Teaching an old dog, new tricks - My review of Veevar Guitar!

I think I'm safe in saying that in 2018, learning the guitar is more accessible than it ever has been. With the internet providing the budding guitar player the broadest possible platform in which to learn due to the likes of YouTube, tabs sites and skype lessons for example, there's never been a better time to pick up a guitar and give it a try. 

With almost everything in life now a just click away, it's understandable to feel that attention spans are perhaps not what they once were. I found out recently that you don't even have to go to the bar at a Wetherspoons to order your drink anymore, there's an app...yup! So the notion of making a concerted effort to learn a musical instrument must seem pretty difficult to justify for the younger generations growing up when so much is 'instant' in our day to day lives. The modern day distractions are endless, so I'm all for encouraging and supporting new ways of helping people learn any instrument, which is why when the team at a new online guitar syllabus, Veevar Guitar, invited me to have an in-depth look at what they have created, I accepted their kind invitation and dived straight in! It came at a useful time, as I'm in a position where I feel I'd like to further my somewhat limited knowledge too, so this seemed like a natural thing to review and try for myself.

Veevar Guitar

I decided to do this as I have never had any form of guitar lesson in my 25+ years of playing guitar. I'm far from the ideal student, I probably (edit, definitely) have bad habits & my technical knowledge is very limited so in many ways, I'm a beginner. If this syllabus could help someone like me, then surely it is doing something right, so what better way than to put it through it's paces? I was also intrigued about how this style of online course could work for anyone, from beginner to more established guitar player. With a lot of choice out there, how do you know which course is the right one for you? Well hopefully my review of Veevar Guitars' online syllabus will help with that.

Veevar guitar review

First up, this is geared towards finding the best, most productive way for you to learn. An important factor for me, (as I will admit I struggled with the idea of one to one guitar lessons early on, and later on in guitar playing life for that matter) is that YOU are given the choice of how to approach their syllabus which I feel is a great approach. We all learn differently, all at different paces, Veevar appear to have considered this from the very start of your journey with them, which is a really important point to touch on. If you do want some help along the way, Veevar have handpicked a country wide selection of professional guitar tutors which means you can work through lessons in person, or via skype etc to guide you through the various 'chapters' which is a great idea. I've been told there are currently 25 authorised tutors for this course, and they are growing that as the brand develops. If there isn't one local to you currently, then by the sounds of it there soon will be as they scout out more guitar tutors from around the country.

Veevar Guitar Review

At the time of checking available tutors via their 'Find a tutor' feature on the main website though, it sadly wasn't working for me meaning I couldn't see if there were any of their recommended tutors locally to me. I would imagine this is a temporary website glitch, but the theory is there and I'm sure this will be resolved as it's developed. Hope to see this fixed soon!

Veevar Guitar Review

If you're like me though, and prefer to lock yourself away and learn on your own, then once signed up and logged in, you'll find their syllabus split into levels, modules and chapters to approach as you please. I personally felt it was easy to navigate from my first visit to the platform, simple and pretty obvious on how to find your way around. Each of these levels and modules are laid out in exactly the same way which instantly appears simple and logical, and importantly far from daunting. Yes, there's an awful lot of information available to you, but being able to pick and choose how you want to approach it is perfect I think and certainly doesn't make me feel like I've had a huge textbook dumped in front of me not knowing where to begin. The bite-size pieces of information is ideal, especially in our busy lives! It's all broken down into categories - Technique, Chords, Scales, Theory, Ear Training & Sight Reading, with an introduction in each level giving you an idea of what you'll be tackling and achieving as your progress. 

Veevar Guitar Review

Where relevant, accompanying videos and very clear images are present on each exercise, which I felt left no room for confusion or guesswork, benefiting those working on their own rather than with a tutor perhaps. For the moment, these are straight to the point videos, no talking etc. To be honest, that suits me as I'm here to dive right in and someone with an equally short attention span might struggle to concentrate with an introduction talk to each clip. The way it has been done, for me anyway, works well and provides you with what you need to know. Some may benefit from a little talk through though depending on their learning styles, so perhaps something you'll see rolled out on future updates to the platform as an optional video?
The videos are embedded into each exercise, along with the notation and tab below to follow along. You can also change the playback speed and change playback to a continuous loop until you've nailed it, both very useful when working to your pace depending on existing skill level. I also noted and liked the little red boxed 'Tips', giving recommendations along the way of getting the best from the exercises, for example playing the scale runs with a metronome for additional time keeping practice.

