Now that digital exams have become a very normal part of the graded exam process, it’s useful to know how best to set up for these occasions.
This article has been written for Rockschool on behalf of MusicTeacher.com by Leigh Fuge
This guide will be useful if you’re a student prepping for your big day, or you’re a teacher helping your student along the way.
The requirements of the examiner are simple. They need to be able to see you clearly and hear you clearly. For the most part, your standard laptop/tablet camera and microphone will be just fine, but if you have some additional recording equipment and lighting options at home, then you can put them to good use.
Most laptops and tablets have pretty good webcams bult in these days. Most are capable of streaming HD video over a video call which is perfect for exams. If you have a desktop PC, you may want to invest in a good quality camera.
Having a good camera will ensure that the examiner can see you.
Some cameras can crop a lot of the field of view, so if in doubt ask your local PC specialist for a camera with the best field of capture.
When setting up for an exam the examiner will want to see both your instrument and your face as clearly as possible. It’s also worth considering the space in which you’ll be doing your exam. If possible, sit back from the camera to allow you to fit fully into the camera frame.
Much like cameras, the built in audio features of most modern laptops and tablets is pretty good, but if you do have additional home recording gear, you can use that to your advantage to ensure you get a really great sound.
If you have an audio interface, you can set that up as the main in and out for the video calling client you use for your digital exam. This means whatever you plug into the front of the interface will come through to the examiner.
If you are using Zoom, you can use multiple inputs which means you could have one mic for your voice and another on your instrument sound source. Other video platforms like Skype are limited to only recognize the first input.
If you only have one input available, a condenser microphone in the room can give a really full and punchy sound compared to your iPad’s built in microphone, which may be fine for video calling family members but might not transmit the subtleties of your instrument as well as you’d like.
Lighting is not an essential add-on by any means, but if you have great audio and a camera that has good quality imagery then lighting will really tie it all together.
Don’t go splashing the cash if you have no use for lighting beyond these exams. But if you are planning to get into content creation for social media or YouTube, then it could be a good long term investment.
Lighting will just make the image look natural. Most good webcams will have some form of light correction but the issue this has is that the correction is done digitally which can introduce noise to the picture. Having good lighting at the source will ensure the camera is able to capture the best image.
You can get low cost selfie ring lights online which are able to give out enough light for most applications.
If you don’t end up spending money on lights, but you want to get the best look for your digital exam, try to set up with as much natural light as possible. If natural light isn’t an option then supplement this with as many lamps and lights from around your home as you can find!
About the Author:
This article has been written for Rockschool on behalf of MusicTeacher.com by Leigh Fuge, an experienced guitarist, tutor and journalist from Wales. Leigh is part of a community of professional guitar teachers offering guitar lessons to students around the world. Read more of Leigh's pieces relating to Rockschool here...