Singing Students Out of Tune with Zoom


by ISOBEL DAWE



Students are struggling with online music lessons, saying they are “just not the same” as face-to-face.

Music is being taught over Zoom or Facetime during lockdown, and while measures are being taken to ensure the best possible experience, online lessons have proven to be significantly more difficult.

Brad Barnes, 19, Arts Award holder for singing at Brunel University, said: “Look, there’s a pandemic, people are dying, I get it. But online singing lessons are hard when not given an appropriate place to practice in.”

He continued to say that he knows teachers are doing their best, but it’s difficult, and he would always prefer an in-person lesson to an online one.

This year, many compromises have had to be made regarding music lessons due to COVID. The Exam Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) is offering face-to-face, private visits to carry out examinations and should be able to offer face to face exams at public venues in June and July, but in-person teaching is not yet possible.

Sally Goodworth, music coordinator at Brunel University and piano teacher, said: “The problem with online lessons is the latency. In the future, if there was a software or programme invented that could reduce latency, then it would be a marvellous resource because you could teach and accompany in real time.”

She added that it is not so bad with piano as it is for singing because singing techniques are to do with anatomy and the entire body, not just sounds, and the physical side is very difficult to teach when not in person.

“I found it has worked okay with piano teaching. I have a system where my students send recordings and then I give my feedback on them prior to the lessons. However, it’s not great for fine tuning because the sound isn’t very faithful.”

According to Sally Goodworth, many music students who have online music lessons as part of their university course at Brunel have decided to defer a year to get the best possible outcome for their degree.

Ellie Young, 20, Arts Award holder at Brunel, decided she would decline to have singing lessons online this year despite them being freely offered with her award.

She said: “I knew I wouldn’t feel comfortable singing from home over an online platform. It’s awkward singing loudly in my university house, and when I’m back home I have family members working who can’t be disturbed.”

She added that her Wi-Fi connection doesn’t always work either, so sometimes the teacher can struggle to hear what she’s singing.

Despite this, Sally Goodworth suggested that Zoom lessons could potentially be a good alternative for those who can’t make in-person lessons for any reason in the future, when COVID guidelines aren’t as strict.

However, she also added that “nothing will ever replace face-to-face learning.”


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