In this post, we’ll explore some best practices for how to send computer audio over Skype or Zoom. We’ll explore alternatives for using the computer’s built-in microphone for picking up the acoustic piano, and we’ll look at how to route internal computer audio properly for better quality.
To say that these past several months have brought tremendous change to the world of online music collaboration and teaching would be a gross understatement. Specifically, piano teachers everywhere have been scrambling and struggling to figure out how to connect with their students by video, and that usually means conducting lessons over Skype or Zoom. Along with that comes dealing with issues of audio quality as a result of using the computer or iPad’s built-in microphone to pick up the sound of the teacher’s (and student’s) piano, which never sounds good. One excellent method for improving audio quality is to send your computer audio over Skype or Zoom by using software to generate your piano sound and routing it through a third party app directly to your Skype or Zoom audio input.
Aside from better sound quality, another huge advantage of sending your computer audio over Skype or Zoom is that it will allow you considerably more flexibility in how and where you teach. If your family needs to use the space where you keep your piano, you’ll now have the option to use a small MIDI keyboard along with your computer in another room and teach with headphones.
Step One: Choosing Your Audio Source
The best way to do this is to use a software synthesizer for your piano sound. You could use a stock piano sound from Apple’s MainStage software, GarageBand, or any one of a number of free piano modeling soft synths. If you want your student (and you) to hear a truly beautiful sounding piano, I suggest you use either Synthogy’s Ivory Grands or Modartt’s Pianoteq 6. Ivory has been an industry standard on Broadway, and I’ve used their piano sounds for number Broadway and international productions. Modartt using sample modeling for less strain on your computer’s CPU, but they’ve found a way to achieve stellar results.
Step Two: Install Loopback
By using Rogue Amoeba’s app Loopback for Mac OS, you can reroute audio from your soft synths (or other audio sources) to Skype or Zoom and still be able to use your audio for speaking. The trouble with not using such an app is that you’ll be forced to choose between using your computer’s audio for your soft synths -or- your speaking voice. Loopback let’s you use both.
At $99, it’s not the most inexpensive option for sending computer audio over Skype or Zoom, but it’s probably the easiest and most elegant solution. I’ve been using Loopback to send MainStage sounds combined with other computer audio over Skype for online MainStage lessons and it’s been working flawlessly.
Step Three: Set Up Loopback and Your Videoconference Software
- Create a new “Virtual Device” in Loopback and give it a descriptive name
- Delete the Pass-Thru source which is installed by default
- Add the desired audio source by clicking the “+” button next to the sources header
- Select Loopback as your audio source within Skype
Using Rogue Amoeba’s Loopback can be an excellent way to send computer audio over Skype or Zoom, whether for teaching piano, podcasting, or collaboration. The major advantage of using this app for piano lessons is twofold. First, it allows the teacher (or the student, if they’re using the app) so send a much more pristine sound during the lesson rather than relying on trying to place a microphone on a piano and second, it allows the teacher to set up a space for giving online lessons which isn’t dependent upon the location of their piano. During these times when many of us are social distancing and our homes are busier than usual, this flexibility can be critical to finding a quiet place to give lessons. By sending computer audio over Skype or Zoom instead of using an acoustic piano, piano teachers can set up in a small room with a keyboard MIDI controller and a computer instead of relying on their family to be quiet in the living room throughout teaching hours. This has the dual benefit of sending superior audio quality as well as offering additional flexibility in choice of work environment.