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Gigajam was founded by Brian Greene in 2000 to gear towards schools in the United Kingdom. By teaching 4 primary contemporary instruments—guitar,bass,keyboard and drum—online as well as offline in an affordable way, it has achieved UK Government Curriculum Online status. During the summer of 2004 a television series of Gigajam‘s Essential Skills course for guitar had started to air on Musicians Channel (Sky channel 475). These TV shows were also uploaded to the site to provide further support to the site’s tuition. In 2005, the site was awarded in the Learning and Skills, Software, Hardware, Content and Tools category of the prestigious BETT Awards. In my view, their innovative proprietary software, Xtractor, was most probably the main reason they won the award. In the review below, I will only talk about their guitar lessons.
David Young is a qualified guitar tutor who has more than 10 years of private tuition in rock, funk, jazz, fusion, classical guitar, sight reading and music theory. He is also a freelance/session guitarist. He has worked with many performers playing all styles of music including Marti Caine,Gerrard Kenny, Jim Davidson and Brian Conley. David has recorded for the touring show “That’ll Be the Day” as well as appearing on Big Band recordings at C.T.S Studios Wembley and appearing at The Royal Albert Hall. He also performs regularly with various rock bands and as a solo performer throughout the country as a classical guitarist.
Once you sign up for their membership, you will notice that you have a portfolio for each instrument that I mentioned above. Now let’s just focus on the guitar portfolio. This portfolio will help you to keep track of your progress and record your average score. It has 6 grades which contain 31 lessons, with each lesson comprised of video exercises and written materials. Those 11 episodes of the TV show series were also included in the first 11 lessons.
- Debut Grade
Guitar Intro Lesson
Lesson 1: Playing rock chords
Lesson 2: Developing rhythms
- Grade One
Lesson 3: Introducing eighth notes and developing rhythm
Lesson 4: Introducing palm muting
- Grade Two
Lesson 5: Developing palm muting with accents
Lesson 6: Developing understanding of the fingerboard
Lesson 7: Learning new chords
- Grade Three
Lesson 8: Developing strumming and chord changes
Lesson 9: Developing your rock chord library
Lesson 10: Performing a song
- Grade Four
Lesson 11: Introducing sixteenth notes
Lesson 12: Building our rock guitar library
Lesson 13: Developing barre chords
Lesson 14: Continuing the study of barre chords
Lesson 15: Introducing rests
Lesson 16: Introducing dotted notes and ties
Lesson 17: Introducing 1-4-5 chord progressions
Lesson 18: Introduction to triplets and triplet feel (12/8 and shuffle)
Lesson 19: Introducing lead guitar playing
Lesson 20: Performing a song
- Grade Five
Lesson 21: Developing lead guitar techniques (hammering on/pulling off)
Lesson 22: Improvisation Part 1 (the extended pattern)
Lesson 23: Improvisation Part 2 (introducing the blues note)
Lesson 24: Improvisation Part 3 (pattern 3 minor pentatonic)
Lesson 25: Improvisation Part 4 (pattern 4 minor pentatonic)
Lesson 26: improvisation Part 5 (pattern 5 minor pentatonic)
Lesson 27: Completion of the fingerboard
Lesson 28: Developing pentatonic/blues scale soloing
Lesson 29: Developing improvisation of pentatonic/blues Part 2
Lesson 30: Performing a song
As you may have already noticed, there aren’t many types of music genres that you can learn.
Before getting a grade verified by Gigajam tutor, you have to complete all the technical exercises in the grade. That’s not all. At the end of each grade, you will also need to perform and upload 5 examination pieces as well as answering 5 objective type questions. After that, you can then request for verification. If you’re successful, you will receive a formal certificate from University of West London — London College of Music. Each certificate will cost you from £10 to £15 depending on the grade.
The video quality of all exercises is of enhanced definition (ED) at best whereas that of TV shows is of low-definition (LD). I did’t find any split-screen view but I did find some close-ups especially when taught how to form a chord and lead techniques. Their close-up is perhaps the closest—therefore it’s the best close-up—in the guitar teaching business. Some of the video exercises have features just next to them which allow you to record and upload your own playing using webcam, play the exercises in Xtractor and upload your Xtractor file.
Xtractor is a special and cool tool that requires a guitar MIDI controller device like Yamaha EZ-AG guitar to take advantage of. If you don’t have one, you need a pitch-to-MIDI converter to attach to your average electric guitar. In order to connect your instrument to your computer, you’ll need another device called MIDI interface. If you have these devices, you can open the MIDI files in the lessons, mute the guitar part and play along with the rest of the instruments. You have the options to change tempo and adjust transpose too. Xtractor also allows you to analyse your own performance by comparing what you should play and what you play.
All lessons have written materials in PDF format which include musical notations, tabs and chord diagrams. You can download and save the PDF files to your computer.
Dial-up internet connection doesn’t work well with this site. Slow video buffering will make you mad. Time and time again, I always advise to either upgrade your internet connection to broadband or don’t subscribe to membership site that streams video lessons.
There are 2 ways you can seek help i.e. email and telephone. Unfortunately, the phone number is not a toll-free number. I give it a 4-star because their email response time is very impressive.
You can subscribe monthly, yearly or be a lifetime member. The pricings are £ 4.99, £ 49.99 and £ 79.99 respectively. If you want to learn all 4 instruments, you’ll receive more bang for your buck.
Sadly, there is no money back guarantee so you must think carefully before you subscribe.
For the most part, I’m not all that impressed with Gigajam. Since it’s tailored mainly for kids in schools, it’s definitely not suitable for those who are looking for intermediate or advanced guitar lessons. Also, their Xtractor software will not benefit you if you don’t have the necessary devices to work with.
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