By Ashleigh Botha
With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the majority of the world has come to a standstill due to government-initiated lockdowns, causing many aspects of life to be altered dramatically to accommodate required social distancing regulations. This presents challenges for the entire performing arts community, as it relies heavily on face to face interaction with teachers and students for lessons. As time has gone by, numerous adjustments have quickly been made to accommodate music learning during this time.
Thankfully, due to immensely helpful advancements in technology and more accessible internet, the teaching and learning process has been able to shift online, with platforms such as Skype, Zoom, and Google quickly becoming the new normal for music lessons. So, while these advancements in technology are helpful, many teachers and students may be feeling frustrated with the challenges that come with online lessons, as well as many people wondering if online lessons are going to work for beginner students. Here are eight tips which I have put together from my own experiences teaching and learning online, which hopefully, will help make your transition to online learning easier.
- Firstly, the space in which the lesson is taking place should be as distraction-free as possible. Try creating a comfortable lesson space in a room where the Wi-Fi signal will be strong (as close to the router as possible) and where you can make sure the angle of the camera is capturing the necessary parts of your body (hands, shoulders, etc). Make sure to warm up in the room you are going to have your lesson to help your ears get accustomed to the acoustics.
- One of the biggest challenges of online lessons is sound delay. Internet speed plays a vital role in minimizing this delay. One way to check your internet speed to see if your Wi-Fi is the problem is to go to https://www.speedtest.net/ . If your internet is slower then 100Mbps you may want to look into upgrading your internet or other options to boost the speed. It may also help to arrange that other family members or roommates are not on the internet during lesson, as this may slow it down further.
- When working with platforms like Zoom and Google Meet make sure a link, meeting ID and password etc., have been sorted out well before the lessons and always try logging in at least five minutes before as to not waste time waiting for the platform to connect, or to sort out any audio and video problems. Also, teachers, keep in mind that switching between platforms or meetings can also take a few minutes, so perhaps take this into account in your scheduling.
- The audio settings may also need to adjusted. Platforms such as Zoom must be put on ‘original audio’ to prevent the sound cutting out in high and low registers. If you are unsure how to do this, check out the YouTube video below for a quick tutorial! It will also be helpful to put yourself on mute when the teacher or is talking or demonstrating to prevent additional noise – just remember to unmute yourself when you start playing again! https://youtu.be/UsLJY4xVQic
- Tapping, singing, and tuning from the teacher’s side will not be possible, so, to help with counting and tuning make sure you have a metronome and tuner on hand. There are numerous free tuner and metronome apps available to download for both Apple and Android devices.
- If you are playing with accompaniment, playing the mp3 from the device on which the video call is taking place will work best, otherwise, (after checking with your teacher) try making some videos of yourself playing with the recording and sending those before your lesson for your teacher to have a listen to.
- Another way to improve the sound quality is to invest in a good microphone. Built in microphones in most laptops and cell phones are not equipped to register the range of most instruments and can often distort your instruments sound. There are a variety of inexpensive USB microphones you could consider which won’t break the bank, but may really improve the quality of your online learning.
- Experiment! Try a few different online video platforms and see what works best for you and your teacher. Take note of which ones had the best sound and video quality as these factors will all depend on your device and internet speed.
There are many advantages to online lessons, and its likely that they will remain for the foreseeable future. While there are certainly many challenges, with a bit of experimenting and patience, they can still be effective and enjoyable!