by Vince Wilcox
In our experience, Discover Worship members tend to be a little older and a little technophobic. We know this because several years ago our customer surveys reported that hardly any of you were on Facebook. But now look at you! The vast majority of you regularly check your page for pictures of your kids and grandkids. You’re using social media as well as previewing and downloading your music from our website. Way to go!
In today's blog, we want to introduce you to another online application you can easily master: Zoom.
Zoom is a computer application (like Skype, FaceTime, and Microsoft Teams) that uses your laptop’s camera and microphone to let you host real-time, interactive video meetings with friends, family, and colleagues. You can sign up for a free Zoom membership for meetings that include up to 100 people that last up to 40 minutes. If you want to go longer (up to 24 hours!), you can purchase a plan that includes 1 GB of memory to let you record and replay your meetings for only $15/month. Because of social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses and ministries are using Zoom frequently for team meetings. Click here for a helpful article from businessinsider.com about Zoom basics.
Have you considered using Zoom for a choir event? Here are three creative ideas:
#1 Host a Zoom Video Choir Fellowship
One of the best things about music ministry is the fellowship! For most of us, it’s been several months since we hung out with the folks we rehearse and worship with. Why not schedule a Zoom get-together at the time and day when you’d normally have choir rehearsal? Ask someone to prepare a short devotion, others to share family updates and prayer requests, and everyone to bring something fun and yummy to eat as if it were a real get-together. Send the invitations in advance and begin and end on time! If it works well, then consider doing it again soon.
#2 Host a Zoom Video Choir Rehearsal
At the outset, let's acknowledge there are real limitations to an online choir rehearsal. Because of unavoidable signal delays, it's technically impossible for everyone to sing and be heard simultaneously. You can cover the basics of rhythm and pitch to learn a song; but once you move into dynamics and phrasing, people really need to be singing as a group for real benefit. So, think of a Zoom rehearsal more like an enhanced "sectional" than a full rehearsal experience.
That said, you can use Zoom to help your choir brush up on some favorites and introduce new music. For your first online rehearsal, we suggest you only focus on three songs. Email the PDF’s and an mp3 demo of each song to each choir member and ask them to print out the sheets and listen to the music prior to the start of the rehearsal. If you’re a Discover Worship member, your license entitles you to make these copies. If you’re not, click here to find out how to join.
Before you start your meeting, you'll want to make some setting changes in Zoom to maximize sound quality for music. Open your Zoom meeting and click "Join with Video" and choose "Computer Audio" (unless you have a more sophisticated microphone setup). Look for the microphone icon and chose "Audio Settings" and then turn off the "Automatically Adjust Volume" checkbox so you can manually adjust your audio level so that it doesn't distort. Then click the "Advanced" icon in the lower right hand corner of the dialogue box and click ON the box marked "Show In-Meeting Option to Enable Original Sound Option from Microphone" and then Disable the two options that "Suppress Persistent Background Noise" and "Suppress Immediate Background Noise." Doing this will reduce the processing that Zoom automatically does and will result in a more natural musical sound. If the above seemed incomprehensible, then click here for a simple YouTube explanation.
At the beginning of your virtual rehearsal, instruct the virtual participants to mute their microphones (or you can do it as the host) and then sing along with their highlighted parts as you and your accompanist take them through each piece. As in a regular rehearsal, the choir director can proceed a measure at a time and focus on potential problem areas. By starting with a familiar song, everyone can get comfortable with the virtual format. Then the choir director can introduce a new piece or two in preparation for when the whole congregation will be able to worship together again! If you're really ambitious, consider having in a competent bass, tenor, alto, and soprano singer in the choir room with you (appropriately socially distanced, of course) so that you can demonstrate how their parts fit together.
#3 Record a Zoom Choir Performance
Most of us have seen “virtual choirs” performing some amazing pieces on YouTube. You need to know that these clips involve significant production “sleight of hand.” There are a lot of different ways to do this, but here's the easiest method we've found:
Each singer is sent an accompaniment track and is instructed to record themselves singing his or her part (typically on a cellphone). The video/audio is then uploaded to a DropBox or Cloud address (emailing videos can be problematic) and an editor lifts off the audio and mixes the vocals together (in GarageBand or ProTools) into a single group performance. Then, all the singers gather together in a Zoom video conference to record a lip-synched video that matches their group audio. During that step, the video host plays the group audio and the conference participants all have their microphones on mute. Make sense?
So yeah, you’ll need a tech geek with some mad editing skills. But if you have someone with the expertise and software, you could try this and then feature it as part of your streamed Sunday morning service. If you do, email us the link and we might feature it in our Weekly Update!
If you’re new to Zoom, here are some Tips for Successful Online Meetings:
- The app gives you the choice to either Schedule a Meeting by sending invitations sometime in advance or to Host a Meeting by sending invitations to your live meeting.
- In the invitation set up, you’ll have Options for passwords, video, audio, and entering the meeting. Click here to view helpful Zoom tutorials.
- You’ll want to practice several times with a few people to get the hang of things before you host an important event.
- Choose Gallery View and you’ll be able to see all of your participants in a checkerboard of columns and rows. Otherwise, their images will be in a line across the top of your page.
- To look your best (and avoid having the camera shooting right up your nose!) set your laptop or cell phone at eye level, even if that means putting it on top on some books.
- Likewise, don’t sit with your back to a window or bright light source or you’ll show up in silhouette. The best practice is to have several indirect/natural light sources. If the only light comes from your computer screen, then you’ll appear a ghoulish blue gray (yuck!).
- You’ll also want to control background noise by setting up in a relatively quiet place away from barking dogs, crying kids, or the neighbor’s lawnmower. That said, if someone else is speaking, you can always mute your own microphone
- Let other people in your home know you’re on a video chat so they don’t wander by in the background in their pajamas. No, really. This happens all the time!
- BONUS: You can upload fun backgrounds for your personal feed–beautiful nature scenes, interiors of cathedrals, the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. So have fun!
You may have heard that a few Zoom users have experienced hacks where uninvited guests have invaded their meetings or posted inappropriate content. Zoom is constantly upgrading their security, and they are currently the world’s top video conferencing app.
Here are some related Discover Worship blogs about online resources:
- Where 2 or 3 Are Gathered in His Name (Online): 4 Ideas to Effectively Transition Your Worship Service to the Internet
- How A Church Music Subscription Service Can Save Your Sanity (and Pocketbook)!
- What Is CCLI and Why Should It Matter to my Church?
- 8 Simple Hacks to Help Last Minute Choir Music Panic