As music educators around the world make the switch to online lesson and course content, I would like to share several of my top tips for teaching clarinet virtually. Although it can be hard to replace face-to-face lessons, there are several cool features and ideas you can utilize during the next few weeks. I have been teaching Skype clarinet lessons for several years now, and here are my top tips to help your clarinet students with online lessons:
- Choose your platform. There are so many different options to choose from for online lessons. I like Skype and Zoom, but you can also try Google Duo, Facebook Messenger, or any other communication software you find reliable.
- Embrace the flexibility. Online lessons can be done from the comfort of your own home and on your time schedule. You can offer extended teaching or feedback hours, and there is no commute!
- Encourage students to record their lessons. Several platforms, such as Skype, allow you to record videos with the single press of a button. This makes it easy for students to record and revisit lessons later.
- Organize your space. Once you’ve chosen a platform and scheduled your lessons, it’s time to organize your new workplace. Make sure you have a computer/tablet/laptop/smartphone, reliable internet connection, your clarinet and accessories, tuner, metronome, and anything else you might need during the course of the lesson.
- Keep track of your lessons. If you’re not doing so already, make sure to take notes during each lesson so you remember assignments, discussions, and anything else from one lesson to the next.
Creative teaching ideas
- Create a virtual clarinet choir. Have your students record an individual part of a clarinet choir piece and create a multitrack (audio and/or video) to share on social media.
- Play duets (or other small chamber pieces). Assign parts to duos, trios, or quartets and combine individual recordings to work together using the power of technology.
- Host a watch party. Use this feature on Facebook to watch pre-recorded or live videos as a group and chat in real time. This can be a useful tool to watch videos of masterclasses, student performances, or anything else you think would be engaging and interesting for your students.
- Livestream your warm-up routine. Schedule a time with your students to follow along your warm-up routine as you livestream it.
- Create groups on social media to stay connected. Create groups for your studio to stay connected, post audio/video, provide feedback, share news and information, and encourage each other. (This is also a wonderful idea to continue when you resume lessons IRL.)
- Create and share playlists. YouTube, Spotify, and several other platforms allow you to create and share playlists. Encourage your students to make their own clarinet playlists (maybe Romantic Masterpieces, Modern Marvels, or other fun titles), and send links to your own playlists for any students to enjoy.
- Encourage your students to participate in boot camps or practice challenges. Come up with engaging yet challenging assignments to provide structure and schedules during the virtual days, and encourage them to share videos and provide feedback to stay connected with their classmates.
- Create contests and prizes for random music-related feats. Challenge your students to devise unique ways to productively spend their time, and offer prizes for most creative ideas. Perhaps most Mahler symphonies listened to in a single day, most new clarinet concerti discovered, most unusual extended technique seen/heard in a video, etc. The sillier, the better!
Creative practicing ideas
- Rehearse with digital accompaniment.
- Play along with YouTube recordings at half speed to become familiar with the other musical lines.
- Have your accompanist send you a recording of the piano part to play along.
- Use apps or software to play along with virtual accompaniment.
- Connect with other musicians from around the world. Browse social media and follow musicians and accounts that inspire you.
- Start a digital practice log. More and more musicians are creating social media accounts solely to document their practice and performance journeys. Encourage followers to share constructive feedback and encouragement, and return the favor on their accounts.
- Stick to your schedule. It can be difficult to find motivation without any formal obligations (like having to go to class), so try to maintain any semblance of normalcy by sticking to your normal routine.
- Enlist a practice pal. Join forces with someone who will hold you accountable to your practice goals, and make sure to return the favor.
I know that these might not be ideal circumstances, but I am thankful that we are only a few clicks away from so many incredible resources. Let us use this time to become even more creative, determined, and emerge more motivated than ever before!
I always enjoy hearing your creative ideas for learning and teaching digitally, so leave a comment with your favorite tips for remote clarinet or music education!