Optimize Zoom Audio Settings for a Remote Music Lesson

During the coronavirus self-quarantine, my kids have been taking advantage of video conferencing for many of their classes. In the very brief video below,  I go through a few of the settings I select in Zoom to optimize the audio quality for my daughters’ piano lessons.

If you’re a music teacher or student, the most important thing you can do to improve your audio is to invest in a relatively inexpensive external microphone. The built-in microphone in your laptop or desktop computer has very poor audio quality, especially for playing music live over the internet.

Built into Zoom is an audio enhancement feature that reduces background noise, cancels echo, and utilizes a particular audio codec meant more for spoken voice rather than the dynamic nature of music. This feature is on by default, and though it’s excellent for regular conference calls, it adversely affects the quality of the sound of a musical instrument over the Zoom call.

The two main setting we need to change are:

1) disable the audio enhancements and preserve the true original sound of the microphone.

2) disable automatic volume control so that the dynamics changes in a piece of music come through.

Keep in mind that if you enable original sound, you lose the benefits of Zoom’s built-in audio enhancements, so if you’re in a music class in which you’re both speaking and playing your musical instrument (or singing), you should toggle the on/off switch for original audio located in the upper left of the Zoom meeting.

I hope this helps you have better remote music lessons and an easier time keeping up your school routine during this time.

Thanks,

Phil

74 thoughts on “Optimize Zoom Audio Settings for a Remote Music Lesson

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  1. Hi, thank you for such a brilliant post. I have been reading some blogs that gives me more knowledge about this topic optimize zoom audio setting for a remote music lesson. I must say this is one of the best among them. You have done a great research for I feel, thanks for sharing.

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  2. A thought: how would you mix a vocal mic input for speech and guitar via amp emulation software into a channel for a Zoom call? That would solve the ‘amp in the room’ issue..?

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  3. Is the AudioTechnica Condenser Mic the kind of mic I would use for piano lessons? I am a teacher with no experience in electronics and need advice. Thanks!

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    1. That would work well. I recommend the USB version as opposed to the XLR version just because it’s much easier to use if you don’t have professional audio equipment. There are others in that same price range and quality level you can look at as well such as the Blue Yeti.

      Like

  4. Hey.. i have a question. When i play music from one laptop on zoom and one other participant say something from other device. The music sound get cut or glitch for 1or 2sec . How can i resolve this issue.

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  5. Phil, I have to record my daughter’s piano playing for an exam. I’m using an AT2020 mic with usb interface. Do you have a favourite Windows app for such recording?

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  6. hello there i am training how to use zoom for my upcoming thesis defense . while on training I am not hearing either what I am saying or somebody says to on zoom . any solution from you please

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  7. Dear all,
    I found a quote here saying: “I’m working on setting up sending a Jamulus feed into a Zoom meeting so that Zoom participants can listen to a live jam of multiple musicians”
    I wonder if you could please help me with that. I am really struggling here to manage exactly this issue for my choirs. I am on the edge of loosing my position with them because I cannot deliver. So I really hope you can and are willing to help me out. If it requires a fee- just let me know, but please, please – I’d be so grateful for your help

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  8. Phil / all, I recommend that you connect your computer (or device?) directly to the router through an Ethernet cable if you can, to eliminate the wifi processing. Both ends of the conversation where possible! We have a 15m cable (about £10 / $10) for my wife who gives singing and piano lessons. This improves drop-outs and latency. Just my $0.02 😉 By the way we also leave the ‘Original sound’ setting ‘On’ throughout, and don’t toggle back and forth. Best wishes all .. John

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    1. Hi John – thanks very much, and I completely agree. I’m actually a network engineer for my dayjob, and it’s always better to have a hardwired connection for real-time applications like voice and video.

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  9. My Zoom sound is WORSE when I use earbuds or remote mic (have tried with two different high quality brands.) My voices gets a lot of distortion using the buds. What’s going on?

