How to get set up for Bass Lessons on Zoom

I’ve been teaching online now for about 15 years. I started out with Skype and have used all kinds of other video conferencing tools in between. The standard now, post-pandemic, is Zoom. (click here to book a lesson)

The problem with Zoom is also it’s great strength for conversation – it’s very good at filtering out sounds that are not human voices. For bass players having lessons online, this is a big problem.

Fortunately, they also include some options for getting better fidelity with an instrument. So here are a few things that are worth sorting out if you want the best experience of having a bass lesson on Zoom.

  • firstly, don’t try and use speakers. It is technically possible to have your amp behind you and use the built in mic while you listen on speakers, but Zoom’s echo and background noise cancellation will make the bass sound choppy if it can be heard at all. So your first requirement is to be on headphones.
  • secondly, an external soundcard is a must. This allows you to attach a microphone for talking and plug your bass in directly and then balance them to each other. if you’re buying one just for this, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a great place to start.
  • thirdly, make sure the settings are right. Here’s a screen shot of the settings I have in the audio section of Zoom:

screenshot of the zoom audio settings page, indicating that a soundcard has been chosen, high fidelity music sound for musicians is on and echo cancellation is off

screen shot of the audio settings screen in Zoom

  • notice I have my soundcard (K-mix) chosen for in and out, I’m not letting it automatically adjust my level, background noise removal is off, original sound for musicians and hi-fi mode plus stereo audio, are on. I’ve also turned off echo cancelation as it’s not needed if you’re on headphones.
  • Make sure there is enough of your bass signal reaching zoom – try it out before your lesson with a friend and check that you’re getting close to the top but not peaking. If you have pedals and effects, put those before it.
  • (added this a day late!) An external camera with a wider field of vision may be really helpful in getting your whole bass into the frame! I spent a long time teaching and filming with either the camera built into my Macbook or a Logitech one that was quite narrow, and it was always a compromise of either bass or face in the shot! I now have a Zoom Q2n 4K and it’s perfect for this. A super-niche hack that I use when I’m travelling is to use the mic on the Zoom as my vocal mic by running a cable from the headphone out to my K-Mix soundcard, so I can still have the direct signal from my bass but use the surprisingly high quality mics in the Zoom for talking.

If you follow these steps it should work well – make sure you have the latest version of Zoom installed, as older versions didn’t have all of these settings.

if you want to book bass lessons, see my teaching page by clicking here.

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