Making Music Online

My thoughts on putting music on YouTube

Since the beginning of the COVID crisis, I have noticed an increase in the number of music videos on YouTube and other platforms, especially the variety with split screen and one person playing multiple parts, closely followed by established groups collaborating to produce videos with each player contributing their part remotely. This should come as no surprise; after all, as musicians, we are always seeking ways to entertain whatever the circumstances.

I held off from having a go at this for quite a while; I noticed a massive contrast between some obviously amateur efforts (no criticism intended) done for fun and some that were clearly professionally produced with a very high level of musicianship. I wanted to make sure that my first effort was as good as it could be, rather than wade in there and misrepresent what I could do. Perfection was never the aim, but I wanted something that was at least good enough to entertain the friends who would normally support me in concerts. If I managed to reach out to people who are not habitual concert goers and persuade them it might be worth coming along one day, so much the better.

It seems to me that there are a couple of things to bear in mind if you decide to have a go at your own music video: (1) keep it fairly short and aim for more shorter videos rather than fewer lengthy ones and (2) remember that in a music video it is the quality of the soundtrack (both technically and musically) that is the overriding factor – the video is there to illustrate and help with engagement; no amount of video quality can make up for poor music making.

Choice of music is crucial, too. If you are going for a solo effort, it makes sense to do something along the lines that you would normally perform to start with – better to limit the number of potential problems at first, then become more adventurous as you get more experienced. Playing multiple parts in a video may also impose some restrictions on what you can do … an expressive rubato is tricky to bring off, whereas a piece with a consistent metronomic beat is more straightforward. There are also different ways of proceeding depending on what software and genre of music you are dealing with, however, I’ll go into the technical details in a separate blog entry for anyone who is interested in how I do it and the problems / solutions I have encountered.

I have made a few videos with pupils (not published online). I think they have found this challenging but also very rewarding. With a lot of us engaged in online instrumental teaching at the moment, we do need a spectrum of activities for our pupils. Making multiple part videos will make them think about their timing and intonation if nothing else!

You can find my YouTube channel and judge my level of success for yourself – the main point, as far as I am concerned, is to be entertaining in the same way as I would attempt in a concert … not to be perfect or better than anyone else, but to enjoy making music and keep our audiences engaged. In my videos, you will see that my level of musicianship does not really change, but the way in which I am able to present it does improve with each successive effort. If, as a musician, you haven’t tried making music online, I would certainly encourage you to have a go … not to leap into it without any planning, but to embrace another medium and see what you can do. You’ll certainly learn something and develop your musicianship and, hopefully, people will appreciate your efforts.

Mike Halliday

Mike is a UK-based clarinet and saxophone specialist and founder of this site. When not out performing, he is usually at the computer composing, arranging, or engraving and editing music.