From the top…from home: How to learn music virtually

Music
Graphic by Emmi Wu ’23/Staff

Virtual learning has posed a massive challenge in many classrooms this school year. However, music classes have had to make especially drastic changes in how they teach and learn. Like most other classes at LM, music students began the year by making Flipgrids, introducing themselves, and getting to know each other, then got started with a lot of preparations in order for the year to go smoothly. Despite a similar start, it has been quite different participating in a virtual music class as opposed to a virtual core class.

One of the most obvious differences between music classes at school and at home is the environment. For choir students, when at school and rehearsing in the choir room, there is a safe, welcoming environment to sing in. However, at home, singing alone can be distracting to others or even embarrassing to do in front of family members. This is why one of the class’s first assignments was to learn how to set up a workspace where students felt comfortable singing. Orchestra and band students also learned to create practice spaces where they could eliminate distractions and minimize the distraction they might create for those around them.

Another new challenge that has arisen in virtual rehearsals and classes is that it is much harder for teachers to sync all of their students together. Due to these complications, most music teachers have decided to have students practice with mics off while teachers conduct or play a metronome. When practicing at home, it is incredibly difficult to listen to others and adjust accordingly, which is compounded by the inability to hear how loud everyone else is and mesh sounds with the surrounding musicians.

For choir, because fall concerts are most likely not able to occur in person, students will each be recording themselves singing, after which the recordings will be put together, creating an album out of the music they learned. For that reason, the way of learning the songs has changed from learning all of the pieces the same time and practicing each song for a little every class, to focusing on one song, recording it, and then moving on to the next one. Also, since many people don’t like hearing their own voices, students were tasked with analyzing how voices that are recorded differ from what one hears in their head, and how to adjust accordingly. These assignments have helped facilitate a smoother start to virtual practices and provided students with enriching musical experiences that can be hard to come by in these difficult times. As orchestra student Amy Huang ’23 stated, “Although no virtual experience can measure up to the joy of making music alongside your friends, I deeply appreciate all the effort the music department has been putting into allowing us to have the most enjoyable experience possible while virtual learning.”