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  10. Hi Phil. I am a piano teacher and I’d just like to express my appreciation of your video “Optimise Zoom Audio Settings for a Remote Music Lesson”. I and another piano teacher are both using your suggestions. Thank you. Ed

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      1. Hi Jacqueline,

        Yes you can use Zoom with the appropriate audio settings for vocal lessons. It’s not absolutely perfect, of course, but as long as one person is singing at a time, it will work. Make sure you use a decent external microphone and change the settings to use original audio, and you should be in great shape. Keep in mind that it works well for one person at-a-time, but if you have more than one person singing at-a-time you will have major problems.

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  11. Hi Phil !
    I have weird clipping issues with my setup and i’m wondering if you or someone else had a similar problem.
    I’m using a P48 audiotechnica cardoid condenser mic (phantom powered) with focusrite 4i4. This setup is actualy working with zoom but there’s a weird clipping noise in my sound.
    I recorded myself using another programe (reaper) and it’s working very well. I also tried it with messenger and skype and its working (with a shitty compression sound)

    thanks

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  12. I’m using Zoom from my computer with a separate webcam for 1-on-1 violin/viola teaching. Why is there a time lag between sound/video for some students but not others?

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    1. Hi Paula,

      I’m not 100% sure, but it could be a result of the slightly different connection lag each student will have over the internet. Especially students with lower bandwidth connections or a shared medium like broadband may have greater lags.

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  13. As on the Zoom website, this explanation isn’t clear, “if you’re in a music class in which you’re both speaking and playing your musical instrument (or singing), you should toggle the on/off switch for original audio.” Toggle it on or off? You are saying that “Suppress Persistent Background Noise” and “Suppress Intermittent Background Noise” should both be “disabled”? How about “Echo cancellation?”

    Because of the constant interruption of one side or the other, I’ve all but given up on Zoom as a music “meeting platform.” At first, when I was connected to a student through wifi my playing would cut off the student (on my end of the transmission. So, I went wired to my modem and, now, the student loses me when he’s playing. We’re both using decent professional microphones and audio interfaces, not the built-in audio and microphones from our computers. Quality is fine, but the half-duplex system operation is intolerable.

    Thanks for any advice you can provide.

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    1. Hi Thomas,

      The issue with switching between regular conversation is a tough one. For my kids’ music lessons, we set it for best audio and leave it because my daughters and the teacher can muddle through the conversation so long as the piano comes through well. It’s definitely not ideal. As far as the half-duplex nature of the audio, that’s a problem with most video conferencing software I’ve ever used. I have the same issue with Webex and Teams which I use for work, and when there’s audio from multiple senders, things get muddy at best or cut out altogether at worst. I wish I had a solution for you! I don’t think it’s feasible to have multiple participants playing at the same time. It seems to work well for a typical lesson in which the student plays and the teacher comments, etc, but not at all for even small ensemble playing.

      I *always* recommend a wired connection in order to ensure the best quality connection. It seems like you’re already aware of that, though.

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  14. Hi phil. This works great on my computer.
    I noticed you havent answered any of the questions about I-pads.
    Is that because you don’t know or?
    Also I watched your video because I teach snare drum. It was a huge problem but solved if
    1. BOTH student and teacher change the settings
    2. You both have to be using a computer because my parents using I-ped cannot find the setting i.e. the screen looks totally different😩😩😩
    Help!

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    1. Hi Tom,

      No, I don’t own an iPad. I know there was a Zoom update recently for iOS devices, though, that may have addressed that issue. Sorry I can’t be more helpful on this one.

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  15. Hi Phil, I wondered if you could help with this issue. I want to connect my iphone ( ordered a webcam but it hasn’t arrived) to give a birds eye view of the pianos keys. My lap top gives a profile view. However the iphone image is mirrored when I share the screen. This is confusing for my younger Any workarounds for this? With thanks.

