Thoughts on ArtistWorks - Mike Marshall, Sierra Hull, etc

  1. jwsimpson
    Does anyone have experience with ArtistWorks? Any thoughts on value?

    It seems to me that the ability to submit video for critique is where the real value lies. However, my assumption is that being so new to the instrument, I might be better to continue on my current path and seek this type of guidance/coaching further into the journey.

    Looking forward to hearing the community's thoughts.
  2. NDO
    I’ve never tried it so can’t offer comment but I’m interested to see the responses.
  3. Sue Rieter
    Sue Rieter
    After floundering around with a multitude of online resources and books for the better part of a year and then signing up for ArtistWorks in later December, my opinion is the sooner you have direction, the better off you will be. And the faster you will move forward.

    There are any number of different choices. You can spend alot of time overthinking the best approach or who to sign up with (as I did), or you can just pick one and move forward (what I'm doing now). I'm signed up with Mike Marshall. Sierra is a new option. I have respect and admiration for both of them, but being a little older, I think I prefer someone close to my age. Probably shouldn't matter, YMMV.

    The benefit of ArtistWorks (for me), besides the lesson plan, most certainly is the video exchange, and the fact that you can work at your own pace. This is important for me because, in my life right now, I am being pulled in too many directions and I don't have enough time for mandolin. If I had to go to a lesson every couple weeks or so, I'd be unprepared and it would be a waste of money. I've only sent in a couple of videos so far, but the feedback has been very good and to the point.

    That said, though I know I need direction, but I'm not sure that I won't change things up at some point.
  4. Southern Man
    Southern Man
    I am personally a fan of in-person classes, particularly for new beginners.

    I've taken classes through both ArtistWorks and Peghead Nation. I personally got more out of the Peghead Nation course with Sharon Gilchrist, for reasons that probably have more to do with me and my style of learning than the quality of the Artistworks instruction. I've written about that elsewhere on this website.
  5. NDO
    Sue, are prices based on how many lessons/videos you do, or some other measure?
  6. Sherry Cadenhead
    Sherry Cadenhead
    I agree with Southern Man re: a preference for in-person lessons, especially for someone just starting out.
  7. Sue Rieter
    Sue Rieter
    Don, you can sign up for various lengths of time, 3 months, 6months, a year. The number of videos you can submit changes accordingly. It's unlimited with the year subscription, which is what I went for. It was 50% off at Christmas time, I think I paid about $150 for the year, so a bargain in my book. There are various sales other times of the year. I would say don't pay list price (but that's something I subscribe to in general )

    I would agree on in-person lessons, but would think you would need the right teacher and the right frequency of lessons to match your life. Brad Laird says find a mentor who has done what you want to do. Good advice, I think. I saw a regional bluegrass band in a park a couple weeks ago, and talked to the mandolin player a bit. I later thought about reaching out to him about lessons, but learned he lives well over an hour from me, so probably not practical.
  8. MartieChick09
    I've thought about Artistworks and Peghead Nation too for lessons, but since I'm just starting out I thought it would be better to have some one-on-one lessons first. Finding in-person for where I live was either too far away or not available at all. So I checked out the classifieds on here and went with a teacher that was reasonable for me. So that's where I'm at, but I'm really curious about Sierra's lessons too. Good to know you have unlimited video submissions for a year. I thought it was only five, but that must be for the 3 month subscription.
  9. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    I signed up for Caterina Lichtenberg's course on ArtistWorks last spring. (Her class may not be on your short list.)

    All in all, I'm impressed. The progression of lessons is sensible and well thought out. I like the repertoire she has chosen—it comes from a range of time periods and styles and even the etudes are musically valid and rewarding to learn. Lichtenberg explains things well, has a kind and caring affect, and approaches teaching with patience and humor. She justifies her choices for fingerings and pick direction/patterns, which is teaching at its best—giving the student tools to learn to make their own decisions. For the pieces that have accompaniment you have a choice of tempi, usually 50% and 75% as well as full speed. A few also have 125% if you want a challenge. The music is from the written tradition, and the sheet music is easy to download and print and the parts are clear and laid out well on the page.

