The Process Of Learning A Musical Instrument Education Essay

3714 words (15 pages) Essay

1st Jan 1970 Education Reference this


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The process of learning a musical instrument has changed a lot in the recent years, and it is all thanks to the Internet. Before websites with sufficient information on how to learn have first come to picture, young adepts of the guitar arts could only count on themselves. Finding and learning their favorite song was not just a few clicks away, and using such music software as Guitar Pro was not quite an option as it simply did not exist. The main challenge was to learn the found song using only their hearing and then transcribe it. This learning process involved good aural and transcribing skills and could only be developed by transcribing new songs. At that time books were invaluable source of knowledge.

Things look way different now. There are thousands of websites with a variety of materials. But which way of learning would be more beneficial to the learner?

This paper will try to examine how the various ways of learning have evolved in the past couple decades and how much influence on them has Internet, and the sources it provides, had.

Here are a few examples just to illustrate advantages and disadvantages of the Internet in the learning process: there are a lot of helpful resources such as DVDs, music software, backing tracks, aural tests but on the other hand the vast accessibility poses the danger of treating the Internet as a primary source of knowledge whereas its content can sometimes be misleading because a lot of online tutors lack formal teaching qualifications. Finding information doesn’t require any effort and limits the learner to thoughtless consumption of unnecessary data, additionally there’s no place for research which is always crucial in the learning process. The Internet also lacks the aspect of an interaction with other musicians which is vital when it comes to developing one’s musicality. There are a lot more arguments for and against the Internet as a teaching resource. In my dissertation I will test and analyze these two different learning processes in order to establish how they have evolved since the times when Internet teaching resources didn’t exist on such a vast scale up until now.


In this paper, I will discuss and assess how the guitar learning process has evolved over the past 30 years. I will present, analyse and compare two different approaches to learning guitar. For the purpose of this study, the first approach will be referred to as “traditional” and the second one will be known as “modern”, “e-learning” or “online learning”. It is crucial to understand the difference between the two.

The traditional approach to learning guitar mainly dominated in the pre-Internet era of 70s and 80s, when teaching resources were very limited. However, in no way did the restricted availability of teaching materials affect students’ willingness to explore and learn the new instrument. It was just the specific approach towards knowledge attainment that was very different to the one that we know and are used to nowadays. Therefore my main focus will be on researching the pre-Internet times, which I refer to as “the classic rock era”, in order to examine and assess the guitar learning methods of that period.

The modern approach to learning guitar has first come to the picture with the arrival of the Internet. The Internet revolutionised and reshaped the whole guitar learning model. Unlimited teaching resources (online lessons, videos, instructional DVDs, YouTube, digital sheet music) are just a few clicks away. Students are no longer required to leave their bedrooms to be able to attain musical knowledge. With the vast availability of technologically advanced software and equipment everyone can effortlessly learn an instrument. But is the previous sentence entirely true? Is it possible to learn an instrument and develop one’s musicality without interacting with other musicians? Again, I will research the area of the e-learning process in order to determine and assess what effects, if any, it has on modern musicians and to be able to answer the above questions.

To briefly summarise, there are two major problems my dissertation will address:

The differences between the modern instrument learning process and the one of “the classic rock era”;

By contrasting the two above processes I will decide which one is more beneficial to the learner;

Some of the research questions this paper will examine and answer are:

How important is it to learn an instrument and develop one’s skills and musicality by interacting and playing with other musicians (the traditional approach)?

Is the “solitary” way of attaining knowledge with the help of modern technology and the Internet more supportive in the learning process?

Does the social aspect of group learning associated with “the traditional approach” play an important role in the guitar learning process?

To answer these questions I will conduct a sociological analysis of this matter using available books on the importance of team work in the learning process and other necessary sources. This analysis will allow me to understand how the two contrary learning methods work under various social circumstances and will help me to determine which of the studied methods is more valuable to the music student.

Furthermore I will conduct a range of adequately structured and in-depth interviews with current tutors who were either educated back in the 70s or in the modern Internet era. It will shed some light on the issues I am concerned with and will help to determine the usefulness of the two tested learning methods. Some exemplary questions I might ask are: “Was the lack of teaching resources a discouraging or motivating factor in the guitar learning process?”, “What kind of research methods did you use to obtain the essential information required for the learning?”

Additionally I will write a short questionnaire for the current music students, which will be inclusive of simple but interesting questions that will attract the respondents’ attention. The aim of this survey will be to assess young learner’s views on the usefulness of the Internet as a teaching tool and to determine how the online learning translates into student’s ability to function in “the real music world”.

In order to illustrate the aims and objectives of my dissertation, I will answer a few simple questions:

Who will benefit from my investigation?

My main aim is to determine, by analysing and comparing two well-known instrument learning approaches from two different time periods, how the beginning guitar players can get the most out of guitar lessons.

In what sense will they benefit?