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    1. Hi Sarah,

      I use an Android and not an iPhone, but I do know that by default iPhones will fiip the image. I don’t believe there’s a built-in setting to change this, but there are several free apps out there that will do it for you. Check out Foto Flipper, FlipPhoto, and I think one called Mirror Photo as well. Check those out in the app store.

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    1. Hi David,

      To capture instrument audio without spending a lot of money, the Audio Technica 2020 USB would work. I use that on a boom stand for my own kids’ piano lessons and it works great. The mic is about $150 which may still be too expensive, but basic USB condenser mics will all be right around there. The Audio Technica ATR2500-USB is a bit cheaper, and you can also check out the Blue Yeti is another option. To spend much less would mean looking at the Blue Snowball or possibly the Fifine USB Microphone. Those will be a third the price of the Audio Technica mics.

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  16. Hi Phil,

    I’ve been using zoom for over 2 years for teaching guitar and the audio dropping out issues are really terrible. I’ve tried to fix it with enabling original sound but each time I do the student gets an echo on their audio on their end, and idea on how to fix this? This is one-on-one teaching over zoom. Thanks!

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    1. Exactly the same problem here. It’s a colossal pain in the backside.
      Original sound enabled, great music but a myriad of problems with speech. Original sound disabled, speech is way better but sounds like your pupil is transmitting from Mars when they play.

      I’ve been teaching for twenty-six years but unlike you I haven’t had had to resort to this until the lockdown.
      By 2022 I would imagine there’ll be a Zoom For Music Teachers app with all of this solved. In the meantime I’m scouring around and haven’t found an answer yet.

      I don’t want myself and a child to be toggling on off on off on off on off all during a piano lesson to speak or play. So I’m beginning to think (and I may be alone in this} but, unless it’s me demonstrating, I think it may be the better of two evils to just listen to my pupil play with Zoom’s speech enhancement settings in operation…..
      Random sound problems with music is a pain but problems with communication during a lesson whether it be echo, cutting out or feedback is just intolerable.

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      1. Hi Dave, you can try JamKazam, it is a sort of Zoom for musicians and it is free. From Strasbourg to Fuissé (at a distance of 400km and something) we had 53ms lag, hardly noticeable. It is a bit tricky to configure, especially on a laptop, if you need help you are welcome.

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  17. The Jamulus software enables musicians to perform real-time jam sessions over the internet. There is one server running the Jamulus server software which collects the audio data from each Jamulus client, mixes the audio data and sends the mix back to each client.
    It can be more challenging than setting up Zoom, but with a little tech know-how it can be quickly configured and works quite well.
    See http://llcon.sourceforge.net/ for more info, or just search for “Jamulus” on the Internet.
    I’m working on setting up sending a Jamulus feed into a Zoom meeting so that Zoom participants can listen to a live jam of multiple musicians.

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    1. Hi Russell, You said: “I’m working on setting up sending a Jamulus feed into a Zoom meeting so that Zoom participants can listen to a live jam of multiple musicians”. That is my biggest challenge at the moment. Have you made progress and would you please please talk me through that by phone and or with Teamviewer? I am struggling for this more than 6 weeks now and I am on the edge of desparation. I’d be so grateful for help! You can use my emailaddress directly: marianvanloon@gmail.com

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    2. So – I’ll try to pose my question again since it seems missing now…. Goodmorning mr Russel, When I quote you last remark, it says: “I’m working on setting up sending a Jamulus feed into a Zoom meeting so that Zoom participants can listen to a live jam of multiple musicians”
      I wonder if you could please help me with that. I am really struggling here to manage exactly this issue for my choirs. I am on the edge of loosing my position with them because I cannot deliver. So I really hope you can and are willing to help me out. If it requires a fee- just let me know, but please, please – I’d be so grateful for your help

      Like

  18. I am unable to find, on my IPad Pro, the audio choices you describe. Is it not possible to make these changes in a Apple tablet? There seems not be a possibility to tweak the acidophilus settings. I I have the Zoom Basic, from the Apple App Store, on my IPad Pro.

