Live or Remote?

2020 and 2021 have been true tests of the project’s durability. Strings Attached never really paused during the 2020/2021 pandemic. We continued to offer support to a full roster of students with weekly, individual contact via Zoom and Teacherzone. We continued to offer low cost music lessons and loaned instruments when needed, which is our primary mission. We even added additional students during the time period when many other programs for youth were discontinued or put on hold. The project learned how to navigate in a remote, computer-based world rather than a live hands-on method.

We also discovered room for improvement. Student/teacher/family understanding and use of technology during this pandemic time period was the biggest area in need of attention. Most parents and kids are used to live music lessons. In live lesson sessions, kids learned their timing skills from playing music with the teacher, and playing in live ensemble settings. But during the pandemic, they needed to rely on technology to develop these skills. They had to learn to work with ensemble and isolated ensemble audio tracks on computer instead. Most students (and parents) had no idea how to make use of computer audio tracks for practice. They also found playing with audio tracks challenging. In playing with audio tracks, one MUST practice & play in tempo and at a designated meter. When a student plays alone in daily practice sessions, anything goes… he/she can miss notes, measures, not play in tempo, forget to count whole notes, half notes, dotted quarter notes, ties. But when playing along with one of our new Virtual Music Ensembles developed during the pandemic, a student must adhere to the rules of music-making and learn to play with others (virtual “others” that is.)

Many students became much better musicians as a result. They had to acquire new skills needed to play with audio tracks. How to use playback, looping, playing against different score parts, counting beats correctly, harmony and a host of other skills that one seldom develops as quickly in practice without the aid of audio tracks. They began to develop their skills in the “multi-tracking world”, rather than the “me-only” world of music practice.

In a baby steps, they are also learning to navigate a musical world where musicians increasingly communicate through computer audio tools globally. Musicians now compose, do studio job dates, share music with audiences via multitracking platforms, social media and other 21st century devices.

The remote teaching also allowed us to reach students for their weekly lessons when they were in their mom’s cars, taking road trips, joining parents on work assignments in other states, when they moved to other cities. It expanded our reach to new students in sections of the city and county that would typically be considered too-far away to join us for live lessons.

There is a lot of criticism of remote music instruction. Some of it is understandable: the sound quality is not always the best. Computers glitch and have outages. It requires more hands-on assistance from parents. Kids can’t always see and experience what the instructor is trying to show them directly, as in a live session.

But we also no longer live in a world where kids learn music by creating garage bands as we did in the 1960’s and 70’s. They are just “too busy” with other activities. Families and friends no longer play music together in their homes. Parents are too busy for live student recitals and for the consistency needed to bring kids to live ensemble rehearsals. Music education is always the lowest priority in busy schedules and often eliminated to the bare minimum of lesson time. Students seldom have opportunities to play/learn live music in organized school or church ensembles. I seldom hear of the growing home school community creating any live music opportunities for kids. Without the opportunity to play music with their peers, kids often grow bored with music lessons ( and I don’t blame them.)

So music making is changing. Like it or not, much of it is being done in remote, more isolated situations. Music publishers that create the music instruction books understand this as well and publishers like Hal Leonard, Essential Elements and Alfred are quickly developing online teaching methods and tools for a computer-age to help kids and teachers communicate online. And it helps non profits like Strings Attached manage costs by reducing the need for a physical space for lessons, not to mention reducing commute times and expenses for families struggling to get to and from weekly studio space lessons. We can manage without a physical space and still offer music education.

During the COVID19 year we learned that students need to begin to work with these tools and understand them.

We especially want to thank the foundations and funding partners that stuck us during this difficult time period: The Jubilation Foundation, The Saigh Foundation, The Pettus Foundation, The Les Paul Foundation, Reverb Gives and Dana Brown Charitable Trust. Without them, we would not have been able to carry on in the 2020/2021 pandemic.


Our next 6 week FREE session of ukulele classes for the younger crowd, ages 5 to 8, starts the week of April 12, 2021. To register please go to our Teacherzone registration link at https://app.teacherzone.com/Registration/RegistrationPlan?PlanID=9335 Classes are FREE and sponsored by our generous foundation supporters. Classes are individual 20 to 30 minute sessions conducted on ZOOM. Materials are provided through Teacherzone learning platform. If your child needs a loaner ukulele for the session, please let us know and we will help provide one. Once registered, we will contact you with times available for scheduled weekly class. We hope you’ll get your child started on a musical path! Many of our long-term students started small on ukulele, then moved into baritone ukulele and guitar as they got older. Children involved will learn to make basic chords, strum and read simple chord charts during the 6 weeks.

Strings Attached project’s soundtrack experience continues to grow! Over the years our student studio recordings have been used as background tracks in a variety of film and video projects. This year we make a cameo in Joe Gordon-Levitt’s first season of HitRecord’s “Create Together: We Are 2020 – Class of 2020.” Create Together draws on our Cabin Jam music in a segment on collaborative music making during the pandemic. Even better news – the first season of HitRecord won an Emmy! We received our Emmy recognition in the mail as contributors.

