Discover the Best Music Classes Online
Music is a broad term we use to refer to any form of organized sound. While an exact definition is difficult to pin down, we can consider music to be an artform that blends rhythm, melody, harmony, and other emotionally evocative sounds into a (usually) aesthetically pleasing arrangement.
Broadly speaking, music can be divided into a theoretical component and a practical component. On the theoretical side, music theory covers the fundamental principles governing how sounds relate to one another, including aspects like harmony, melody, chords, and scales. On the practical side, music involves technical skill with a particular instrument to actively produce the sounds. Most music classes will attempt to blend theory and practice, but will naturally favor one component over the other. While, for instance, you can expect to learn basic music theory while taking a piano class, much of the lesson will be devoted to learning how to play the instrument.
Why You Should Learn Music Online
Through the years of the COVID pandemic, as people were forced inside for long periods of time, many turned to online endeavors to keep themselves sane. Music was a popular outlet for creative expression and mental wellbeing, with one of the most recognizable media productions from the period being Bo Burnham’s musical Inside. It’s no wonder that many turned to music in this time; Major research universities like Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania suggest that music, and especially playing an instrument, has a strong positive impact on cognitive health and development by engaging multiple areas of the brain simultaneously.
Though the pandemic has passed, the turn to online outlets left a strong infrastructure for continued engagement, with many excellent online options being the new norm. Online classes are a great way to tap into the resources of local communities without having to be physically present on-site. Regardless of whether your local community lacks a strong music scene or you’re seeking a niche subject where classes aren’t a common offering, online classes are a great option to cast a wider net in the search for the specific musical instruction you need.
Virtual Music Classes
So much of the music experience is defined by travel. Traveling across town for a music lesson. Traveling to a buddy’s house for band practice. Traveling in a too-small band van to the next gig.
While we know all the tropes about travel for the sake of music, they’re often expressed in a voice of complaint. Fortunately, you can cut out some of the travel by opting to take lessons through virtual music classes that you can attend from your own home. From performance and instrumentation to musical genres to songwriting and production, CourseHorse makes it easy to find accessible online music classes that suit your specific needs.
Online music classes are a great way to learn music because they offer the same core benefits as in-person instruction. The most important aspect of any class is working in real time with an instructor who can demonstrate techniques, respond to your own technique as you play, and provide live feedback and technical advice throughout the process. Moreover, online classes are all about accessibility; by tapping into resources outside of your local scene, you open yourself up to more options for niche subjects and for flexible scheduling to help accommodate a busy work-life schedule.
It should be noted, however, that an online class does require some extra attention to your personal equipment and playing space. While high quality speakers and microphones are not essential - even basic equipment is functional - the sound quality of a session will depend on your equipment, and cannot hope to match the acoustics of being in the same room as your instructor. While the notes will still be recognizable, the discrepancy in quality may prove frustrating to those particularly sensitive to such matters.
You don’t need to live in Harlem to tap into the history of New York jazz thanks to the online classes from the New York Jazz Workshop. The New York Jazz Workshop seeks to make world-class jazz instruction accessible to those outside of major universities and conservatories, and advances this mission of accessibility by offering excellent options for online instruction.. Most instructors are associated with renowned institutions like NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, The Juilliard School, Columbia University, and The Manhattan School of Music, ensuring the quality of education will rival that offered by a major conservatory.
New York Jazz Workshop’s “Let’s Sing” series offers workshops designed to provide foundational skills, helping beginner and intermediate-level students develop vocal techniques and familiarize themselves with the language of jazz. While many workshops in the “Let’s Sing” series are held in-person in New York, New York Jazz Workshop also arranges for many remote learning opportunities accessible to anybody with an internet-connected device with a microphone. In these Let’s Sing classes, learn techniques for breathing and vocalization to help strengthen your singing voice, tips for phrasing, rhythm, improvisation, and mid-session communication, and also basic principles of music theory. Depending on your schedule, you can sing With Olivia Foschi on Wednesday evening or With Jocelyn Medina on Thursday evening.
