Getting ‘tuned’ online

Azlan Othman

COVID-19 concerns, prohibition of gathering and social distancing pose challenges to teachers’ abilities to teach their students. This has caused schools to limit physical interactions and led to lessons being conducted online.

Music teachers too teach online through video calls and using online apps Zoom or Skype.

Lessons are built to make the communication smooth and simple, but there are some differences. For instance, eye contact and the lack of physical proximity for correcting posture are definitely challanges during online interactions

Despite advancement of technology, there’s just no replacement for being one-on-one when it comes to music lessons.

The sound of the instrument is an important aspect and teleconferencing distorts it and makes real-time feedback difficult. If your teacher is talking at the same time you’re playing, you can’t hear them.

Music lessons conducted through Whatsapp video call

According to Gadleah Castromayor, a music teacher from a local music school, teaching music online is a major leap for them because it is more on establishing proper techniques like posture and listening skill. For a beginner, it’s hard to correct them due to their foundation and for some others, lack of self-discipline. Yet, higher grade level students can cope and adjust to the situation. Gadleah teaches more than 10 students online ranging from Late Beginner to Grade 3 with 30-45 minutes per class. Most of her classes are carried out in the afternoon after their school’s classes.

Her view is echoed by another music teacher, Jacinda Lim, who is teaching five students at present with 45 minutes practical activity per lesson. She said that it is a challenging task due to the fact that there is no practical involved and only explanations can be done.

A teacher from another music school, Teresa Yen, said more efforts have to be made when conducting online classes due to unstable Internet connection.

Teresa is teaching 25 students with 30-minute practical sessions per lesson. For young children and special needs students, teachers need parents’ supervision to guide the students with their lessons.

She said it is also difficult for adult students, due to work commitments and attempts to have more family time.

Asked on efforts that she has undertaken to overcome these challenges, Gadleah said their school dealt with it by messaging parents and students are willing to take online classes.

“We also play with them so they can hear the correct notes. And since I have students who are going to sit for exams, I try to monitor them so that they are on track with their exam pieces and scales.”

Meanwhile, Jacinda Lim said hurdles of teaching music online include difficulties in correcting rhythm, finger placements, dynamics as well as unstable Internet connection. She overcomes it by recording videos to send to the student after class. Teresa also shared that teaching online poses many challenges. Poor Internet connection also leads to poor vision and audio. “In the end, we ask for video recording from the students,” she added.