I prefer to use Zoom if possible for online lessons. It’s available on most platforms and seems to work well for most people. I can also easily email out links so you can join with just one click (or tap).
Of course, it’s not perfect. If you’ve ever used Zoom (or any other video chat application) for any length of time you’ve no doubt experienced sound issues. Obviously, for music purposes the quality of the sound is paramount.
Unfortunately for us, Zoom’s default settings are optimised for voice in noisy environments (like an open plan office). It actively tries to filter out background or non-voice noises, including your harmonica. Fortunately, it can be tweaked to make it more music-friendly.
Before getting into that though, here are a few general tips.
- Use wired headphones or earbuds if at all possible. This eliminates a lot of potential issues and ensures you receive the best sound possible from my end.
- Use the best quality microphone you can. To be honest, the mics in iPads and modern smartphones are pretty good, and are usually sufficient. If you’re using a laptop though, even a modest external USB mic will yield far better results than the built in mic.
- Video chat uses a fair bit of bandwidth. Try to be as close to your Wi-Fi router as possible (even better would be to use a wired connection, but I realise this is not possible for most people).
- This sounds obvious but try to be in a quiet room with as little intrusive noise as possible. If you’re sitting in the kitchen and the washing machine is spinning it’s going to make things very tricky!
Right, onto the Zoom settings. If this baffles you, don’t worry, I’m happy to go through it with you during a session.
Mac OS X
Open up the Zoom app. In the zoom.us menu at the top right, select “Preferences”.
From the list of options on the right, select “Audio”. You should see a list of options. You may need to scroll down to see them all.
Find and uncheck “Automatically adjust microphone volume”.
Skip past the Suppress Background Noise section. We’re going to override these settings in the next step.
Find the Music and Professional Audio heading. Ensure the “Show in-meeting option to enable Original Sound”, and “High-fidelity music mode” options are checked. Echo cancellation and Stereo audio we don’t need so make sure they are un-checked.
NOTE: The High-Fidelity Music mode may be unnecessary. It increases CPU and bandwidth usage. If you experience problems with this it’s fine to uncheck this option. I’ll still be able to hear you okay.
There’s just one more thing you need to do. When you join the Zoom meeting you’ll see an option at the top left of the video window labelled “Original sound: Off”. Each time you join a session you need to click this so it says “Original sound: on“.
And we’re done. This should significantly improve both the sound you get from me and the sound I get from you.
Open the Zoom app. At the bottom left of the screen, there is a cog icon labelled “Settings”. Tap this.
Tap through to the “Meetings” menu.
Under Audio at the top. Find the option labelled “Use Original Audio” and make sure this is turned on.
That’s all you need to do until you log onto the session. Once the zoom session has started tap the dot-dot-dot icon labelled “More”.
You’ll see a few different options. You want to tap “Enable Original Sound”. Unfortunately, you will need to do this each time we start a new session, but it’s well worth it!
And that’s it. We’re done. This gives us the best chance of being able to hear each other well.
Windows PC’s and Android Devices
Unfortunately, I don’t have either of these devices to test this on so I can’t give you a comprehensive rundown, but the process will be very much the same.
The key is to find and enable the “Show in-meeting option to enable original sound” or just “enable original sound” option in settings. Then once you’re in the meeting Make sure Original Sound is set to ON.
Good luck, and I look forward to hearing you!