Technology: Starting the New Year with YouTube

Mike Lawson • ChoralTechnology • January 7, 2011

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The race to space in the middle of the last century hardly compares to the stampede of new opportunities on the Internet. I’m especially proud to see so many music educators leading the charge, bringing exciting new learning experiences to the classroom.

Free tools like YouTube give music teachers a plethora of authentic modeling examples to share with their students. As most people know, YouTube is a video-sharing Web site on which users can upload, share, and view videos. It uses Adobe Flash Video technology to display a wide variety of user-generated video content, including movie clips, TV clips, and music videos, as well as amateur video blogs and short original videos. Most of the content on YouTube has been uploaded by individuals, although media corporations like CBS, BBC, and VEVO post their material on the site as part of the YouTube partnership program. Unregistered viewers can watch the videos, while registered users are permitted to upload an unlimited number of videos. Videos can be posted in high definition, up to 2 GB in size and up to 15 minutes long.

If you search any instrument on YouTube and add the word “lesson,” you will find hundreds, if not thousands, of videos. For example, a search for “clarinet lesson” yields about 601 results ranging from lessons on embouchure, long tones, seven basic fingerings, web cam lessons, how to play hard passages fast, how to gliss, clarinet overtones and polyphonics, minor scales, breathing techniques, sound production, clarinet versus saxophone embouchures, vibrato, articulations, minor scales, how to read clarinet music, fingering charts and alternative fingerings, jazz clarinet, warm-up and daily practice routines, clarinet reeds, legato playing, and more. Whew!

Learning repertory is real asset of YouTube videos. One such video [Stanley Drucker/NYPO/Mehta/Weber Concertino for Clarinetl] features Stanley Drucker, who retired after 60 years with the New York Philharmonic, playing a live telecast in 1989. One of my students is learning this same solo for his upcoming solo and ensemble festival, and listening and analyzing the Stanley Drucker video has been a godsend in his progress. I found 407 other recordings on YouTube of this solo and discovered the Anthony Gigliotti recording with the Philadelphia Symphony, which even shows the solo part performed in “real” time []. These recordings have had a tremendous influence on my students – especially listening to some of the performances of solos unaccompanied. What wonderful help these free YouTube on-line videos are for festival and audition preparation!

Instrumental music teachers who are teaching instruments that they might not be completely familiar with can find professional video lessons that provide for valuable enhancement to instruction. This is especially true where geographic or economic restrictions make it difficult to find highly quality instruction.

YouTube videos can inspire and guide students to develop a more mature sound. Check for some YouTube instrumental videos that are unique and motivating.

Case Study: Houston (Texas) Christian High School

Karen Kline and Allison Redmon put technology to work in creative ways at Houston Christian High School in Houston, Texas. They utilize technology in all of their classes including orchestra, band, guitar, music theory, digital music and class piano. Karen, who is the department head, uses technology to help lift the heavy load of her responsibilities.

“In our orchestra classroom, we use SmartMusic on a regular basis,” Karen explains. “Students have weekly assignments which are submitted online; the software assesses the assignment and I also have the opportunity to listen to the assignments and give a grade. I use YouTube videos regularly to show different bowing techniques, various musical styles, and examples of different musical interpretations. Our classroom includes recording equipment that enables me to record rehearsals and immediately play the recording back for the students to hear – this is one of the most effective teaching tools I have, as the students can immediately see and hear what is successful and what needs more rehearsal.”

Last year, Karen performed an experiment with SmartMusic and her orchestra class. “I gave the orchestra students a challenging music selection that was far above the level of work currently being done in class. They practiced the piece exclusively at home using SmartMusic; we did not rehearse it in class. After two weeks, we played the piece in class and the students performed it amazingly well! The students were much better prepared for class and their skills improved dramatically. SmartMusic is easy for them to use and they practice much longer than they previously were doing.”

One of the biggest advantages of technology is its adaptability for different levels. Karen customizes assignments for students based on their ability levels, saying, “It is amazing for teaching classes with a variety of skill levels and experience. We have a piano lab in which I am able to teach a large group of students in a single class period. It is much more efficient than giving 10 private lessons! We have 10 Yamaha Clavanovas and a higher model teacher keyboard. I have the Yamaha MLC 100 controller at my keyboard, which means I can listen to students individually, put them in groups, pair them for duets, instruct them individually or as a class, and listen to them privately. I don’t use a lot of software in this class, but I do have the students go to the Internet for games or other assessments of note reading, rhythms, and basic theory concepts.

To help illustrate how Karen incorporates technology in a lesson plan, here are two of her lesson outlines:

Sample Orchestra Class Lesson

• G major scale and arpeggio – 2 octaves

• Remind students of SmartMusic assignment on G scale

• High Tech, pg 13, #4

• Gymnopedie – rehearse phrasings

• Watch video:

• Discuss movement relative to Gymnopedie

• Mozart Sinfonia – review bowings

• Bartok – practice accents, dynamics

• Watch video:

• Discuss differences in accents and sfz on piano and on string instruments

Piano Keyboarding Class Lesson

• Technique – review hand position

• Theory – harmonizing with open 5ths – put student keyboards in pairs – one student plays melody, one plays harmonization; reverse; students play hands together for each other

• Practice writing order of sharps and flats on staff paper.

