Online Music Lessons

Due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, my music teacher and I have resorted to conduction our music lessons online via Skype. So far we’ve only had one lesson, but we plan on continuing them for the time being. That being said, there have been some issues concerning how our first online lesson went. This week I’ll be writing about the advantages and disadvantages that I found during the first lesson.

One new thing that wasn’t really an advantage or disadvantage was that my music teacher created his own lesson template file for us to work with. This didn’t really have to be something exclusive to our online lessons, but it was the first time that we did something like it. What he did was create a short song with different instruments that wasn’t really complete. For the duration of the lesson, we spent time applying different strategies to improve on the file in order to make it sound better. I found this to be quite different and interesting since we would typically start creating something from scratch which would take some time.

Setting the new lesson format aside, an advantage that I found in the online lessons was that I was able to see what my music teacher has on his screen and how he is working around the music program. Usually, we’d both be working off of the same laptop, however, this time I was able to see what he’s doing and how he has his software set up.

While I was able to see my teacher’s screen, Skype caused quite a few problems. The first problem that I immediately noticed was that only one person could share their screen at a time. That meant that either I had to be screen sharing or my teacher had to be screen sharing. This meant that we had to keep on switching back and forth. In the end, it wasn’t too big of a deal since we were mainly focusing on my screen, but it was still an inconvenience.

A second disadvantage of using Skype was that screen sharing doesn’t share the audio from the computer. For a music lesson, this was quite the issue, and the only way to fix it was to not use headphones in order to let the audio come out of the speakers and into the microphone. This made it impossible to use headphones which made it harder to tell the differences when changing effects, and it also made it really difficult to hear what was playing on each other’s computers. Sometimes the audio would be really quiet sometimes, so we had to bump up the volume of the laptop since we didn’t want to change the levels in the program. This also made the Skype call audio louder, so the other person would be really loud when you wanted them to hear the audio. Currently, there isn’t a way in Skype to change the audio of individuals during calls.

Overall, the online lesson was different and interesting. Most of the issues we had were just from Skype which was the program we used to share each other’s screen. As far as I know, Skype doesn’t really get useful updates very often, but pretty much all of our problems would be solved if we used something like Discord. It’s also free, multiple people can share their screens at the same time with the audio, and you can adjust other people’s volumes. However, its format is more that of being a social hub rather than making phone calls between individuals.

A Three Week Long March Break

Next Monday will be the start of March break and for the following two weeks, there will also be no school. So far, my class’ teachers still haven’t said much about how the curriculum will change, but most students at my school seem pretty happy about not having to go to school. This week, I’ll be writing about my thoughts on the extended break.

The cause for the closing of the schools after the break was due to the COVID-19 virus. For the past couple of days, the school had made announcements about making sure people are keeping their hands clean, but it was only until last Thursday after school that the school closures were announced. By the time everyone went to school on Friday, none of the teachers really knew what was going to happen during the two weeks following the actual March break. The only thing that they said they’d do is to make sure to post updates online if anything new comes up, but so far the only thing I’ve seen posted is that one of my English assignments has been postponed for the week back. To me, this doesn’t really make sense because 100% of the assignment can be done online. Though, I don’t mind having the extra time.

In terms of what I’ll be doing for the next few weeks, I think my friends and I will probably be playing video games for the most part. We don’t really go outside to hang out too much in the first place, so it’s pretty much just an extended break. I’ll also most likely end up watching a lot of Youtube and Anime. However, I still do have some school things to complete although it isn’t much.

There have been talks of online teaching taking place, though, I can’t really see it being used effectively. Especially since it could be hard to make students participate in lessons while they’re at home. Even inside a physical classroom there are some students that don’t really take their work seriously, and I can see how some of them would choose not to participate in the online teaching. However, even if online teaching was put into effect, I don’t really think I’d mind too much.

Overall, I think that the extended March break won’t really end up being too interesting. Maybe there will be the possibility of online teaching, but I can’t really see it happening realistically. Most of my time during the break will end up not doing anything very productive anyways.

Counter Strike: GO Shattered Web

By the end of this month, CS:GO’s operation Shattered Web will end. I ended up not writing about it when it was first announced because I hadn’t really been playing the game too much at the time. However, operation Shattered Web has been the first operation the game has had in almost three years. This week, I’ll be writing about my thoughts on the operation.

