Pandemic lockdowns forced millions around the world to spend more time at home, and for musicians – amateur and professional – it created both challenges and opportunities. Music students couldn’t go out to meet their teachers, but they could use online platforms to practise their art. “I’ve had a student living in Switzerland for over 10 years who I’ve never met in real life,” says Konstantin Gutmann, who lives in Germany and is the founder of an online music school. The pandemic made students more aware of online learning. “We started our online lessons back in 2011. At the time, many were sceptical about it and asked how it would work. But it works, and the internet and the technologies for it are getting better and better,” he says. All you need for remote music lessons is a computer with a webcam and a stable internet connection. The lessons take place over videoconferencing software such as Zoom. Theoretically, online lessons can work for all musical instruments. The placing of the camera in relation to the student is important, Gutmann says, so the teacher can see that the student is holding and playing the instrument properly. ‘Impossible to replicate’: what’s lost when film festivals move online However, the acoustic delay makes it difficult for the teacher and student to play or sing together. “I solve that by doing a lot of backtracks,” Gutmann says. “I record a lot, and then I send it to my students as an MP3. They can then play along with that recording.” Musicologist Matthias Krebs says that during the pandemic many musicians, brass bands and amateur choirs had good experiences with software such as Jamulus and SonoBus. These platforms do without video and because audio uses less data, people in different places can play together with less delay. “Unlike Zoom or WhatsApp, local servers can be set up, which significantly improves data exchange,” says Krebs. “In addition, Jamulus and other software are optimised for sound transmission.” Since the start of the pandemic, many amateur musicians have embraced digital technology out of necessity. Lockdown bonus: Hong Kong gyms offer free online yoga and fitness classes “Even less tech-savvy people have found ways to learn, such as through internet tutorials or topic-focused Zoom meetings, how to use these platforms and what ancillary equipment is helpful to harness this virtual space for singing or making music,” Krebs says. Before the pandemic, there were relatively few music teachers who had experience with online instruction. “Platforms like Jamulus are over a decade old, but before, most people didn’t care because they were used to meeting at a certain time in a classroom or rehearsal space,” Krebs says. Making music together still has its digital limitations Katrin Bock, a music teacher in Germany You can learn how to play an instrument by watching YouTube videos. “YouTube tutorials are an interesting way to learn an instrument,” Krebs says, “because you can learn about very different playing techniques and get inspired.” Even so, there are definite advantages to being in the same physical space as the teacher in terms of feedback and the teacher being able to demonstrate something directly to the student. “It helps a lot when the teacher can see a direct reaction from the student. In addition, making music together still has its digital limitations,” says Katrin Bock, a music teacher in Germany. Many teachers have practically become YouTubers themselves these days. “They sit down at home and spend 45 minutes explaining how crotchets work. Because, of course, it’s different when your own music teacher is in a video than when it’s a YouTube video from a stranger,” she says. However, as far as motivation is concerned, it’s probably more useful to have a real teacher who can tell directly whether the student has practices or not.