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Skype or Zoom for online lessons which one is better?

Discussion in 'Double Bass Pedagogy [DB]' started by Les Fret, Mar 24, 2020.

  1. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Due to the Corona crisis I have been forced to give my bass lessons online now. It's far from ideal but we have to deal it with it. Music schools are closed and all gigs are canceled.

    I have been using Zoom now for two weeks. It's a very easy program and it is convenient that students don't need an account. You can send a link for the appointment through mail.

    BUT the sound is far from good. It is impossible to play together with a student because when he/she plays and I start playing along the sound of the student get choked/compressed or whatever.
    Also when I want to the student to play along with a backing track that he starts himself the sound get compressed and you get drop outs and a crappy sound.

    I was wondering how the sound is with Skype? I expect it to be sort of the same because it is also dependent of what computer gear the student is using but I am hoping it is better.

    Anyone who has experience with both Zoom and Skype? Any other apps/programs that have good/better sound? Really hope this can be better.
  2. juusokasperi


    Nov 1, 2007
    I guess it also has a lot to do with the gear the student has on their end. Laptop microphones are far from ideal.
  3. s van order

    s van order

    Oct 4, 2012
    Agreed. In rehearsing to play for a service to be held by a Rev friend, she heard dropping out of low notes on the cello C string using iPad Pro mic and Zoom, voices were fine. I later read that these mics are set for a 250hz roll off which might explain it. Also there was intermittent “watery” sound and higher notes clipping. Compression? I heard these phenomena when she shared the recording with me. I ordered a Shure MV88 mic and hope this will help. Any suggestions welcome. I FaceTime with my teacher and she is used to dealing with compression, etc. lots of visual checking of my playing. She just purchased the Zoom Pro service so we will see.
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I have been teaching my university students via Skype or Face Time during the last week. Either is fine as long as the wifi is strong. There was one student who was using his data plan on Face Time, and the video/audio quality for that lesson was crap. I have been hearing good things about Zoom, but haven't tried it yet. Subscribed!
    PBandJazzBass likes this.
  5. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    @Les Fret, I began teaching online over Skype a while ago, I'm guessing at least 5 years. Here are my observations, having used a bunch of different online platforms.

    Zoom: I think the sound is best with Zoom because, at least if you, the teacher, are wearing headphones, which is what I do, it seems to allow sound in both directions simultaneously. It's still not good enough for playing duets with a student, IMO, but it's the closest. Zoom has a free option, limited to 40 minute sessions. If you teach longer lessons, it just stops with a message telling your free Zoom session is over, and you have to reconnect.

    FaceTime: My favorite. As with many things Apple, the integration and ease of use can't be beat. When I have a student call me, I can pick up on my phone or either of my two laptops, and although it seems to only allow one of us to talk at a time, it's still my favorite.

    Skype: This gets ever better, and is perfectly useable, and it's been around for a long time.

    @juusokasperi, the sound quality has very little to do with the equipment being used. It's the old "a chain is only as strong as its weakest link" idea - the connection and the lag inherent are the problems. I have microphones that plug into my iPhone but I don't bother with them for remote lessons and neither do my students.

    There are lots of other choices, e.g., I used WhatsApp the other day. There is, like with most products, a desktop and a mobile version, but you can't do remote video with the desktop version, only your phone. That said, it works well.

    I also use GoToMeeting, and that also works fine, although it may be my least favorite.

    And Google Hangouts is free and pretty easy if you use Google/Chrome/Gmail - we use that here, too. ("We" because my wife is a singing teacher, and she's had several lessons on Hangouts.) Google also has Meeting, which I haven't used.

    Facebook's Messenger supports video and audio and is also worth a try. On a mobile device, it's the Messenger App, and on your laptop/desktop, you can go to Messenger.com in your browser.

  6. Michael Drost

    Michael Drost Supporting Member

    Oct 16, 2009
    Grand Haven, MI
    Great advice.

    Here is another resource I found helpful. Jason does a great job explaining the in’s and out’s of online teaching.

    These are things I changed in my setup:

    Plug direct into router for internet.
    Use headphones(both student and teacher)
    If you can, use a microphone. There are plenty of affordable usb mics. I use a usb interface and can mix all of my sound sources into the computer. It makes for a nice online lesson experience.

    I use Skype and sometimes FaceTime.
    longfinger, Oddly, Les Fret and 2 others like this.
  7. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    Eastern North Dakota
    We just started our “eLearning” and one of our teachers while experimenting found these things help with the sound issue:

    When you are in a zoom session, click on the little arrow next to the mute microphone in the lower left corner of the window. Click on Audio Settings.
    Under Microphone, de-select "automatically adjust microphone volume."
    Then click "Advanced"
    Disable both Suppress options... the Persistent and Intermittent Noise options.

