Sunday, May 23, 2010

My tour of the Andreas Oberg Guitar Universe


When was the last time you felt like a kid in a candy store? Me, that was two days ago when I took a tour of the Andreas Oberg's Guitar Universe! Powered by ArtistWorks, Andreas Guitar Universe is a great educational concept for guitar players. Specially those wanting to get into jazz or expand their knowledge of guitar in general.

I have spent countless hours browsing YouTube for educational videos on all sorts of guitar styles. I have learned many tricks this way and I'm sure I'll keep doing it. I see it as a valid way of expanding my musical horizons, but it is also an overwhelming exercise. For an effective learning experience I am convinced nothing replaces structure, human feedback and coaching. And that's an irreplaceable component of taking lessons with a music professor.

So, in the online world, this is where Andreas Oberg Guitar Universe steps in! The idea is simple, it consists of a video library (hundreds of videos) covering a very wide range of topics. From beginner to very advanced stuff. Users create a student profile and have access to all these videos, which are grouped in different categories. 

After the students master the different topics, they can submit their own videos regarding specific lessons and get feedback from Andreas himself, which gets published as a video. In other words, it is a video exchange between students and in this case, Andreas Oberg.

Now, let me stop for a moment. If you don't know who Andreas Oberg is, do yourself a favour, stop what you're doing and find his music! He is one of the most impressive guitar players you'll ever hear. He is one of those musicians who seem to have absolute control over their instrument. But unlike many other virtuosos, he puts his technique to the service of music and not the other way around. You can find some stories about him here:  http://www.topofguitar.com/searchResults?keywords=andreas+oberg

Back to Andreas Guitar Universe... wouldn't it be cool to have the chance of getting feedback from a guitar player the calibre of Andreas Oberg? I think it is, so now let me get started with my tour of the AGU.

This is a members-only site, so you have to create a user and pay a subscription fee (as of today, $60 for 3 months). Once you become a member, this is what the landing page looks like:



Here you can see the main sections. On the left hand side there are links to videos: Lessons, Tunes, Feedback Center, Performances.

Users can interact with the online community either by posting public messages (similar to tweets) or you can also chat with logged in members, including Andreas himself. He is regularly online, which is really cool.

There are announcements from Andreas himself as well, regarding tours or news in general, including a featured video.

Now, let's take a look at the video sections:


As you can see, there is a list of topics (Guitar Basics, Tricks & Techniques, Jazz Basics, Jazz Advanced, Gypsy Guitar, etc). Each one has at least a dozen instructional videos.

Regarding the videos themselves, they consist of Andreas playing in a particular style or using a specific guitar element. Then he explains how he applies those concepts to his guitar playing, in a clear, straight forward way. If you're familiar with his playing then you know about his amazing dexterity, therefore some lessons include a slow motion clip.

Regarding the topics, they cover everything you need to know as a (jazz) guitar player. Guitar basics? Yes. Picking? Yes. Modes? Yes. How to actually use the modes? Extremely important to get a practical explanation on this topic (that's a big Yes). Scales? Yes. Sample tunes? Yes. Advanced technique? Yes. Gypsy jazz? Yes. Chord shapes? Yes. Advanced chords? Chord voicings? Yes. Arpeggios? Yes.

Then, as a student you have the option of submitting your guitar videos on specific topics and Andreas will review them and provide his feedback. You'll see the feedback is done very thoroughly and with Andreas himself showing how he would approach that topic himself. As of now, there is an unlimited number of videos each student can submit. These videos become visible to members of the AGU community, including the feedback portion.

This is where I see the most value in the AGU. Specially since lessons evolve into a video exchange between students and Andreas himself, adding so much value to the musical and learning experience.

To summarize, here is my list of conclusions after visiting the AGU:

Pros:
  • You get to interact and get advice from one of the best jazz guitar players in the world. This is really priceless.
  • Videos are organized in a logical order, as opposed to just searching for stuff in the web.
  • If you follow all topics, you will improve your guitar playing in giant steps, specially if you're interested in jazz.
  • Andreas is very open in his videos, therefore you get to see many details about his artistry. 
  • The slow motion feature in some lessons is a great way to get a very close look into Andreas approach to jazz guitar. 
  • You not only learn from Andreas, but also from an online community of guitar players. Lessons evolve into knowledge exchanges, and you get access to it all.


Considerations:
  • There is no written material regarding the lessons, either tabs or sheet music. Even though the lessons are very self explanatory and Andreas is very open, it would help to have a way to visualize the material.
  • I don't think the material in this site replaces a formal theory course. There are basic and advanced topics covered, but you will still need to refer to formal theory books in order to get the most out of AGU. I see AGU as an invaluable practical approach, though. 
  • I see this site as a great complement to other sources of music education. In most cases, it probably wouldn't be a replacement.
  • This is a great site for guitar players interested in jazz. If you're more inclined to rock music you will still learn many interesting concepts, but it might not be what you're looking for.

Conclusion:
Andreas Guitar Universe provides great value and a priceless experience for guitar players wanting to improve their skills and knowledge. I highly recommend it.

Enjoy!

Ernesto











1 comment:

  1. This site is truly awesome. I cannot recommend it enough. The jazz lessons are out of this world and Andreas always provides you with ways to improve.

    He really puts a lot of work into the site and I feel that I've imrpoved loads since I signed up.

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