Operations in CS:GO don’t really show up too often, and the last one that took place was operation Hydra which was a couple of years ago. A lot of the times when new operations are announced players are really excited because operations are kind of like special events containing different missions. While you can still play the game in the normal modes, operations usually add special missions with a different style of gameplay. Additionally, there are side missions to complete in the normal game modes that help you earn certain rewards.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really end up playing too much throughout the duration of the operation, but I’ve heard that for this operation there was a battle pass that was introduced. Much like battle royale games like Fortnite, the more you play the operation the more rewards you can get. You were able to pay money in order to get an enhanced battle pass with more rewards, and you could also speed up your progress in the pass if you wanted too.

The battle pass allowed for the introduction of new cosmetic items such as player model skins. At first, there were lots of videos of YouTube showcasing how the skins could be used to gain a competitive advantage, but as of late I think that the developers have taken measures to keep the game fair to other players. To go along with the player model skins, patches to put onto character models were added which are basically stickers for your character models. The patches seem really similar to the stickers you can put onto your weapons, and to me, it seems kind of unnecessary. However, the game has gone free to play, so I guess it kind of makes sense to add more purchasable items in the game.

I’ve started playing a bit more in the past few weeks, but not enough to really care too much about the operation. However, other people have been saying that it’s been really fun and how the quality of operations keeps improving. I think that’s true especially since a lot of new features have been added between the last two operations.

Overall, operation Shattered Web is coming to close, and a lot of new content was brought in for the months that it’s been active. I still won’t be worrying too much about completing the many remaining missions I have, but more of my friends have started playing the game. Now I pretty much play to have fun on the weekends with my friends.

Hill After Dark Event

Yesterday I took part in Richmond Hill’s Youth Action Committee’s annual Hill Afer Dark event. The event took place at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts and revolved around various arts performances such as music, dance, and art. After auditioning I was offered the opportunity to perform during the event which is what I’ll be writing about today.

Sometime in January, a classmate from elementary school who’s on the committee told me that they needed to find people to audition for the event. I figured that I wouldn’t be too busy around the time of the event I decided to audition. The auditions for the event were done through video email, and even though the video I submitted was rushed, it was still accepted.

Between the time of the auditions and the actual event, I didn’t really worry about it too much since exams were my main focus at the time. After the second school semester started, I started communicating the Youth Action Committee a bit more. They needed to know the details of the performance and what equipment was needed. I didn’t really start practicing until a week before the performance, but I already knew how to play the song.

When I showed up for the event the Youth Action Committee was still setting things up before people arrived. The room that they had everyone put their things in was actually a kitchen area that was pretty small with nowhere to sit. After all the performers did a soundcheck most of us waited in the kitchen room. While I was waiting I got to know one of the other performers who had performed for a couple of years at the event already.

Once the show actually started there wasn’t really much to do besides waiting for a committee member to call you down to get ready to go on stage. During my performance, I made a few mistakes like moving my capo up to far, but I think the first half was pretty good. Once I was finished playing I packed up my guitar back in the waiting area and went back down to watch the rest of the performances.

After watching the performances up until the almost hour-long intermission. My family didn’t really want to stay so we ended up leaving early. I ended up getting a thank you card from the committee members and that was the end of the event for me.

Overall, I think it was a good experience auditioning and communicating with the committee as well as performing for other people. I wish that they had a bigger area for everyone to put their belongings though because the small kitchen area they had was quite cramped. Otherwise, I enjoyed the time I stayed at the event, and I plan I auditioning again next year.

Grade 10 Course Selection

Sometime next week will be the final day to submit course selections for next year at my school. I’ve already chosen what courses I’m going to take, so this week I’ll be writing about the different courses I’ve chosen to take. More specifically, the three electives I chose since the majority of the courses in grade 10 are still compulsory.

I’ll start with the compulsory courses which are English, Maths, Science, History, and Civics. These courses are all pretty self-explanatory and every grade 10 has to take them. Some of my friends are planning on taking their History course in summer school, but since my family plans on going on vacation over the summer, I won’t be taking summer school. However, if I had the choice, I still wouldn’t choose to attend summer school.