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    1. Yes it is there. On main iPad Zoom screen click the settings gear then Meetings. Almost all the way down is the enable original audio switch. Then on meeting click the thee dots upper right for More. AVC is not there though (at least I could not find it). I just helped someone do this exact thing.

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    2. rlewis1944Randy Lewis it’s definitely on version 4.6.12 — I just updated from 4.6.7 and now the option is there

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  19. Hey Phil – thanks for this, which saved me a lot of time.
    I’m a piano teacher (and nerd!) who’s just setting up to teach online. I’m waiting on a laptop to be delivered and was hoping to get started using an Android Phone/Tablet combination.
    I’m running a line out from my digital piano to a mini mixer, along with a Sennheiser mic, so it should sound awesome (or decent!)… But…
    Android *does* have the Original Sound setting, but it doesn’t currently have the ability to turn of the auto-volume adjustment. Therefore even my very clear signal sounds terrible 🙄
    I’m conclusion, afaics you definitely need a computer to run the sound through, certainly with a piano.
    Hope this helps
    Paul

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  20. Hi Phil, thanks for your video which I have passed onto a couple of teachers – they tell me you are a much better teacher than grumpy old me!

    The other couple of tips I have found useful are to not have the external mic on the piano to avoid occasional odd resonances and to check the audio input levels on the Mac/PC to make sure that you are not clipping louder volumes and let the dynamics come through.

    I also find having a laptop to the side to the teacher can see the keyboard work and an iPad joined to the same zoom session on the music stand in front of the student to give the teacher/student a direct face to face view adds human engagement.

    Best Regards,

    Like

  21. Any advise on how to account for the variables on the student end of the conference? Any general settings for mobile, notepads and if the student using one device for sound and another for video helps Read that if other wifi activity in the home is off then that can help with connectivity/ lag. Really having problems from the student side on the audio. Since this is a percussion studio the sound cut out is a major issue.

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  22. Looks like today’s (4/8/20) iOS update to the Zoom client (4.6.10) now supports the “original sound” setting, and also puts all the security options in one place in settings.

    My wife is a piano teacher and has been setup for distance lessons for over a year, yet we keep learning new tips and tricks for optimizing the process – especially in the current situation. Thanks for your well written article!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Thank you very much. Very usefull.
    I have a problem with the Zoom H2 mic.
    I use it like usb mic on mi iMac.
    But the other partecipant hear an alterate voice, like a duck.
    How can I solve this serious problem?
    Thank in advance.

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    1. It could be that you don’t have the correct microphone chosen in your audio settings. I’d start by doublechecking that. Also, you may have an issue if your mic has a pre-amp built-in, but I’m not sure.

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  24. Hi,
    Using my Samsung A70 with Zoom for sharing with other musical instrumentalists. The sound keeps dropping out with rare and temporary exceptions.
    I can find no Audio settings on my phone version of the app. I’d really like to get this sorted, it has so much potential these days.
    Mel

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  25. Hi Phil. How do I “open up the zoom client” to get to the audio settings you mentioned? Does zoom client refer only to desktop/laptop Zoom? FYI, I’m using an iPhone and/or Ipad, and there is NO audio settings tab within the main SETTINGS…. does it matter what version of Zoom I use? can one NOT make these kind of changes to audio settings at all in the free version of Zoom, or am I just using the wrong kind of device to start a zoom meeting? Thanks, I’m just having trouble putting any of your good suggestions to use….

    Like

    1. Unfortunately I believe these settings are only available on the desktop/laptop version of the software. Hopefully they’ll roll this out to mobile devices at some point, but for now to have the best audio experience when it comes to music, you’ll need to use the app on a desktop/laptop.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Sorry if I missed this, but is it necessary for all participants on the call to make the changes suggested or just the host of the conference? We have several people on the call but only one plays at a time (clarinet). Thanks!

