MacPhail Online Music Lessons For Guitar Review

My 10 year old son has an ear for music.  He has wanted to learn to play the guitar since he was about 3 years old.  Living on one income with 6 kids, and some big expenses in other areas of our life, has resulted in us not being able to afford private music lessons for him.  We were blessed a few years ago when an opportunity came through our homeschool coop to attend a six week group lesson for free and we enrolled all three of our older boys in that class.  My 10 year old especially loved it and did very well.  But we could not afford to continue the music lessons after that even though we really wanted to.  He has continued to want to have guitar lessons.

So you might understand why we JUMPED FOR JOY to learn we were chosen to review 
MacPhail Online Music Lessons through MacPhail Center For Music in Minneapolis, MN.  This opportunity meant that one child in our family could have four online, one on one, real time lessons in the instrument of their choice.  We all agreed that our 10 year old should be the one to review this product and take advantage of this opportunity to further his skills with the guitar.  You would have thought he was given a million bucks!  He was absolutely thrilled to have these classes!
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MacPhail Center For Music offers live online lessons for: Piano, Guitar, Violin, Viola, Cello, Harp, Flute, Clarinet, Trumpet, Low Brass, Saxophone, and Percussion instruments.  Once you have chosen your instrument of choice for lessons, you are given an online questionnaire, and a live online face to face interview, then they are able to figure out the best teacher for your child.   You need a computer that has a good download and upload speed, and a web cam and microphone. You will also need to open a free account on Skype.  Skype allows you to have face to face meetings through your computer with your music teacher.  Our teacher also wanted us to have a free account through Evernote for his weekly written homework instructions.  Everyone we worked with at MacPhail was very friendly and supportive and helped us with step by step instruction to set everything up to go smoothly.


MacPhail Center For Music offers two pricing packages for homeschool students.  They also offer scholarships and financial aid opportunities.

Special Introductory Pricing – Individual Instruction – Four Online Lessons for $111
Receive four 30-minute individual online lessons from an outstanding teaching artist, from the convenience of your home. All K–12 homeschool students are eligible to participate in this package, a 25% discount from standard tuition rates.

Daytime Flex Packs for Live Online Lessons offer flexibility to accommodate your busy schedule and help you achieve your unique musical goals. Simply schedule 8 Live Online Lessons during the 18 week semester on any weekday from 9 am – 3 pm CST. Unexpected scheduling conflict? Our cancelation policy gives you the option of canceling your lesson up to 48-hours in advance, without forfeiting the lesson. Whether you travel for work or leisure, juggle kids’ extracurricular activities, or live in an area where options for studying your instrument are limited, MacPhail’s Daytime Flex Pack can help you experience the joy of music-making. Standard pricing will apply after introductory lessons at $37 per 30-minute lesson.  You can also choose a 45 minute and a 60 minute lesson time with additional pricing options.

Free Lesson
Get your first live online lesson free!
Use code ONLINE-1STFREE13 when registering.
Must register for minimum of two lessons.

How we used this product in our home:

Each Friday from 11:30 to 12, my son sat in front of the computer with his guitar on his lap.  His teacher, Josh, would call us on Skype through the computer.  We would accept the call from his teacher and the two of them could start talking and seeing each other in real time instantly.  It was as if they were in the same room together.  

Each week, the teacher would spend 30 minutes going over new skills with my son and give him a chance to practice the skill.  He also put assignments and diagrams on a program called Evernote.   I think my son would have benefited from the 45 minute and 60 minute lessons very well too.  The 30 minute lessons seem to go so quickly. 

Each week we could log into Evernote to read over the practice assignment and over the skill he had learned during the class.  We also logged into Evernote during the class to read diagrams too.  We did not have an iPad, but Josh told us he likes to use these with his students and can communicate instantly with what he is diagraming, drawing, writing, etc.  Using an iPad really enhances his teaching of chords and finger placement by using an app on the iPad that resembles a guitar and it plays notes and can be used as a tuner too.  But we did not have one and we were able to do the lessons just fine without it.

I tried to keep up with taking notes during each class so I could help my son go back over what he had learned.  I also printed off any instructions, diagrams, and songs the teacher put into Evernote.  We kept the notes and items we printed off in a three ring binder.

