Professional Development

In this article:

  • Sound adjustments to optimize Zoom for music
  • Zoom settings for teaching private lessons
  • Tips on teaching live workshops or classes
  • Integrating Zoom into Music Teachers Helper

Note that this article is being updated from time to time with new info, and your comments at the end are welcome!

Sound Settings for Private Lessons

Zoom was created in 2013 by two guys who left Go To Meeting to start up something better. It was built for voice meetings, the typical business use for teleconferencing. But there are settings you can adjust within Zoom to make it work better for hearing music.

Uncheck the option to automatically control volume. This is located in the Audio Settings once you’ve started a meeting. Using the up-arrow next to the image of the microphone, click on Audio Settings on the “drop-up” menu. You’ll find the automatic volume control checkbox right under the Microphone settings. (Note that this allows you to — and might require you to — occasionally adjust your microphone input manually so people can hear you better.)

Disable noise suppression. Before leaving the Audio Settings window,  [···]

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Guard your MFA, the MBA is invading! The MBA mentality, which today involves doing everything and anything to increase profits, is so revered these days that many believe it’s rational to install business people in government even if they are totally devoid of experience — or interest — in public service. Local school systems successfully argue they can save money through consolidation even though no study since 1980 has indicated that this actually helps any educational (let alone financial) goals in reality. Somehow, when people present themselves as knowledgeable about making or saving money, they become the expert we’re supposed to heed. (In case you think I’m exaggerating about the MBA nowadays, here’s a recent plea to abolish business schools by a long-time business school professor, and one in the Harvard Business Review about why these schools have lost their way — an older article, but little has changed.)

As music teachers, we’ve been hit with lots of MBA-inspired how-to’s — how to make a lot of money by doubling rates to winnow our student list to just the profitable ones, or how to make our job easier by requiring that students sign contracts guaranteeing our income and flexibility regardless of the students’ experience. Maybe you’ve run across other seemingly smart strategies that make you feel like a dummy or a softie if you don’t take them seriously.

Of course, we can all use thoughtful advice on making our businesses run smoothly. Music Teachers Helper’s motto is “You teach! It does the rest!” (It’s NOT “Let us help you soak your students for the most money with the least effort!”) Music Teachers Helper is meant to help us teachers organize the business part of what we do, so that we can focus on the music, the sharing of our skills, the nurturing of our students. There are many articles in this blog which seek to help give business advice to folks who may not have much experience in that side of things, in addition to the many articles encouraging better teaching and understanding of music.

Nobody goes into music for the money. And yet, whether you teach or perform, you find out pretty quickly that  [···]

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Most recording software allows you to see and edit the midi notes you have recorded with the “piano roll” editor. This is a simple and logical method of visualizing sound and adjusting it to the desired outcome.

The name piano roll comes from a technology developed in the late nineteenth century. Originally, a piano roll was used to trigger the playback of a pianola or player piano by using a series of cutout dashes on a cardboard roll which would tell the mechanism what keys on the piano should be triggered.

How to Read the “Piano Roll” Editor

Back to the twenty-first century. When some midi data has been recorded on a keyboard connected to a computer, the recording software normally allows the data to be edited in the piano roll editor. (Shown in the diagram is the piano roll editor from Cubase, a recording software product from a company called Steinberg).

On the “y” axis is the pitch. Logically, the higher the position of the recorded event, the higher the pitch. You can see that the octaves are numbered starting from C to B.

On the “x” axis is time. At the top of the diagram, you can see the bar (measure) numbers. In this instance, each bar is subdivided  into 4 parts which represent crotchet (quarter-note) beats. It is easy to see whether a note has been played early, on time or late. These notes can be recorded using a click track, which is a metronome that runs in perfect synchronisation with the recording to aid the performer to stay in time, vital if other instruments are added later. It’s an interesting exercise to see how well a student can synchronize to the click track to assess their timing skills. Of course, if the timing needs improving, all recording software will allow you to snap each note to the nearest rhythm line using a feature called “quantise” or by manually adjusting the start of the note with the mouse. As well as adjusting the “note-on,” you can also adjust the “note-off” either by “quantisation” or again, manually. As you can see in the above diagram, some notes are overlapping. I find it useful to show a student the piano roll, whilst listening back, so they can see where they need to improve. This has always been a very effective method of motivating improvement in their technique because they can not only hear but see where they are going wrong.

The final area I want to share with you in this article is the velocity lane. Put simply, it represents the volume of each note as shown by the bar graph at the bottom of the diagram. Notice how the volume of each note is color coordinated with red being loud, blue being quiet and the middle shades representing volumes between these two extremes. Again, listening back to a student’s performance will quickly help them to hear and see whether they have control of their fingers and a mastery of dynamics. If needed, it is easy to adjust the volume of individual notes or draw in crescendos and diminuendos.

Only Pianos?

Piano rolls are not just for piano and keyboard players! Midi drum kits and guitars are available to buy which will connect to a computer running recording software. The piano roll editor can then be used on these instruments too to see and edit note events.

2 Great Applications

Using the piano roll is a great teaching tool to help students hear and see where they are going wrong in their technique and a way to assess whether they are improving. Also, it provides a powerful way to perfect a recording that can later be converted into an mp3 file to share with family and friends which acts as a great motivator to students.

 

 

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