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My Experience With Online Guitar Lessons

Over the pandemic, with the restrictions on social interaction, the cancellation of all gigs and in person lessons. It felt that the world itself moved online. Faced with a lot of free time on my hands and being a guitar teacher myself. I saw an opportunity I couldn’t pass by. My all-time favourite guitarist Joel Hoekstra (Guitarist for Whitesnake, Cher, TSO, Night Ranger and Broadway’s Rock of Ages) advertised on his social media that as all tours were cancelled, he was offering a select amount of tuition per week via Skype form his apartment in New York to keep his skills up, pass on knowledge and of course, earn a living! Immediately I dropped him a rather excited email. The next day, I found a reply from Joel in my inbox, the introduction reading: “Hi Matt, I’m looking for people that can commit to a weekly time slot for at least a few weeks. Content is up to you, I tab it during, send over after and you’re free to record it via Skype.” After my reply, I got a swift response yet again saying: “Fantastic, I’ve got you down for 3:30pm EST. I am ****** on Skype, Standard tuning, please make Payments on Paypal to ******* before the lesson. Looking forward to it! - Joel” Great! Now I had a lesson booked, I needed to make sure my online setup was ready for the task at hand. I would have been absolutely fine with a phone, Ipad or laptop just as many of my students use, but thankfully I have a professional setup for my own online lessons with a UAD interface, Adam Audio monitor speakers and an Aston Origin Condenser Microphone. These sound clear, bright and work great with my Apple Mac over the internet.

Receiving the lessons over a screen was quite a strange experience, but absolutely thrilling. After giving my own teaching classes this way it was a fantastic experience to be on the other side of the screen and be a student, receiving so much knowledge and information each week alongside getting my mind absolutely blown by Joel's versatility and virtuosity!

Joel was great, friendly and informative. I was given plenty of exercises, techniques and some priceless advice, he was a great leader and definitely pushed me to achieve more than I thought I was capable of, challenging me to take on some of his own compositions. I thought we may begin with some challenging, demanding exercises but to my surprise we started right back at the foundations, taking me through the positions of the minor pentatonic scales first and how to get the most from each scale shape, some unique and very cool techniques alongside some music theory.

He sent me scanned photos of the tab he was writing from New York to the UK instantaneously each lesson as the content progressed in difficulty. Whilst this was happening, I was recording the videos directly to my computer, so I could review it an unlimited number of times, this I found to be a major advantage over physical lessons. Not a single world would be lost and I can re-live these moments second by second even now….

Despite being over a screen, we were able to discuss topics at great length, such as the major, harmonic minor, melodic minor, diminished scale systems and vast topics form multi-finger tapping, legato and hybrid picking exercises to jazz standards to weep picking. He showed me concepts I’d never seen performed on the guitar before and definitely would not have found without his teaching. Joel was so talented and computer literate I was even able to jam over his rhythm guitar playing (Despite my lead guitar being very distracting due to the latency at his end, he played in time with me to offset this).

I often filmed progress videos after countless hours of practice and sent them over to Joel via google drive during the week before our lessons, and he would watch and review them, then give me some feedback before moving onto the next subject topic.

Some disadvantages I encountered during this time were I once had a power cut mid-lesson that left my wireless router off for 30 minutes! The power had also taken out the Virgin Media distribution box on my street which meant I could not email Joel on mobile data to let him know what had happened.

Another (Easily avoidable) issue was actually the time difference between us. Over the course of the year there were two occasions of Joel calling me an hour earlier (daylight savings time) and neither of us realising what had happened. Quite funny actually.

Overall I found my experience of taking guitar lessons online so inspiring, I ended up taking these lessons for over a year with Joel. Each lesson, I would save the recorded video and print out the tab sheets and put them into a book that now serves as my practice manual. We built up a great relationship despite living across the Atlantic and I doubt our paths would ever have crossed otherwise. The skills I have learned alongside dedicating a year to practice and getting to know one of my favourite musicians personally was a life-changing experience and has truly shown me what can be possible with the new world of online guitar tuition and what it takes to be a professional in the music industry at an elite level.

Since my time studying with Joel, we have kept in touch and he invited me to see Whitesnake at the Genting Arena in Birmingham 2022, which was an absolutely incredible show. The following year we met up again in 2023 while he was touring the UK with Brandon Gibbs. It was fantastic to catch up, talk about our lessons together, my recent tour with Twister and The Quireboys and how unbelievably tired we were, haha!

Joel Hoekstra

What a great experience and a time in my life I will never forget, thank you Joel! All my best, Matt.


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