    There are a few bugs in it. Some of the lessons have as many as six or seven sections, each with its own video and sheet music. One might think they would be in order, but one would be wrong. It's common to start at the top and hear references to a segment you haven't watched yet. I learned to always choose the longest one first—good chance it is the introduction to the subject. At the very end of the intermediate section there is a large group of solo pieces. It would be nice to have these interspersed with the lessons: a suggestion that after you have finished Lesson 8, for example, go ahead and start such-and-such a solo. When you have watched a video, there is supposed to be an indicator, but they don't always work.

    Lichtenberg's course is divided into beginning, intermediate, and advanced sections. It's recommended you start at the beginning regardless of experience. I learned plenty from the early lessons and they establish a common vocabulary and a set of techniques you use and build upon for the rest of the course. I'm not sure how well the beginning lessons would work for an absolute, total beginner, though, particularly someone who does not read music at least a little.

    Sue got a much better deal than I did price-wise. I originally signed up for six months and added another six after a few months. I have not submitted videos, mainly because of technical issues. You have access to all the videos submitted—and the teacher's responses—and there is plenty to be learned by watching someone else's.

    My first choice would have been to take lessons in person. Impossible, as classical mandolin teachers aren't exactly thick on the ground in New Mexico, or the rest of the US as far as that goes. There is also the problem of fitting lessons around work and other commitments, and that little deadly communicable disease problem we've been having. With an online program you can fit in a lesson on Sunday afternoon at 2:30 and another on Tuesday at midnight. You can do three one week and none for the next fortnight. As long as you have the self-discipline to stick with it, there's a lot to learn.
  10. bbcee
    Hi JW, it’s good you’re thinking about this. There’s a ton of ways to do lessons, and I’d agree with those who have said one on one is the best. I didn’t have that luxury, as there’s literally a handful of players in Spain, and none close. I started with the Mandolin for Dummies book to get some basic exposure to the mandolin repertoire, and then, knowing a bit more what styles I wanted to learn, started taking online lessons.

    My experiences have been with various Matt Flinner courses and with a year of ArtistWorks - I also didn’t get the Sue Reiter deal! - and both have their pros and cons, as you’d also find with Peghead Nation or other courses. None of them are horrible. For where you’re at, AW would be a good start, as Mike is ALL about the basics and always has insightful comments, no matter what his class load. The fact that you’ve got no problem uploading videos is one important hurdle that many of us had to overcome.

    It again has its bugs, but you’ll get exposed to a wide range of music and techniques. Although I played guitar for years, I went in with the idea of starting from square one and really getting my basics down, and it served me well.
  11. jwsimpson
    I really appreciate everyone's comments and thoughtful discussion!

    Louise, I saw Caterina's lessons as well. I think that classical music is beautiful, but I probably won't get many opportunities to play along with others here in SouthEast Tennessee! Bluegrass abounds in these parts, so that's my best bet to jam with others.

    bbcee, my friend's family is infatuated with Sierra Hull, and while I freely admit her playing is brilliant, I've known many skilled professionals who struggled with teaching. At this point in time, I feel like Mike Marshall is more of a known product, and there are plenty of folks out there that have come up under his tutelage. If I proceed with AW I will most likely take Mike's course.
  12. Sue Rieter
    Sue Rieter
    I've seen a few short clips of Sierra teaching. I think she'd do a good job. For example, this is pretty cool, and is something I practice from time to time.

