The internet is changing music education. Online tools make it possible for musicians to learn and teach more effectively and efficiently than ever before.
Adapting video sharing, social networking, and online collaboration could speed up your learning curve.
Take www.stringshub.com, for example.
This video sharing site is a space where classically trained “creative string players” can post and share mashups, arrangements, covers, or performances of classics. It contains social media features with a focus around a shared, niche passion. Founder of StringsHub and owner of KC Strings, Anton Krutz envisions young string players playing popular music as a way to make symphony orchestras more viable.
Many classical musicians ultimately want to create, post, and share original music, simply because it’s cool. As more string teachers catch on, we are seeing a slow shift in the culture of music education.
For this to really happen, string teachers will need to develop confidence in their own musical creativity. While “untrained” musicians around the world post covers, mashups, arrangements, remixes, videos, and original compositions, the classical music education community struggles to join the participatory culture. Classical musicians are comfortable posting photos of their vacations online, but they will need to become comfortable creating music before they can post and share it.
As a Suzuki-trained violinist, I can relate to this struggle. In my high school there was a kid named Noah Phipps who sat in the last chair of the second violins. He brought 4-track tapes to school filled with original music he had recorded on drums, electric guitar, bass. I was playing really advanced classical violin, but it was his creative expression that seemed to draw more attention from our peers.
Other friends of mine in high school similarly seemed to gravitate effortlessly towards creating their own music. With just one or two months of lessons on drums, guitar, or bass, they were composing, jamming, and improvising along to songs on the radio. Naturally, for a long time I suspected that I was deficient in the area of creativity. Something jolted me to overcome this perceived deficiency, probably the drive to try to impress the girls at my school and be as cool as my friends. I became determined to begin a new journey as a “creative musician.” After playing guitar for a few years I started to use an amplified violin, and eventually this became my modus operandi.
My Yamaha electric violins allow me to play loud or quiet, process my sound like an electric guitar, and interface through a 1/4 inch jack with software on my laptop or straight through a practice amp.
25 years since the beginning of my circuitous journey to overcome my “creative block,” I’ve come to recognize my calling to help other classical musicians, and I hope what I’ve learned can make it easier for them than it was for me.
One way to become composer involves using software and a computer, without an instrument. I know many successful producers and composers who do not play an instrument or understand music theory. Reason, Audacity, DJ programs, and GarageBand are all examples of programs that anyone can use to “drag and drop” samples into rhythmic templates and pop out a remix without identifying a chord voicing or putting fingers on a fret.
Although these programs don’t teach you to play like John Coltrane or Itzhak Perlman, they do facilitate a creative experience. When you’re done, you can listen back to the thing you made, post, and share it with your friends. That’s a great place to start.
Yamaha’s practice amp allows you to record your electric violin, cello, guitar, and other string instruments, while interfacing with software on your laptop without a microphone.
More evidence that the academic community of classical music educators is finally catching up: Here’s a great article by Evan Tobias from a recent Music Educators Journal addresses restructuring curriculum in line with new media and creative musical practices.
While software is great, there’s also a need for musicians to practice improvisation, composition, and music theory using their instruments. This requires studying harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic conventions of various styles of music, i.e., stuff that “untrained” musicians in jazz, rock, or folk music have dealt with for decades.
Admittedly, it can be daunting at first for classical musicians to “go there”. The limitations of bowed string instruments add unique challenges. Yet- it’s doable. If you learned the English language as a child, you can learn to be fluent with harmony and composition in a few styles. And new media offers answers to this as well:
Creative Strings Academy, my online home study course, is designed to give classical musicians all the relevant skills and information they need to migrate into a “creative” musical skill set. Teachers can enroll themselves, and their students, and study on their own time, at their own pace, with a guided, step by step course path. Three collegiate programs are incorporating this into their programs this year, along with dozens of high school and middle school music programs and hundreds of individual subscribers worldwide.
Teachers, you can invite the internet into private or classroom lessons in a number of other ways:
1) Assign an essay on a YouTube video, (or one of the module quizzes from Creative Strings Academy). Tell your students to join relevant social media discussion groups, such as the “Creative String Players” groups on Facebook, where they can ask questions from an informed group of people.
2) Assign students to create a video or audio file that they can post and share online, whether a cover, mashup, remix, arrangement, or original composition. If privacy is an issue, they can share private or unlisted links. www.edmodo.com even allows teachers, students, parents, and administration to work via a private collaborative community, rich with social media tools, AND you can interface with Edmodo to programs like the Creative Strings Academy to enjoy the best of both worlds, i.e., unlimited content and unbridled collaboration.
3) Make your own lesson videos: Making original, core curriculum lesson videos will help you teach more, recruit more students, and teach better. Imagine avoiding saying that one thing you always say 500 times again this year.
Choose a short lesson, like “how to shift into third position on the violin”. Setup your camera or iPhone in a well-lit space, press record, and teach, just as you would in a classroom. It should take about 1-5 minutes. Post it on your free YouTube channel, either as a public video or as an unlisted video. Maybe then go and post your videos on stringshub.com and share them, seeking feedback from others.
Your students can refer to your teaching video often, and you’ll have the ability to reach more students. You can perfect your teaching by watching yourself. You can update the videos and add more anytime. Your presence online will allow more people to see what you’re about, helping you recruit more students.
Edmodo is giving teachers, students, parents, and administration the capabilities of social media (like Facebook and Youtube), without the privacy issues. This is all combined with collaborative project management tools like file sharing and work flow management (such as “Basecamp”). Who needs a class email list, when you can simply post the assignment as a status update, and wake up to see the projects, all turned in, posted and shared?
Since Edmodo is designed as a flexible hub, teachers can use online curriculum from anywhere while employing the social media capabilities and privacy features within Edmodo.com.
Thanks to Yamaha’s sponsorship, every school I visit in 2013/2014 will receive a free classroom license to Creative Strings Academy for two months prior to my visit. Before I go to a school, teachers and students can interface with online curriculum.
I’d like to hear how new technologies have revolutionized the ways you learn and teach. Feel free to leave a comment and share your stories below. Also, leave your email address below to receive free music, updates, giveaways, and more!