Using Zoom for music
Feedback is bad!
The easiest way to eliminate feedback is to turn off your speakers and listen to your performance using wired headphones or some sort of wired ear pods. Wireless headphones and ear pods will not work well because there will be a delay between what you perform and what you hear.
Setup Zoom for Live Music – lots of steps but important!
- Establish a Zoom session and look at the bottom left corner of the session window for a “^” sign next to the Mute switch (below a small mic icon).
- Click on the “^” sign next to the Mute switch and then select “Audio Settings…” from the menu that appears.
- Check the box in front of the label that says ‘Show-in-meeting option to “Enable Original Sound” from microphone.’
- There are additional less important setting in version 5.4.7 of Zoom for use when Original Sound is turned on:
- Consider checking “High fidelity music mode” with a more powerful computer that is hardwired to the network. I’ve not experimented with this setting.
- If using headphones, consider checking “Echo cancellation” to remove additional automatic filtering (which can remove some music in addition to echo).
- Use of headphones is strongly recommended; however, if not using headphones, the extent of echo cancellation can be set in the “Advanced” sub-window.
- Return to the meeting by closing the settings menu window.
- In the top left corner of the meeting window, make certain “Turn Off Original Sound” is displayed. If it “Turn On Original Sound” is displayed, click on the text to switch to original sound.
Tech stuff about feedback- skip if not interested, you are past the important stuff:
The most common problem for music performances in Zoom is feedback. This happens when your mic hears your music at the same time that it hears the same music from your speakers. As you feed your performance into you mic, it comes back out of your speakers and is fed back into your mic. Feedback.
If your room is large and the listening volume for your speakers is low enough, there is a chance that you can avoid using headphones or ear pods.Sometimes it may appear that other performers are doing this when they are actually simply turning off their speakers while performing.
Music and Zoom for geeks (more optional reading):
Zoom software updates are frequent. Generally, you will get the best results using current software. Sometimes Zoom forces you to update your system, a good thing in this case.
Listening to music:
Always mute Zoom audio when listening to music. Not doing so introduces a huge risk of echo and feedback. Any feedback from any source ruins a performance for absolutely every Zoom connection to the performance. Any echo not controlled at the source of the performance is as bad as feedback.
Other Zoom settings have little to no impact on whether music sounds good. For listening to music, computers, phones, and tablets can all work. Get the best results with the highest quality connection available; this means the fastest possible connection with the greatest reliability.
Generally, connection speed is so important that reliability is not a consideration. But your if your fastest available connection, whether Wi-Fi or cellular, has intermittent momentary service interruptions, try using a different but perhaps slower available connection to see if things improve. For example, if using Wi-Fi, try turning off Wi-Fi to see if a good cellular connection fixes the problem.
Performing live music using Zoom on a tablet or phone:
The current release of Zoom has no method of optimizing the software for performing music. With a very fast and reliable network connection and no background noise, results may be adequate at best; however, delivering a professional sounding performance from a tablet or phone is probably impossible.
Performing live music using Zoom on a computer:
The information provided here was determined by using Zoom on a Mac; it should pertain to the PC version as well but there may be small differences in how settings are accessed. Also, this information may become obsolete quickly due to continuing improvements being made by the Zoom software development team.
There are three technical factors that control delivery of live music using Zoom from a source:
- How is the source connected to the network?
- Is Zoom properly configured to deliver live music?
- Is the performance sound being properly captured?
How is the source connected to the network?
Without adequate connection speed and quality, results will be adequate at best. In most situations, a hard-wired connection to the Internet is preferred. Most connection recommendations stop here.
There are additional connection alternatives depending on the availability of recently developed connection technology. At this time, some available high-end Wi-Fi devices can perform almost as well as a direct hard-wired connection but with a greater risk of dropouts (tiny interruptions in the signal). Also, if a very strong cellular connection is available that is known to be considerable faster that the available hard-wired or Wi-Fi connection, it may work fine.
Is Zoom properly configured to deliver live music?
The default computer settings in Zoom are designed to result if excellent conferencing, not excellent delivery of live music. Fortunately, the computer-based versions of Zoom have settings that can be configured for delivery of live music. Once these are set withing a session, Zoom is intended to keep the settings for future sessions until changed. To be safe, recheck the settings before important performances as well as after installing any new release of Zoom.
Having Original Sound turned on disables noise suppression, removes high pass filtering, and removes automatic gain control. In other words, Original Sound tells Zoom to not assume part of your music is noise that Zoom needs to remove.
The Zoom help buttons offer an exception to this practice when background noise cannot be well controlled and/or when playing casually without headphones and a separate mic. In this case, the suggestion is to turn off Original Sound and use the “Low” setting for “Suppress background noise.” This approach yields quality equivalent to a performance recording using a phone in the audience rather than more professional sounding results.
Is the performance sound being properly captured?
The best way to capture live music in Zoom is to use the same computer accessories that would be used to make professional home recordings. The minimum configuration does not need to be terribly expensive and would consist of a quiet room, headphones, and a USB mic.