Looking for a real Guitar Hero? Tune in to iVideosongs.com.
The website improves upon the Net's vast guitar tablature libraries and generic video music lessons by having the actual recording artists teach you how to play their classics.
Guitarist John Oates not only breaks down his technique on the '70s hit She's Gone (written with Daryl Hall) in his iVideosong entry ($10), but also talks about his influences (Chuck Berry, Curtis Mayfield).
The videos can help beginners and accomplished guitarists, too, says Oates, who recalls picking up new skills from fellow musicians. "All of a sudden you have the ability to see the artist now firsthand," he says. "The real value might even be with guitar players who have the ability to play at a certain level."
For example, in another iVideosong, Graham Nash takes viewers through Teach Your Children, a song he wrote for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's Déjà Vu album in 1970. "He played it with a tuning that Stephen Stills told him how to do," Oates says. "That's just good stuff, and it's so much easier to learn when you can freeze-frame and rewind it."
Oates and Nash individually connected with iVideosongs founder Tim Huffman, who spent more than 20 years playing his own music, as well as working with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kansas and the Atlanta Rhythm Section. His also got a 1984 Grammy nomination for best gospel/duo performance (More than Wonderful, written by Mylon Le Fevre; the winner: Larnelle Harris and Sandi Patty).
Huffman, 48, tired of touring in 1998 and then spent five years owning and operating food franchises. After that, he says, "I wanted to get back to what I loved and connect fans with artists in a way that inspires a new generation of musicians and creates a new income stream for artists and publishers."
A major hurdle: securing the licensing and rights from artists, publishers and labels. iVideosongs pays royalties to all stakeholders associated with a song, including artists.
During three years of legal work, Huffman and his team worked on lining up quality instructors. "We wanted to figure out how we could take a living-room approach and do it in a way that's engaging and conversational," Huffman says, "Part of the experience of learning to play is learning about the guy. We ask, 'Who were your influences?' and 'Why did you write (a certain song such as Rush's) Tom Sawyer?' "
Huffman initially worried that artists might not be forthcoming, "yet (all are) enjoyable human beings and were so into pulling back the curtain (to show), 'This is how I did it, and you can do it, too.' "
Each high-definition Quicktime video lasts 30 to 40 minutes and includes music notation. Artist instructional videos cost $10 and can be downloaded and watched on a PC or transferred to an iPod; so far the site has about 175. Videos taught by other expert instructors are $5. An additional 250 free introductory tutorials are available on the site, MySpace, YouTube and iTunes.
Since launching in January, Huffman says, iVideosongs has had more than 3 million downloads of their for-fee songs and free tutorials.
"It helps me a lot more to see something." says Louis Grondahl, 26, a San Jose, Calif., police officer who's learning to play guitar. "You can download it and stop it if you don't get a certain part."
iVideosongs lets artists deliver their music in another fashion, says Jon Foreman of Switchfoot, who instructs viewers how to play two of the band's songs, Meant to Live and 24. "A lot of kids come up to us after shows asking how to play certain songs, and it felt like a really good way to connect with folks."