Firstly I will combine the final dissertation outcomes together, then I will apply these findings to some problems and issues the new student faces while learning an instrument. As a conclusion, I will try to work out the best approach to learning guitar by evaluating the results of my research.

In what sense will my contribution add to what is already known?

To address the main dissertation question (which of the two learning methods is more beneficial?), I will conduct research that is primarily based on interviews and questionnaires. After collecting and analysing all necessary data, I will compare the significance of my findings against the already existing data and establish how my study can contribute to what is already known.

What are the constraints or limitations of the study?

The major limitation is the fact that it is nearly impossible to find academic books with sufficient information about guitar learning methods back in the classic rock era, therefore primary data will be collected from interviews with tutors of the 70s.

The following paragraph will briefly describe the content of this dissertation:

The first chapter will consist of a review of what is already known and of the main problems and issues. It will cover past research and studies from relevant books and magazines. It will also summarise what other researchers have written and published around the topic of my study. Critical judgment will be used here to present my opinions on relevant issues.

The second chapter will describe and evaluate methods and techniques of research used for the purpose of this paper. As mentioned before, it will mainly consist of interviews and questionnaires. The reason for using such methods will also be justified in this section.

In the third section, a comparative study of two contrary guitar learning processes along with the data obtained in the previous section will be presented. Arguments and counter-arguments will also be contrasted in this chapter.

In the fourth section, dissertation findings will be interpreted. The difference between my findings and those of other people will also be presented.

The last chapter will consist of a summary of main findings and conclusions.

Bibliography will be included.


Traditional approach vs. modern approach

Traditional approach

The first chapter will consist of a review of what is already known and of the main problems and issues. It will cover past research and studies from relevant books and magazines. It will also summarise what other researchers have written and published around the topic of my study. Critical judgment will be used here to present my opinions on relevant issues.

There are numerous publications available on the Internet that describe advantages and disadvantages of online and traditional learning, however, it’s not yet been proved which of the above-mentioned learning methods is more efficient. Although there aren’t enough findings that would determine superiority, equivalence or non-inferiority of one approach to another, one can argue that the modern approach is not a replacement for the traditional learning process. Undoubtedly, there are countless benefits associated with e-learning; however, there are a few aspects of it that seem to be problematic when put side by side with the traditional learning. What the modern guitar learning process certainly lacks is the ability to facilitate group interactions which are the crucial part of music education. It might be possible, with other branches of knowledge, to eliminate the interactive part of learning but when it comes to music, it’s highly unlikely for a music student to perform well when the collaborative factor is omitted. It is commonly known that students tend to attain knowledge most effectively when they are given the opportunity to interact with other students. Such interactions among students also help to develop strong group problem solving skills. For that reason, the importance of meeting student’s learning peers, exchanging ideas and sharing common musical experiences can never be underestimated.

In an early stage of musical education, it is always advisable to provide young students with proper guidance from tutors. Carrying out the initial study through the face-to-face approach allows creating more controlled environment for children to be taught in. Of course, it should not be assumed that the more controlled environment and guidance are not achievable through the process of online learning, but the fact, that there is very little control, which a teacher wields on a student, might suggest the superiority of the traditional learning over e-learning. Teacher’s guidance is there to help students explore their limitations and objectives and also increase their motivation and provide opportunities for students to share their personal learning goals and objectives.

While discussing the two tested learning methods, there is another important issue that needs to be taken into consideration. In order to fully engage in any form of Internet-based learning activity, a student must absolutely have a very high motivation. It’s mainly due to the fact that the link between a student and a teacher is missing in this type of learning environment. This problem does not seem to occur with the traditional learning process, where a tutor’s main responsibility is to encourage and reinforce effective study habits of students. Another important aspect of the face-to-face mode, rarely achievable with other learning modes, is the student’s ability to recognise their strengths and limitations and understand their learning goals and objectives.

A further problem, the learner faces while utilising the Internet for educational purposes, is the overwhelming amount of information and knowledge available online in an instant. Accessibility of all imaginable knowledge should predominantly be regarded as an improvement but there are also some evident disadvantages associated with it. For young music students, such vast amount of knowledge and data is simply unmanageable. Indisputably, learners taking first steps in music education need to have well-developed analytical, organisational and learning resources skills in order to be able to filter through and select the right resources for learning. Obviously, the child learning an instrument is not expected to possess such complex skills, so this is why the personal guidance from a tutor or learning peers cannot be substituted with the Internet.

Modern approach

It is without a doubt that the overall interest in online education has grown tremendously in recent years. However, the question that needs to be asked here is how effective online learning is compared to traditional learning. There are not many findings that could unambiguously answer this question but a very recent study, published in 2009, suggests that online learners perform slightly better than students in traditional face-to-face classrooms (Church 2009).

This study was conducted by SRI International for the US Department of Education. It analysed research that compared online and conventional learning at institutions of higher education between 1996 and 2008 (Means 2009).