• Repertoire assignments

• Watch video:

• Discuss hand position and posture

• Have students play games and quizzes on to practice note reading and rhythms.

Allison Redmon uses YouTube everyday to enhance the coursework in her beginning guitar classes. In her band classes, she uses it once or twice a week. For her guitar students, she wrote a curriculum that incorporates eMedia Beginning Guitar software. She says, “We use the Essential Elements for Guitar book, the eMedia software and another book, Alfred’s Music Theory. My students don’t have a lot time to practice outside of school, so I use the eMedia program to help them practice in class. Students also come to me individually for a guitar playing quiz each day, and the quiz is on the eMedia program.”

Allison also uses other programs, such as GarageBand. She continues, “GarageBand is a huge part of the Digital Music class. Students edit, arrange, record and mix music electronically on their MacBooks. They send me their work electronically through the Web site,, then I grade their work on and e-mail them feedback.”

Allison has her band students use SmartMusic for at-home practice. She assigns technique exercises, as well as concert band literature as homework assignments. With SmartMusic, students submit their assignments electronically and either SmartMusic or she will grade them.

“Technology allows me to cover more curriculum, and these students understand and use technology almost seamlessly,” Allison says. “It is all that they do. If you tried to reach them in a non-technological way, I don’t believe they would respond as well because these kids have been around technology their whole life. They like using iPads, iPods, earphones, laptops, and listening to music on iTunes. That’s why I like to incorporating technology in my lessons.”

Allison’s classroom has a good sound system to playback the technology, and a large overhead projector. She elaborates, “The band room has a recording feature where I press a button, the room records the rehearsal or a song being played and then I play back the song immediately so the students know how well they performed. I can also play music from any iPod device through the speaker system, which is really convenient because we rarely use CDs anymore. One of the newest teaching tools I have is a Wenger digital teaching station, which holds my laptop, the classroom desktop computer, MIDI keyboard and flexible conductor’s stand all in one station. With this station, I can project music for guitar classes on the screen using one computer while taking attendance on another computer, while simultaneously demonstrating music for my guitar students.”

Case Study: Krimmel Intermediate School, Houston, Texas

Tescille Riser is a choral director at Krimmel Intermediate School in Houston, Texas. Technology helps her creatively adjust to her unique situation. She explains, “Our school district does not allow access on any computer to YouTube as do some other schools across the country. But there are many ways to use this technology when you have instructional materials worthy of being used in class. Normally, if I use a video clip from YouTube, I have to convert the URL to a file on my home computer, save it to a USB drive and bring it to school. I do this through I use YouTube clips as examples but I haven’t used it as an instructional tool yet.”

Tescille uses Finale 2010 to prepare sight-reading exercises for her students, and Microsoft OneNote for recording purposes. She also uses a lot of free Web 2.0 technology, as well as cloud computing.

“I really view technology as a way to enhance curriculum, it doesn’t necessarily allow me to cover more of it,” says Tescille. “The use of technology allows me to teach to a different strand of the curriculum in a more current instructional method. The most challenging aspect of it is monitoring students on the devices and grading recording tests. We have a ‘nanny’ program in our school called DyKnow, which allows us to monitor students remotely while they are using their tablets. It is difficult to find time to sit and listen to more than 100 tests, grade them, and provide feedback. The grading/feedback process for one class can take 30-45 minutes. With 6 classes, it can be overload, so I have to space it out.”

Closing Comments

Embracing the rapid changes in music education can be challenging. With that in mind, the Internet can be a good starting place for educators who are just beginning to get into technology. You can conveniently incorporate YouTube videos without straining the budget. And this technology breathes life into national standards, showing students where the bar is set and giving them a lift to reach it. Many students already know technology and enjoy using it, and by integrating sophisticated tools into our teaching, we can easily tap into that enjoyment and keep the music alive.

Equally as important are the great publicity possibilities. The Internet can be a significant factor promoting your programs far beyond the concert hall. Consider Manhattan PS 22’s 5th grade chorus, who, at last count, have had more than 25 million hits on their 975+ YouTube postings, which are viewable on their blog, YouTube is a phenomenal resource for music educators for both promoting music ensembles and for free instructional materials because seeing really is believing.

Dr. John Kuzmich Jr. is a veteran music educator, jazz educator and music technologist with more than 41 years of public school teaching experience. He is a TI:ME-certified training instructor and has a Ph.D. in comprehensive musicianship. As a freelance author, Dr. Kuzmich has more than 400 articles and five textbooks published. As a clinician, Dr. Kuzmich frequently participates in workshops throughout the U.S., Europe, Australia, and South America.

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