Among the many affected by the recent pandemic, musicians everywhere are struggling to find ways to supplement lost income as a result of restrictions on social interaction. One way in which some musicians are coping is by offering online lessons, but this can be problematic if teacher or student doesn’t have the right technology set-up. For that, we’ve compiled a list of things to help you make the most of your online lessons both as teachers AND students.
Hopefully you already have a desktop or laptop. If not, a tablet can work, but you might be limited on your potential audio and video options.
Perhaps the first thing you might be considering is what software to use. Like all of the hardware options, there are several to choose from, with more being developed each day. Here are three common programs/apps people consider. As you can see, our current favorite is Zoom.
Camera and video quality may be your next concern. First, ensure that you have a decent internet speed. Not sure what your internet speed is? You can test it by typing “Internet Speed Test” in your Google search bar.
Next, consider your camera options. Many modern laptops come with decent built-in cameras, however USB cameras might offer better quality and can be moved closer to your hands and guitar if you need to show a different angle. They are hard to find right now, but Logitech has a line of good performing HD webcams including this C920.
If the stores are still out of webcams due to the world shifting to conduct business mostly online, you can turn an old phone into a webcam with the right app or software. Here is an article from CNET that might help with that: How to Turn Your Phone Into a Webcam for Video Chats
Now consider your audio needs. Built in computer and webcam mics can be fine for talking, but problematic for picking up the nuances of music. If you plan on online teaching or studying over the next few weeks (or longer), consider upgrading your audio rig.
Start with an interface. This is the device that sends the audio signal from your mic or instrument to your computer. An interface with one or two inputs will do the job. These options from Focusrite and PreSonus can be around $99 – $159. If you’re looking to save a little money, skip below and read about the USB microphone option.
While a dynamic mic like the Shure SM58 would work fine for speaking, a condenser microphone like the Audio-Technica AT2020, or the lower cost MXL 770, will do better at picking up your speech and the sounds from your guitar shreddery. If you have an electric guitar, you can send your signal directly to your interface, or put another mic in front of your cabinet.
If you’re working with a smaller budget, you can bypass the interface and go with a USB microphone. This might be a slight downgrade in audio quality from the interface + mic option, but it can be a simple, cost-effective option. You can find the Audio Technica AT2020USB+ for around $150.
Headphones or Monitors
If your teacher or student has a great mic, it won’t mean very much if you don’t have decent means of hearing them on the other end. Good headphones or monitors would help. Headphones are the more affordable option. Sound engineers seem to really like the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x (roughly $150), but the ATH-M20x can work great as well and for a much lower cost ($50).
Other Helpful Tools and Accessories
Desktop Microphone Stand
A desktop microphone stand will keep you from having to use a mic stand on the floor next to your desk while also allowing you to move it to the proper position with ease. This one comes with a pop filter and a shock mount for your condenser mic.
Phone Scanning App
You may want to quickly share sheet music with your students from time to time. Using an App on your smart phone can allow you to quickly scan, crop, and share sheet music with your students. My preferred app is Turbo Scan.
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