Beyond the world of jazz vocals, the Irish Arts Center offers robust programming in the niche of Irish folk music. An organization operating out of Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan, the Irish Arts Center is dedicated to promoting and preserving the evolving arts and culture of contemporary Ireland and Irish America. The Irish Arts Center offers online classes in a wide range of traditional Irish instruments, including Fiddle, Irish Mandolin, Celtic Harp, and even Tin Whistle. In each class, you’ll learn techniques for how to play your chosen instrument as well as develop listening skills to pick up tunes by ear. These classes are offered in five levels ranging from beginner to intermediate proficiency, so be sure to match your current level to the class's expectations.
The Irish Arts Center also offers lessons beyond single-instrument instruction with classes following a more theory-based approach to music. The Introduction to Music Theory requires no prior experience in theory or in reading music, and can offer complete novices a sound foundation in the basics of music theory by analyzing the modes, scales, and rhythmic patterns commonly found in traditional Irish music. With equal emphasis on learning concepts by ear and by consulting notation, this is a comprehensive course to develop practical listening skills as well as the written representation of theoretical concepts. Those less interested in formal notation may be drawn instead to Learning Tunes by Ear, which is designed to encourage active listening to recognize and latch onto patterns commonly found in Irish melodies. Both of these classes rely on traditional Irish music to supply examples and patterns, so they’re a great option for anyone who would like to approach theory through a distinctly Celtic lens.
Other classes focused primarily on the theoretical side of music can be found through the online courses from the 92nd Street Y, another New York organization with classes devoted to theory and songwriting. Music Theory and Ear Training for Singers is designed specifically for vocalists to help them build aural listening skills while learning fundamental components of music theory. The class helps participants develop sight-singing skills that allow them not only to read musical notation and reproduce the correct notes, but also to form a theoretical understanding of the tonal relationships between the notes.
Songwriters can learn the basic elements of songwriting in The Mystery of Songwriting. Under the guidance of award-winning songwriter and composer Christopher North, students will learn technical tips for developing harmonies, riffs, and hooks, as well as broader principles of arrangement and composition. The class also covers practical advice for recording and publishing songs.
Los Angeles also boasts a robust scene for writers and songwriters, with thriving entertainment industries relying on the talents of many writers, actors, and musicians working nearby. The Songwriting School of Los Angeles is a prestigious institution whose instructors include Grammy-winning and Grammy-nominated songwriters, ASCAP and BMI Song of the Year Award winners, and film and tv composers. Through its classes both in songwriting and in particular instruments, the organization seeks to foster a community of talented individuals, with students ranging from novices to artists signed by a record label and multiple Grammy nominees. At the Songwriting School of Los Angeles, Each class is an opportunity to meet potential collaborators and peers.
The Songwriting School of Los Angeles also offers classes tailored to more specific genres for those who are songwriting for a specific purpose. The selected topics and genres vary throughout the year. The current listing taps into the East Coast spirit of Broadway in How to Write for Musical Theater. This class covers everything needed to write music for a theatrical production, including strategies for developing and expressing character through song, advancing the plot through song, placing a song within the overall structure of the performance, and also techniques for revision and rewriting.
CourseHorse also features several course listings in music production and DJing.
Founded in 2002 by Jam Master Jay of Run DMC fame, Scratch DJ Academy seeks to lower the barrier of entry into the arts of DJing and music production. Scratch offers private online 1-on-1 DJ Lessons customized specifically for your personal needs and equipment setup. Whether you’re using Serato or Rekordbox as software, whether you’re working with a turntable, a CDJ player, a DJ controller, or even if you don’t own your own equipment, Scratch DJ’s veteran instructors can custom tailor your session to help you excel with your personal setup.
Other DJ classes come from the online music production school NYC Beat Making, the brainchild of Manhattan-based composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Yoav Shemesh. Offering private classes in music production that offer personalized direction and feedback, NYC Beat Making is an incredible resource for anyone trying to develop their own signature sound as a producer.
The flagship course offering of NYC Beat Making is the one-on-one Beat Making/Music Production class. Because these are individual classes, course content can be effectively catered to your individual skill level; beginners can get an overview of the basic skills needed in beat making, while more advanced musicians can request guidance on specialized topics in music production and mixing. For advanced learners especially, the learning process is a self-directed one, allowing students to take control of the topics they consider most important. Typical topics include beat creation, working with analog synths and drum machines, production and recording, track structure and composition, remixing and sampling tracks, instrumental arrangement, keyboard-playing skills, and sound engineering. For those looking for a session longer than 90 minutes, CourseHorse conveniently offers the ability to bundle two classes into a 3-hour slot at a discounted rate.
