May 16

Using Zoom in Music Lessons & Clinics

by Anton Schwartz

As a musician, you may have recently begun using zoom to take lessons or attend classes. There are a few things to know about using it for music that will go a very long way. I’ll address this post to students and group class participants, though it may be of use to instructors too.

The Basics

You can run zoom within your web browser but you’ll do much better running it as an app on your phone or tablet or computer.

Download the App

The zoom app is available for free. To download & install it, go to zoom.us/download. If you are on a mobile device, you’ll be taken directly to zoom on the App Store or Google Play. If you’re on a computer, tap the download button under “Zoom Client for Meetings”.

Test it Out

Before you use the app for real, it’s a good idea to join a test meeting at zoom.us/test to familiarize yourself with the app and make sure your audio and video are working. (If you have trouble, here’s some help.)

Joining the Meeting

A session on zoom is called a meeting. Your teacher will give you a link to click to access your particular meeting. When it’s time, or shortly before, click the link. This will load a page in your web browser that automatically opens the zoom app with your meeting pulled up and ready to join.

Musical Considerations

Use Headphones

If you’re just going to be listening most of the time (for instance, as a clinic participant), then just stay muted by tapping the microphone icon so there’s a slash through it. Otherwise, wear headphones or earbuds if you possibly can. That way zoom won’t be constantly struggling to distinguish what you say or play from what it is putting through your speakers into the room. (After all, zoom hears both through your microphone.) Without headphones you won’t be able to talk at the same time as your teacher/student, and interaction becomes more difficult. Also, if you’re using a phone or tablet the built-in speakers won’t be loud enough anyway if you want to play along with accompaniment.

Use “Original Sound”

Zoom is meant mainly for people talking to each other in meetings. So its audio is optimized for speech. That includes noise reduction. That hum in the background? Zoom thinks it’s a loud air conditioner and will try to remove it. That note you’re playing on your instrument? Same thing! 😳 To avoid that, use zoom’s original sound setting, which disables all the audio processing.

There are two steps to using it.

First you have to show the option.

This can’t be done during once you’re in your meeting—only before you enter it:

If you’re on a phone or tablet:
  1. Launch the zoom app and instead of hitting Join, tap the little (gear) symbol.
  2. Choose Meetings.
  3. Scroll down and turn the Use Original Sound setting to on.
If you’re on a computer:
  1. Launch the zoom app and instead of hitting Join, tap the little (gear) symbol.
  2. On the menu at the left, select Audio.
  3. Tap the Advanced button (lower right).
  4. Finally, check the box that says Show in-meeting option to “Enable Original Sound” from microphone.
    And while you’re there:
  5. Set the Suppress Persistent Background Noise and Suppress Intermittent Background Noise settings to Disable.
    (In theory this step shouldn’t be necessary if you’ve set “Enable Original Sound” but in practice it still seems to help.)

Second, you have to enable the option.

This is done when you are in a meeting, and is slightly different for computers & phones.

If you’re on a phone or tablet:
Tap the “• • •” button and then tap “enable original sound”. If you see “disable original sound” then you’re already good to go.

On a computer:

If you’re on a computer:
simply tap Turn on Original Sound at the upper left of your window. If you see Turn off Original Sound leave it; you’ve got it right!

Playing along with a Track

When I’m teaching in person I like to accompany students. But for remote teaching the delay over the internet generally makes that impossible. So if a student needs accompaniment it’s important for the student to be able to supply it on their end—in the form of a play-along recording or an app such as iReal Pro or Band-in-a-Box.

The good old boom box

The simplest way to make that happen is to use a different device than the one you’re using for zoom to play the accompaniment in the room. Of course it has to have loud enough speakers to be heard along with your instrument—a cell phone alone won’t cut it.

Sharing Your Device’s Audio

Alternatively, you can play the accompaniment on your device and have zoom share it so all participants can hear both you and the accompaniment.

To share your phone or tablet’s audio:

  • tap the Share Content icon.
  • tap Screen. A Screen Broadcast screen will appear.
  • select Zoom.
  • tap the Microphone icon so it shows Microphone On.
  • tap Start Broadcast.

Now you can navigate to whatever app you use for playalong (music player, iReal Pro, etc.). Zoom will share your device’s screen contents and the audio it’s playing, as well as the audio it’s hearing through its mic (that’s you!).

To share your computer’s audio:

  • tap the Share Screen icon.
  • move the top slider to the Advanced (middle) position.
  • Double-click Music or Computer Sound Only.

Now zoom will continue to show your video camera feed, but you can launch any app and zoom will share its audio output along with the computer’s microphone input.

For Clinics & Workshops

Nonverbal Feedback ✋

When a meeting has more than a few participants, interaction can’t be the same as it’d be in person. But zoom has some essential features and a minute of familiarization on your part (and a bit more on the part of the instructor) is all that’s needed.

The key is to know the Participants tab at the bottom of the zoom meeting window. Tapping that will display (at the bottom) three very useful icons:

  • raise hand
  • yes (green circle with ✔)
  • no (red circle with ✘)

When you tap one of these, the instructor can see. That lets you raise your hand to ask a question… or answer a yes or no question posed to the group… or volunteer a longer answer to a question.

Chat

Zoom also has a way to send a message to an individual or to the group. This can be a great way to send the instructor a brief question, or to let them know if there is a technical problem. It’s also a great way for the instructor to send a link to the whole group, or to spell a name or an important term.

Chatting is easy. On a mobile device, tap “• • •” and then “Chat”. On a computer, simply use the Chat icon.

Further Resources

To learn more, there’s always the online help and videos at zoom.
In addition, there’s a useful group on facebook called Zoom for Musicians.

One Response

  1. Paul says:

    This is the most complete and clear set of instructions on using Zoom that I have ever seen. Thank you!

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Random Roots App

NEWS FLASH!

I'm proud to announce that the Random Roots app is now available on the App Store for iPhone/iPad. It's the culmination of a year's work, and it's a game changer for players looking to deepen their musicianship and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their practice.

To learn more and download it for free, visit randomroots.app.

—Anton

Random Roots App

NEWS FLASH!

I'm proud to announce that the Random Roots app is now available on the App Store for iPhone/iPad. It's the culmination of a year's work, and it's a game changer for players looking to deepen their musicianship and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their practice.

To learn more and download it for free, visit randomroots.app.

—Anton