computer guitar

The robot uprising is coming.

Call me crazy.

But it’s going to happen.

I don’t usually talk about stuff like this.

I usually talk about guitar playing tips.

How to practice better.

What kind of guitars to buy.

Fun songs to play.

So where is the robot issue coming from?

Well – in addition to guitar – I’m also super interested in futurology, specifically how automation has the potential to replace a ton of jobs in the future.

It’s already happening with self-driving cars (which will disrupt everything from trucking, to delivery services, to… well just about anything that involves transportation).

It’s gonna happen with other industries too.

I’m excited.

And I’m curious.

And of course I wonder:  What are the chances that I am going to get replaced by a computer?

In the future…. are you going to need me?

Well actually… you don’t really need me now .

Let’s break it down.

I’ve already written about how you can teach yourself guitar.

In all honesty, that’s how I did learned to play guitar.

I never needed a guitar teacher.

I needed the resources.  Things like:

  • Books on theory
  • Chord sheets for songs
  • Chord diagrams for specific chords
  • Videos of guitar players
  • Music recordings
  • Sheet music

In all honesty, this kind of stuff has been around for decades.  The internet has just made it more readily accessible (and in some cases, free).

So, with all of these available resources…. how is it that I have a job currently?

I have a three thoughts:

  1. It’s way faster and easier for a teacher to explain all of those resources (as opposed to a student learning the material on their own).  Especially true for kids.
  2. It’s much more effective to have an interactive element to the learning process (e.g. be able to ask questions, and get feedback).
  3. It’s just fun to have a lesson with another person, we get to connect on a social level.

At a very basic level this is how I (as a teacher) stand out among a library of resources.

So then the question becomes: Can computers replace those three points?

As of now: I say no (whew!)

But computers are getting better.

Let’s take each point individually:

  1. It’s way faster and easier for a teacher to explain all of those resources (as opposed to a student learning the material on their own).  Especially true for kids.

Right now, you can go on youtube and get just about any kind of guitar information.  There will be a human teacher explaining complicated concepts.

Even better, you can use something like JamPlay  to receive a more comprehensive and easier to follow explanation.

You just can’t ask immediate questions to a prerecorded video.  Something like JamPlay does include an interactive and live video element.

But again, it’s all human…. for now.

Speaking of the interactive element:

2.  It’s much more effective to have an interactive element to the learning process (e.g. be able to ask questions, and get feedback).  

JamPlay and similar programs include live video access.

Even I do Skype lessons.

These are mass-available solutions (and partial replacements to face-t0-face guitar lessons).

But these solutions are still all run by a human.  Computers can’t quite interact the way we do.

Well, except for Rocksmith and Yousician (cue scary music)….

Rocksmith and Yousician are 100%, human-free pieces of software that not only teach you how to play the guitar, but can also pick up on your mistakes.

Hmmm… Picking up on student mistakes is kind of my thing.

Should I be worried?

I’m not going to lie – seeing these programs in action worried me a little.

They can definitely get you started with the guitar.

But they’re not without their problems….

For example, in a lot of cases people who have used these tools to learn guitar, don’t retain their knowledge.  In other words, they struggle to play guitar without the use of the computer.  Not good.

But, they’re only going to get better.

Now what about the social aspect…

3.  It’s just fun to have a lesson with another person, we get to connect on a social level. 

Ahh!  The one thing that computers haven’t been able to replace.

For now.

Some of the best parts of guitar lessons are the social engagement, feedback, bonding, empathy, and growth that occurs (both for me and my students).

Sometimes it’s just fun to jam together.

The closest that computers have come to replacing this is something like being able to jam along to pre-recorded backing tracks.  This can be fun…. but it’s not the same.

So I’m not super worried that I’m going to be replaced by computers.

Does everyone need a guitar teacher?  Absolutely not.

Does everyone have the time and energy to teach themselves? Nope.

Can a guitar teacher help you learn more effectively?  Yeah.

So should you get a guitar teacher, or try to learn on your own?  It’s up to you.

No matter what you do, I’d love to hear what works and what doesn’t.  Not only does it help me grow as a teacher, but it helps everyone else who reads this blog.  Let us know in the comments below!

(Jake Posko does Online Guitar Lessons and Coaching as well as in-home lessons in the Annapolis, Maryland area including: Annapolis, Edgewater, Severna Park, Pasadena, Crownsville, Arnold and Kent Island, inquire about lessons by e-mailing him at jake@jakeposko.com).

(photo credit: Alan Levine)