Those looking to use music as a stage for social connections might consider Beat Making for Couples, a perfect date night for music lovers. Whereas the standard beat making class is driven by an individualized interest in specific topics or techniques, this couples class focuses on collaboration and working together as a couple or as co-writers. While collaborating, the standard principles of beat making are covered, including track structure and composition, remixing and sampling tracks, and instrumental arrangements.
Private Online Group Music Classes
While stories of high-profile bandmates feuding and breaking up bands abound - consider Pink Flloyd’s Roger Waters and David Gilmour, or even the Beatles’ Paul McCartney and John Lennon - more common advice is that friends who play together stay together. A jam session, even a virtual jam session, can be a great way for a team to unwind and collaborate, strengthening inter-group bonds through shared music creation. To get the band back together for some group bonding, CourseHorse offers music classes for private groups.
CourseHorse doesn’t currently have any public listings for virtual jam sessions, but they are more than willing to work with you on an individual basis to organize a customized musical event. You can reach out to CourseHorse to learn about the options they can provide, and they’ll get to work scheduling the perfect event for your group.
If you’ve got a team of music lovers who don’t necessarily all play instruments, music can still be the centerpiece of a team social event. Let your team flex their music knowledge with a Music Trivia night, or have a bit of Christmas in July with Holiday Music Karaoke Trivia.
Whether you’re scheduling a custom course or pursuing public listings, CourseHorse makes it easy to book an online group course with a streamlined checkout process and options to tailor your event to your specific needs. It’s also easy to change your booking details after the fact; CourseHorse will hold your date as soon as your event is confirmed, and allows you to change your group size if anything changes leading up to the class. You can be flexible and add or remove people from your group, and CourseHorse won’t finalize payment details until you have a truly definitive headcount.
Online vs. In-Person Music Classes
Unless you’re a true musical prodigy, you’re much better off starting your musical journey with formal instruction rather than following the “self-taught” route. Formal classes ensure that you’re learning in the fastest, most effective way possible, as lessons are crafted such that the content is appropriate for your individual skill level, and each bit of information naturally builds upon the previous to form a natural progression as simple concepts progress into more complex ones.
Fortunately, finding formal instruction has never been easier. The traditional model of going to a music store or a studio for lessons is still an effective way of learning, but developments in technology have made it possible for a proliferation of online offerings that make finding the perfect class even more convenient. While both options are definitive ways to secure productive formal training, each has its own distinct advantages, so it is imperative to weigh available options to see what type of class is the best fit.
The traditional method of an in-person lesson remains popular with musicians for reasons of acoustics and sound quality. Without high-grade microphones and speakers, the sound quality of an online lesson will be drastically inferior compared to playing live in a room with a deliberate acoustic setup. In most cases, the difference in quality will not completely block a lesson from progressing - techniques can be reproduced, and the notes and scales will still be recognizable - but sound quality should certainly be a consideration for such a sound-centric field.
Online classes can reproduce most of the experience of an in-person lesson. An instructor can still demonstrate techniques, can see and hear your own playing, and can provide real-time guidance and feedback, which means that the core benefits of the lesson will be the same as in an in-person class. What an online class sacrifices in sound quality it more than makes up for in terms of flexibility. By casting a broader net beyond the listings of local offerings, online classes open up possibilities for flexible scheduling and niche subject matter that may be otherwise impossible in the local scene.
Can I Learn Music for Free Online?
With a vast array of free video tutorials on Youtube and apps like Yousician, Flowkey, and JustinGuitar Lessons and Songs, it has never been easier to start learning how to play an instrument for free. However, these free resources can only take you so far. Whether the free content doesn’t match your specific needs or the app’s free trial content runs out, you’re likely to eventually hit a wall that requires more advanced assistance. While free options are a great way to get started, those who find the endeavor worthwhile and are committed to taking their skills to the next level are best served investing in formal training to learn in the fastest, most effective manner.