Through Limitation Comes Innovation
At the end of February 2020, I hired someone to help me with my website and they suggested using Zoom as a way to discuss plans.
I had never even heard of this thing called Zoom.
Fast-forward to June 2020 and I now use Zoom 7x a week to take classes, teach violin and capoeira, and attend meetings. Scroll down to learn the top 5 benefits & 3 downsides of Zoom violin lessons.
Like all of you, I have experienced many changes in the trajectory of my teaching due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I always prefer meeting face-to-face with my students, but, acknowledge that there have been many benefits that have come from this period and using Zoom (or other online video communications) to keep music lessons active.
1- Gaining fluency and skills with new options for teaching and learning.
My first Zoom violin lesson was a bit of a disaster. I was late for my student due to not understanding how to properly share and access the link, I did not know how to use the features so there was no audio for the first 5 minutes and the camera angles and lighting were, well... let us just say that this too had room for improvement. It was distracting and clunky for both me and my student.
I know now how to set-up a recurring session, place the camera, adjust the lights, and easily adjust the audio and camera in a matter of seconds.
I learned a new skill and this will open future options for connecting and has expanded my concept for how I can teach. The options are endless and I now know that if a student or myself ever has a situation where we can not meet in person we can continue our work and fulfill our vision.
2- Insight into a student's environment.
Does your student hold their violin too far down?
Did you see on the Zoom lesson that their music stand is not properly elevated to facilitate proper posture?
Does your student suffer from distractions?
Can you recommend a more ideal place in their home for learning based on what you observe in their environment?
Did you discover that they have a piano you never knew about and now you can integrate this into their curriculum?
The piano keyboard is the best way to solidify music theory concepts, how exciting!
We must remember that we only see our students for 30-60 minutes every week and the rest of their learning takes place in their home. Gaining insight into the student's home learning environment can solve mysteries (such as the posture circumstance listed above) and help you make suggestions to better a student's core learning environment.
3- Creativity: Through limitation comes innovation.
I work with an older brother and younger sister. The older brother was starting to refine his vibrato and the younger sister was just beginning to learn vibrato. To be honest, this has been very difficult for me to concentrate on through a screen and make any real progress in a positive direction. However, what the screen is fantastic for are all of the visual components of violin playing:
I have always said that the reason it is so easy for me to teach the violin is that I get to see everything so clearly. Video lessons helped to spotlight this factor and I made use of this in my curriculum. This also correlates with the 4th benefit of Zoom lessons listed next.
4- Instant Videos: Zoom has built-in video features.
My students video record their Zoom lessons and then review the video to understand their assignments and in the process, observe their performance.
Viewing oneself play the violin is one of the best ways to improve. Students should be doing this regularly but as teachers, we get busy and do not always uphold this expectation. Also, this convenience relieves the student (or parent of the student) from taking notes during the lesson.
5- Prioritizing health in our modern society.
Foremost, the use of Zoom lessons helps us prevent spreading the COVID-19 virus. There remains much to learn about this virus and it appears one can transmit without having symptoms. If this is accurate, then we have a responsibility as instructors to continue being prudent in our actions so we do not pass this along to our students, many of whom are children and may not have developed a robust immune system yet.
Secondly, without spending so much time driving and in activities, most of us (teachers and students) are receiving a well-needed rest. Our bodies need this extra time to repair and stay healthy.
I hope that we are all cognizant that health is one of our highest values and this experience will forge in us a commitment to take better care of ourselves in the years to come. Connecting with this value is a blessing that will serve us thruout the rest of our lives and something to be grateful for.
While it can be healthy to seek the positive in any situation, the 5 benefits of Zoom violin listed above do not paint the full picture of Zoom lessons. Below are listed some of the downsides of using this way of teaching.
1- Compromised Tone -
Shinichi Suzuki said, "tone is the living soul."
The limitations of the microphones and speakers in the computers we use to do Zoom lessons remove this life-infused quality of beautiful violin tone and frankly put, it's painful to listen to at times. On a basic computer, everything above a certain range or volume entirely cuts out and all violin sounds are compressed. Having a microphone or specialized headphones can help but nothing will ever compare to the beauty of live violin tone.
2- Environmental Diversions -
It's distracting being in my dining room teaching because our homes have so many triggers, the learning environment does not lend itself to dedicated focus like a teaching studio does.
3- Increased Screen Time -
We already are on our screens too much and now Zoom lessons add to this burden. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average time we spend on screens is 7-10 hours a day. This is in sharp contrast to the recommendations of acceptable screen time:
We love the violin because it's slow and it connects us to a time period where things were slow. The instant gratification offered by my screens dulls our dopamine receptors and may affect the way mitochondria operate within cells. Educate yourself further about the negative impacts of too much screen time here.
What have you learned from using video communications for the violin?
Please share in the comments below. Thank you!
Hi! It's me, Heather. I absolutely love working on the Music for Young Violinists project and all the many facets: blogging, website, music, teaching materials, freebies, videos, newsletter and giveaway contests. The best part is connecting with you so feel free to drop me a line. You can learn more about me on the "ABOUT" page. Thanks!