The first elective I selected was Orchestral Strings which is pretty much the exact same music course I took earlier on in grade 9. Almost everything about the course is identical, but you just learn more theory and improve your playing. Most of my friends in my grade aren’t planning on taking the course in grade 10, but I still have some people I know in the older grades that plan on taking the course again. I enjoyed the course in grade 9, and it was a pretty easy course to get by. However, I think in grade 10 I should probably practice and study the theory a bit more.

My second elective is Technological Design, and according to the course description, it is all about designing and researching how to design different things such as making prototypes and building models. I’m not sure if the course is going to be involving any hands-on work, and according to my older brother, it shouldn’t. However, his Technological Design class was in the workshop by chance and so they were able to build their designs. I chose the course since it seemed interesting and fun, but also because several of my friends are going to be taking it.

For my third elective, I have Computer Studies. To be more specific the Introduction to Computer Studies course, and it’s supposed to introduce students to programming. I’ve tried learning programming before, but it didn’t really interest me since I kept on trying to do different things when I didn’t understand how or why they worked. I’m hoping that by taking this introductory course I’ll be able to slowly learn step by step. With a few of my other friends also taking the course I hope it’ll be less frustrating than trying to learn on my own.

In addition to our three electives, we were also instructed to select two back up courses in case there isn’t enough room in the classes for our first three. My two back up courses are Food and Nutrition and Fitness. Food and Nutrition is a course that I feel like would still be fun and interesting even if it replaced one of my first three choices. Fitness is a course that a lot of my friends have as one of their first three choices. I’m still not sure if choosing the course was a good idea or not, but at least if I do end up with it there’ll be a lot of people I know in the class.

Overall, those were my course selections for my grade 10 year and I’m pretty satisfied with the choices I’ve made. I feel like most of the courses are ones that I would enjoy being in, but I still haven’t really thought too much about what I want to do in the future. In the end though, I don’t really think one course I don’t like will end up mattering too much though because at the start of the semester you can always go to the guidance office and request a course change as long as it’s at the beginning of the semester.

Second Semester Courses

It has been two weeks since the start of my school’s second semester, and that means that I have new courses with different classmates. After having gotten to know my new courses I’ll be sharing which courses I am currently taking and my thoughts on each class.

My first-period class is English and so far we haven’t actually done too much. Throughout the first week, we’ve gone over basic grammar such as proper sentence structure and how to use conjunctions. We even took a day to make posters for the “Seven Grandfather” teachings which is basically how you should treat other people. It was only until recently that we started with the grade 9 curriculum with storytelling and narratives. The class material hasn’t been too difficult so far though.

As for the people in the class, there are some students that just don’t stop talking, and it doesn’t matter whether the teacher is presenting or if we’re doing independent work. What I find most annoying about it though is that the teacher doesn’t even try to keep them quiet and instead talks back to them. This can become quite distracting, especially when we’re assigned in-class reading and all you can hear is the teacher and students talking back and forth really loudly.

After English, I have Non-Tradition Arts and the course revolves around art, except it’s mainly using computer technology such as animation and Photoshop. During the first week, it was quite interesting and fun learning how to use Photoshop, but the current assignment that we are working on right now is pretty frustrating.

Since the teacher doesn’t exactly have time to go around showing every single what they should be doing, she put up an example online. However, she explained how a majority of the examples would only get you around a 70-79% mark. The instructions on what to do haven’t been really clear. Even if you follow the guidelines she set at the start of the assignment she’ll tell you to change something because “I might not catch it when I’m marking it.”

For my third-period class, I have Science which has actually been relatively well. Taking notes in class is quite easy since we take them using a PDF file course package that the teacher has given us. I’m also really glad that we had the option to take a digital version of the textbook so my bag doesn’t get too heavy. The only problem I have in the class is with the people. Just like my English class, it feels like some students can’t stop talking and just want attention. At times you can visually see on everyone else’s faces that they’re just annoyed after a while. Other than that though, Science has been fun and we even get to use the lab room.

My last-period class is French which is probably the most normal class I have this semester. The only problem I have with the class is that I’m really bad at French. If we’re covering reading and writing I can usually do alright, but when we get to listening comprehension I can’t really figure anything out. Despite that, I feel like French class passes the most quickly out of all of my other classes which might be a good thing.