    It's more a matter of chemistry, I would think. (Though MM probably has more years of teaching and more students under his belt)
  13. bbcee
    Totally agree, Sue. I find Sierra super engaging and she’s going to be a great addition to AW for sure. My experience was with Mike, and I liked his approach of assessing your ability and suggesting where to start in the course. I’d recommend that anyone start at the start, there’s so much to learn.
  14. jwsimpson
    Well, I took the leap and signed up for AW. Good news! They have a $100 off promo running right now. Promo Code is LETSGO. I'm looking forward to Mike's lessons and the video submission process!
  15. bbcee
    Good man! I hope you get lots & lots out of it.
  16. Sherry Cadenhead
    Sherry Cadenhead
    Jake, this sounds like a good move. I'd be interested in hearing the order of things Mike has you learn - either posted to the Newbies or via email. Considering this may be a slow process, I suggest you work on things recommended by Newbies until your lessons are in full swing.
  17. Sue Rieter
    Sue Rieter
    Mike has you start at the beginning, no matter what your level, and then once you send your first video, he suggests what to work on next. He wants the first video pretty quick because he wants to look at your form: posture, pick grip, left and right hand movements, etc. I think he wants to catch those bad habits before they become bad habits.
  18. FredK
    I started out with Mike's course when I first started and it was a big help. The only thing I really disagreed on is the way he hunched over the mandolin (and I understand why he does it) but it killed my back. A few adjustments on my end and everything worked out. He does a really good job of starting at the very beginning and building on the basics. He doesn't make the assumption you know anything. If you do know it, you can advance ahead in the lessons to a point you're comfortable with. And, if you're not sure where you should be, I understand he'll help with that on his critique of your submission. After that course ran out, I went to Sharon Gilchrist's at Peghead. Her style of teaching came at the right time and her courses took me deeper. All in all, you can't go wrong with either one. Now I watch and listen to many good players because you can always learn something. Now if I could find someone to go one-on-one, that would really be nice. I applaud you making the choice and moving forward with Mike. Don't get discouraged and keep on picking!
  19. jwsimpson
    Sherry, wanted to follow up on your question about the progression Mike takes you through. First thing I noticed is that Mike has a lot of lessons! In the Beginner series alone there are 52 videos, ranging in length from 3 minutes nearly 30 minutes long. Most of the lessons seem to fall in the 7-15 minute range.

    He starts at the very beginning, with sitting, posture, tuning, then moving to right hand, left hand, and open chords before really getting into specific song instruction. There seems to be a good mix and frequency of tune learning vs. music theory sessions, with technique woven into everything.

    I just submitted my first video, so I'll be interested to see how quickly he reviews and replies.
  20. Sue Rieter
    Sue Rieter
    I'll be interested as well. Last time I sent one in it took about 10 days
  21. Sherry Cadenhead
    Sherry Cadenhead
    Jake, I had planned to ask you to keep me up to date by email, but Sue is interested, so other Newbies might be also.
  22. jwsimpson
    Sue, just looking over some other Video Exchanges, it looks like two weeks is about the norm. Not sure if AW batches them together and then send them to Mike, or maybe Mike batches them once or twice a week.
  23. MartieChick09
    I'd love to know too. I start one-on-one lessons this week but have looked into AW too and would love to have a beginner's perspective.
  24. Deblues
    I love Artistworks. I've taken several and still am taking several of the courses. I started playing the mandolin about a year and a half ago and signed up for Mike Marshalls class when I purchased my first (really second, I tried playing about 7 years ago but bought myself a very cheap mandolin and lost interest) good mandolin. I think he's a terrific teacher. He and most of the teachers at Artistworks have such a nice easy way of teaching. Their courses are well laid out. They always encourage you to start from the beginning as you may have a few holes in your knowledge that you didn't think you had. Mike has mostly bluegrass in his course but he does throw in a few more styles of music to give you a fuller picture of what the mandolin can do. I'd also add that every teacher that I've taken a course from on Artistworks are so good at finding the problems with your playing and give you very good constructive criticism as well as telling you what you're doing right. Those VE's are important (video exchanges) not only the ones you send in but you get to see other students that may be dealing with the same problems you are.

    As for Sierra, I think she'll be a very good teacher. She's been playing since she was 8 I think. I've looked at a few video's of her teaching at a mandolin/bluegrass conference on YouTube and thought she was excellent. When I am due to sign up in December I may switch to her just to get a different perspective. Then the following December decide on Mike or Sierra. BTW around Christmas time is when they do the half off of the courses there for an annual subscription, so a $279 annual you get for $139.50 and that's a great deal! Good luck and have fun with Mike, he's such a chill guy, very calm.
  25. jwsimpson
    Deblues, good to hear a "ringing" endorsement for AW and Mike Marshall! I agree with your assessment of Mike's approach. No rush, but doesn't waste time.
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