Does Technology Enhance a Music Lesson
Does Technology Enhance a Music Lesson?
As a music teacher, parent of a young musician and director of a music school, I find
myself in a position to explore and critique the use of technology in music lessons
every day. There are many articles about how to use technology in a music lesson,
but none (that I have encountered) that can help a parent understand if a teacher is
using it effectively for their child, or if it is more of a gimmick and a distraction.
The use of technology in music lessons has been touted in seminars at nearly every
teacher conference I have attended for over a decade. In addition, parents at my
academy tell me that their kids are more excited when they get to use technology
like computer games, iPads, and Youtube as part of the lesson. My own daughter
has over a dozen music games on our tablet computer and I myself am working at
developing an App that will act as a sophisticated piano method book. So to say I am
familiar with technology in the music lesson would be something of an
Unfortunately, I am surprised by frequency with which the use of technology
diminishes the effectiveness of a music lesson or practice. Needless to say, an
effective music lesson or practice is one in which the student gets better at making
music. While there are many levels of intellectual understanding and rote
knowledge that can be helpful in this process, the main thing that should be going on
in any music lesson is beautiful music making. Most technology interactions either
stop the music making altogether (watching a video of a famous pianist or playing a
music theory game, for example) or they make music in only a very stilted manner
(tapping on the right piano key on an iPad at the moment the note comes across the
In both practicing an instrument and taking a lesson there is limited time and we
must choose our activities wisely. Most parents would be happy to see their child
having fun playing a music game and learning about music during the lesson. No
one will even notice this is a problem until six months down the line when the child
can’t play a single song on the guitar or get through “Twinkle” on the violin. There is
a great deal to accomplish every lesson in order to be able to play music beautifully.
If we choose to make music for most of the lesson, we will be more likely to get good
Please do not think that I am some kind of luddite that opposes all technology in
music lessons: Quite the opposite – I use technology frequently in my lessons and
encourage my students to do so as well. It’s just that I am very careful to select
technology that will encourage my students to play their instruments longer, with
more focus and greater creativity. The use of the video function on most phones and
tablets is a perfect example of this. I send and receive short videos with my guitar
students nearly every day. The good ones get posted to Facebook. I use a high
quality digital recorder to record my students performing pieces at the highest level
to put onto a CD collection for the end of the year. My students enter their
compositions into composition software that we then compile into a book.
There are many forms of technology that are at our disposal that can help us make
music lessons more enjoyable while at the same time helping us increase the
amount of time we spend really making beautiful music together. We just have to be
discerning about what is a distraction and what is an enhancement.
Klondike Steadman is a director at Orpheus Academy of Music in Austin TX.
Orpheus Academy of Music is an after-school music academy offering private
lessons and group classes in Guitar, Piano, Violin and Voice to students of all ages.
For more information please visit www.orpheusacademy.com