Fighting lag and working on rhythm in virtual lessons (Edited title)

Edited: May 17, 2020, 8:13 AM · Rhythm counting!!

I have several students at various levels of beginner, one young one who was really just starting to work on her rhythm reading before the world changed. You just can't do it over the computer! OK, not a full "can't" but it sure is not easy. Following my finger takes coordination through the screen, counting together to get the sense of pulse is pretty much impossible with lag. Thankfully this student has a good musical sense, a great school music teacher, and a supportive parent, so I was able to drop her off some flashcards to practice basic rhythms at home, and she is already comfy enough with Kodaly solfege and a sense of beat that I can have her "rhythm" new music on her own, in phrases, and then we just have to get the bow coordinated with it. With some other students, who don't have as solid an internal rhythm, I'm really feeling the loss of being able to do it *with* them to help develop that.

What have you run into on this front and how are you solving it?

Replies (9)

May 16, 2020, 2:42 PM · I have been using a voice recorder app on my phone to make sound recordings for my students to use as practice resources. Often I record with a metronome. These aren’t intended to be high fidelity audio recordings; they are just tools for my students. The voice recorder takes up a lot less data than using the video recorder, and it’s easy for me to text the short recordings directly to the students who need them.
May 17, 2020, 8:14 AM · Mary Ellen, what types of things are you recording?
May 17, 2020, 8:53 AM · Arpeggios, etudes, solos with metronome--anything my students are having difficulty learning. For example, I have students struggling with some of the rhythms in De Beriot #9, so I recorded that at a slow tempo, using the metronome app that shouts out the beats (ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR!). I have done the same for the Ten Have Allegro Brillante. I generally do not record things up to tempo because I don't want to encourage bad behavior (playing too fast too soon). If the student is ready to be playing something up to tempo, they should be long past the need for training wheels.

By the same token, I'm not recording pieces like Lalo, Bruch, Mendelssohn or Tchaikovsky even though I have at least one student working on each. Those students are advanced past the point of needing such help. Mostly it is intermediate repertoire and study material.

May 17, 2020, 10:09 AM · I agree with Mary Ellen about recording. Also if your connection is decent, you can have the student mute themselves (or you can mute them if you are on Zoom) and they can play/clap along with you for a minute or two. Obviously it’s not ideal because you can’t hear them, but it gives them the experience of copying you like they would if you could play together.
Edited: May 17, 2020, 5:39 PM · To develop counting it is hard to beat baroque and early classical slow movements.

I've got to check out that app that shouts the numbers at you. Can you make it swear at you when you get it wrong? LOL

May 17, 2020, 6:19 PM · It’s an option on MetroTimer, which I have on my iPhone. The user is responsible for any swearing. LOL
Edited: May 20, 2020, 3:06 PM · For students not currently possessing an "adequate" sense of pulse, I would be inclined to put off teaching rhythm reading. Sure, you could demonstrate and they could imitate, but that would be relying the ear rather than actually reading. I've used Kodaly syllables as well as other words (plum, apple, watermelon) and &'s and e&a's. I've also had to coach/correct students on being steady with dividing the beat vs. doing 2 or 4 claps or syllables as fast as they can.

Lately I would hear students play out of their beginner reading books, and for the melodic/tune-ful exercises, of course I don't need to know what's on the page to tell when something is off. I would have them count and clap the troublesome measure, count while playing on open string, then back to what's printed (all steps we have done before).

For an assignment they've recorded, I would tell them to listen to their recording and count beats to find out where they went wrong, then do the above steps. For siblings playing out of a duet book, one can count the beats for the other.

Guiding intermediates on troubleshooting: ask what kind of note gets the beat, how many beats in the offending part, count or tap or bob the pulse, etc.

This isn't reading but Gossec Gavotte at the end of Suzuki 1: kids tend to play the quarter notes too fast and the sixteenth notes too slow. It may be semantics but I see that as a problem with pulse or physical execution not rhythm. In an offline lesson, once finger mechanics and coordination were figured out, we'd have played it together repeatedly, but now I've recorded practice tracks at various tempos and realized that would have been useful even before online.

To develop the internal sense of rhythm/pulse, I think they would need to DO movement activities, marching, clapping, chanting, etc. To my understanding, Kodaly people are all about "steady beat" and I just don't think the Suzuki "brute force listening" is quite enough (and that's why they need the slowed down Gossec Gavotte play along). Do kids (girls?) still play those hand clapping games on the school playground? I only knew a few myself and was never particularly fast/coordinated with them but it seems my students these days know even fewer.

Edited: May 20, 2020, 8:45 PM · I have been digging up info on lag-free apps and found YouBrio, a free IPhone app designed for live music lessons. Has anyone here tried it?
May 30, 2020, 7:45 AM · While my students are not as advanced as those being discussed here, I've been making MP3 files of the exercises and part of the duets in Doflein (that is the method I teach) so that they have their track to follow and then the accompaniment to play the duets.

It is never going to be as satisfying as playing together in the same space. FWIW" I'm developing a plan to create a physically separated but acoustically same space in my screened in porch so that I can resume in-person lessons. Largely because NJ is starting to "relax" some of the rules and because more-and-more people are using the available bandwidth and the delays are increasing as are the frozen frames on all of the platforms I have tried.

One upside is that when this is all over we may well have the ability to continue lessons when the weather is bad, when the student (or teacher) feels a cold coming on, or when the student's schedule is too tightly planned to allow for the travel time. I can see fewer skipped/missed lessons in the future.

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