This year when the pandemic hit, Shawn Goodman channeled her energy into figuring out how to rehearse her jazz band online. The following information is based on her experience during the summer of 2020 rehearsing the SYO Jazz Ensemble online. “While not optimal, it is better than not rehearsing, and there are some things we can do virtually that we couldn’t do before. If you end up in the unfortunate situation of having to teach jazz band online, I hope this advice helps!”
How To Rehearse Your Jazz Band Online
By Shawn Goodman
I use Zoom for my teaching platform. Regarding software, I use ProTools, YouTube, OBS, and Windows Movie Maker. My staff and interns also use Garage Band, Ableton, Audacity, iMovie, and Adobe Premiere Pro. Most of these programs are free or available at reduced educator pricing. For hardware, I use a standard Windows desktop computer with a built-in webcam and built-in microphone, standard earbuds with a built-in microphone, and my outdated Samsung smartphone… nothing fancy. It is necessary to have everyone involved set their Zoom audio settings for “original sound” (there are tutorials on YouTube for how to do this). I recommend hosting with an ethernet connection rather than Wi-Fi for stability and reliability.
I begin every rehearsal by letting the students all warmup unmuted so they get the feeling of walking into the band room when they login. Then, we play “Tuning by Chords,” by Rayburn Wright. My staff and I recorded the woodwind and brass parts into ProTools with a click-track and mixed the parts together (I just googled how to do this stuff as I went). We uploaded the mixed track as a video to YouTube and screen-share it during rehearsals. The students must mute their mics to play along.
Next, we do call-and-response. I pick a different key/scale at each rehearsal for this. I have found that Zoom and shaky internet connections sometimes cause issues with timing, so I record a video for the call-and-response ahead of time and screen-share it during rehearsal. The students use their ears and play along on mute. Each video is about 5-6 minutes long (a link to the videos I made is at the end of this blog).
Then we rehearse our music. It is important to find a piece of music with a recording of the band playing that exact arrangement. Use this time as an opportunity to get your students listening to and playing along with (recorded) professionals, always striving to match their style and articulations.
In rehearsals, sometimes I screen-share instructional videos where I have students listen to me play, then they play along (on mute), and sometimes I rehearse in real-time by asking the lead players to individually unmute, play a section for the band, I offer feedback, then have them do it a second time and have everyone play along with them (they’re all muted except the lead player). Finally, I put it all together and have everyone play along (on mute) with the professional recording of the piece (or sections of the piece) screen shared. Since much of the full ensemble rehearsal requires the students to play along with recordings while muted, I rely heavily on the students to self-assess their own progress and then I use their feedback to guide my planning.1
I am lucky to have college interns available to teach sectionals online. However, hiring local pros to teach sectionals online is a great way to keep them working with your students during the pandemic. Zoom has a “breakout rooms” feature that I use for sectionals during each rehearsal.
Of course, there is a lot that we miss out on by teaching this way. The biggest issue is that we cannot just listen to our ensembles play and use formative assessment to guide the rehearsals. However, we know our students. We know what they will struggle with and we know how to help them. We must lesson plan thoroughly to anticipate the issues our students will have, break them down, then put it all back together. We can also take advantage of this time by bringing in professionals from all over the world to work with our students virtually – something we could not necessarily do before!
If you would like to watch some of our recorded rehearsals online and access my online resources, please visit www.shawngoodmanjazz.com/educational-resources or email me, [email protected], with questions!
Shawn Goodman is Assistant Professor of Music at Marian University in Indianapolis, Director of the SYO Summer Music Programs, Yamaha Performing Artist, and Vandoren Artist Clinician.
1 Shawn Goodman (2020), Rehearsing Ensembles Online, Music Educators Journal, Vol. 107, no. 1, in press.