Learning an instrument during lockdown
Our pick of apps and tutorials to help you make sweet music…
08 Jan 2021
We're going to be spending more time at home thanks to the latest lockdown. So why not try and learn a musical instrument? We’ve come up with some great apps and online tutorials to help you get started. But before you dive right in, here are 5 top tips for all budding musicians…
- Learn some theory. A little musical theory goes a long way. If you know how your musical instrument works, it’ll help you learn quicker. So spend some time teaching yourself about the basic chords and scales you’ll be using on your new instrument.
- Take it easy. When it comes to learning an instrument, your brain can only concentrate for 20-30 minutes. Don’t play for more than half an hour without a short break.
- Don’t skip ahead. Don’t try and do too much at once. You’ll only get disheartened when things get too difficult. Take things slowly, and repeat every step until you nail it.
- Record yourself. Listening back to yourself is a great way of analysing how well you’re doing. And it’s usually painfully easy to hear where you’re going wrong.
- Go high tech. Sure, an instrument and a good music book is all you really need - but there are loads of apps and online tutorials to make learning fun. You’ll find some of the best below.
Okay, ready to get started? As promised, here are a few of our favourite apps and YouTube pages to help you get started on the guitar, piano… and the good old ukulele.
For guitar heroes
Fender has really stepped up to the mark during these troubled times, offering three months of free lessons on the guitar, bass and ukulele. This usually costs around £8 a month, so it’s a great deal.
Download the Fender app onto your smartphone or tablet, and strap on your guitar. Fender Play is great for complete beginners, with step-by-step guides to take you through all the basics from chords to scales. The videos have close-ups in different angles to help you position your fingers like a pro, and there are also backing tracks for bass players to play along to. You can also choose your favourite genre, so you’ll always be playing along to music you actually like. It helps.
To get the 3 months free offer, visit fender.com/playthrough.
Andy Guitar is our favourite YouTube guitar teacher by far. Lessons are free and there are hundreds of them, arranged in tiers for beginners, lower-intermediate, and intermediate. Each lesson features the man himself - Andy Guitar (or Andy Crowley, to use his real name) - and he’s got an easy-going style that keeps you engaged and motivated. The lesson page also features a list of chords used, along with helpful diagrams.
As well as guitar, Andy also offers a free 10-day ukulele course. You can download his free app from Google Play or the App Store.
The Martin Smith acoustic guitar bundle is a great choice for anyone that wants to start making music. With steel strings and metal gearheads, it's a guitar that stays in tune for longer. Plus, it has all the accessories you need, including a foldable stand, clip-on tuner and gig bag.
For future concert pianists
If you want to learn the piano or keyboard, get the Flowkey app on your smartphone. It’s free to sign up, and it starts off by asking you a few simple questions to judge your level of experience. You then get eight free songs to start learning.
Flowkey has some really neat features to help you learn. There’s a slow-motion setting that lets you see every note, and a loop function to help you get those tricky chords absolutely perfect. If you don’t get it right first time, try and try again.
As we said, Flowkey is free to use. But if you really get into it you might want to go for the premium upgrade. There are a few pricing options, and you can learn across different devices and choose hundreds of songs to play.
Simply Piano is another great app you can download onto your smartphone or tablet, and sign up for a free 7-day trial. You’ll be asked to set your experience level, and choose the goals you want to achieve (“Learn piano as a new hobby”, perhaps). Then you can start working your way through the 27 courses.
Simply Piano lets you learn in small steps, so it never feels too daunting. Once you’ve learned a few small sections, you’ll be given the chance to play along to a backing track, with the notes you need to hit scrolling across the screen. Get a note right and it turns blue. Get a note wrong and it turns red. Hit too many red notes and you’ll end up in practice mode – learning more slowly with a metronome to keep time. You can’t move onto the next course until you complete the one you’re on (tough, but fair). So it pays to concentrate.
The Yamaha PSR-F51 home keyboard bundle is great for beginners, With 120 realistic instrument sounds, you can choose from pianos, guitars, synths, drum kits and more, to create the sound you're after. The Duo function lets your family, friend or tutor play along with you, and the bundle includes headphones, a bench and keyboard stand - everything you need to get started!
Got a different instrument to learn? Then follow our 5 tips above, and search YouTube for the best tutorials.