Sharing and learning music online

Sharing and learning music online

Rebecca Dwyer – Teacher – Yamaha Music Education

One of the best things about learning music in a group is the experience of sharing music with others. So, when approaching lessons online for the first time, I wanted to recreate that same feeling in my group online music lessons. I knew it would be an important factor in making those lessons successful, as well as keeping my students motivated and engaged. What seemed impossible to me at first, having never taught an online lesson before, quickly turned into something that felt quite normal and natural. Over time, both students and families have adapted well to this new setting. I was pleasantly surprised by how rewarding learning music online has become and continues to be for my students! This dramatic change has also given me the opportunity to grow and adapt my own teaching techniques and measure success from how well students have positively connected with lessons, in this new and different setting.

Fostering togetherness and a positive atmosphere

I’ve been able to observe the weekly positive effects that coming together online has had on my students and their families. Although my students sit by themselves or with a parent in their own homes, I wanted to create a supportive online group atmosphere online so that they would always feel comfortable and confident to contribute to the lesson. Seeing the smiles, laughs and bright faces that appear when students play something and share it with their friends, is a joy. It’s great to see the high fives to mum, dad, or to the camera (me!) in celebration of their attempt – successful or not! I have found it is important to celebrate the moment of sharing and playing something in the lesson. Being with friendly faces also helps them to feel like they are together with their usual music family and more comfortable to participate and stay engaged in the lesson.

Encouraging discussion

Through my lessons, I provide constant guidance and encouragement as I lead activities. This includes giving specific feedback and positive encouragement to my students to refine their skills as I watch them play and sing. As students reach the age where they are able to freely discuss the music, I also encourage them to share in the supportive discussion, where their input becomes equally as valuable to their own development as it is to their peers. Students playing solo for one another invites that great musical discussion. Contributing to the conversation and to the deep musical discussion about a piece, or to each other’s performances, helps the students to feel connected to the lesson and allows them to highlight elements that they can reflect on in their own playing.

Communication is key!

Creating new ways of communicating with each other has also been helpful to keep the lessons interactive and the students motivated online. Students are on mute for the majority of their lesson, so it is fun finding different ways of using our hands, fingers and bodies to make shapes, as a way of giving answers to describe the music and to communicate without sound to make the lesson more effective. This gets everyone involved and gives me a good sense of how the students have understood the music.

Learning online has had its challenging moments, from both my perspective and the students’. I feel that they have adapted extremely well and it has become an effective way for students to continue to develop their music skills, when seeing each other in person was not possible. Online learning is helping us feel that sense of group familiarity and is feeding our desire for music in our lives. That one hour lesson follows us into the rest of the week, in our ears and fingers as we practise. It helps us to continue our routines and celebrate our achievements, big and small. In a world that is far from ordinary, we have been able to create that sense of normality inside our own homes and still share the joy of music. We have continued to develop our skills as teachers and students and to learn more from each other in new ways.

Rebecca Dwyer is a teacher for Yamaha Music Education’s group music courses. She teaches a range of levels from beginner to advanced. Rebecca also learnt music through Yamaha group courses as a child.