Guitar store hosts lessons through Facebook Messenger


By Jamie O'Toole, Columnist

DeKALB — The local guitar store Ax in Hand has turned to Facebook Messenger to continue teaching students old, new and across the world how to play guitar.

Ax in Hand, 817 W. Lincoln Highway Suite B, decided to use Facebook Messenger as a means of conducting lessons because it’s something almost everyone has access to as a digital generation.

Their lessons are accomplished using audio interfaces, technology that expands and improves the sonic capabilities of a computer. With webcams, owner and teacher Wesley Carr is able to show students various angles of his finger and instrument placement.

Screen sharing has allowed remote collaboration. Carr is able to record his screen so students can view the sheet music he’s viewing on his desktop.

Online lessons are $25 for 30 minutes lessons, Carr said.

Because Carr has organized online music lessons before, he said teaching different levels digitally has not been too difficult. Carr said a lot of the students he’s teaching at the moment have been at Ax in Hand a long time, so he knows how to teach and show them new techniques without physically being with them.

However, they have received a few new students. A lot of these students are musicians who’ve lost gigs during this time and are looking to spend their time wisely by learning new techniques if they can.

“People are trying to figure out how to use this time so it doesn’t hurt their career,” Carr said.

He said he’s found that many musicians, especially himself, are trying to use this down time to practice a song or skill they didn’t normally have time to do before the pandemic.

Some of these new students include people Carr has met at festivals and people across the country looking to learn over a video call.

Most of the responses from students have been supportive, especially those under 50 who are better equipped to adapting online and using technology to advance.

“Older students are holding off, and we’re reserving their spot until we’re able to meet in person again,” Carr said.

It’s almost more work moving the store’s operation online though, he said. Carr has to be more organized and every move needs to be well thought out.

In a physical lesson, Carr can photocopy music right there, or write music for his students directly in front of them.

“Now, with 57 lessons in a row, I have to take notes of everything we worked on so I can write it out and send it to them the next day or in a few days,” Carr said.

In addition to teaching people how to play guitar, Ax in Hand also houses a large display of string instruments, along with picks to play them.

As soon as Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the stay-at-home order, Carr rushed to the store on his day off to snag as many pictures of guitars and other instrument essentials as he could.

The online store was never a huge focus for Carr and his wife, but now everything in the shop is going online from a $6 package of picks, to a $6,000 guitar.

“We live in a world where it’s hard not to be able to connect to whoever and wherever,” Carr said. With the help of technology, he has managed to keep teaching music and maintain revenue from his instruments online.