Virtual Drum Circles: Navigating Tech & Equipment Suggestions

Suggestions for Virtual Drum Circle Equipment:

For this posting, we will use Zoom Meeting as our platform. We all also presume you have no knowledge on this topic.

Depending on your budget, we will attempt to help you achieve the best sound quality for online drum circles, rhythm activities, or any online meeting which requires acoustic instruments.  Here are some suggestions.   

As mentioned in a previous post Tips For Virtual Drum Circle Facilitation, make sure you set all your Audio Settings in Zoom to the proper settings for live music.  There are plenty of videos online that go over the process step by step.   One important step is to make sure you have the “Original Sound” turned on.   Here is a recommended video on how to set up your Audio Settings on Zoom.

Let’s start with what is Not Recommended:

Is not recommended to use earbuds with a microphone for both output and input:   Using earbuds for output (i.e., talking, drumming) and input (i.e., listening to the participants) usually creates distortion, feedback, or echo. The drums are usually too loud for the participants requiring constant volume adjusting. High-pitched drums will be brutal on the ears.   As the host, you’re not able to adjust volume independently for output vs input.   Also, when a participant is unmuted and has their volume turned up, it goes directly into your ears.  This is not recommended!

Is not recommended playing live instruments using only your computer, tablet or smartphone.   For the same reason as above--you will encounter distortion and poor sound quality.  In might work for a one-on-one session with more verbal communication and less continuous drumming. 

For better sound quality an investment is required:

One Recommendation is to use a USB Microphone for Drums and Voice.
For listening, you can use a decent speaker, headphones, or earbuds for listening (Over-the-ear headphones is recommended).   Low budget and an excellent choice for one-fits-all: Mackie EM-Chromium

If you want to get a great sound, it will require some investment.  You will need a microphone(s). We suggest purchasing one condenser microphone for your drums and one cardioid dynamic microphone for voice. You will need stands and microphone cables.  The condenser microphone is placed over or near your drum(s).    

You will also need an audio interface.  Do not let the words “audio interface” intimidate you.  It might sound technical and discouraging, but it is just a small box that transforms your analog signal into a digital signal.  Sound coming from microphones is analog and you need this sound to be transmitted through your computer, which is digital. The audio interface simply acts as an interface by plugging your microphones into the audio interface and the audio interface plugs into your computer via USB.  

Usually, the company that makes the audio interface will have videos on their website on how to set up and how to use with Zoom. You can also find plenty of help on YouTube. 

A two-channel audio interface is suggested. You may think about going with a 4-Channel audio interface which allows you to use a minimum of 4 microphones (if you plan to expand).  The advantage of having an audio interface is that you can easily control your output volume independently for voice and drums, and you have a separate channel just for your headphone volume.  Plugging  in *earbuds or headphones directly into the audio interface gives you control over the input volume.

With the audio interface, you also have independent control for your audio mic and instrument mic. You will want to achieve sound levels that you think are good to transmit over Zoom; there will be trial and error.   You can check your sound levels by using the Zoom option to “record” a meeting.  Set up a mock meeting with yourself, record it, and playback the recorded video to check your sound levels.  You could also check sound by setting up a mock meeting and ask someone to join the meeting from another room or location and ask for their feedback.  In Zoom “Audio Settings” you can record yourself for a few seconds with the “Test Microphone” feature. This gives you an opportunity to listen back to snippets and adjust accordingly. 

Microphones:  In most cases, using any microphone will help improve your sound quality.  However, with a little extra money, you could use a microphone designed for acoustic instruments, such as drums.  These are called “pencil condenser” microphones.  For the voice, a “cardioid dynamic” microphone is recommended.  Cost is determined by which make and model of microphone you choose.  (side-note:  Most audio interfaces have something called “Phantom Power 48v”. It is important to make sure the audio interface has this feature.  

Enhancing your sound with FX and EQ.

FX =Effects, such as reverb.  EQ = Equalizer, such as adding bass and treble.
Adding some reverb sweetens the sound and gives you a “recording quality” mix in your headphones as well as for your listeners.   DAW = Digital Audio Workstation.   A DAW (such as Garage Band by Apple or Ableton for PC) is like having a mixing board on your computer.  Requires a bit more research and homework to set up properly.   There is plenty of information on DAW and how to set up with Zoom on the web.   

Best Suggestion from REMO

Purchase a small USB mixing board with an audio interface built-in.  This is less expensive than purchasing two separate units.  You can have your FX and EQ, and control all microphones independently, as well as easily adding a device, such as your phone,  to stream music. Example:  Yamaha USB Mixing Board.



Single microphone or multiple microphones:

Here is a link to a YouTube video showing a basic set-up for an audio interface:

Here is a link to a YouTube Video discussing microphones and other equipment:

2-Channel Audio Interface:

Microphone for Voice:

Microphone for Drums:


We hope this helps.  Good luck spreading the joy of music and drumming!

***All of above the above information and the equipment listed below are all suggestions.  We recommend you research on your own, ask friends, and check out recommendations from forums on the web.     

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