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I originally posted this in the Piano Technicians forum but was advised to repost this here in the Teachers forum:

My daughter's teacher recently passed away and her new teacher prefers to use Zoom for lessons. The new teacher recommended that we get a microphone and webcam. I would appreciate recommendations for such devices that work well with Zoom. I did a Google search and some links warned against using Logitech cameras because the software allegedly can get out of sync with operating systems and Zoom versions.

Her late teacher used Face Time and did not use devices apart from the smart phone so using mics and cameras are new to us.

Thanks.

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I am no teacher but I used a Zoom Q8.
What I like about this one was that it has an XLR input for the micprophone...so if you have a digital piano, the teacher will hear only the sound made by the keys as they come out straight from the instrument. No other “jamming” caused by talking / wind / whatever.
It also comes with a second mic if you want to use it for voice as well (ex: voice on one mic and piano sound from the xlr mic).
If you have an acoustic, things are different.


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Thanks CosminX. We use an acoustic piano.

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Originally Posted by Forest_Hills_Daddy
I did a Google search and some links warned against using Logitech cameras because the software allegedly can get out of sync with operating systems and Zoom versions.
Do you have links to that info? I've been studying on-line with my teacher for a number of years, and it's been while using a Logitech camera. That was the camera that I saw written up as the best to use for on-line. Something seems off but I may be wrong, which is why I'm interested in seeing what was written. For example, a person may experience an effect, but attribute it to the wrong cause. There are a lot of parts working together when lessons are streamed back and forth.

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Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by Forest_Hills_Daddy
I did a Google search and some links warned against using Logitech cameras because the software allegedly can get out of sync with operating systems and Zoom versions.
Do you have links to that info? I've been studying on-line with my teacher for a number of years, and it's been while using a Logitech camera. That was the camera that I saw written up as the best to use for on-line. Something seems off but I may be wrong, which is why I'm interested in seeing what was written. For example, a person may experience an effect, but attribute it to the wrong cause. There are a lot of parts working together when lessons are streamed back and forth.

Here's an example:

https://tencomputer.com/fixed-logitech-camera-not-working-on-windows-10/

Yes, I see the case about many parts working together - I had the same issue with my printer. I was hoping for the camera to get something that is more plug and play.

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Hard to tell. That article is about Windows 10 and there is no date. I had a sudden upgrade to Windows 10 a couple of years ago and had to do some scrambles with hardware that had been created before its existence. I think I did a Win10 scramble for the camera as well. However, that is not related to things like Zoom.

I'm thinking it may be good is to post your question in the digital piano forum, even if you don't have a digital piano, because those are the folks who are savvy about technology. A lot of the teachers here are actually scrambling to catch up to these things themselves. The ABF (Adult "beginner" forum) has students who have gone virtual or who are virtual. The piano tech forum, where you first posted, was wrong, since they generally deal with the physical side of acoustic pianos.

I use a Logitech camera. It was plug & play. I use a separate microphone for my voice, but since I have a DP anything else I do won't help you.

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Hugh Sung has made two videos (sponsored by Cunningham Pianos) about what a _teacher_ can use for Zoom (or other software platforms) lessons. The first one uses some "price-no-object" equipment; the second one is dedicated to gear that most people can afford. The videos are on YouTube, and sponsored by Cunningham Pianos

He deals with acoustic pianos, not DP's. IMHO, what a teacher needs, is about the same as what a student needs.

Go to YouTube.com, search for:

hugh sung cunningham zoom

You can get by with a smartphone. One problem is that, for good audio quality, you must turn on "Original Sound" inside Zoom:

. . . I'm pretty sure that most smartphone Zoom software doesn't include that option.

An ideal setup will have something like:

.. . a microphone for the piano;

. . . a microphone for the student's voice;

. . . at least one camera (ideally two) for the student's hands.

The Logitech C920 series of webcams (there are several models) is industry-standard for "good webcam". I wouldn't worry about that model.

There is also software ("DroidCam" for Android, something else for Apple) that lets you use a smartphone as a webcam, with a USB connection to a computer. I've tested it, it seems to work OK.

Hugh Sung's videos are a good place to start, and very likely, you won't have to go any further.

Please report back, and tell us (students and teachers) how things work out -- thanks!

PS -- Oh my -- there are 4 videos . . . lots to watch!

Last edited by Charles Cohen; 12/13/20 10:29 PM.

