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Do You YouTube?

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YouTube.com, which is a relatively recent phenomenon, has an astonishing variety of offerings, with instructional videos ranging from how to vote to motorcycle maintenance to a view of the Orion constellation and everything in-between. It contains the sublime and the ridiculous. However, this site also offers an extraordinary source of musical knowledge that may provide a wealth of benefits to the student singer, teacher, professional, or hobbyist. The speed at which one can access a world of musical performance, lessons, ideas, and technology would simply have been unheard of, even as recently as five or 10 years ago. As a teaching tool, YouTube is easily adaptable for music lessons, as its format can benefit students and teachers as a continual refresher in between music lessons.

More advanced students or musicians who want to expand their horizons may view a tremendous selection of lessons and performances by teachers and professionals from around the world. These lessons, which are available for all levels, could even be used to allow a student to audition the teacher, and vice versa! A few of the exceptional videos available on YouTube include one that features the famed Metropolitan Opera baritone, Robert McFerrin singing Cortigiani; a lesson on how to conduct in compound meters with Michelle Willis; and a fascinating historical clip of Leonard Bernstein explaining Beethoven’s 9th Symphony followed by a performance of the Ode to Joy.

The Strad magazine, a publication primarily for string players, recently featured an in-depth case study in the September 2008 issue highlighting a violin teacher who used YouTube regularly to provide supplemental lessons at home. Twice a week, she would upload short videos featuring topics ranging from simple rhythm and bowing exercises to playing the bottom part of a duet, and the relaxed bow hand. The links to the lessons, which were directly related to their most recent class, were e-mailed to the students each week. Evidently, the results were astonishing. The students benefited from the repetitive nature of the on-line video, which served as a constant reminder of the proper methods for playing their instrument. Additionally, “They even seemed to feel a closer bond to me, because they ‘saw’ me more often. In less than a year, all of them could play Suzuki’s Twinkle variation no. 1… compared to only a handful from the previous year.” This application of YouTube could certainly be adapted to vocal lessons and utilized to the significant benefit of the teacher and student.

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