The key finding of this study, as interpreted and presented by Jodi Church (2009) in an article entitled Is online education more effective than traditional learning?, shows “that students doing partial or all course work online rank, on average, in the 59th percentile, meaning better than 59% of all those who were scored; whereas students in traditional classrooms ranked in the 50th percentile”.

While analysing these findings, it can be rightly assumed that traditional learning is not necessarily the best way of maintaining a learning process. For that reason, e-learning models are regarded as good educational models that constantly evolve and improve, offering music students better tools and opportunities to achieve their educational goals.

But how can we define a good educational model? A good educational model must be able to provide the student with satisfactory learning environment, in which they are able to think by themselves, to be creative and original, to solve problems and to interact with their surroundings in a collaborative way. With its flexibility, accessibility and convenience; e-learning seems to be the perfect way to develop these objectives (Rashty 2001).

Referring to past studies on online learning David Rashty (2001) points out that “students have expressed higher satisfaction from the computer-mediated learning, and rated the learning as more effective than in the traditional framework”.

A further analysis of the modern approach reveals a number of characteristic features of this model, which are superior to traditional learning. These are listed below:

• Active learning and its main advantages (Rashty 2001):

– It requires the learner to be intensely involved in the learning process, which is due to the use of a computer and a physical involvement in gathering and sending information;

– It requires the learner to be socially and cognitively involved in the learning process, as a direct result of the need to discuss with and respond to other online learners;

– It enhances and magnifies the attainment of knowledge and requires the learner to be able to organise and analyse the information;

– It is not time-restricted, so it allows the learner enough time for developing complex concepts and digesting the information;

– It allows the learner to control the learning process;

– It allows receiving and processing information at convenient times;

– It requires learner’s responsibility and initiative in advancing in the learning process and forwarding knowledge;

• Creative thinking as an important element of online learning (Rashty 2001):

– Online learning (OL) improves the learner’s ability to seek out gaps in information, to propose, examine and improve ideas and to discuss the results;

– OL enhances learner’s creativity by encouraging him/her to take risks and to commit to tasks;

– OL supports learner’s curiosity and openness to new ideas;

– OL enables the learner to freely express himself/herself in an environment that is free from many psychological inhabitations existing in the traditional classroom;

– OL enhances the learner’s creative thinking processes by utilising the Internet’s developing technology and its tools for the purpose of gaining and processing information;

• Creative thinking (Rashty 2001):

There are various techniques, which have been put to use in learning through

the Web which encourage the development of critical thinking. Critical thinking was

intended to enable a choice of information, the ability to choose among several

solutions, the ability to assess the force of a given argument, and the ability to reach

decisions. The critical thinking grows stronger also following use of graphics and

hypertext, which refine the hierarchy and logical structure of the concepts on the


The process required from the student when searching for information on the

Web, which includes defining the query, carrying out the search operation,

examining the results and sifting and pinpointing the question, also refines the

student’s critical thinking.

Any other operation by which the student identifies main points, searches for

cause and effect, finds patterns and relationships between data, creates a timetable,

examines costs versus products – all these are also actions which refine the

student’s critical thinking.

eLearning also includes advantages which are not found in traditional learning, such as: time for digesting the information and responding, enhanced communication among the learners, both as regards quality and as regards urgency, knowledge being acquired and transferred among the learners themselves, the ability to conduct an open discussion, where each learner gets more of an equal standing than in a face-to-face discussion, access to information and to discussion ability, responses may be made around the clock with no restrictions, a higher motivation and involvement in the process on the part of the learners.

The very use of technology for learning has been found to have a positive effect on the student’s commitment to the learning process. Also, use of technology creates a greater commitment on the students’ part to learning.

The following table summarizes several opinions regarding the comparison between traditional learning and eLearning:

Traditional Learning


Classroom Discussions

The teacher usually talks more than the student

The student talks at least as much as or more than the teacher

Learning Process

The learning is conducted with the whole class participating; there is almost no group or individual study

Most of the learning process takes place in groups or by the individual student.

Subject Matter

The teacher conducts the lesson according to the study program and the existing curriculum

The student participates in determining the subject matter; the studying is based on various sources of information, including web data banks and net-experts located by the student.

Emphases in the Learning Process

The students learn “what” and not “how”; the students and the teachers are busy completing the required subject matter quota; the students are not involved in inquiry-based education and in solving problems, but rather in tasks set by the teacher.

The students learn “how” and less “what”; the learning includes research study which combines searching for and collecting information from web data banks and authorities on the communications network; the learning is better connected to the real world, the subject matter is richer and includes material in different formats.


The students’ motivation is low, and the subject matter is “distant” from them.

The students’ motivation is high due to the involvement in matters that are closer to them and to the use of technology.

Teacher’s Role

The teacher is the authority

The teacher directs the student to the information.

Location of Learning

The learning takes place within the classroom and the school

The learning takes place with no fixed location

Lesson Structure

The teacher dictates the structure of the lesson and the division of time

The structure of the lesson is affected by the group dynamics.

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