Overall, I would definitely prefer my classes from semester one over the current one. However, I think that if even just a couple of this semester’s classes start to shape up a little bit better I just might start enjoying it a bit better.

Arknights

Arknights is a mobile game that released globally around a month ago. The game is a tower defense that follows a story where you’re the main character that commands different operators. This week I’ll be sharing my thoughts and experience while playing Arknights.

The way the gameplay of Arknights works is that you have different units called operators, and each operator belongs to a certain class with different skills, traits, and abilities. Operators have different rarity values and usually, the rarer ones are better, but that’s not always the case depending on the situation. Since each operator can only be deployed once in a battle, you get to have twelve different operators to use each battle. Experimenting with different combinations of operators on different stages is part of the game.

Your objective in each stage or battle is to prevent enemies from entering your zone which is represented by one or more blue cubes. Depending on the stage there will also be red cubes where the enemies come from, and different stages have different types of enemies that have strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes there are boss enemies that usually have very unique traits such as being able to teleport through your operators or disable certain tiles.

Arknights at the beginning is pretty easy and it follows you through most of the mechanics. For the first few stages, you can get by without using too much strategy, but later on in the game, you’ll have to figure out which operators to specifically level up and use. A lot of the times you won’t be able to use the exact same twelve operators for every single stage, so you’ll have to end up changing your roster depending on the layout of the stage and what enemies come out.

There’s also base that you have where you can produce and sell resources, and the layout is extremely similar to Fallout Shelter with different types of facilities and jobs that need to be filled. Even though the base isn’t too interesting, it’s very important if you want to be able to efficiently upgrade and level up your operators.

New operators can be obtained through a recruitment system that happens over time or you can spend in-game currency to roll for a random operator. Some operators have increased chances when you roll, but they rotate every few weeks. Since Arknights was released in China first, there are currently operators that are still limited to the Chinese servers.

As of now, I have completed almost all of the content in the main story except for the challenge modes, but there are still unreleased chapters of the story. In the meantime, I’ll be spending time upgrading my operators and trying to finish the side missions while I wait for the next content release.

Overall, I’ve had a lot of fun playing Arknights, and I usually don’t really play mobile games too much. There have been times where I was struggling on certain stages and had to look up some tutorials, but I’ve been able to get through a decent portion of the game on my own.

Playing The Violin For 5 Months

During my first semester of high school, I was in the school’s orchestral strings class. At the beginning of the semester, I hadn’t played the violin at all before. After five months in the class, I feel like I’ve made some progress from the beginning of the school year, and this blog post I’ll share most of the things that happened while I was learning how to play the instrument.

One of the first things that the music teacher wanted to teach the new students was how to take care of the instrument such as how to store the instrument and how you’re supposed to maintain the different parts. Maintenence for a violin is much more different than for a guitar which is what I’m used to. With a guitar, the only thing you really have to do is make sure you change the strings every once in a while and don’t let the wood get too dry. However, with a violin, every time you want to play you have to make sure that you’re bow has the right amount of rosin on it and is tightened to an appropriate amount. You also have to wipe down your strings after you play and should keep it stored inside its case most when you’re not playing.

In terms of playing, the violin was really difficult to get used to because I wasn’t really familiar with using something like a bow to play. Even now I still have trouble keeping the bow straight properly, but it’s definitely better than when I first started. For now, I’ve only learned how to play the basic scales like G, D, A, and C major which is generally what is expected by the end of the course. For the duration of the course, the beginner students including myself have only been playing in first position which is where your left hand is at the very end of the fingerboard on the violin. I plan on taking the course again next year, so hopefully, I’ll be able to improve my playing ability.

Additionally, I learned a little bit of theory during the course since usually I just use tablature for guitar. For our written exam, we had to have a certain amount of knowledge with intervals, key signatures, and scales which I was able to pick up relatively well by the end of the semester. I think that the theory element of the course is where I ended up having to practice the most because I’ve never really had to look at key signatures when playing on my own.

