News Highlights: High school band learning through technology | News
How do students learn to play a musical instrument via a computer screen? It can certainly be a challenge, but with a little flexibility and some modern technology, anything is possible. These are some of the technologies and techniques that high school band students have used this school year.
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It didn’t take long before I found out that playing instruments as a group over the internet would be a challenge. Fortunately, there were other options. Some studies have shown that mental exercise or ‘visualization’ can be very helpful in improving or maintaining many types of skills, including music and sports. While many students cannot play their instruments via video at home, they can still practice visualizing and singing their notes and rhythms.
Through video, students practice clapping and articulating rhythms, mimicking the techniques used to play their instruments. Students also practice the note finger patterns of their respective instrument, using an ‘air instrument’ instead of the real instrument, similar to playing the infamous’ air guitar. It may sound strange, but the physical act of moving the fingers in the same patterns as on their instrument helps students memorize and reinforce many of the same skills and muscle memory as when playing a real instrument. By practicing the finger patterns and articulating the rhythms and notes together via video, students can maintain these skills for when they can play together in person. Not only do these practice techniques have to be used for virtual learning, but are also great for any student learning or practicing on their own.
Sight Reading Factory is a website that high school students started using in the fall. The website generates virtually endless music samples for students to practice reading rhythms and notes on their respective instruments. This tool has become valuable for virtual learning and in the physical classroom with instruments. The more students practice reading notes and rhythms in different contexts, the better they become at reading and playing music over time.
Playing in a band is of course more than just playing notes and rhythms, but also knowing the music vocabulary and understanding the many parts of music. Students have used several common applications used by the district to learn and practice these musical ideas. Quizlet and Kahoot are both online applications that band students use to practice their music vocabulary and symbols individually and with the whole class through group quizzes, games and challenges.
Finally, one of the best ways to learn more about music is listening. During virtual learning, students spent time listening to music and responding to it by answering questions. When learning to play a new piece of music for a band, students first listen to the music multiple times through recordings found online. Then they look at the sheet music and answer questions related to the vocabulary and symbols they learned earlier to help them understand the music better. Then the students began to practice the rhythms and write down finger patterns before physically playing the music together in the classroom.
This school year has forced all of us to think of new ways to teach and learn. While some of this technology is new to learning music in a band, much of it is the same idea but reimagined for modern learning.
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