Do you wish you could have ripped a guitar solo like Lindsey Buckingham or strummed a tune like Shawn Colvin at the Grammy Awards? While the Web might not perform musical miracles, it can give you a start on the road to rock stardom. Sites abound with guitar lessons and basic music theory, and some can help name your band or even book a barnstorming national tour.
Your first stop should be the comprehensive Harmony Central (www.harmony-central.com) with an extensive marketplace, guest columns, chat areas and great links. Though most of the news items are merely rehashed press releases, the elaborate forums and an eclectic auction--where you can buy a fife, bagpipe or tuba--are highlights.
For the total beginner, Harmony Central's greatest asset is its links to online lessons. The would-be guitarist has many options, but my favorites were Dansm's Acoustic Page (www.dreamscape.com/esmith/dansm/acoustic) and Carvel's Tips, Tricks and Licks (www.soignerecords.com/guitar). Dansm is Dan Smith, a student at Cornell who gives great free lessons on everything from reading music to playing scales to finger-picking.
Carvel's Tips weren't as comprehensive, and he asks for a $12-a-year subscription a la shareware, but his simple animations and RealAudio sound clips help show technique in a Web-savvy manner. Don't be afraid to shop around and find lessons that suit your needs. You might want to pay for a more personalized tutor, and remember that it's going to take time to learn everything.
Once you've learned how to play, and have found a few friends for a band, you need a band name. To help in your quest, there's the nutty Band-O-Matic (www.slip.net/ ~jmmallon/bands/bands.html), which spits out quirky names like All-Night Yahtzee, Clown Hammers and Asphalt Buffet. To make sure nobody already has your band name, there's the Band Register (www.bandreg.com), a British site that covers a lot of territory. Though nothing is foolproof, the huge register has the endorsement of the Musicians Union and the Performing Rights Society.
If you own an electric guitar or acoustic with steel strings, you can attach a G-Vox Guitar pickup from your guitar to your computer. The hardware/software package will dynamically create sheet music as you play, let you record audio sequences on your computer and teach you licks from pros--and all for just $99. For more details, go to www.gvox.com.
When you're ready to start touring, there's the Deterrent D.I.Y. Tour Guide (deterrent.bc.ca/deterrent/tour_gd.html), a resource for unsigned bands that want to book their own tours. There's contact information for small clubs around the U.S. and Canada, with freewheeling commentary from bands who've been there (one warns: "if you're lucky, you might get away with simply not being paid"). It's an entertaining read and has links to city maps as a bonus.
Mark Glaser is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and critic. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.