Before last March I hadn’t used Zoom, or the meetings function in Microsoft Teams. Now I’ve done over 250 drum lessons on Teams, and a similar number of Zoom sessions. Both have made improvements to their services in that time, and the music education community have found ways to make the services work better for them.
The ‘Original Sound’ function on Zoom makes a huge difference, as it stops the drums being filtered out as background noise. It’s not ideal for students who don’t wear headphones though, as it also reduces the echo cancellation.
Teams is much less customisable than Zoom - you can select different input and output devices, but otherwise it’s fixed. Fortunately it’s a little more music-friendly than Zoom’s default settings, with the background noise filtering a bit less aggressive. The problem comes with automatic gain control on the input, and for some pupils once they’ve played the drums I can’t hear their speaking voice for 20-30 seconds until Teams readjusts.
Airpods are another interesting variable. Whilst they’re great for flexibility as the student isn’t limited by wires, they seem to do their own audio processing on the mic input that messes with the sound of the drums.
Overall, having started off preferring the extra flexibility of Zoom, I’ve actually come to like the simplicity of Teams. I still wouldn’t choose it for scenarios where sound quality is the top priority (Zoom’s HiFi for Musicians settings win out here), but for getting going quickly, and not wasting time having pupils poke around trying to optimise their audio, Teams actually performs well.