Veevar Guitar review

The videos have been shot very well indeed. I would imagine it's easy to over-complicate this, but for me, the camera angles and layout works well. They're clear which along with two camera angles in most cases means you can see the important details that the tutor in the video is demonstrating. Are you left handed? Simply click the sideways arrows on the embedded video player and it inverts the image which is absolutely brilliant for helping LH players visualise as well as a RH player would. Simple idea, but top marks to the creators that details like this have been thought of. Southpaws rejoice!
Although I've never been the type of person that felt comfortable in a one to one guitar lesson environment, I have however always felt that they have an added benefit in that, if you are doing something wrong it would be noticed and corrected. Downside of learning on your own is you may get frustrated at not being able to correctly play something, or go about something in the wrong way resulting in bad habits for example. Here, you can see the techniques clearly demonstrated helping you compare it to what you're doing. Particularly useful for some of the technique pointers regarding hand positions etc.

Veevar Guitar review

One thing that I personally loved about learning guitar growing up, when the internet wasn't at our fingertips or you couldn't afford a tab book with your pocket money that week! Was to learn things by ear. For me, this has so many benefits which come to fruition when playing in a band & being an intuitive, creative musician for example, and Veevar Guitar appears to understand that as well. The 'Ear Training' exercises are a great way of developing this. The early levels work on identifying the sound of open strings or root notes for example, which I would imagine is an often overlooked aspect of learning to play an instrument. Also a great way of learning how to tune your guitar too, an incredibly important detail! Nothing more off-putting than trying to learn a riff on an out of tune guitar! I really liked that this had been considered and included in the course, as it was a big part of how I learnt the guitar by myself as a young kid, a tool like this would have been a fantastic help and also shows this isn't just about replicating what you see on the screen each exercise, it's about listening and recognising the notes and sounds you're making too.

Veevar Guitar review

An aspect of the syllabus I was personally most interested in working through was Sight Reading. This has been a subject I've struggled with grasping since an early age and shied away from ever since. I'm yet to find a way of digesting it that doesn't make me feel like that one idiot kid at school who doesn't understand when the rest of the class has nailed it. So time to face my fear and see if the guys at Veevar Guitar can help! The wording is concise and doesn't baffle the reader, I'm approaching apprehensively and even I found myself following from the get go which certainly helps with confidence moving forward and giving the exercises a try. I don't feel like I'm diving in at the deep end, and the beauty of working through this on my own is I don't have to worry about time restraints. I can work at my own pace, making sure it has all sunk in before moving on to the next step. Details like this are what would make or break a great learning platform, so I'm impressed to see even for the bad student like me, this is a comfortable place to be. 

Veevar Guitar Review

Moving away from the Syllabus for a moment, they have also incorporated a integrated forum. A place for the authorised teachers and the students using the platform to ask questions, discuss aspects they're struggling with or to offer each other help which is a nice idea. It's also good for the community aspect as learning guitar should definitely be fun first and formost, so here's a place to geek out about your favourite guitar gear or songs you're learning. Making this fun when it's such an in depth syllabus must be a hard thing for the developers to ensure is captured, but things like the integrated forum is a really great step in the right direction. I've been told they're also going to do weekly features such as 'Soundalikes' and 'lick of the week', which I think is a great idea for beginners to break away from the hardcore lessons and do something fun and rewarding in other ways. 

Overall I honestly feel this is a great way to start learning guitar, or even to find support in tackling old habits as an existing guitar player and further grow as a musician. It's delivered in such a way that can work for ANY style of learning, and the support network of authorised tutors feels like a safety net to have along the journey. We never stop learning as musicians, but I think having a tool like this as a young, enthusiastic kid wanting to learning guitar is simply fantastic. I realise there is an awful lot of choice these days in teaching/learning platforms, but Veevar Guitar have done a great job at creating a very relevant product that deserves to be up there with the best in my opinion. I'll be enjoying pushing myself as a guitarist, which if you've been reading some of my more recent blog posts about making an effort to improve my enjoyment levels when it comes to playing guitar, I think this will really help in achieving that. Beginners and established players alike will benefit from this platform, and I would confidently recommend it to those interested in trying this style of learning the guitar.

Thanks for reading,

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