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Adjusting to COVID Times: Home Working with Scott Cunningham

I had been teaching guitar face to face for roughly 4 years in the lead up to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the quarantine totally changed how I approached teaching, music and general life. Performances have been replaced with Instagram posts, band rehearsals have been replaced with video collaborations, and my classroom has relocated itself to Zoom. Though this has been a daunting process with a very steep learning curve, I’d be lying if I said it had no positives.

Over the course of this pandemic, I have discovered first-hand the power of social media, and through building an online presence on sites such as Youtube and Facebook I had a chance to reconnect with old students who had to stop lessons after moving cities. Thanks to the wonders of technology, geography is no longer a barrier for who I can teach and when. Anyone can receive an online lesson, not just those local to me. That is immensely important to a self-employed educator such as myself.

Many of my students have reaped the benefits of online learning too. For instance, most of them have never played music with other people (with the exception of me in face-to-face lessons) but in an attempt to keep online learning fun and interesting I have recently finished a project with my students where they all collaborated together in a big ensemble performance of Don’t by Ed Sheeran ( . All it took was for them to play with a backing track and for me to click the record button on our calls. It was amazing to see the excitement on their faces every week when a new part was layered on top of the video. For them to see for the first time what can happen when a load of musicians of different experience levels come together and collectively create a piece of music together. It was an invaluable experience and one that couldn’t have happened in normal times. No chance could so many of my students have got together at the same time in a rehearsal space, practiced together and performed a piece, but through the online experience all of the logistical problems ceased to exist. Many of them got their first serious musical experience in a social context and it happened at the most unlikely of times: During a global pandemic. Plus they get to keep their own copy to look back on.

It wasn’t just my students experiencing the benefits to online working though. I spent a lot of time experimenting with home recording. The tech available for home recording has been improving rapidly in recent years and it couldn’t have come at a better time. With nothing more than a HX Stomp, 15W valve amp, some cheap pedals, a couple of mics and a free trial of Pro Tools I’ve managed to create some recordings that I can say I’m actually quite proud of. Mostly backing tracks that I send out to students to make technical exercises more exciting. But it also led to my first ever paid session work. A good friend and former bandmate of mine was recording an EP. Unfortunately, he lives in a different city from me and we don’t see each other much, which is why we no longer play together; he messaged me asking to write and record some guitar parts from home. If life were normal, I probably wouldn’t have been able to help him due to time commitments, geographical limitations and so on, but current circumstances meant I could. All it took was a few Wetransfer links and off we went. In the end we were both really happy with the outcome.

It’s still quite amazing to me the standard of recording that can be achieved from home. Granted the full studio experience can’t be beat but for those on a budget there really is nothing wrong with home recording anymore. The technology and ease of access is quite incredible. It’s even inspired me to create my own album in the next few years.

Scott Cunningham is a guitar teacher, working musician and Edinburgh Napier graduate with a BA (Hons) in Popular Music. You can find him on Facebook and Instagram, check out the videos on his YouTube channel and he is contactable for session work.

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