Coronavirus sees ARIA-winning musicians turn online teachers as students flock to lessons


March 26, 2020 07:12:50

Music festivals are cancelled, tour buses parked, and live music venues shut, but some of Australia’s top entertainers and producers have been using their spare time to keep the music going online.

Key points:

  • With stores and venues closed, musicians are taking their craft online to share with others
  • Guitar, keyboard, and drum lessons are topping the list of instruments to learn during self-isolation
  • One music producer says it will take more than COVID-19 to stop people from creating

As a result, aspiring artists have access to a number of famous musicians, singers, and songwriters in a way that would not have been possible before the COVID-19 crisis.

“Singing teaching for me has always been a ying-and-yang thing with touring schedules. And when all the COVID-19 stuff hit home I moved all my students to the online platform,” nine-times Golden Guitar winner and singing teacher Lyn Bowtell said.

“I’m not touring, not doing shows. But I love interaction.

“Fellow artists like Catherine Britt, Anthony Taylor, Melody Moko, and so many more are offering tutorials online — songwriting, mentoring, and now you can potentially learn guitar or write a song with one of your favourite singer-songwriters.”

She said a number of her existing students who were full-time musicians could not afford sessions anymore, but there was a real opportunity for aspiring singers.

Drum lessons over Skype

Drummer Josh Schuberth is a music producer, audio engineer, and multi-instrumentalist who has worked with names like Ben Folds, Josh Pyke, and Alex Lloyd.

With 20 years of industry knowledge and a resume that includes ARIA awards and gold and platinum records, he is all set to dabble in drum lessons over Skype.

“Creative minds will come up with creative solutions and the internet is a way we can connect,” he said.

“You can have a video chat, the audio quality is more than good enough, and you can even hear what someone is playing on an instrument.

“It’s not too different to a face-to-face lesson.”

Studio sessions and live gigs would normally consume his time, but he said all that had changed since the coronavirus crisis hit.

“I’m passionate about the teaching side of things and it feels like this is an opportunity to reassess and take on different challenges and share my experience. It is exciting,” Schuberth said.

“You can teach guitar, drums, or vocals. The technology is there and it’s a really great way to pass knowledge on without having to be in the same room.”

Time for musical renaissance

Turning to a keyboard in her home office while being interviewed over a video chat, Lyn Bowtell said she was keen to brush up on her skills in between teaching others.

“To learn an instrument is a joy in itself and it’s one of the only activities that uses the analytical and creative mind at the same time,” she said.

“I’ve started an online course to improve my own piano skills and I also want to improve my guitar skills during these down times.

“I was only complaining the other day I don’t get enough time to write new songs.”

Producers like Schuberth said he also believed there could be a surge in creative recordings from home studios.

“It’ll take more than COVID-19 to stop people from creating,” he said.

“There might be more artists sitting at home looking to make a record with whatever gear they have at their disposal.

“They might not be able to record drums, so people like myself could record bits remotely and piece recordings together from all different parts of the country.”

Music stores selling and repairing

As Greg Baxter rummages through a box of gadgets like siren whistles and random percussion at his music store in Bundaberg.

He said business had slowed, but there was renewed interest and opportunity as customers prepared to make music at home.

“[You’re] never too old to learn an instrument. It’s the best thing you can do in times like this to keep you heading down the right track,” he said.

Guitars, keyboard, and drums top the list of instruments to learn according to Mr Baxter.

But his colleague Gav Hunter said he still preferred the banjo.

“It’s the banjo that’ll get us through these hard times,” he joked.

“There have been people buying strings and repairing instruments. Anytime is a good time to lean an instrument.”

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