As an online teacher I am researching currently which audio equipment might be the most suitable and affordable for nice lessons. By using only the computer microphone a nice full sound is hard to obtain. Playing forte gives very fast distortions. By using external microphones linked to the computer sound results can be highly improved which of course is pleasant for both student and teacher.
There are different types of microphones like dynamic, (usb) condenser and ribbon microphones. Often an usb interface is needed between microphone and computer which delivers phantom power (with condenser microphones) or transmission of electric signals. Brands like Roland, Focusrite and Motu can be mentioned. Average prices for an interface are around €100. Dynamic microphones are around €80, (usb)condenser microphones around €120 and Ribbons (which sounds probably for brass instruments the nicest and warmest) quite a bit more expensive.
Above examples could be interesting choices. My advise will be read reviews about the items to see if it fits expectations both in terms of price and application. Also be careful if phantom power (+48v) is necessary because it might damage the microphone. This could be a serious warning for a ribbon microphone like the budget T.bone RB 500 priced around €100. By the way condenser microphones do need phantom power. An interesting option could be the Shure MV51 condenser microphone (€200) which is compatible directly on an iPhone or iPad. Together with facetime it indicates a flexible combination.
Equally important for good results is a reliable and fast internet connection. For an interference-free Zoom onlinelesson 25 mbps speed is required which can be measured at www.fast.com If connected additionally a RJ 45 ethernet cable to the wifi router speed results might double or even triple. For an additonal €6 my advice would be do that!
In the video section I am performing at home the trumpetsolo ‘Music For Ever’ in which I use a ZoomQ8 videocamera with an external SSH-6 stereo microphone recorded in Zoom.us, till now my favorite platform for online lessons certainly also because of the recording option. A ZoomQ8 videocamera included removable microphone – which comes with the camera – costs around €300 and the extra SSH-6 microphone an additional €130.
Music For Ever I also recorded with a dynamic microphone – a Shure sm57 – in combination with a Roland rubix 22 interface. The legendary Shure sm57 costs around €115 as bundle included tripod and XLR cable.
The coming weeks I plan more testing. Curious how my students will like the Shure sm57 online in comparison with the ZoomQ8 videocamera till now. At all platforms its almost impossible to play together during lessons because of the latency on the internet. The program ‘JamKazam’ will be tested this week to see if latency can be reduced that far to get acceptable results while playing duets for instance. This will be first of all the challenge with my musical colleagues. Results I will post here too if JamKazam can be used as an addition for succesful online lessons. The first solo test at JamKazam after free registration with the Shure sm57 dynamic microphone, Roland rubix 22 interface and a fixed cable connection to the internet with 130 mbps speed as tools for sure has been promising. To be continued!
Dynamic microphones and Ribbon microphones might need additional power in case the main interface doesn’t supply enough. This lack of gain can be solved by adding a preamplifier connected between microphone and interface. Good results might be expected from the Triton Audio Fethead Germanium which gives a +29db gain.
Behringer provides a quite good budget solution with the Tube Ultragain Mic 100 preamplifier. Gain can be augmented from +26 db till +60db. This preamp includes a 20db pad, +48v phantom power, phase reverse and a limiter. Currently I have been testing this model and will record the trumpet solo ‘Music For Ever’ on the video page again in combination with a Shure sm57 dynamic microphone and a Roland Rubix 22 interface.
The second test with JamKazam to see if playing duets can be possible with almost no latency has been successful. With a trumpet friend I did duets in The Netherlands on a distance of 50 km between The Hague and Dordrecht. It really felt like playing next to each other. Great feeling and fantastic experience! In the next test we will try to get more balance in sound and even less jitter. Then it will be time to record some duets with the JamKazam program to show it on this website page. Stay tuned!!
Yesterday I tested JamKazam again with a saxophone teacher and we played nicely together swinging duets. Both we felt really comfortable with the results and I have to say saxophone also sounds really neat and natural on JamKazam. The other teacher used a Shure sm58 dynamic microphone and an old Roland interface with no preamplifier. More sessions for further research will be scheduled to see if trio and quartet rehearsals and performances are possible!?
With two trumpets we did again some experiments to see or rather to hear if recorded duets were synchronized properly. It did! JamKazam safes seperate tracks of both players but also makes a master recording immediately from in this case our duets. Nice! Following step will be to see if video results will be satisfying too. To be continued!
We added one player today in our research to low latency and being able to play simultaneously. We had great fun and it sounded nice together. Our research will continue soon with a fourth player included. In this session we concentrated mostly on the audio side but next time we will explore video resolution more.