Overall, I think that I ended up progressing quite a lot by the end of the semester and the teacher thinks that I have too. I’m most likely going to take the course again next year, and since we’ve been allowed to keep the instruments until the end of the school year I have a chance to keep practicing. However, I feel like the violin will just end up sitting in its case most of the time.

Sony WH-1000XM3 Headphones

During last year’s Cyber Monday sales after Black Friday, I decided to get Sony’s WH-1000XM3 ANC headphones. The XM3 headphones have been Sony’s flagship ANC headphones for over a year now. I’ve been using them for a little over a month now, so I’ll be writing about my experience with the headphones.

Initially, I was considering getting the Sennheiser Momentum 3 headphones, but compared to the XM3s they were considerably more expensive. However, they did boast a better build and sound quality which I was certainly interested in. I couldn’t justify the price for it though, so I ended up opting for the XM3s.

The headphones have been really comfortable so far, but sometimes if you wear them for a long time your ears might get a bit uncomfortably warm. However, I think this is something that happens with most over the ear headphones anyways. Most of the headphones are made out of plastic which still kind of worries me; especially since the headphones I usually use for playing games feel higher quality while being cheaper. Fortunately, I haven’t had any issues concerning the durability of the headphones yet, but after all, it’s only been a month.

Sound-wise, the XM3s certainly perform much better than any other pair of headphones that I currently have, but I wouldn’t say that they would be better or as good as a pair of studio headphones. I don’t think that the sound quality of the headphones is the main selling point of the headphones although it is important. Most people would agree that the active noise cancellation feature of the headphones is the best part of the headphones. The XM3s have some of the best noise-canceling technology according to a lot of people, and I can say that it definitely works from my experience.

Unfortunately, I do have a few complaints about the headphones though. While they aren’t too big of an issue, I still think there could’ve been some areas of improvement. The first thing is that there isn’t any function for multi-point pairing with the headphones which means you have to repair the headphones if you want to use a different device. A lot of headphones already have this feature, and this was one of the biggest downsides of the headphones. The other issue that I personally don’t really like is the touch controls on the side of the earcup where you control your volume and tracks. Every time you want to change the volume or track without taking out your phone feels really awkward, and sometimes you even perform the wrong action by swiping in a weird direction. Some people have also experienced the touch controls activating without touching the headphones in cold weather, but I haven’t experienced that yet.

Overall, the WH-1000XM3 headphones have been really good in my experience. They’ve been doing everything I’ve expected them to be able to do, and since Sony hasn’t announced a new XM4 model the current XM3s should hold up for a while. The headphones were really easy to set up and get going, and figuring out how to use them was simple as well.

Winter Break

Yesterday was my last school day of the year, and our winter break has just started. School starts again in around two weeks, so I want to have as much fun as possible before our break ends. I’ll most likely be playing video games with friends, but I still have some work to do before we start school again.

For the past month or so I haven’t had much time to play a lot of video games, and since a few of my friends all got Rainbow Six Siege at the same time, we plan on playing together over the break. We have the right amount of people for all of us to play in a group together, so we’re all just waiting until we all have time to play. I also want to play some more Counter-Strike and osu! since I haven’t played either of them in a while.

Most of my courses this semester didn’t give much homework to do over the break, but my math class has an assignment for making notes for our exams that start a little bit after the break ends. I plan on working on it throughout the break, but it shouldn’t be too hard since I’ve kept all the course material in my math binder. I’ve been doing pretty well in the course so far though, and the teacher just wants to make sure that we’re reviewing all of our units before the exams.

If I feel like it, I might also try to play around more with writing for orchestra since my music teachers haven’t really assigned me with anything specific to do. The last time I tried writing for an orchestra turned out pretty badly so I’m trying to improve in that area. My school does an annual student composition showcase during springtime so I’ll see how well I can get with orchestral music by then.

Additionally, I haven’t really caught up with all of the currently airing anime shows this season because I’ve been focusing more on finishing schoolwork. Some shows have already finished airing for this season and the rest should end in the next few weeks. Before the next season starts, I want to finish the shows that I’ve already started especially since most of my friends are already caught up with them.

Overall, this winter break I’m going to try to have a lot of fun with my friends and catch up on some things I’ve missed during school. I hope I get to play a lot more games and talk with some friends. Some of us have already planned to meet up during the break as well.