Although it reaches beyond the scope of this research, I do want to address some issues that have a strong impact on development learning and teaching. I will not go into great detail, but I do want to sketch the influence this has on both teachers and students. Hopefully other research will continue on this path.
As we noticed before the development and the way of teaching Jazz was very much influenced by its time and the technical possibilities of that time, like the use of recorded music for educational purposes. Now the question is how the recent developments in society influence the way we learn and teach. Some of the most notable changes are, the development of internet, digital recording techniques and the use of computers, smartphones and tablets. These developments have changed the way we learn and teach dramatically. Or… at least they should do.
Actually, they offer both opportunities and challenges. These days, students have access to an enormous amount of information and digital tools. Most teachers, being taught in a time before the internet, have a hard time adjusting their teaching skills. Students seem to have access to all the information that we had hoped to share gradually with them through our books and lessons. But now it only takes seconds to find out facts about all possible topics through the use of the internet. So, more important than the actual facts we need to share as teachers, is the way we can put these facts in perspective for the student and how a student can use these for his or her own development. Most students lose perspective and get overwhelmed by the enormous amount of information. We can help them put it in the right perspective, guide them to self-development and stimulate them in making authentic and responsible choices.
The World Wide Web
In the same way that the invention of recorded music has had an influence on the development of music, the invention of the internet also has a great impact on music and the education of music. Since internet became accessible to the mass, all kinds of music became available worldwide. This is not only the case for popular music, but the internet offers a great opportunity for the distribution of music that is being regarded to have less commercial value. All kinds of historic recordings, new recordings, obscure recordings and anything else you could imagine is more or less freely available across the globe. This also led to the creation of communities of certain interest groups that are not geographically bound to one location. So, even more than before, musicians have access to a wealth of new information and this offers many new opportunities to study and develop. The speed of this spreading of information for little to no costs, led to a new dynamic of availability and distribution of information. (although it must be mentioned that the wide availability of music is beneficial to the general audience and the popularity of certain artists, it hasn’t resulted in more income, or a decent income for that matter, to the non commercial music forms.1)
The challenge is to deal with this information wealth. For some it creates too many distractions and procrastination has become a challenge to many. Another challenge is the verification of the information, which information is to be trusted and how does one verify this. The availability of all this information can stop some students from finding things out by themselves. For example, the availability of so many transcriptions will demotivate the student to make his own, where the process of doing your own research is so important to the development of the student.
Online teaching programs
Since the beginning of internet in the 90s, online music schools have developed and have become quite popular. Students can follow lessons of a world-famous teachers and even receive personalised feedback, regardless of where they live and what level they have, for a relatively affordable price compared to regular lessons. Of course, this does not replace private or group lessons, but it is definitely a new tool that can be added to the way we teach now. It’s not so much a replacement but an addition and we should treat it like that as well.
A good example is the website Discover Double Bass which presents many different teachers that offer affordable (99 dollar) packages of lessons on many different topics. Most teachers are not very well known for their musical careers, but they are excellent teachers. Renowned music schools, like Berklee school of music, also developed online programs and this is something European schools should also consider.
Many websites have been built since the appearance of internet with detailed information about specific topics. A good example is the site Maqam World, explaining the Arabic microtonal tonal system maqams in great detail.2
There are online bass related forums like talkbass.com3 where bass players gather to exchange tips and ideas. On social media like Facebook there is also a lively communication at pages like Double Bass World4.
Streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music have also revolutionised the availability of music and have unlocked an enormous treasure of music recordings. Although the revenues for the artists are still very low, the outreach is enormous. Students and teachers can find any kind of music at any given moment, everywhere. This changes the way we process music radically.
YouTube, the biggest videostreaming platform at this moment, has had a great impact on musicians. YouTube offers a rich source for all kind of tutorials, historic documentation, instrument related articles (reviews, maintenance and repair tips), opinions, discussions, promotion, research and much more. Teaching after the rise of YouTube has changed fundamentally. Now we can watch historic Jazz recordings together with students. Students can find all kind of tutorials to learn to play their instruments, learn about harmony, theory, tuning and much more. It has, for a large part, replaced the library. Nowadays the teachers are not the ones that pass on information to the students, they become more of a guide and coach to help the student find the material that he or she needs.
Examples of YouTube use:
- Historic recordings
- Band tracks
- Finding new artists
- Follow new musical developments
- Research related music sources (world music, African music, early music)
- Play along tracks
Like YouTube, Wikipedia has a big influence on how we gather information. A new way of sharing information, a fluent and democratic way where everybody can share and correct. Of course, this leads to unauthorised information that could be incorrect but by the sheer number of users and contributors it is now more accurate than most other sources like encyclopedia and books. The guidance of a good teacher will help the student to find and evaluate the information he is looking for.
Music related apps
With the development of smart phones and tablets, new tools developed for both the teacher and the student. We can divide them in different categories.
Apps like iReal are providing chord changes for Jazz standards and offers the possibility to add new songs. It can be used as a chart during rehearsal and concert or used as a playalong accompaniment for practise. Most musicians were either playing songs by heart or were dragging big books around called Fake or Real books. iReal doesn’t offer melodies (yet) because of copyright reasons but are widely used by amateurs and professionals.
Score programs like ForScore, Newzik and Musescore are being used on tablets to replace printed music. They can hold thousands of pages and sometimes offer a library of music as well, including the Fake and Real books.
Many music training apps are available to offer support in ear training, rhythmic training, sight reading and music theory.
The old mechanic metronomes are now replaced by digital metronome, drum machines and recordings of live played rhythms by master musicians, offering the student many tools for practicing. A good example is the app that I developed, Odd Metronome, it helps the musician to easily program and practice odd meter rhythms.
The early tuning apps offering basic instrument tuning are now followed by apps that can follow pitch and play along or offer a drone a predefined pitch. Also, the use of alternative tuning temperaments (early music, oriental music, experimental music) is much more accessible.
Transcription is an important part of learning to play Jazz. The process of transcription is now made a lot easier by apps that slow down recordings without changing the pitch. Whereas before transcriptions were made directly from gramophones or tape, which could be slowed down to half the speed, where the recording was sounding an octave lower.
All phones and tablets offer recording functionality. Students are able to record lessons, record exercises and listen back their practice routine for correction.
Finally, I would like to point out the apps (like some websites) that offer information about music theory, scales, chords, modes and even offer methodic training to develop these skills.
Social media is often looked down on by the older generation as a way of sharing personal stories and a source of procrastination. But the contact between students, students and teachers and music colleagues is often taking place via social media. It is practical to create workgroups for certain topics and it has a binding effect on students and teachers. Participators don’t have to be in the same city, country or time zone.