Publish at April 20 2022 Updated April 28 2022

Teaching music at a distance: an achievable challenge

However, teaching practices are changing

A small virus has turned the world upside down. This is not the first time this has happened in humanity. Moreover, Sars-Cov-2 will have been, despite the millions of deaths, much more benign than other pathologies such as the bubonic plague. Nevertheless, its contagion and its capacity to mutate will have forced societies to be cautious and adopt different approaches. Telework has gone from anecdotal to common practice and schools have had no choice but to go remote. And that's for all courses, including music.

The pulse of teachers and students

In fact, even a subject as practical as music has had no choice but to go remote. The confinements caught music teachers off guard and they had to quickly adapt their approach in order to continue teaching. In fact, this sudden transition has interested many educational researchers. Many wondered what effect e-learning would have on both the recipients and the disseminators of knowledge. Most went to survey both groups.

Let's start with the learners. The latter had no trouble with this one when it came to academic courses. Students who could access the modules remotely appreciated this more flexible approach than going to class to listen to a lecture. On the other hand, the more social aspect of the music was greatly diminished, if at all. Instrumental practices worked better alone than in a group. Nevertheless, most preferred this alternative to cancelling classes altogether. Especially those taking training on their own time experienced well-being and improved mood. Performing music provided a way out of the anxiety-inducing situation of confinement.

Were the teachers ready for this job transformation? It depends on who you ask. Some were already equipped for distance learning as they were offering online courses long before the pandemic. So they knew what tools were available and what to do to get students to take them. For others, however, it was very difficult. They had to get used to the software, to the connections that were not always sufficient, to the sound that was sometimes less clear because of the different microphones, etc. All this without having had, beforehand, preparation and training in these technologies. Some of them have thus come out bitter although they have succeeded in a good part of the pedagogical continuity.

Changing One's Approach

The most paradoxical conclusion lies in this study published in the International Review Of Technologies In University Pedagogy.

In fact, most music educators tried to replicate their face-to-face, distance learning classes exactly. In doing so, they realized that they needed to change their approach. For example, this Quebec violin teacher noticed that the whole writing aspect including annotations in the scores had to be done before or after class. For his part, this American teacher admitted that it wasn't possible to ask a student to sing at 8 a.m. while other children were having lessons in the household. Nevertheless, he still managed to keep the choir intact despite the lockdown.

They had to agree to use platforms that, while not replicating the in-person sound, were satisfactory. The big winner was Zoom since the sound was better and it works with all Bluetooth speakers, which is not the case with Skype or Whereby. Nevertheless, some people were not satisfied with it and developed Forte, a free solution articulated for music lessons. As its artistic director explains, Zoom and the others were originally thought of for business meetings where everyone takes turns speaking. However, in music, it is sometimes necessary not only to play but also to give verbal directions, especially in a class setting. Forte allows this in a 1-to-1 setting for now. The developers are working on group lessons in the near future.

Of course, this online shift cannot be used 100% in music education. At present, no technological solution can replicate the musical sharpness of a concert hall or music venue. In addition, teachers worry that distance learning does not provide equal opportunity for all. Indeed, not every child or young adult has access to quality sound equipment. Nevertheless, the health situation has offered no other choice, especially for independent teachers, to turn to digital in order to earn their salary. This will have led to a different vision of music pedagogy and new behaviors that will possibly persist into the future.

Illustration : Soundtrap on Unsplash


Burak Kibici, Volkan, and Mushin Sarıkaya. "Readiness Levels of Music Teachers for Online Learning during the COVID 19 Pandemic." ERIC - Education Resources Information Center. Last updated June 23, 2021.

"How To Organize Your Distance Music Classes With Your Students." Tomplay. Last updated: July 30, 2021.

Dana Rucsanda, Madalina, Alexandra Belibou, and Ana-Maria Cazan. "Students' Attitudes Toward Online Music Education During the COVID 19 Lockdown." Frontiers. Last updated: December 17, 2021.

"Teaching Music Online Comes With Its Share Of Challenges." Last updated: January 19, 2022.

Strong. Accessed April 15, 2022.

"From Zoom to Forte: Improving Online Music Education." Cleveland Institute of Music. Last updated: January 25, 2022.

O'Neil, Rebecca. "The Show Must Go On: Music Teachers Take on New Skills, Tactics Amid Pandemic." Last updated: May 6, 2021.

Raymond, Julie. "Making Music Together On Zoom: The Experience Of Youth During COVID-19." CTREQ - LIRE. Last updated: February 1, 2022.

Shaw, Ryan D., and Whitney Mayo. "Music Education and Distance Learning During COVID-19: a Survey." Taylor & Francis. Last updated: June 18, 2021.

Terrien, Pascal, and Angelika Güsewell. "Pedagogical Continuity And Distance Learning In Higher Music Education - International Review Of Technologies In University Pedagogy." Scholar. Last updated: August 25, 2021.

Walker, Gary. "How Music Teachers Are Adapting to Work Online." The Musicians' Union. Last updated April 28, 2021.

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