Improving Performances With Technology | An Interview With Paul Shimmons

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Improving Performances With Technology | An Interview with Paul Shimmons

February 6, 2019

 

paul shimmons

This is the third installment from over conversation with Paul Shimmons. Paul is a veteran music director who’s been teaching since 1991. His 27 years of experience has taught him a lot about teaching and what works best for his classroom and on the field. One thing that Paul is known for is the fact that he finds ways to incorporate the usage of technology in his program. He even has his own blog about it here. Our first two articles about Paul talk about how he uses technology on a day-to-day basis in his classroom and how he uses technology to stay connected with students, parents, and other music directors.

This post will give tips that Paul uses in his program about how you can improve your concerts by utilizing technology.

Technology to use during practices

The preparation for a concert is just as important as the concert itself. There’s technology you need to use during practice that you won’t use during the actual live performance. There is much technology that can be used to help make the practices more beneficial to the actual performances being a complete success. These range from sound reinforcement to video capabilities that help the students both see and hear what they are doing. This can make collaboration between the many parts to work together in harmony.

Microphone and speakers

During practice you need to communicate instructions with your students. The best way to do this and get your point across is by using a microphone and good speakers. Paul recommends this as opposed to yelling loudly because students tend to think that you’re mad when you yell when in reality you’re just trying to be heard. This is most important for marching bands as the distances can be much larger and many different elements need to hear not only the instruction but each other.

microphone

The other purpose for having the speakers during practice is so that you can listen to yourself to get a better feel on how well you are keeping tempo with the music. We’ll get into the recording aspect in our next point.

When looking at what speakers to use, Paul has found that the PreSonus ULTs works best for his program because he says they’re the first set he’s used where the students have never had an issue with hearing him clearly. For smaller groups, though, don’t underestimate the power of the built-in speakers on a MacBook or iPad.

Audio and video recorder

Using an audio and video recording device is important to have so that you can properly evaluate how you’re doing.  It not only provides the instructor with valuable feedback, the performers can also see what they are doing and how to make the corrections needed to achieve a successful performance. Paul recommends making sure the video recording device is high quality. For most applications, a smart phone will be able to capture good enough audio and video, though higher quality equipment can be beneficial.

Overhead projector and screen

Another great tool for you to evaluate how you’re doing, have an overhead projector and screen.  This is a great way to allow a much larger group to see the recordings at one time and review it with your students during class.

projector

Having this capability is specifically important for marching bands so that you can easily view and work on formations.

Technology to use during the live concert

Audio and video recorder

Just like during practice, having an audio and video recording device during the live performance is beneficial because this environment is completely different than practice. Being able to actually see and hear the actual concert from a third-person point of view after the fact can make you aware of things you hadn’t even considered before. You’ll be able to view the event as you would if you were a spectator.

You’ll also be able to see if there’s any difference in the way your students are able to perform between the live event and during practice. If there is, you’ll be aware of it so that you can make a plan to improve it to make the next concert event better.

Conclusion

Continuing to find ways to be innovative and improve is important for music programs and technology can be a big part of that. Technology can be incorporated into practices and performances in ways that enhance the overall production, but don’t take away from the tradition of the concert. If applied, the tips in this article will do just that.

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