Online Trombone Lessons

Whether you’re a student of mine or another music teacher/student around the world, I’ve put together this info in hopes of simplifying your experience and maximizing the value of online music lessons!

Zoom

I use Zoom for online lessons because I feel it provides the best experience for both student and teacher (at least at the time of this writing). Some, but not all of the features I use include screen sharing, whiteboard, enhanced audio quality, easy lesson recording, multiple cameras, etc… I do not use other services like FaceTime, Skype, etc. for music lessons because, at the time of this writing, they cannot replicate these features.

Zoom Audio Settings

First and foremost, I highly recommend you use a computer for lessons (system requirements). A tablet or phone will work, but it won’t be the best experience. I use screen sharing and demonstrate things often, so the smaller screen size can be problematic, but, most importantly, you also will not be able to make the following audio adjustments on a mobile device.

I recommend all students make the following changes if you are using Zoom for music lessons.

Audio Settings Window

First, you need to find your settings window. The official instructions are here, but here are some ways:

In a Zoom Meeting, there’s a shortcut to some audio options in the corner by your mute button
In the Zoom client, you can access settings in the top-right corner
On a Mac, you can go to Preferences in the Menu Bar

Input Level

First, we need to set our input levels. Zoom normalizes audio input to bring down loud sounds and raise up quiet sounds… great for a conference call, but not ideal for music making!

  1. Disable “Automatically adjust microphone volume.”
  2. We then need to set the input volume to an appropriate level.
    • Make sure you are in the same position you’ll be in during the lesson (as if you’re reading off your music stand, etc.) and play something loud to make sure the upper limit of your instrument can be heard without distortion.
    • Most instruments are significantly louder than the human voice, so you will typically need to lower the “Input Volume” slider shown.
    • If you are using an external microphone/audio interface and have the ability to adjust gain, you can leave this slider at 100%.
  3. The “Test Mic” button will start recording for a few seconds and then automatically playback the recording so you can verify that you’re doing step 2 correctly.
  4. Once you’re happy with the input volume, click “Advanced,” and continue below.

Original Sound

Next, we need to “Enable Original Sound.” By default, Zoom has audio processing that cancels echo and eliminates intermittent/persistent background noise. Once again – good for speaking, bad for music! Fortunately, they let you bypass these features.

Checking this box will enable the following button in-meeting. Optionally, if you only use Zoom for music lessons and the “Original Sound” toggle seems confusing, you can just entirely disable background noise suppression.

Be sure to actually turn on original sound in-lesson! I recommend you click the arrow and select your usual input so that it defaults to original sound in future meetings.

Headphones

In my experience, students should not need to wear headphones in one-on-one lessons with these audio settings. The teacher may not have to use them either, but I always do just to avoid potential issues (echo, talking over each other, etc.). Many of the reasons people don’t like to play/teach with headphones on are mitigated by using a decent pair of “open-back” headphones – this style has a few drawbacks in other settings, but is great for remote teaching.

External Microphones (optional)

An external microphone, while not necessary, provides several benefits. Yes, they can provide higher audio quality but, often, the greatest impact can be simply the ability to position the microphone independently of the computer, providing more ideal positioning to capture your true sound.

More Logistics

  • Lighting
    • Avoid being backlit by bright light (e.g. windows) behind you.
    • Being lit from the front is ideal. Fortunately, I face a window while sitting at my computer, so I don’t even turn a light on in my studio.
  • Internet
    • Remote lessons don’t require a very fast internet connection, but they do require a consistent connection.
    • A hard-wired ethernet connection will always be more consistent than wireless. If it’s easy to plug in, use ethernet.
    • Wireless can be fine, but consider these tips:
      • Position your computer and router near each other
      • Avoid excessive wireless bandwidth usage (e.g. streaming video elsewhere in the house) while in a lesson
      • Avoid signal interference, like other network devices, between the computer and router
  • Device placement
    • I recommend you setup in a way that makes both Zoom and your music stand visible from your playing position. I use the “share screen” functionality liberally to display markings on music, exercises, music theory examples, etc.
      • For trombonists, that means place the device slightly to your right!
    • Whenever possible, angle the device so I can also see most of your instrument.

Other Tips For My Students

  • Supplies
    • The student should have a metronome and pencil ready to go. I also recommend having some sticky flags/paperclips to mark assignments, since I can’t do that for you!
  • Music
    • If you’re working out of a method book or something else that I have recommended/assigned, I have that music with me. If you would like to work on something you think I do/may not have a copy of (e.g. band director gives you an assignment you’d like help on), just quickly text/email a picture of it to me.

Shameless Plug

Students

If you’re a student looking for online trombone lessons, contact me!

Music Educators

If you’re uncomfortable teaching music remotely and would like to schedule a consultation, please reach out. I’ve helped educators with their setups for private lessons, K-12 general music classes, university level courses and more. We can discuss equipment, audio best practices, Zoom functionality, and more.

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