As happy as some people are to mimic their favorite six-string slingers on air guitar (or its digital equivalent, Guitar Hero), some of us actually want to do the real thing—be on stage, playing a real instrument. Regrettably, it takes more than a plastic game controller and a rocker’s O Face to earn a spot in front of the Marshall stack. It takes practice and a good instructor.
The practicing is up to you, but iTunes can help with the latter. Some enterprising instructors and companies have taken advantage of iTunes’ podcast powers to post instrument-specific instructional video podcasts. Many of these podcasts exists either as a come-on for instructional videos sold by the host websites or as an advertisement for a particular instructor, meaning that they’re anything but a complete rundown from basic techniques and chord structures to advanced scales and chord substitutions. But many of them provide a reasonable foundation that can enhance work you’re doing with a real teacher or with the increasing pile of sheet music under your desk.
Early on in iTunes' podcasting days, iPlayMusic offered (and still offers) its Beginner Guitar Lessons series. These are snippets from iPlayMusic’s retail interactive instructional videos. They include split screen views so you can see the instructor, the guitar tab the instructor is demonstrating, and a couple of views of the guitar—a spotlight on the right hand and another on the left, for example.
Watch&Learn’s Freeguitarvideos.com provides just five videos in its iTunes video podcast, but they’re a bit longer than those from iPlayMusic. Despite the moniker Freeguitarvideos, while the host site provides some free videos, you’re going to get the good stuff by purchasing one of its premium downloads, which run around 20 minutes and $5 each.
iVideosongs.com has the slickest guitar instruction podcasts on iTunes—presented in HD. The company offers six titles for free—Beginning Guitar 101, Blues Concepts, Acoustic Guitar Techniques, Warm-Ups, Lead Guitar Concepts, and Left Hand Techniques. There’s a lot of good stuff in the iTunes offerings if you’re a beginner—more advanced players will want to spend time (and money) on iVideosongs website where they can purchase instructional videos taught by such pros as Jeff Carlisi, John Oates, Eric Mongrain, and Alex Lifeson (and Chuck Leavell, if you’re a piano player, or Russ Kunkel, if you beat the skins). Their videos run between $5 and $10, last from around 15- to 45 minutes, and are often song-based—the instructors teach you how to play a particular tune, while demonstrating specific techniques along the way. Often an instructor is the musician responsible for playing the original tune—Chuck Leavell shows you the piano part from the Allman Brothers’ Jessica, for example.
And then there’s Little Kids Rock. On iTunes you’ll find Guitar Lessons, 20 guitar lessons targeted at kids. In addition to the low-res videos, you can download a PDF file for each lesson (or download all the lessons as a single PDF). Little Kids Rock also has Drum Lessons for free. What’s the catch? LittleKidsRock.org is trying to keep kids interested in music as schools cut their music programs. From all appearances, they are doing The Good Work and deserve your support.
Though it often seems like it, guitar players don’t rule the musical world. If you’re a keyboard player, check out the Piano Lessons Online video podcast. Presented in both high- and low-res versions, these are snippets from David Sprunger’s Playpianotoday.com, a website that offers a series of pay-for piano courses. The host website is pretty heavy-handed—making you sit through a long advertisement and then demanding an email address so that you can gain access to the free material—but the guy can clearly play.
And there’s more. Search iTunes using the name of an instrument followed by “instruction” and you’re bound to turn up some helpful free podcasts that can aid your climb to the top of the charts.