Is “Watching and Copying” the New “Listening and Copying”?

Situating YouTube in How Popular Musicians Learn


  • Kayla Rush Dublin City University



digital natives, informal learning, popular music education, technology, YouTube


This article examines the role of YouTube in how young popular musicians learn in the twenty-first century. I frame this question within the dual legacies of Lucy Green’s (2001) findings about “listening and copying” among popular musicians and Marc Prensky’s (2001a, 2001b) “digital natives” hypothesis. I present an ethnographic description of a music learning encounter that raises questions as to whether there is a generational change occurring, one which shifts the primary mode of informal music learning from listening and copying to watching and copying via YouTube videos. I argue that learning via YouTube constitutes a form of informal learning, one situated within a longer history of learning strategies based in available technologies and resources. I suggest that in the midst of this continuity, digital videos present at least one new phenomenon within popular music education: the ability to abstract single lines and riffs from their musical contexts.






Articles – Open Section