Music education

Mastering the Art of Online Lessons: Advice for Educators and Learners

The purpose of this blog is to provide useful advice for teachers and students alike, who, just like me, had to quickly adapt to the virtual world of teaching with very little preparation and time to adjust.

If you already own an external microphone, please use it for your sessions. In many cases, it can significantly improve the sound quality.

If you are using a wireless network (WiFi) and your router is on the other side of the house, you may experience moments of poor connectivity. In some instances, if you are in an area with a good cellular signal, you might be better off broadcasting from your phone or tethering your computer/tablet to your cellular data. Experiment to see what works best for you.

Please ask household members to avoid streaming movies on your network during your lessons or recitals.

Try to place the webcam at eye level with the subject. For singers, you will want to sing directly into the camera. Place a music stand under the camera if you need your music. For violinists/violists, a profile shot works best.

Please set up your primary light source so it comes from behind the camera. Too much sidelight or overhead lighting can cause weird and unflattering shadows, whereas insufficient light makes the image blurry. If the sun is shining directly into the camera, the image quality will also suffer. Please consider adjusting the light with blinds, window curtains, or choosing a different location in the house.

If you are using a backtrack/karaoke, it is sometimes better to play the karaoke backtracks on a different device from the one you are broadcasting from. If you are using a newer model laptop or iPad, there is usually no problem streaming with the same device. If you are using Zoom, please choose the option to share with computer audio.

I hope you find these tips useful. Online lessons offer the opportunity to connect with people from around the world. It is a new and exciting world that I am just beginning to discover.

The Benefits of Music Education

Music education benefits the student beyond just learning to play or to sing. Some of those benefits are emotional expression and satisfaction from making music, brain development, ability to multitask and to concentrate on a specific task,  coordination and much more. Recently I came across the article “Why study music?” by music education professor Donald Hodges. In his article, Professor Hodges presents 10 understandings/experiences unique to music. I hope that being aware of the benefits of music education will help students and their parents through the long journey of music studies.

Below is a brief description of the 10 understandings/experiences, presented by Professor Hodges:

  1. Feelings: central to any discussion of music as a knowledge system must be the idea of feelings. From one end of the continuum dealing with vague, unspecified moods to the other end dealing with crystallized emotions such as grief or joy, music is intrinsically connected with feelings.
  2. Aesthetic experiences: all human beings have a need for beauty and to activate their innate responsiveness to the organized expressive sounds that we call music.
  3. The ineffable: precisely because music is a nonverbal form of expression, it is a powerful means to express or to know that which is difficult or impossible to put into words.  Two of the most common human experiences that are often known through music is love and spiritual awareness.
  4. Thoughts: musical thought is just as practical as linguistic, mathematical, or visual thought. It can be a potent means of expressing ideas and of knowing the truth.
  5. Structure: closely allied to the idea of thinking is structure. The human mind seeks patterns, structure, order, and logic. Music provides a unique way of structuring sounds across time, as well as providing a means of structuring thoughts, feelings, and human experiences.
  6. Time and space: time and space are the ‘stuff’ of the universe. All human knowledge systems provide ways of dealing with time and space. As indicated in ‘Structure’ above, music is a means of organizing sounds across time. Although music occurs in ‘real’ time, it deals more with ‘felt’ time. Music, especially in connection with dance (bodily-kinesthetic knowledge system), is a primary means of experiencing space in time.
  7. Self-knowledge: music’s role in intrinsic, and especially peak (transcendent, life-changing), learning experiences provides for powerful insights into our private, inner worlds.
  8. Self-identity: many gain their sense of self through a variety of musical activities and experiences.
  9. Group identity: group identity through music is both inclusive and exclusive in that (a) music helps cement the bonding of those members of a group who share common ideas, beliefs, and behaviors, and (b) music helps isolate and separate one group from another.
  10. Healing and wholeness: from more specific applications of music in therapy and medicine to more general interactions, music has profound effects on human beings. Music provides a vehicle for the integration of body, mind, and spirit.