Why not – learn to play the guitar?

screen shot 2019-01-10 at 16.10.34Learn to play guitar in the comfort of your own home

What do you if you’re a successful musician and you’ve got a few hours to kill between gigs? Australian guitarist Justin Sandercoe used the time to record guitar lessons on video for a website that has gone on to teach thousands of people how to play the guitar and whose videos have been watched more than 100 million times. As well as beginners lessons, there are more advanced courses on folk, the blues, rock and metal, jazz and songwriting.

Justin has found that video and the internet lend themselves extremely well to guitar tuition. ‘The internet is good,’ he says during our interview (appropriately via Skype), ‘ because it’s permanently updatable and we can use our online forum to create a community where people can go on and discuss their concerns – it reinforces the positive vibe of learning. Video is is better than the written word –after all, music is about listening. The written word is useful as well but video is more personable, people think they know me. I once did a meet up in Sydney and there were 20 odd people talking about me in the third person, saying things like: “Do you remember when he did that?”. It was quite funny.’

Justin has also found that website learning perfect for people who have disabilities or anyone who has difficulties with social interaction. ‘It’s also good for a businessman who can’t make a regular lesson,’ he says. ‘He can do it from hotel bedroom or whatever. The internet is a pretty incredible communication tool.’

The whole approach is about about making it fun, rather than having to learn the dreaded Three Blind Mice and Row, row, row your boat. ‘That’s not fun and won’t impress your friends,’ says Justin. Instead, the beginners course is divided into nine lessons in which students will learn A, D and E chords and how to strum four in a bar. Students are introduced to songs they can play with those three chords and learn to change between the three chords – the most common struggle for new guitar players. The course then goes on to to introduce new chords and songs and eventually different strumming patterns and a bit of lead guitar. Songs such as Walk the Line, Love me do and Common People are all featured in the early lessons.

There’s a set practice routine on the beginners course, which even busiest person should be able to find time for – it’s only 18 minutes a day.

And how much are the lessons? Remarkably, they are free for people who can’t afford the lessons. For the rest of us an honour system is in place for people to donate – there are recommendations on the website about how much is appropriate.
When I ask Jason about this incredibly generous approach, he provides a modest, philosophical reply. ‘I’ve had a great life out of music – I guess I’m not that greedy about it. I make a pretty comfortable living from the website, donations and ads and books and DVDs, songs out over the last 20 years doing this stuff. If I can have a good lifestyle and I can help people who couldn’t otherwise afford it that’s a pretty reasonable kind of balance. Music shouldn’t be denied to people just because they don’t have as much money as someone else.’

So, if you want to learn to play, go to the website www.justinguitar.com and join the many thousands who have already learned from Justin – and don’t forget to make a donation.

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