The use of videoconferencing and low-latency technologies for instrumental music teaching
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Videoconferencing platforms have been used for a number of years in the UK and other countries to facilitate instrumental music lessons between remote parties. However, videoconferencing is typically not optimised for music performance which results in poor audio quality and musicians not being able to play together. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, this led to some resistance to using the technology. Low-latency technologies such as LoLa and JackTrip offer high-quality audio and facilitate synchronous musical interaction so that remote parties can play music together in real time. However, limited research has been conducted on how effective these technologies are when used for instrumental music teaching. This study aimed to address this gap through the following research questions: • What changes in the quality of the interactions and the learning and teaching experience between face-to-face, standard videoconferencing, and low-latency environments? • Are some elements of music instruction more or less effective in these different environments? • What are the barriers to using these technologies in educational settings, and how can these be overcome? I deployed a mixed methods concurrent nested design. My research was primarily qualitative and conducted through a series of small-scale trials, interviews, and autoethnographic studies, together with analysis of data from a larger set of LoLa trials in three European conservatoires, and a small-scale quantitative study. Participants included music teachers and students in Higher Education and school settings across a range of instrument types and musical genres. Several themes emerged from a synthesis of the findings across the 17 studies, including: teachers’ attitudes became more favourable to the various technologies after trialling them; the visual element of technologies was important for musical cues and diagnosing technical and postural problems in students; each learning environment had its own advantages and disadvantages, but participants preferred the face-to-face environment. My research makes an original contribution to literature by reporting findings showing that: playing together can form a significant element of face-to-face lessons, LoLa and JackTrip low-latency technologies improved musical interactions compared to standard videoconferencing platforms, LoLa can be used in conjunction with an institutional firewall, JackTrip can be used with multiple players on domestic internet connections. I conclude that low-latency technologies have an important role in the future of music education by offering increased interaction between teachers and students from different institutions, and by offering new teaching and learning possibilities, including collaborative learning, and teaching through playing.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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