The Covid-19 pandemic made it necessary and now it's become a convenience that many of us continue to rely on. While it's always preferable to do in-person lessons, we understand that it's just not always possible to go to a teacher's studio. Luckily, technology has improved considerably when it comes to online music lessons, and many of the issues in this type of instruction have been mitigated.
There are a few adjustments that must be made to one's settings if using Zoom, however. We encourage students to refer to our guide on Optimizing Zoom Settings for Lessons and make those adjustments before your first lesson.
Zoom software is designed for meetings and clear speech, but using the default audio settings for music performance creates problems. The sound cuts out whenever a note is held and high and low frequencies are often not heard. Making just a few changes in these settings will help your music lessons come across much more clearly on Zoom. The list of steps below will guide you through the process of setting up a Zoom account and configuring it for the best sound you can expect.
If you don't already have Zoom installed on your computer:Use a computer. Optimal settings can ONLY be done on a computer. Mobile devices such as phones and iPads are fine for listening, but do not give you access to turn off the necessary settings to allow good sound for instruments during performance. Download and install the App. While you don’t need to install the app to LISTEN to a Zoom meeting, You do need an account to access the advanced settings to properly configure audio for PERFORMANCE. This link will take you to the official page to install Zoom: https://zoom.us/download. Once you download the software, you will need to enter an email address & password to create a Zoom account, then open the Zoom app.
Once you have Zoom installed on your computer:1. Check for updates to make sure you have the most recent version of Zoom. 2. When logged into Zoom.us, click the Settings icon (found just below your account initials in the upper right corner). Select Audio – the third option down in the list on the left side. (You may also access the Audio settings from the up-arrow next to the microphone - lower left corner - when in the Zoom app.) 3. Under Microphone, UNCHECK “Automatically adjust microphone volume”. 4. Under Audio Profile, select "Original sound for musicians" OR "Live performance audio" IF you have high-speed internet. (The BEST scenario is to connect with an ethernet cable directly from your computer to your router, instead of using wifi.) 5. Under Advanced, select "Auto" for Echo Cancellation. 6. Once you are in the meeting, make sure you have turned ON the "Live Performance Audio" button at the top left of the screen.
How to get your best sound quality during online lessons:1. Be as close to the wifi router as possible, with as few walls & doors in between, or connect directly to your router with an ethernet cable (even better). 2. Use headphones or earphones rather than your computer’s speakers, if possible. 3. Use an external mic rather than your computer’s mic for the best audio results, whether you are singing or playing an instrument. Here are a few suggestions: Upgrading your gear can make a huge difference in the quality of the sound you hear (and what your teacher hears on the other side), and you don’t have to break the bank to get something that will work. HEADPHONES A lot of the background noise you hear when using your built-in speakers and microphone will be cleared up just by using headphones. Here are a few headphone options, along with their advantages and disadvantages: iPhone headphones or equivalent with mic – These work surprisingly well considering how flimsy they seem. The biggest issue with using these is how short the cord is. Unless you’re doing vocal lessons, these probably won’t work. AirPods or equivalent Bluetooth headphones – These will work much better than the built-in speaker, with no cord to mess with. Just be sure they are fully charged up. Audio Technica MX50 – These headphones have been favorites for musicians for a long time. They come with three different cords, including a coiled cord. The earpieces swivel, so you can easily wear them on your neck or have just one headphone on. If you have Bose noise-canceling headphones, you can use those as long as you turn the noise cancellation OFF. The battery life is great on these, but they’re costly, so unless you have a pair sitting around, the cheaper options listed above will get you good results. MICROPHONES Getting a microphone will dramatically improve your audio. Microphones get really expensive really fast, but even a $50 USB mic will help improve your audio. We recommend you read some reviews of mics online before purchasing anything, but even a small investment here will make a big improvement over your computer mic. A QUICK GUIDE Using your laptop or desktop? Get a USB mic. Using an iOS device? Get a Lightning mic. Using an Android device? Check your inputs – you may be able to use either an 1/8 “ mic or a USB-C mic depending on your device. Want to future-proof yourself and be able to expand in the future? Consider a Zoom product.
Extra items to help make your online lessons a success:Having the following things in the room with you will be of great benefit when you take your voice lessons. 1. A separate device (not the same one you are using to Zoom, Skype or FaceTime) that allows for playing music tracks from YouTube, etc., i.e., iPhone, iPad, etc. - in the event you want to work on a particular song. (Lag-time/latency with Zoom makes it impossible for instructor to play along with the student.) 2. A means to get the computer/web-cam in a position where the instructor can see you face-to-face (eye-level) with the possibility to tilt down to see the keys you are playing (for pianists) or your torso (for singers). Usually, a shelf, music stand, box(es) placed on top of desk, etc. will do. 3. For singers, a mirror (full length preferred, but anything that allows the singer to view the upper body is ok). 4. Music stand to hold sheet music, etc.. (If you are playing a piano, you already have this, but if using a keyboard, you may need something stronger than the music stand they come with. Singers definitely need to have a music stand so you don't have to hold your music while singing.)