Sounding Your Best on Zoom

I’ve been teaching lessons on Zoom for 5 or 6 months at this point, and I have grown to LOVE the platform and its effectiveness for teaching music lessons.

If we take a few minutes to learn how to sound and look your best on Zoom, you and your teacher will have a wonderful lesson experience. Remember: when you improve your sound on Zoom, your teacher will be hearing a more musically nuanced product and he/she will be able to give you more musically nuanced feedback.

  • Understand that your computer/device is now an important part of your instrument. Your sound is being transferred from your instrument through your computer to your teacher. Understanding how the mic on your computer processes your tone is just as important as understanding how to make a good tone on your instrument. Any musician who has worked in a recording studio (or recorded from a home studio) will tell you that understanding the microphone is just as important as playing well.
  • Allow your teacher to SEE you playing your instrument. Don’t sit in front of an open window (backlighting = bad — you will look like a shadow). Angle the camera slightly above you so your teacher can see hand position, posture, etc. Make sure the bell of your instrument isn’t blocking the camera (I’m looking at you, trumpet players).
  • Understand how the ANGLE and DISTANCE from microphone affect the sound. Every instrument will be different. ANGLE refers to where you point your bell in relation to the mic. For example, directional instruments like trumpets and trombones probably should not point directly at their microphone. DISTANCE refers to how far your bell (or sound source) should be from the mic. Louder instruments might need to be farther from the mic than softer instruments.
  • Use ORIGINAL SOUND on Zoom. To activate this setting on a computer: 1. Click the little arrow next the mute button 2. Click “Audio Settings” 3. Click “Advanced” in the lower right corner 4. Make sure box labeled “show in-meeting option to enable original sound” is checked 5. Go back to original Zoom meeting window and click box in upper left until it says “Turn OFF original sound” (this means original sound is ON, which we want)
  • RECORD yourself on Zoom to understand what your teacher hears. Zoom has a record function! Open Zoom. Click “New Meeting” to host a meeting by yourself. Start video and audio so you can find the best lighting/camera angle. Press RECORD. Play the exact same thing with several different angles and mic distances. Also, talk on the recording to verify that your teacher can hear you speaking clearly. Listen to the recording to determine the best angle and distance for your instrument.

I promise, any effort you make to understand your Zoom audio will allow your teacher to be more nuanced/helpful/detailed with his/her comments. Have fun with your online lessons!

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