Skype settings for best violin performance?

Edited: June 15, 2020, 12:46 PM · I will be giving a violin performance to a hospital patient (a friend of a friend) this week. The performance will be over Skype, which is the only platform that the hospital allows.

I've never given a remote performance before, so I'm looking to for advice on how to setup my Skype. I have a 2017 MacBook Pro with the latest version of Skype installed. My internet connection will be via wifi in my home. I don't have an option to hardwire and I don't plan on buying any additional equipment like external mic or camera. I will just be using my MacBook's mic and camera. Given my situation, what are the settings in Skype that I should use to ensure optimal audio & video quality? Thanks in advance for your advice!

Replies (12)

Edited: June 15, 2020, 4:43 PM · It doesn't look like there is much you can do in Skype itself. I found one hack that changes the frames per second.

Skype (near the bottom)

Maybe the camera and/or mic have some settings that are accessed separately.

June 15, 2020, 5:49 PM · Honestly I don't think you need to do anything special. That's kind of the whole point of Skype is that it's a user-friendly way to do video communication without having to tweak a bunch of techie parameters. Your wifi router will have no problem handling a Skype session. Even if you are using a 5-year-old 802.11n router, that's still going to handle data at 100 Mbps easily. Your internet provider is another matter but beyond your control. The one thing you don't want is to have members of your family doing massive downloads, software updates, multi-user gaming, Netflix, Zoom conferencing, and other stuff that might consume a lot of local bandwidth. Try it with a friend ahead of time and make sure you like what you see and hear, that's what I would do.
June 15, 2020, 6:42 PM · Stewie & Paul -- Thanks for your responses. I have tested out both Skype and Zoom with my brother on the other end. He said the audio on Zoom was far better, but unfortunately I can only use Skype for this performance.

I think Skype (and also Zoom to a lesser extent) tries to optimize the sound for speaking. It does not seem to handle violin music very well, with our sustained notes and dynamics. My brother said that Skype would often cut the sound out halfway through a sustained note when the volume of my playing dropped below a certain decibel level. Skype has a switch in its Audio Settings to "Automatically adjust microphone settings". However, I tried it both on and off, and there was no difference in audio quality.

June 15, 2020, 6:59 PM · You're right that these platforms are aimed at spoken word meetings, not music. Zoom does sound better, and has the option to "enable original sound" so whatever sound your computer will make (with whatever mic it's using) gets through to the other person. You can also "share" your computer's sound, so it comes through nicely.

What mic were you using? Most built-in mics are not very good. You should definitely be using a USB mic such as the Yeti Snowball or the more expensive Audio-Technica 2020 USB mics (current model might be 2021, I'm not sure). With a better mic and the "Automatically adjust microphone settings" turned OFF there should be a big improvement in audio.

June 16, 2020, 12:41 AM · The Mac's built-in microphone is definitely not great, and having anything else running on your laptop while broadcasting is going to be a problem.

If you've got a camera you use for making videos, I would definitely use it in preference to the laptop. Or an iPhone.

Ethernet will be more stable than the wifi, regardless of degree of congestion on your network.

June 16, 2020, 4:44 AM · Ports to open in router
June 16, 2020, 6:56 AM · I take violin lessons via Skype using my Windows laptop. This may be obvious to people who are more audio-savvy than I, but make sure that the microphone's input level is not set so high that the signal "pegs" when you play violin (you can check this in Skype's setting). Also, don't stand right next to the laptop while you are playing. With all the microphone's enhancements turned off, my teacher is able to criticize my use of dynamics and can tell when my octave harmonics are not actually harmonics. Also, if you have use wireless headphones, this will prevent sounds coming from you speakers from feeding back and while permitting your audience to make comments that you can hear while you are playing. Hope this helps.
June 16, 2020, 1:42 PM · Yes ... sustained notes are a problem with both Skype and Zoom. YouTube might be better, but you're already committed to Skype.
June 16, 2020, 2:23 PM · Not sure why you can only use Skype? The person at the other end doesn' need a Zoom account, only you need one. They automatically download a piece of software
June 16, 2020, 2:46 PM · Thanks, everyone, for your advice! I do have a camcorder that I can connect to my laptop and change the Skype audio settings to use the camcorder mic. I will test it out tonight.

Darren -- I would prefer to use Zoom, but Skype is the only video-conferencing tool that the hospital allows.

June 16, 2020, 9:26 PM · I tried connecting my camcorder to my laptop and changing the Skype audio setting to use the camcorder mic. My brother said it improves the sound quality significantly. I think this setup is good enough for now. Thanks again, everyone, for your suggestions!
Edited: June 17, 2020, 8:00 AM · The sound changes depending on the device you use and the device settings in Windows, there's nothing you can do on Skype.

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