Making the switch to online learning has been quite an adventure. I have had lots of successes, growth, and new opportunities these past few months. It’s been wonderful seeing my students in their own spaces and in their comfy clothes, but most importantly, I have loved seeing them adapt and thrive to new ways of learning.
Here are few easy tips to elevate your online learning:
BEFORE THE LESSON
Find the Right Space
This sounds so simple, but it is the #1 cause of trouble for many. Make sure your lesson space will not cause a distraction. Having toys, electronics, loud outside noises, etc. nearby will derail a lesson in a heartbeat. Take time during the practice week to find a peaceful music spot.
Get Ready Ahead of Time
Be ready before the lesson is scheduled to start. Make sure the instrument is tuned, bow is rosined, music is close by, footstool is at the ready… whatever you need to do before the lesson begins.
Adjust Your Sound Settings
On a good number of video calling platforms, the default sound settings try to suppress the background noise. When possible, turn that function off. Talk to your teacher to see if they have any tips.
Have A Backup Plan
Every internet connection and cellular service is different and varies day to day. To maximize your chance of getting a strong connection, stay close to the internet router and make sure no one else in the household is using another streaming service. However, having a poor connection is sometimes unavoidable. Be prepared to switch to another platform or connection when necessary.
DURING THE LESSON
Have a Metronome Ready
The metronome has always been my best teaching assistant, but its value has increased tenfold during online lessons. It is much harder to play side-by-side (with a teacher or peer) online. Internet connections also causes some delay and/or streaming interruption. Use the metronome to keep a strong baseline.
It has been harder for me, as a teacher, to accurately read body language and emotional expression over video call. In person, I am able to monitor my students for signs of frustration or confusion reasonably well, but these signs have not been as noticeable online. If you (or your child) doesn’t understand, is frustrated, or needs any sort of clarification/further instruction, do not be afraid to tell the teacher and ask for help.
Record, Record, Record!
Taking lesson notes is a wonderful way to preserve the instruction you will need for at-home practice. On most video call platforms, you also have the option to take screenshots and record all/portions of the lesson. Utilize those features!
DURING THE PRACTICE WEEK
Find Time for Passive Listening
Listening to Suzuki recordings/quality music every day is essential! This is true 365 days a year— not just in COVID times.
After 3 or 4 weeks of online lessons, I noticed that a good number of my students were having a hard time recognizing their “preview” songs. I have had several students tell me they aren’t listening to the Suzuki recording of their current book because they aren’t driving in the car anymore. It was like a lightning rod moment; I do 90% of my listening in the car too. Try putting on music during everyday tasks— while getting dressed, while eating a meal, while doing homework, while reading… there are plenty of opportunities to pop that CD in for some background music!
Boost Your Active Listening
Video calling platforms are not made to replicate the sound of a live instrument. Listening to your teacher over Zoom, FaceTime, Hangouts, etc. does not deliver the same quality of sound. Listening to a quality recording will give the student a much stronger sense of tone and musicality.
Haley DeLisle is our friendly cello instructor on staff at SRO. She graduated from Wayne State University with a degree and certification in Instrumental Music Education. Haley has conducted and worked with several youth organizations, such as the Detroit Symphony Civic Youth Ensembles, String Project @ Wayne, Wyandotte Summer Music, and the Detroit Children’s Choir, and has also worked with several school in-school orchestras for Grosse Pointe Public Schools, Detroit Public Schools, Wyandotte Public Schools, and Livonia Public Schools.
We thank her for sharing her ideas regarding online music lessons on this blog. She has spent countless hours researching, learning, and experimenting to ensure not only her students but all our students in the program can have a positive and productive learning experience.