covering jazz drumming for beginners.
There are a few piano teachers on YouTube, but after watching a few instructionals I found Mark Andrew Hansen’s quickstart series to be one of the best introductions. The piano is a fairly basic instrument, so the first thing Mark introduces are the notes – and more importantly, how to find them. He then moves on to hand positions and introduces three chords – C, G, Am and F# – before demonstrating how it’s possible to build upon what you’ve just learned with some improvisation.
The rest of YouTube’s piano teachers are a bit uninspiring, with many holding too much back in the hope that you’ll buy whatever miracle product they’re selling.
Are you a self-taught musician? Do you know of any good YouTube piano teachers? Tune-up and take a solo in the comments.