We know how important music groups are to the people in them. It goes beyond the music, and is as much about social connections, wellbeing and shared creativity - all of which have been hit hard by coronavirus (COVID-19). However, people are finding fantastically creative ways to stay in touch and keep making music.
Thinking about how your group can do this will not only bring joy to your members and help to keep music in their lives, but will also help keep them connected to your group and maintain some momentum to your activities, meaning you can hit the ground running when the world is back to ‘normal’.
Make music with your group
Lots of groups are now rehearsing online, so we've created a week-by-week planning online activity resource to help you with ideas and how structure your rehearsals, along with some advice on how on how to make the most of rehearsals. You may also want to think about how you can help your members who are less knowledgable about technology to get online.
So what software should you use? We know making music online brings musical challenges. Everyone being able to see and hear each other like a physical rehearsal is just not possible at the moment, the technology doesn’t really exist, and the sound quality and time lag make it difficult.
Instead it might be better to concentrate on what you can do. For most platforms the best option seems to be having everyone but the MD on mute. This means everyone can hear only the MD, and that the MD can’t hear anyone. So rather than singing/playing together, you are singing/playing to yourself. The MD can also use a backing track that everyone can hear.
Some blogs, platforms and resources you might find useful:
- Chorus Connection has published a great blog on what to consider when running an online choir rehearsal. Our member group, Notorious choir, also has some great ideas in a blog about their first online rehearsal.
- Conductor Richard Gonski has published a blog outlining the main online solutions for music teaching, performing, collaborating and communicating.
- Facebook Live – some groups are using this already and have had success with the leader broadcasting and everyone at home singing or playing along. It doesn’t offer much interaction between participants (other than written comments). The Facebook live page has its own ‘how to’ and ‘top tips’ guide.
- Zoom seems to be the online meeting provider of choice for music leaders. Whilst most people use it with everyone bar the MD muted, you can unmute everyone at the start or end to allow for more social interaction. There is also a useful tutorial for choral conductors from Denmark’s Royal Academy of Music on YouTube. Find out more about using Zoom in our resources:
Make music between rehearsals
- Sending links to backing tracks, sheet music and exercises for members between rehearsals or as a weekly challenge can help them prepare and keep in practise. See Making music yourself for more ideas.
- One to one tuition: speak with your music leaders about possible online lessons for members – it could be great way to keep some funds coming in for your group and to support your freelance music professional. If your music leaders haven't taught online before, this blog from Music Teacher's Helper is a good starting point.
- There are also various Facebook groups to help teachers share and learn from each other e.g. Remote Instrumental Teaching Community
- Koor is a free app that helps choral singers learn, improve and enjoy singing
Create a video/audio performance
Whether you decide to run online rehearsals or set weekly individual practises, having something to work towards, just as you would in ‘normal’ circumstances, is a good idea to help give purpose and direction. One way of doing this is to ‘stitch’ together a video or audio recording of your group.
The very basic process is:
- Each person makes a recording of themselves singing or playing – the key thing here is that each recording is in the same time – a click track or metronome can help do this.
- Someone receives all the recordings and then uses music software to mix, blend and balance the recordings into a virtual performance of everyone singing or playing together.
It should be said that these steps require some technical ability, particularly step two which will need some appropriate software (Vegas Movie Studio, GarageBand, Audacity, iMovie, Premiere Pro and Windows Movie Maker are some options to consider) and a level of skill and time. Doing it with audio only recordings is simpler than video.
We know of several groups who have already done it and have created an array of resources to help on this journey, from planning and organising your group for a recording right through to producing the final recording.
- Planning a virtual performance
- Recording audio at home
- Recording video at home
- Audio mixing for virtual performances
- Video guide: How to use Audacity to mix a virtual performance
- Video guide: Video editing for virtual performances
- Webinar recording: Livestreaming solutions for rehearsing and performing
- Webinar recording: Video editing for virtual performances
- Webinar recording: Audio mixing for virtual performances
If you need a hand, corporate member Super Stuff is a production company offering two exclusive services to members - digital consultation and video editing at affordable prices.
The end result can just be a bit of the fun for the groups to share or it could be part of a public offering such as the Making Music Virtual Concerts, the Get Creative UK festival and Make Music Day on 21 June.
Connect socially with your group
Most groups have said that the social aspect of rehearsing is just as, if not more, important than the musical side. Building some social time into online rehearsals is a good idea, but why not arrange some purely social meetups too?
- Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, Discord, Whereby and other platforms could all be used to just arrange a virtual meeting and have a chance to chat and share stories.
- Instant messenger apps are great for this too – you don’t have to arrange a meeting at a particular time - they just allow people to stay in touch when they want. WhatsApp is the most commonly used. It’s free and allows you to create groups of people to share messages, images and videos and audio recording. If your group doesn’t already have a WhatsApp Group chat, why not set one up now to help everyone stay in touch. Team app is another option we know that people use.
- A good old-fashioned phone tree. All the above are great options but require online access and having the right devices (smartphones etc). Not everyone is comfortable with this, so if there are people in your group who are not so digitally-connected you could set up a phone tree. Person A phones person B, who then phones C, and so on. The call doesn’t have to be for long – just a five-minute chat about life and music could make a huge difference.
Everyone being together in one virtual place is great, but they don’t work for everyone and you can only do so many. In between times you could send email newsletters, or postal mailings, to members, with updates about the group, tips about how to keep enjoying music or just fun things to occupy their time. See our Stay In Touch resources to find out more.
Make music with others
If you can’t run your own online rehearsals, you could point members towards the many national events that are going on:
- The Sofa Singers, led by James Sills
- Stay at Home Choir
- Self-Isolation Choir – Summer School and live weekly rehearsals of Mendelssohn’s Elijah from September
- Fire Choir – live weekly folk singing sessions
- Duet Yourself (on Facebook)
- Kearsley Youth Brass Band – live weekly rehearsal on Facebook
- Join the Brandenburg Camino, a musical pilgrimage featuring a series of choral mini-projects
- The Nevis Ensemble have started a Living Room Ensemble, with backing tracks and instrumental parts to play along.
Make music yourself
- Free music download from Pennine Music
- Composer Paul Ayers has written a song for lockdown which he is making available for free. There is a piano demo on YouTube and you can contact Paul through his website to find out more.
- Abigail Frymann Rouch has written a song reflecting on lockdown and the pandemic, “Courage calls to courage”, which she is making available for free. There is a demo on SoundCloud and you can email Abigail to find out more and request files of the lyrics and an arrangement for soloist and SATB.
- Acapella is an app that lets you create and share music with each other.
- Learn an instrument online. If you have time on your hands, why not dig out that old trumpet and get practicing. There are lots of YouTube tutorials out there to help as well as professionals offering online lessons (our corporate member Your Space Music, for example). Music Gurus, another Corporate Member, offer online courses on a range of musical instruments. Music Tutors Online is a website that can help you find an online music tutor.
- ABRSM’s ‘Play on’ resources offer lots of help and advice on remote music learning and making.
- Part play is a practice companion instrumental app that's especially good for stringed instruments - play your part along to a professional ensemble backing track.
- There are lots of free music (and other) courses with the Open University.
- Corporate Member Hal Leonard Europe are offering discounts on sheet music, instruments and more to help keep you making music at home.
Keep enjoying music
We all know how good just listening to music is for the soul. So much music already exists online and through national and local broadcasts, and lots more is being added. Get your self set up with the help of our Viewing a virtual performance resource and enjoy!
- Watch the Making Music Virtual Concert, a compilation of our members digital performances, broadcast every second Tuesday. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for notifications.
- Watch the The British Association of Barbershop Singers BABS Live event, produced during lockdown and the Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers LABBS' Big Weekend coverage
- The music section of this Chatter Pack article lists some streaming of live performances and pre-recorded concerts.
- New York Metropolitan Opera
- Vienna State Opera
- Chamber Music Scotland
- What’s on Stage has listings of online performances (musicals and opera).
- You can follow Live Music Now Scotland’s new series of living room concerts using the Twitter hashtag #TogetheratHomeLMNS, or watch them all on the LMNS YouTube channel.
- Member group the National Youth Choirs of Scotland has a Facebook page with videos of performances and singing exercise to try.
- The Royal Scottish National Orchestra are doing Friday night viewings of footage never seen before on their YouTube Channel, they also have some fun musical challenges to try too.
- The Berlin Philharmonic is offering free access to their Digital Concert Hall featuring an archive of over 600 concerts.
With worries such as relatives to care for, home-schooling and working life up in the air, keeping your music group connected might not be at the top of your priority list. But helping them keep music in their lives could really brighten up their day.
We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.