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Tweaking Zoom for online music lessons

Updated: Aug 7, 2022

#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 #onlinemusiclessons 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. Plus, we have some suggestions for a bit of extra #audioequipment that will make a big difference in the quality of sound without breaking the bank.

woman with curly brown hair facing a laptop, where a young woman is singing online

NOTE: Make sure you are using Zoom on your computer and not on your mobile device. Optimal settings can ONLY be done on a computer. Phones, iPads, etc., don't allow you to adjust the settings necessary for good musical sound transmission.

Once you have Zoom installed on your computer:

1. Check for updates to make sure you have the most recent version of Zoom. 2. To update, open Zoom, click your account icon in the upper right corner and Select “Check for Updates”. 3. Click on the Settings icon below your account icon and Select “Audio”. That will open the settings panel. Select ‘Audio’ – the third option down in the list on the left side. 4. Under the “Microphone” heading, UNCHECK “automatically adjust microphone volume”. 5. Under “Suppress Background Noise” set it to LOW. 6. Under the “Music and Professional Audio” heading, check “Show In-Meeting Option to Turn On Original Sound”. 7. If you are using headphones, make sure “Disable echo cancellation” is checked. If you are NOT using headphones, DON’T check it. 8. If you have reliably fast internet, check “High fidelity music mode”. If you don’t have fast internet, leave it unchecked. (The BEST scenario is to connect with an ethernet cable directly from your computer to your router, instead of using wifi.) 9. Click the “Advanced” button at the bottom of the menu. In the Advanced menu, set both options to AUTO. 10. When in your lesson, check the upper left of your screen. It should say “Turn Off Original Sound.” That is the correct setting. (This means Original sound is ON.)

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. (You'll need to select them as the output for sound in Audio settings.)

  3. Use an external mic rather than your computer’s mic for the best audio results, whether you are singing or playing an instrument. (You'll need to select them as the source for sound in Audio settings.)

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 spend a lot 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.

  • 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.

Getting a microphone will dramatically improve your audio. Microphones can be costly, 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.

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