I have wanted to give my son guitar lessons for a long time.  He is now 10 years old and has begged to learn the guitar since he was 3.  Because of his incessant requests, we got him a guitar when he turned 5, but we were not able to afford private music lessons.  He was able to take a free 6 week coop class offered by a local music teacher a few years ago, but due to costs and having lots of children who also want to take music lessons, we have not been able to budget for ongoing lessons.  MacPhail’s prices are inline with other lessons we have checked on, and much more convenient to be able to do them in our own home. 

Week 1

He learned how to hold the guitar, hold the pick, and finger placement on the strings and frets. 

He learned about the strings and the notes on a scale they correspond with.

He learned how to play a song called Open String Song.  This is a song that is played by striking the stings with the right hand, and not touching any strings with the left hand.

He learned about a method of playing the guitar called TAB.  It is a simplified way of music notation for guitar players.  Instead of reading music only and trying to remember where one’s fingers should be placed, TAB uses a system in which a circle with a number is noted on a scale and it corresponds to finger placement.  So if you see a circle with a 3 on it and a 4 above it, it means you are to place your third finger on that string in the fourth fret.  It is sort of like short hand and is a simple system to help you remember finger placement. 

His assignment during the week was to practice the Open String Song.

Week 2

He learned how to tune the guitar.  We have a hand held tuner, and Josh also used his app on the iPad for tuning too.

My son played the Open String Song to show the teacher his progress.

Then he learned the G chord finger placement, and the D chord finger placement. 

His assignment during the week was to practice playing these chords.

Week 3

During his third lesson he repeated the chords he had practiced from the week before.  His teacher gave him feedback on his finger placements and his skill accomplishments.

Then he learned about finger patterns and how to play the cord for counts of 4  and 8.  Then he rested for a count of 4 while he changed his fingers to the next chord.  Then play for another count of 8 (count of 4 twice through). 

His assignment for the next week is to continue practicing the finger patterns and chord changes.  His teacher sent his assignment through Evernote to remind my son what he needed to practice this week. 

He practiced every morning with excitement until he had mastered the new skill.  As the week progressed and his final lesson approached, I noticed he became very sad.  We talked about it.  He doesn’t want the lessons to end.  He likes having a live instructor, and he really likes Josh.  He feels comfortable with him and learning about the guitar.  We talked about learning guitar lessons from videos or dvd’s, but he says this is much better and I would have to agree with him.  He likes the feedback from a real live person and he does not get this from a video or dvd.  He also has struggled with a mild form of dyslexia in the past, and would easily get frustrated if he messed up or the learning was too difficult.  Josh seems to be able to teach him in a way that he does not get frustrated and continues to be eager to try and do his best.  He over comes his mistakes and wants to learn even more.

Week 4

During his fourth lesson, my son learned a few more chords.  Then he applied the strumming pattern adding in these additional chords and learned the music to the song “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”  by the Beetles.  This song uses 5 main chords and is a fun song to learn.  His assignment for the upcoming week was to continue to practice this song.

Week 4 was his last lesson, and brought our review of this music program to an end.  I was very proud of my son.  He had practiced everyday, eager to please his teacher and learn.  Over the course of four weeks he had learned several new skills with his guitar.

He truly enjoyed the class.  We both would like to continue these lessons with MacPhail.  It is amazing that technology can bring a knowledgable teacher who is in another state, into your home in real time to interact with you and teach a skill such as playing music with your guitar.

Pros and Cons:

My son and I both agree, we couldn’t find any “cons” about this program and we feel very positive about it.  We definitely give this program a huge recommendation for homeschool families. 

Why?  Because it brings a family access to a skilled knowledgable instructor with one on one interaction right into the comfort and convenience of your own home.  

If your child has an interest in music, and you can budget your income for music lessons, then I would encourage you to give MacPhail a try.  Music lessons are a wonderful opportunity to grow, learn, and develop skills and a love of music is a wonderful gift to give your children.  


Be sure to read what others on the Schoolhouse Review Crew had to say about online music lessons with MacPhail.

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