AND!!! Our music also turns up in Season Two of “Create Together” on a segment of turning nature sounds into music and being inspired by nature to create music, dance and art. Watch this and the rest of the season on YouTube now.

Join us for a virtual Christmas concert featuring some of our 2020 Strings Attached students starting on Winter Make Music Day – Monday, December 21st.  

For over a decade Strings Attached project has welcomed the community with our annual “Christmas Guitars” concert recital of students performing holiday songs. Due to the 2020 pandemic we had to suspend live performances. But we continued with our weekly music lessons and invite you to join us for our video presentations of students sharing song. Get cozy around the Christmas tree with some hot chocolate, eggnog, Christmas cookies and a bowl of popcorn and enjoy the entire playlist!

The full playlist can be found starting December 21st at Winter Make Music Day with Strings Attached 2020

Winter Make Music Day

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

~~ The Strings Attached project 

We’re not shut down during the Covid19 emergency

-strings attached Free Range

During the Covid19 lockdown and social distancing, we are operating safely through our virtual one-room schoolhouse.old school


Contact us at stringsattached75@gmail.com. NOTE: WE HAVE BEEN HAVING TROUBLES RECEIVING EMAILS THROUGH OUR HOTMAIL ACCOUNT.  PLEASE TRY REACHING US AT stringsattached75@gmail.com   You can register for classes at  https://app.teacherzone.com/Registration/RegistrationPlan?PlanID=9335


Cherokee nights 2 (3)

During the Covid-19 lockdown we gave away a significant portion of our student loaner instrument collection to kids staying-a-home so they could continue to practice and play music with NO STRINGS ATTACHED.  To proceed safely, we are not asking loaner instruments and cases to be returned to help minimize risk of spreading the virus. We are grateful to a generous contribution by Reverb Gives and Reverb.com that will enable us to replace our loaner instrument collection for future use by new entering students. Thanks Reverb Gives!

Did you participate in “Play Music on the Porch Day?”  play-music-porch-2020

“Play Music on the Porch Day” spotlights musicians, young and old, professional and not professional in their natural settings, usually their front porches – just the way our grandparents and great grandparents would share music with friends, family and passers-by. As most of us are sticking close to home and family currently, it’s a great time to share some music from the porch.  Watch our student, Zander Mae share her wonderful voice on,”Play Music from the Porch Day!”


Join us on FACEBOOK -STRINGS ATTACHED PROJECT for this year’s Make Music Day (2020) on June 21st.  We’ll be sharing students performances via video and through audio recordings. We’ll also participate in a Music Track Meet, where students (and teacher) will each take relay race turns creating songs online with Soundtrap Education.  Through the gift of remote multi-track recording (thanks les Paul!) we’ll compose quicky socially distant tunes on Make Music Day using our instruments and loops, then post the results on Facebook to share with anyone that wants to listen.  Watch and Listen to some of our Make Music Day student performances and recordings:

Listen to student Jadon’s composition, “Ender Drive” created during our songwriting relay using Soundtrap for Education:

Stories of the Pandemic

History Museum Collects Photos, Other Items To Document Life During Coronavirus Pandemic

Our social distancing recording, “Great Gratitude” has become part of the archived collection of the Missouri Historical Society’s,  “Stories of the Pandemic” along with writings, journals, photos and recordings collected during the pandemic.  The collection is the subject of a StL Public Radio story.  Listen here: History Museum Collects Photos, Other Items To Document Life During Coronavirus Pandemic by Chad Davis


If you have cabin fever, we’ve created an experiment in social distancing songwriting and collaboration on HitRecord.org! The tentative title is, “The Great Gratitude. Simply go to this link: Cabin Jam

Cabin art

Download “Cabin Jam”  remix from the contributions, upload it to your home recording setup and create your contribution!  Could be more vocals, a choir, more instruments, fiddle, doboro, spoons, percussion, hand claps, anything Americana!  Upload it back to the Cabin Jam page and we’ll build on it.

This is what we’ve built so far with people we’ve never met, recording remotely during the Covid19 isolation:

Strings Attached project · Great Gratitude


Strings Attached is at it again ….  Producing music that is!

We’re back at Native Sound in January, 2020 starting a new collection of American song recordings featuring project students and combining some of St. Louis’ best roots musicians.  In previous recordings we focused on a variety of music genres including cowboy, ragtime, blues, jazz, rockabilly.  This time,  we’re having fun with traditional folk tunes again like, “Crawdad,” “Blackberry Blossom, “Old Joe Clark” – some gospel, “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” “I’ll Fly Away” and the Bing Crosby classic, “I’m An Old Cowhand (from the Rio Grande)”


Look for the new collection to come out sometime in the spring of ’20.  We’ll add it to some of our other work for your streaming pleasure at Reverb Nation   and at Sound Cloud


The Strings Attached project connects youth, ages 5 to 17, with music education using American roots music. We learn to play instruments such as guitar, ukulele, dobro, banjitar and mandolin.  If you would like to learn more about the project, please click on the file symbol above and to the left.

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You can also email us with any questions at stringsattachedproject@hotmail.com.

And please be social through the Facebook, Pinterest and Google+  Find us at “STRINGS ATTACHED PROJECT” on your search engines.

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