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Zoom on the phone doesn't include the option of Original Audio. I use an external mic connected to a laptop. In my teacher's recent Zoom workshop (link below), you can get an idea of who is using a phone vs those using a different setup. The external mic I use is a Blue Snowball iCE USB mic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSeI5BqoTG8


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Originally Posted by Charles Cohen
"Original Sound" inside Zoom:

. . . I'm pretty sure that most smartphone Zoom software doesn't include that option.
The mobile app has it now if you have updated although I haven't thoroughly tested to check what kind of noticeable difference it makes. For at least one of my students, we found that using original sound made things worse (maybe picking up humming of computer electronics or something). Sometimes I need to ask students to turn off "automatically adjust volume" but otherwise, we just make do. The top of the top of the line tech setup is not going to be better than being in person. I'll spend (have spent) a little effort making things better but at some point it does become diminishing returns and we turn our attention to finding benefits in other ways.

By the way, Chromebooks are considered mobile devices in Zoom world and don't have all the of the Zoom desktop clients. At least one of my students has a Chromebook and it's adequate but for another, it's really terrible. I don't know if there are tiers of Chromebook or settings or maybe it's their internet speed.

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Originally Posted by mostlystrings
. .
...
By the way, Chromebooks are considered mobile devices in Zoom world and don't have all the of the Zoom desktop clients. At least one of my students has a Chromebook and it's adequate but for another, it's really terrible. I don't know if there are tiers of Chromebook or settings or maybe it's their internet speed.

A weak WiFi link might give trouble.

With "Original Sound", even a strong WiFi link (from the device, to the home's router) is just barely good enough, no matter how high the Internet speed (as measured by the Internet provider) is.


Things are better if an Ethernet cable can be run direct from the router, to the device. My guess is that _no_ mobile device includes an Ethernet jack. But most (all?) laptops do.

The "home Internet" just wasn't designed for broadcast-quality 2-way video.<g> Give it a few more years. . .


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Originally Posted by Charles Cohen
My guess is that _no_ mobile device includes an Ethernet jack. But most (all?) laptops do..

Many of the new laptops are so thin that they are not including an ethernet jack these days. My husband got a new HP 2 years ago and I just ordered a new ASUS...both are wifi only.

To the OP: do you have a laptop or iPad that you can use? Personally I much prefer the integrated solution to hooking up multiple devices, but if you don't already have either then it would be much more expensive to get one now.

I've just had trial lessons with a few teachers, and both of them as well as my original teacher said the audio and video quality of my iPad was totally sufficient. I'm sure it helps to have really fast internet.

If you do prefer to go the webcam/mic route, I wonder if you could go back to the teacher and ask for suggestions.

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Not a teacher here, but few comments since I have some experience with these topics.

Zoom is video conferencing software and it's also a brand of portable audio recorders. The second post appears to mix the two.

To get the best well controller audio in any video conference you can buy normal stage/studio microphone(s) and a mixing console that has XLR microphone inputs and USB output to computer. You can use also Zoom recorder for this purpose. At least some models have USB output and they all have mic inputs and pretty good built-in mics.

Zoom tends to be preferred video conference software for online music lessons because it has the "use original sound" option that turns off all the noise cancellation and signal processing meant for optimizing sound for clear speech. Turning off the filters is important for music since the signal processing tries hard to identify and eliminate everything that is not speech and it tries to make sound as loud as possible with as little dynamics as possible. Funny example is that if you try to clap steady beat over Zoom the first clap goes through, but after that the software detects the claps as some background banging and filters them out.

The caveat with "use original sound" is that the signal processing is really good nowadays. When you turn the processing off you really hear how bad the original sound on the other end is. You typically also lose some echo cancellation. So if you are using Zoom with original sound you should have some understanding of audio engineering. Mainly just put the microphones as close to the sound sources as possible, and far away from noises, and set the recording levels as loud as possible without clipping, and use headphones to avoid echo. Ideally have a separate mic for speech and piano or in case of digital piano plug the piano into the mixer directly and don't even try to record with a microphone what it plays through its speakers.

Wifi is generally not problem unless you have pretty old (10+ years) equipment. Usually the WiFi at home is (much) faster than home internet connection. If you can stream Youtube videos over your WiFi it's also fast enough for Zoom conferencing. Or the WiFi is, but your internet connection might not be. One problem with home internet subscriptions is that the upload speed usually is much slower than download speed so even if you can stream videos for watching you cannot upload them with the same speed. Only solution for this is to buy a faster internet connection.

Buying separate mics and mixers is a high end solution. One step down is to get single USB mic like AT2020USB or Blue Yeti. That will also give great sound but you might need to keep turning the recording level up when speaking and down when playing. I'd avoid conference microphones and portable speakers' mics because they tend to have built-in speech optimizing signal processing that you cannot turn off. Webcam built-in mics might do the same. But both of those usually are still better than laptop built-in mic.


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