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The challenges of music education in the digital age

Despite all the technology that connects, approximates, and facilitates communication, there are still situations in which the analog world has its advantages. Even though the pandemic has further accelerated the digital processes of distance learning, in music, face-to-face meetings can be more productive.

So, is the traditional music teaching methodology irreplaceable despite all the technology we have available today?

This conversation should evolve a lot in the years to come, but there is no doubt that there are some factors unique to the face-to-face experience that are worth considering when it comes to studying music.

Live performance in the same physical space

As much as technology has evolved with the quality of microphones and audio equipment at affordable prices, the interaction of sound waves generated by instruments in a physical space is irreplaceable. The experience musicians have together in the same room, listening to each other acoustically in real-time, is unique. There is still no technology available that allows the same kind of experience as a live performance in the same physical hall. In addition, online performances have the big problem of delay (difference of seconds between one connection and another), making it impossible to perform in real-time with rhythmic precision.

Dr. Rafael Piccolotto de Lima teaching ensemble performance in Panama.

Motivation and focus

The academic environment - where students are surrounded by their peers predisposed to study and guided by a good teacher - creates a favorable educational atmosphere. Unlike the digital world, where we often disperse impacted by smartphones, advertising, or even household chores. It can be challenging to stay motivated to learn when you're alone in front of your computer.

Interaction in pre and post class

The interaction and observation of what colleagues are doing enrich learning immensely. This experience goes beyond classes and playing as part of a music ensemble – which is an irreplaceable experience. After class/rehearsal, chatting over coffee or during breaks can be rich moments of knowledge exchange. These moments become excellent opportunities to learn beyond the given content. It is a chance to network and think about music-making more broadly and organically. This type of interaction would rarely happen in the digital world because we are generally self-centered and multitasking.

Graduation ceremony at University of Miami - Doctor of Musical Arts. (Gary Lindsay, Rafael Piccolotto de Lima, and Lansing McLoskey)


Each teaching medium will offer unique advantages and disadvantages. Each student will respond uniquely to these stimuli, methods, and teaching tools. The point is to understand how to optimize each situation, what to look for, and what will be best for you.

Is your goal to have access to knowledge, practice alone, and have flexibility in studying? Studying online is an excellent option.

Are your focus on group practice and building musical partnerships? The face-to-face will favor you more.

While theoretical classes are very functional in the online universe, courses that depend on group practice and require complex levels of real-time interaction are almost impossible.

Nevertheless, it is good to understand that there are also several advantages of the digital world, the subject of another article I will post soon. In the end, the ideal scenario is the union of the two worlds, analog and digital, making the experience even more complete, agile, and enriching.


Did you like the article?

Ask me questions and post suggestions for future blogs in the comment section below!

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Also, check out my online courses: “Creative Processes” and “Fundamentals of Audio and Video Production for Musicians”.


Rafael Piccolotto de Lima - Compositor, arranjador, diretor musical, produtor musical e educador
About the author

Rafael Piccolotto de Lima has been nominated for a Latin Grammy as the best classical composer. He holds a doctorate in jazz composition from the University of Miami and has multiple awards as an arranger, musical director, producer, and educator.

His works have been premiered and/or recorded by jazz legends such as Terence Blanchard, Chick Corea, and Brad Mehldau, renowned Brazilian artists such as Ivan Lins, Romero Lubambo, and Proveta, and orchestras such as the Brazilian Jazz Symphony, the Americas Symphony Orchestra, and the Metropole Orkest (Netherlands).

Rafael Piccolotto de Lima (social media):
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