By Tommi Aitala, professional guitar teacher with 20+ years of experience in Rauma, Finland.
The traditional way of learning to play an instrument has been a very formal one. One teacher, one book, with every student playing the same exercises and most motivated individuals becoming somewhat similar musicians. The more classically oriented, the more similar, since the repertoire is also more limited.
The obstacles I encountered on my path of learning to play guitar were different from the ones of the friends of mine. Some struggled with maintaining a steady rhythm, some found difficulties in using four fingers when fretting, et cetera. When I started teaching professionally more than 20 years ago, I had a clear vision that every player should be faced and guided utilizing their personal unique talents and naturally their own musical preferences.
Some people learn easiest by reading. Some understand numbers, colours or sounds better. Some gain from associating musical context to something completely else. Everyone sees new things differently, so everyone also learns new things in an individual way. And everyone needs the hands-on practice.
When I first found Yousician (or rather its predecessor GuitarBots), I was staggered how well this educational program responded to the needs I described above. Slowing down tempo for practice, numbers vs. note names, visualization, colours for fingers, to mention but a few. And above all it makes you practice.
There are three slightly different ways I use Yousician in. My main teaching environment is giving private lessons in Rauman Musiikkikoulu (The Rauma School of Music). Private students I have are of ages roughly 6 to 70. Especially the younger players were born in computer age and it’s very natural for them to communicate with platforms often used for gaming. The most fascinating point in this is that they have fun “playing a game” but I see it as learning music “disguised”. The parents of many young players have started playing guitar or bass themselves once they’ve been introduced to Yousician. Family fun!
With private students it’s easy for me as a teacher to follow the playing activity and progress in homework even outside the lessons. When I give a homework piece to a young student as a Yousician song or as a paper notation, which one do you think will be played more? And, which one do you think is more efficient? Right.
I need to say that Yousician is not the best way for everyone. In many cases the goals of a student are more easily achieved by traditional ways. And to give perspective, I never use only Yousician in teaching.
The second environment is the University of Turku, where I teach music to future teachers. In a 8-16 students’ group everyone is an individual, again, and sometimes it’s best to have all sign in to their personal accounts, sometimes we all play together using one account. Both ways have naturally their pros and cons. In an academic institution the grades play a significant role. Activity in studying is one of the main criteria and that can objectively be monitored with YousicianEdu (No longer supported).
Music technology is another of my subjects. The target is for students to be able to use different music software in their future profession. The Yousician user interface is quite simple to learn, but combining it with for example a DAW recording or notating programs is fruitful and develops creativity.
Finally, the third surroundings I use Yousician in is Rock Academy Finland. This is a project in which young bands are trained in playing, composing, arranging, recording, gigging, promoting, etc. The training takes two years and is free for the bands. New bands are selected every year. In this context Yousician is a great way to get to know other players’ instruments. Naturally, the bass player will practice his own instrument but he will be also assigned guitar and keyboard parts of the same piece. Two guitar players will practice each others’ parts and the drummer will find new dimensions in his playing by learning the bass line. When the players already know each other, a natural competition will be born.
Talking about creativity, we’ve also tried singing the guitar lines and uploaded vocal lines written with GuitarPro. Works well! We’ve used a pitch shifter for guitar to play bass lines and vice versa. We’ve played melodies with every other note assigned to the other guitar, every other to another. Also, polyphonic Yousician melodies can be played with two (or more) guitars. A very simple song can be a real challenge when arranged in a new way. So should you as a teacher have a student who “knows it all already”, no problem!
Yousician is free to use for iOS, Android, Mac and PC. If you’re a music teacher, you can signup for Yousician for Teachers (No longer supported). View your students’ progress. Motivate them with fun homework. Boost their practice between lessons. See them get better faster. Your students and their parents will thank you for it.