Planning online activity

Whether you moved online back in the spring or are just starting to tackle it now, we have produced some template documents to help you plan a programme of online activities. They include resource planners, an overview plan and detailed plans for each week.

Moving your music group’s activities online is no easy task. There is the technology to master, and what you can and can’t do online requires a shift in mindset. All this can seem quite daunting and often means extra work, including planning a full programme of activities andthe group leaders having to develop new skills. Then, you might come up against the challenge of keeping enthusiasm going among your members.  

The templates we’ve created are a starting place to inspire ideas and help you plan ahead. 

A few notes on the templates before you start

  • They are meant as a sample to give some ideas and a framework of how to go about it - you do not have to follow them to the letter. We have based the schedule on a 12-week term, but if your group works on a shorter term you can adjust this to suit your own activities. Once you download them, they are yours to use and change as you wish – include as many or as few pieces as you like, remove some sections/activities and add your own ideas in to suit the number of weeks that you prefer.
  • You know your group. Some groups might like pieces with actions. Some might like a theme every week to dress up to. Some might prefer to focus solely on the music. Some might enjoy singing or playing along with pieces on YouTube - some might be amazing at recording themselves and sending you beautiful performances to play. Use the skills your group has and the ideas in Making Music resources to enhance and personalise your sessions.
  • We have used the term ‘pieces’ throughout, but if you are a group who typically rehearses a substantial work such as an orchestral symphony or large scale choral work, you may prefer to think of pieces as ‘movements’ or ‘sections’ to help you break the larger work down. You may decide to only rehearse part of a larger work, or to pick out highlights. Or you could use this as an opportunity to challenge your group to learn some new, different, shorter repertoire!
  • The templates are based on using Zoom for your activities (see below) – but can be used with other platforms too.

Using Zoom

The templates assume you have already created a free Zoom account and know how to schedule a meeting and send out the invitation, and your group members know how to print their own music, and have access to devices for Zoom. Sessions are based on 40 minutes as that is the limit for a free Zoom account.

Communication: before you start, think about how you want your members to communicate; do you want them to unmute themselves to ask questions, use the chat box or use the ‘hands up’ gesture? Establish this from the start if you can.

Co-hosts: co-hosting is only available in ‘paid’ accounts. If you decide to stick to the free account, you can still allow other people to ‘share screen’ and ‘share sound’ but you have to set it to ‘everyone’. Of course, there is a bit of a risk that someone will share something inappropriate, but provided you are only admitting people you know you should be ok! If you decide to pay for Zoom you can then allocate co-hosts for your meeting and they will be the only ones allowed to share . They will also be able to help with muting/ unmuting and admitting people to the meeting. 

You might want to consider moving to a paid-for Zoom account at some point. It means you can have longer meetings and access extra features.

The Pro level account is £119.90 for a year (November 2020). However, charities and not for profits can get a 20% discount by using the code ‘zoomcares’ making the cost £95.92 (note: this is only available when paying annually, not monthly).

If you are new to Zoom see Related resources below.

Digital copyright

The weekly plan refers to sharing sheet music digitally via email or a shared drive (e.g. Drop Box). It is OK to do this if you own enough copies of the original. If you have 30 pieces of sheet music you can share it digitally 30 times, but no more. So, you can only share digitally to recreate what you would otherwise being doing with physical copies of the sheet music. You should also mark digital copies as being shared digitally due to COVID and ask recipients to delete them once they are no longer needed.

Group activities

The resource planner template will help you to focus on the different types of activity you want to include in your rehearsal schedule. We have used the following in our templates, but you may wish to come up with other ideas to incorporate into your planning.

  • New Pieces – introducing and learning new music
  • Past Favourites – revisiting well-liked and well-practiced pieces from your past
  • Star Turns – asking individuals to perform for the rest of the group
  • Celebrity Play/Sing Along – play a recording (e.g. YouTube Video) of a famous person / group (e.g. Kermit the Frog, the Halle Orchestra) for people to sing / play along to.

For the New Pieces and the Past Favourite Pieces: You will need sheet music and/or lyrics, tracks for individual parts, a combined track with all the parts on, and a backing track if you’re planning to record them.

For the Celebrity Play/Sing Alongs: Have a look at what Gary Barlow did in lockdown, look at the Muppets songs, the Victoria Wood Covid cover. Some people did funny Covid versions of songs (see the Neil Diamond Washing Hands song, plus Gloria Gaynor and other celebrities did hand washing songs). Or find recordings of famous groups performing pieces that your group can play/sing along to – this might be the only chance your group will have to play with the Black Dyke Band, sing with the BBC chorus or be the backing group for Adele!

See Related resources below for more activity ideas.  

Having an end goal

Groups are normally working towards a public performance and building their rehearsal schedule around that. This isn’t necessarily possible at the moment and so online activities might need a different focus. But having a shared end goal can be a good idea to keep some momentum, and enthusiasm. We have based the templates around working towards a final online performance.

If you  follow the template programme, you will have two archive pieces prepared, three new pieces prepared and you have performers who have the skills and experience to perform something live (give them a bit of notice if you want a new piece!)

This adds up to approximately 40 minutes of a final performance. If you want to make a longer event, you can invite additional performers, add poems, add YouTube recordings or images to suit your theme.

Make it a special event - ‘sell’ tickets (remember you can only have 100 in a Zoom meeting so tickets might be a way to restrict numbers if you need to) encourage the group to dress for the occasion - either in their usual concert dress or in line with the theme, provide ‘programmes’ with lyrics to sing along.

Don’t talk too much, let the pieces flow - perhaps look at sharing from PowerPoint so you can have everything to hand.

If you are performing any music that is still in copyright in a concert on Zoom, you will need to purchase a Limited Online Music Licence from PRS in order to fulfil your PRS obligations. You do not need to declare your Zoom concert in your PRS return to Making Music, as this is covered by your purchase of the licence.

There are two different approaches to hosting your final performance – you can adopt just one of these, or plan a combination of the two.

Concert option 1- Sing along: This is the simpler version of the concert. You ‘perform’ the new pieces by playing a recording or a track and the group just play/sing along at home, muted of course.

You could use your own recordings, you could find versions on YouTube to use, or you could ask members of the group to perform the piece live (just one part at a time of course, unless you have your own von Trapp Family to hand!) Try to plan a variety of methods so you’re not just watching soloists or groups all the time. Your live performances will break up the evening.

Concert option 2 - Recording: If you want to, you can spend a bit of time in your last couple of weeks recording your pieces to create a virtual performance. You can either use the time to record the audio all at the same time, or you can record the audio outside of the rehearsal time and use the rehearsal time to make a video on Zoom. All Zoom meetings can be recorded, and video editing software will edit the recording down to the required length. See related resources below for more information about creating a virtual performance.

Guest night

If you decide not to have a concert, a nice way to finish the term might be a guest night. Many musicians and speakers are making themselves available to come and lead sessions for groups (of course you would need to offer them payment so that might be a factor) or another option might be to do an exchange with another local group, where their leader comes to lead your group and vice versa. You could even hold an ‘in house’ guest night where you invite members of the group to take over the evening, perhaps do Desert Island Discs or each section works on a performance for the others. If you are doing this, you could use the previous two weeks to allow more time in breakout rooms for planning.

See Related resources below for more ideas.  

Templates  

Download the Resource Planner

Download the activity plan overview

Download the weekly activity plan

Note: all templates are Word documents. 

Related resources 

We would like to say thank you to Sarah Monteith of, Making Music member group, ReSound Community Choir who helped create this resource and templates. 


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.