Teaching: Making the most of YouTube

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We’re all about making music teaching as streamlined as possible, so we’re encouraging you to make the most of other people’s hard work! There are lots of great videos on YouTube, especially for beginners. So whether it’s technique, notation or rhythm, playing some of your all-time favourite clips in-lesson is a great use of outsourcing (see below for advice for child-friendly YouTube use*). These videos can deliver a level of consistent enthusiasm, so you can save your energy and use it elsewhere. It can make for a much better lesson!

1. Find the Best Videos

The number of results you get from music teaching searches can be a little overwhelming! Where are we meant to start? Well, this initial plan of attack is all about specificity in your searches. The more specific you are, the better. Here’s what happened when we had a go:

  • ‘Rhythm for beginners’ – got U.S. & British rhythmic value names. Don’t want to confuse students, so:
  • ‘Rhythm for beginners uk’ – still many videos using ‘quarter notes’
  • ‘Teaching crotches’ – making sure a british version of the term is in the search definitely helped! There are various other ways which YouTube evaluates content in its search other than just the title and we found that putting in a few keywords in the search was a winner (ie ‘rhythm beginner crochet’ led us to some great resources)
  • ‘How to hold a pair of drumsticks’ or ‘smoothing the break on the clarinet’ returned equally useful videos.

    Filters can also be helpful here too! Once you’ve searched, hit the ‘filters’ button to limit your search.

2. Build Playlists

When you’ve found some videos you like, you can begin to categorise them into separate playlists. From a video you want to use, just hit the three dots by the video and click ‘save to playlist’. Or from a computer, click ‘save’ and then ‘create a new playlist’, where you can organise them by lessons, focus points or instruments. You can even make different playlists for different ages and stages! Occasionally when saving videos, you may stumble across the message ‘this action is turned off for content that is made for children’ but don’t dismiss the video – we have another way of using it in our Timecode URLs!

3. Timecode URLs

This nifty trick is the actual dream. Sometimes, when you’ve found a video you like, you just want to take a two-minute section of an eight-minute video. This could be because that’s the only part you need for your lesson, or you have a different approach to parts of what the teacher’s saying elsewhere. Or it could be that you want to split a video into five different teaching points, rather than use the whole video at once. By using timecode URLs, you can make your own mini videos out of their longer ones! Here’s how: Pause the video at the start of the section you want and click ‘share’. Tick box ‘start at [timecode]’ which changes the URL that you can copy and paste! We recommend putting it into your spreadsheet, or teaching bible – whatever works for you. It’s worth noting down where you want the clip to end so you don’t have to remember during the lesson. This is all part of your teaching plan.

4. Tags & Filters

You’re probably familiar with the suggested videos that YouTube offers you, but we recommend giving these a wide berth. The website’s default algorithm isn’t about helping you to find the ultimate video you’re after, it’s about maximising your engagement time. So you’ll be shown any videos that are linked to anything you’ve watched in the past. That means that YouTube’s default setting is the least helpful for finding other videos related to the one you’re on. Don’t despair because we have the answer! You can make use of the tags at the top of the suggested videos, which then forces the algorithm to produce videos related to your search. Find the tag options at the top of the suggested videos on the right hand side if you’re on a browser, or they’ll pop up on a tablet or phone by scrolling down to the suggestions. Marvellous.

5. Keep Up with New Releases

Finally! You’ve found your favourite YouTube teacher and really enjoy their videos. High production and useful. They’re a great help in your lessons. Make sure you check out their profile and view their back catalogue. You can hit subscribe to get updates for new videos and teaching angles whenever they come up. When you’ve found someone who does good videos, have a look into their profile and other videos. Subscribe so you get updates to always know when new videos and teaching angles might arrive.

Sourcing these videos does mean a fair amount of prep, but put in the effort now and you and your students will reap the rewards in the future. It all adds to your teaching plan of how you’d like your students to progress, and what’s going to be the best for them. At Practice Pal, we love the idea of pooling the best of what we have as teachers – using things like YouTube clips and samples is definitely something we’re looking to develop. Watch this space!


*Making YouTube Child Friendly

  1. Make sure you activate the restricted mode to filter potentially mature content.
  2. Think about how to hide adverts when teaching. Have another tab open to click to while the ad is running and have it muted, or upgrade to premium so that you don’t have ads. Many parents don’t like they’re children to watch any ads regardless of their content, because of the way they are designed to influence.
  3. Make sure autoplay is turned off – you want to keep control over the videos shown in your lessons.
  4. Pause the video before the end of the video so that recommended video thumbnails don’t appear overlaid on the video.

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