This year the Tasmanian eSchool has begun trialling online music lessons for our students in Years 7-8 and in Years 9-10. It is hoped the lessons will inspire and engage students with little to no experience in music as well as those who do have previous experience.
The lessons begin with discussions about songs, bands, instruments,the elements of music or styles of music. In so doing students are also becoming familiar with the terminology of music which is an essential skill in discussing or sharing thoughts about music. We also share many video links to favourite songs and we learn from each other.
The lessons are designed to be very practically based to develop students’ confidence in playing their instruments. Students can also access pages on our online system Canvas where they can download charts or watch videos showing how to play particular songs. The songs have been chosen to develop particular skills such as playing chords or melodies. Throughout the year more and more songs will be added to build a common repertoire.
Students have already uploaded videos or audio recordings of themselves playing some of the songs which demonstrate they have acquired, or are in the process of acquiring, the targeted skills. Others have been encouraged to keep practising until they are ready to upload a recording.
Teaching students practical music skills on a variety of instruments is a challenge for a standard classroom music teacher but attempting it online is an even greater challenge. It was found some students had out-of-tune guitars or ukuleles and they had no idea of how to tune them. I have learned that it is possible to teach students to tune their instruments in a live lesson situation, though it takes patience on both sides and it is time consuming.
When students meet at our activity days, or at the school camp, we are able to practise the music together. This has provided valuable feedback on student progress. Some obvious playing errors are quickly picked up and corrected. Instruments are given a tune up and also some basic maintenance.
Students have also been set tasks using free recording and editing software such as Audacity. As confidence grows students will be set assignments to record music or create mash-ups of existing songs.
The biggest challenge will be to encourage students to sing and explore their vocal abilities. The major block to developing vocal skills is the all-pervasive view - even among adults - that one can either sing,without any instruction or practice whatsoever, or one can’t. It will take time to overcome this and hopefully in the future we will have soloists and choirs performing songs at our end-of-year presentation assemblies.