Teaching music remotely: an achievable challenge

A small virus has turned the world upside down. This is not the first time this has happened to humanity. In addition, Sars-Cov-2 will have been, despite the millions of deaths, much more benign than other pathologies such as the bubonic plague. However, its contagion and its capacity for change will have forced societies to be cautious and adopt different approaches. Teleworking has gone from the anecdotal to the usual practice and the school has had no choice but to distance itself. And this for all classes, including music.

The pulse of teachers and students

In fact, even a subject as practical as music has had no choice but to go the distance. The lockdowns caught music teachers by surprise, and they had to quickly adapt their approach in order to continue teaching. Furthermore, this sudden transition has interested many educational researchers. Many of them wondered what effect e-learning would have on both those who receive the knowledge and those who spread it. Most went to survey these two groups.

Let’s start with the students. The latter had no problem with that when it came to theoretical courses. Students who could access modules remotely appreciated this more flexible approach than going to class to listen to a lecture. On the other hand, the more social aspect of music was greatly diminished, even null. Instrumental practices worked better alone than in a group. However, the majority preferred this alternative to the total cancellation of classes. Particularly those who followed courses in their free time felt well-being and an improvement in their mood. The interpretation of the music allowed to get out of the anguished situation of confinement.

Were teachers prepared for this transformation of their jobs? It all depends on who you ask. Some were already equipped for distance learning, offering online courses long before the pandemic. Therefore, they knew the tools available and knew what to do to get students to take them into their hands. For others, however, it was very difficult. We had to get used to the software, the connections that were not always enough, the sound that was sometimes less clear due to everyone’s microphones, etc. All this without having had prior preparation and training in these technologies. Some, therefore, left embittered, although they largely achieved pedagogical continuity.

change your focus

The most paradoxical conclusion is found in this study published in the International Review of Technologies in University Pedagogy.

In fact, most music teachers have tried to exactly replicate their in-person remote lessons. In doing so, they realized that they needed to change their approach. For example, this violin teacher from Quebec noted that the entire writing aspect, including annotations on sheet music, had to be done before or after class. For his part, this American teacher admitted that it was not possible to ask a student to sing at 8 in the morning while other children are taking lessons at home. However, he managed to keep the choir intact despite the lockdown.

They had to agree to use platforms that, without reproducing face-to-face sound, were satisfactory. The big winner was Zoom, as the sound was better and it works with all Bluetooth speakers, which Skype or Whereby doesn’t. However, some have not been satisfied with this and have developed Forte, a free and articulated solution for music lessons. As his art director explains, Zoom and the others were first designed for business meetings where everyone speaks in turn. However, in music, sometimes it is necessary not only to play, but also to give verbal instructions, especially in the framework of a lesson. Forte allows it on a 1 to 1 setting for now. The developers are working on group lessons in the near future.

Obviously, this online shift cannot be used 100% in music education. Currently, no technological solution can reproduce the musical clarity of a concert or music hall. In addition, teachers are concerned that distance education does not provide the same opportunities for everyone. In fact, not all children or young adults have access to quality sound equipment. However, the health situation has not offered other options, particularly for self-employed teachers, to turn to digital to earn their salary. This will have given rise to a different vision of musical pedagogy and new behaviors that will possibly persist in the future.

He drew : Sound Trap on Unsplash

References :

Burak Kibici, Volkan, and Mushin Sarıkaya. “Readiness Levels of Music Teachers for Online Learning During the COVID 19 Pandemic”. ERIC – Educational Resources Information Center. Last updated: June 23, 2021. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1311478.pdf.

“How to organize your remote music lessons with your students”. tomplay Last update: July 30, 2021. https://tomplay.com/fr/blog/post/comment-organisation-vos-cours-de-music-a-distance-avec-vos-eves.

Dana Rucsanda, Madalina, Alexandra Belibou, and Ana-Maria Cazan. “Students’ attitudes towards online music education during the COVID 19 lockdown”. Borders. Last update: December 17, 2021. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.753785/full.

“Teaching music online has many challenges.” Radio-Canada.ca. Last updated: January 19, 2022. https://ici.radio-canada.ca/ohdio/premiere/emissions/des-matins-en-or/segments/chronique/387372/enseignement-musique-virtuel-isabelle-fortin .

Strong. Accessed April 15, 2022. https://fortelessons.com/.

“From Zoom to Forte: Improving Music Education Online”. Cleveland Institute of Music. Last update: January 25, 2022. https://www.cim.edu/aboutcim/news/zoom-forte-improving-online-music-education.

O’Neill, Rebecca. “The show must go on: Music teachers gain new skills and tactics amid pandemic.” LaUnion.com. Last updated: May 6, 2021. https://www.theunion.com/news/the-show-must-go-on-music-teachers-take-on-new-skills-tactics-amid-pandemic/.

Raymond, July. “Making music together on Zoom: the experience of young people during COVID-19”. CTREQ – LAUGH. Last update: February 1, 2022. https://rire.ctreq.qc.ca/faire-de-la-musique-ensemble-sur-zoom-lexperience-de-jeunes-durant-la-covid-19/.

Shaw, Ryan D., and Whitney Mayo. “Music education and distance learning during COVID-19: a survey”. Taylor and Francisco. Last update: June 18, 2021. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10632913.2021.1931597?scroll=top&needAccess=true.

Terrien, Pascal, and Angelika Gusewell. “Pedagogical Continuity and Distance Education in Higher Music Education – International Journal of Technologies in University Pedagogy”. Scholar. Last update: August 25, 2021. https://www.erudit.org/fr/revues/ritpu/2021-v18-n1-ritpu06306/1080758ar/.

Walker, Gary. “How music teachers are adapting to working online”. The Musicians Union. Last updated: April 28, 2021. https://musiciansunion.org.uk/news/how-music-teachers-are-adapting-to-work-online.


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