Updated: Jun 12, 2020
Starting to perform virtually can be daunting - it’s a whole dimension of performance that most of us haven’t had to navigate before. It can be tricky to decide where it’s most impactful to invest, since you can end up spending a lot of money on live streaming equipment. You might have to decide, is the camera the most important? The microphone? Should I just get faster wifi? Do I need to hire an interior decorator??
When I first started to livestream Tenor Tuesdays, I pieced together a hodgepodge of cables and electronics I had lying around that hadn’t yet gotten Marie Kondo’d - an ethernet cable, an old cell phone, a recording mic, and I dragged my entire computer outside, connecting everything together in what became a serious tripping hazard on my front lawn. After all that, I still managed to broadcast completely sideways.
Since then, thanks to the advice of some friends like the fantastic tenor Ethan DePuy , I’ve upped my streaming game and the quality has improved dramatically, but the most important lesson I learned is that it doesn’t take a huge investment to get it right, and there is a hierarchy of importance when it comes to the audience experience: audio, then visual.
As for my favorite equipment, I’ve had great luck using the Focusrite 2i2 ($159.99) audio interface along with the Samson CO2 stereo pair ($139.99). I also highly recommend that you invest in a long Cat6 Ethernet cord ($29.99 for 150ft) so that you can connect straight to your internet router...bonus points if you find an old one in your tangle of cords.
In addition to me, the guinea pig, I want to introduce you to another member of the Sparrow Live team - Meghan Gaudet. She’s got her masters degree in music production, technology, and innovation, and has extensive experience as a sound/recording and software engineer. She currently works as the recording engineer for the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, and as a software engineer for Berklee's Open Music Initiative in partnership with MIT. According to Meghan, audio quality is where you need to invest. While video adds dimension to a performance, audio should be your top priority as a musician. Investing in a good microphone (or two!) will greatly improve your virtual performances. Here are some of her recommendations:
Microphones: The AudioTechnica 20 Series delivers good quality at a low price point (remember: to record stereo sound you’ll need two mics)
Clip-on Microphone (good for solo strings/horns): AT PRO 35, $149
Interface: Audient Evo 4, $129 - Recommended by engineers, has great reviews, and includes built-in features for beginners like SmartGain, which helps avoid clipping (the static noise you hear when a signal is too powerful).
For streaming software we recommend that all of our artists use OBS - a free, easy to learn and use streaming encoder software that allows you to connect to our concert page and record your stream directly to your computer. OBS allows you to use professional quality sound equipment and pair it with your camera. You can add effects such as compression and reverb to enhance the usually less-than-ideal acoustics of a house or an apartment, and you can personalize your feed.
However, if the idea of learning new software sounds daunting to you - don’t worry! We have options available on Sparrow Live that take it out of your hands, and allow You to plug in your interface and mics and let us run the rest.
Sparrow Live is more than a platform; we're a support system to help you navigate the process in a way that will best represent your artistry. These are just some high-level equipment recommendations, but we can also work with you to customize recommendations based on your instrument, space, and what you have on hand. With a minimum investment in equipment and our guidance on how to run a stream from your computer, you can achieve professional quality sound from wherever you broadcast.
Start your journey back to your stage today by submitting a performance and we will be in touch to help you on your way to reconnecting with your audience and finding new ones!