Tech helps online teaching

Tuesday, 4 August 2020 2:26 pm

Drum educator David Stanoch is turning to technology to overcome the challenges surrounding the COVID-19 lock-down.

Since 2018, I have taught primarily through the David Stanoch School of Drumming, my private online and onsite teaching practice. I am located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and have been teaching alongside performing professionally for over 30 years. I was previously on the faculty of the McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul for 27 years before the school abruptly closed in 2017.

My areas of specialty are rather broad due to the variety of gigs I’ve done over many years, with an eclectic roster of artists coming from a wide array of musical directions. That – combined with my previous work at the college, where I co-developed a curriculum focused to provide our students a strong, modern yet historically referenced foundation in stylistic, technical and rudimental percussive skills, along with the “big picture” musical knowledge that they would need to compete in the business professionally – is what I now offer to students worldwide as well as in my own community. At the present time, I have students based in Canada, England, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, as well as in various states, including my own, around the USA.

The impact of COVID-19 

Really, for me, the biggest change was moving my local students to online rather than onsite studies in my studio. I was fortunate to have already been up and running online before everyone else was forced to teach that way. There was also a bit of a shift at first in the demographic of my students. Some of my professional students put lessons on hold as they preserved their finances which had been impacted by the pandemic, but I also saw an increase in younger school-age students, forced to study from home and whose parents saw they needed healthy activities during quarantine. There was a rise in retired players who had the time and surplus income to use to their advantage.

For online tuition, I run a Yamaha EAD-10 through a Presonus Firewire interface unit which connects to an in-studio mixer and speakers/headphones, as well as into my Mac Mini, as do my three Zoom cameras which I control through my Roland V-HD1 Video Switcher. I have a monitor for the computer where I see my online students and a separate monitor where I see what each of my  cameras focuses on – inside and above the kit as well as a dedicated cam for pedals.

I have been using the EAD-10 for practice for a couple of years now, and I love the record and metronome features as much as all of the great sounds available. I can dial it into my Logic Pro X and record great sounding studio tracks, and also use Yamaha’s Rec'n'Share app on my phone, which is really fun. I recently started using the EAD-10 in my online teaching. The pandemic “stay at home” order here in Minnesota gave me time to get up to speed with its use.

Looking forward

Using the EAD-10 as a teaching tool has been an interesting journey. One cool bonus is that I can deliver a different variety of sounds in lessons, many that serve to enhance the different styles of music I work on with my students, in ways that were not possible simply using my camera mics. That’s fun.

There is a bit of a different learning curve for optimally dialling the EAD-10 into online teaching than there is simply using the Rec'n'Share App, where one can record along with tracks and post videos that sound great mixed in the app.

While the sound and view I offer to my students online are state-of-the-art, many of my students simply connect with me using their laptops, tablets or phones and that’s the way it should be – simple for them! Some use headphones or earbuds and some use the built-in speakers of their device of choice. Therefore, it has been important for me to delve into the EAD-10 to create and save new scenes that are set exclusively to optimise the output of the microphones so that the levels aren’t so hot they overdrive and distort the smallest or cheapest of speakers my students hear me through.

I liken this approach to be similar to the way Barry Gordy took rough mixes of tunes he’d record at Motown to listen to in the car – through the same speakers most people would hear the songs through – as opposed to the most hi-fi ones used in the studio.

Keeping the triggers, compression and reverb a bit lower and dropping down the preset mic and trigger levels to zero and then raising them to just enough gain to keep from distorting through those basic speakers delivers a sound that is still incredible in league with all the features the EAD-10 has to offer. The EAD-10 is also very user-friendly to work with to make these important adjustments.

The new Firmware 2.0 update includes a great new talkback feature where you can raise the gain on the mic to speak clearly then drop it back to the preset drum levels with just the push of a button. This feature has also made it now possible for me to livestream lessons on social media while connected to the EAD-10 and take advantage of all the great sounds it has to offer in real time!

I will absolutely continue to incorporate these features the EAD-10 has to offer in my online teaching. It’s already incredible and I feel like I’m just scratching the surface.