    Your audio that you send will be much better. Low cello range and high violin range were both markedly improved, as was overall quality. The drops in sound were eliminated. You get more ambient, background noise, but if you're in a relatively quiet space, you'll be fine. The trick will be to have your student do this on their computer too.

    I found that once you do this, those settings will be retained from session to session, so you don't need to do it every time you host a new session. You may want to go back if you do a regular voice meeting though.
  8. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    FWIW, we just threaded an eval of JamKazam here in TB/DB and it might be worth your review. It is probably a usable tool for teaching...

    Our goal was a tool to use for band online gigs or for jams or practice, which is extremely resource intense, so unless the very best hardware and other provisions are being utilized -- and distances are short -- there is too much latency for those functions. In my experience with it, teaching would probably be more of a musical conversation and should be ok with JamKazam.

    If I were teaching again, I'd probably be looking at more common multi-platform tools like Skype. I expect to be retiring my Windows/PC hardware pretty soon due to hardware/OS obsolescence and minimal online needs, and whatever I would use for teaching would need to work on a pad or a phone.
  9. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    Eastern North Dakota
    The nice thing about Zoom is that the only person who needs an account is the person hosting the meeting.
    Also for now, as an educator, there's no time limit for me.
  10. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    'Splain, please - is this something obvious on their web site? I had my students get the Zoom ID and I connected to them.


  11. The answer to this is the opposite of "what bow to play", it is which ever platform your student prefers.
  12. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Do you think Skype has better sound than Zoom?
    That's my main concern. Thanks for your help!!

    Also on the iPad I can't find the background noise suppression disable thing? On the desktop I can.
    The IPad had a little less latency than laptop and computer I noticed.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2020
  13. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Not completely. Also what the teacher prefers. If you have multiple students after each other it is very inconvenient to switch between apps between every student. So I want to keep it with one platform.
    longfinger likes this.
  14. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Let me know how you managed this please. It would be great not to have the 40 minute limit. Thanks!
  15. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    I have tested Jamkazam this weekend for two hours with my brother. It was a real PITA. Both of us have good audio gear. You can not really use it with wifi. The sound sucked with wifi. There were drop out sand even tempo issues. Both need an ethernet cable. Not all students have that. So not practical for me at this moment. If others have a different experience I would like to hear that.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2020
  16. Michael Drost

    Michael Drost Supporting Member

    Oct 16, 2009
    Grand Haven, MI

    I tested both FT and Skype and Skpye won the "better sounding award". I tested from my teaching setup to an iPhone. I heard the audio on both ends. Skype won.
    Les Fret and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  17. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    @Les Fret, I have used Skype for a lesson in a while. (I have for voice conversations, however.) So I don't think it would be fair for me to compare my somewhat "aged" impressions of Skype with my more recent impressions of Zoom.

    I try to do everything from a laptop/desktop, just because I want to be able to see something closer to lifesized.

    Les Fret likes this.
  18. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    Eastern North Dakota
    I believe I get an extended time and number of people because I use my school email that must somehow show I am an educator. I registered my account via school.
  19. nbsipics

    nbsipics Unstuck in Time Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 8, 2016
    My 2 cents ( you get what you pay for ):

    WAN Bandwidth and Latency: Both the instructor's Internet connection ( i.e. WAN ) AND the students' Internet connection can be a factor. Use "fast.com" to give you some useful statistics. ( do not put www. in front of that )

    LAN Bandwidth: Hardwired ( CATx ) to Cable/other modem is best. WiFi between WAN modem and PC/laptop/tablet? Huge point of potential problems there. Many variables. The above fast.com test might prove "poor" due to either a WAN or LAN bottleneck. Most users would have a tough time diagnosing the difference.

    Router/Firewall: If you don't have ANY hardware firewall ( in cable modem, WiFi router, standalone, etc. ) - that's a risk in my opinion, but I am an odd duck. Lesser-quality firewalls/routers will slow traffic down while it is inspecting the data packets that eventually turn into sound. But an unsafe connection is 10-times worse.

    Service Servers' Performance: This is based on the screen/audio provider's WAN and server capabilities. Everybody is getting hammered right now, and at different times.

    PC/Laptop/Tablet Hardware: The CPU, memory, and even sound-chips can make a big difference. You can have all of the above OK, but the last-foot hardware will not reproduce sound well. Not to mention any Firewall and/or Anti-Virus software that might be involved ( both a good idea, in general ).

    By now, nobody read through all this ( if you have a real life anyway! ). But screen/sound sharing WITH quality takes a lot of things all working right at the same time. At least raw bandwidth has improved a lot lately.

    I feel for ALL instructors trying to navigate this situation. Best of luck all!
    Les Fret and dhergert like this.
  20. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Yes, so many factors are in play here. It's to know what's going on exactly. Maybe we can conclude that none of these apps are designed for music teaching but for speech. So (musical) sound sucks on all of them??

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