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    1. Yes – anyone playing music over Zoom will need to make the same changes to their own audio settings – not just the host. Anyone who is NOT playing music doesn’t need to make the changes.

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  27. Hi, this is useful info, but I’ve been running into a problem giving bass lessons where the sound of the bass will drop out entirely after a couple notes from my students, then sometimes fade back in. It seems like a limiter is getting hit. It didn’t happen for one student, but did for the other two I’ve given lessons to this week. Any thoughts or ideas? Could it be an actual laptop setting vs. a Zoom setting?

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    1. Have you made sure the student has the settings to not have Zoom automatically control the volume? What you’re describing is exactly what happens when Zoom automatically adjusts the volume. (There may be some onboard processing happening on their end as well, but wanted to check the obvious.)

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      1. I did go over these settings with them, but I didn’t visually verify it. I’ll have them share their screen next time to be sure.

        Liked by 2 people

  28. Thank you for this post! I’ve been conducting free live dance fitness classes, and recorded a session because my students’ feedback has been the fact that the music fades every now and again. I’m using an external speaker. When I recorded the session, I was able to experience the fading they were describing. Has anyone found a way around this?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. one thing you can do is play the music on your computer and then share that sound through the Zoom meeting. You do that by selecting Share screen at the bottom, and then when you are prompted to select a screen to share, make sure to check the box to share computer sound (bottom left). The only issue there is that you will be sharing your computer screen at that point. Play with the settings, though, and you will find that you can still the ability for you and your students to see each other.

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      1. On the Share screen there are tabs at the top Basic, Advanced and Files. If you choose the Advanced tab there is a box you can choose to just share your computer sound and not your screen when you hit the Share button.

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    1. I’ve found that it doesn’t work that great when multiple people all play at the same time because everyone has a slightly different internet connection (slight lag for some but not others) and different microphone. But I’m not a music teacher, so it could be that someone out there figured out how to do it well.

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  29. Hi, I’m a professional DJ and was asked to play for a dance party that people could enjoy. I was using the microphone on my tablet to catch the music I was playing from my DJ console and computer. The sound was ok but I wanted to have it so the music was fed directly into the ZOOM feed. My DJ computer and console cannot and have not touched the internet directly – ever. I have a left and right RCA output from my console. How can I send the signal to the ZOOM feed? RCA to HDMI? RCA to Ethernet? And then into my computer then into a ZOOM app?

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    1. I’m not the author of the blog, but I wonder if you could use an RCA Y-adapter to combine the left/right RCA outs from your console, then a RCA-to-1/8″ adapter to get it down to cable that could plug into your mic input on your Internet-connected computer. You would certainly want to follow the instructions to tell Zoom to not automatically correct your audio volume. No guarantees it would work, but that’s what I would try.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Thanks that was very helpful. We just did a little concert on zoom and the sound was awful 😦 I wish we had read this sooner!! Alas, next time.

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  31. Thanks for putting this up at the right time Phil. I needed to remote in to a distanced PC and broadcast my voice in high quality. Googled a solution and you came up. Much appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Is there anything that WOULD work for group rehearsals? I am not doing it, (just cello, although duets or playing piano along with a kid would be awesome). A lot college faculty colleagues and high school teachers are looking everywhere. It may not exist in affordable fashion right now but, the day it does, there will be a payday for someone and a lot, lot, lot of happy music teachers!!!

    Like

  33. This is GREAT information! Do you know if there are similar settings in the Android or iOS apps? I looked in Android and didn’t see any such granular control over the audio. Would settings in the desktop/laptop account carry over on the same account when using zoom on Android/iOS?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mobile devices don’t have the same ability to control advanced audio settings as the desktop app, but I know some people at Zoom so let me see what I can find out – maybe there’s something that can be done to enable it on Android/iOS apps as well.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. David Boyd just added a comment for this post that today’s Zoom update for the iOS client now supports the “original sound” option. Unfortunately, I don’t see that yet in Android.

      Like

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