In the spring of 2020, the video conferencing platform Zoom went from something not many music educators knew about to an ubiquitous and essential teaching tool virtually overnight. However, just because Zoom might be a big part of your life doesn’t mean you’re getting the best audio performance possible from the platform. In this guide, we’ll show you how to get the most out of your sound while teaching through Zoom.
Consider using an external microphone and speakers
The stock microphone and speakers on your device are undeniably much better than ones from years past. But, if you’re looking for the best audio experience possible through Zoom, you’ll need an external microphone and speakers. This equipment will help you hear your students in greater clarity, and will make it easier for them to hear you as well. Wired headphones are also recommended for music educators who sing and perform instruments with their students. If your setup includes speakers/headphones and an external microphone, an audio interface will help you dial in your sound to get it exactly the way you want.
Make sure you’ve updated to the latest version of Zoom
If something’s amiss with your audio, the culprit could be an outdated version of Zoom. To check for the latest update, simply click on your profile picture at the top-right section of the screen and select “Check for Updates” in the scroll down menu. You’ll see a message that will tell you it’s time to update, or that you’re up to date.
A strong internet connection is crucial for good sound
Like we’ve mentioned, you’ll have the best audio experience over Zoom by using equipment like an external microphone, headphones, and desktop speakers. Even without that equipment, ensuring you have a strong, reliable internet connection will improve your audio experience over Zoom.
Poor internet connections result in poor audio quality, especially when video streaming burdens the network. If possible, use an ethernet cable to connect to your network. But if you can’t do that, try to position your computer as close to your router as possible. If you find that your internet connection is consistently an issue, consider purchasing equipment to extend or enhance your wifi.
How to customize your Zoom audio experience
To adjust audio settings over Zoom, click on the cog icon on the top-right side of your screen and select “Settings.” Selecting “Settings” from the drop down menu by clicking on your profile picture is another way to access audio settings.
Zoom’s default audio settings are mainly designed to accommodate business meetings and not musical performances. To change these settings, select the “Audio” menu on the left and uncheck “Automatically adjust microphone volume.” You may also want to consider selecting “Low” for the “Suppress background noise” option.
Through the Advanced sound option at the bottom of the menu, you can customize the sound of your music classes even further. Next to the Show in-meeting option, select “Enable Original Sound” for your microphone. If you have a good microphone and speakers/headphones, checking the “Disable echo cancellation” box will help improve your sound. Checking the “High fidelity music mode” box will also improve your audio, but take note that this option takes up more network bandwidth and CPU processing power from your computer.
Preparing for sessions
To select your customized audio settings for each Zoom session, go through each item on the following checklist:
- Select the correct microphone through the menu at the bottom-left side of your screen.
- Select the “Turn on original sound” option at the top-left side of your screen. This allows you to access the customized settings discussed in the previous section of this guide. You can turn this setting off as needed during your sessions.
- If your students will be singing or playing during sessions, having them select the “Original Sound” option is recommended. You’ll need to select the setting through your Zoom session first. Select “Settings” from the menu on the left side of your screen. Then, choose “In Meeting (Advanced)” located in the sub-menu and select “Allow users to select original sound in their client settings.”
How to share audio files, YouTube videos, and applications with your students
For sharing audio tracks, websites, videos, and applications with your students, you’ll use the “Share Screen” option at the bottom of your screen. To ensure that your students hear what you’re sharing in optimal quality, you’ll need to select the “Share Computer Sound” first.
If you want to share audio but have your students still be able to see you, you’ll need to click on the “Advanced” tab and check “Music or Computer Sound Only.”
Need more help leveraging technology for your virtual music classroom? Check out our article about SAMR for the Music Education Classroom.
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