My Equipment for Teaching Online

A few colleagues have asked me about what equipment I use for my Zoom teaching setup. Here’s a list, along with a few comments.


*First, a disclaimer that you can use USB microphones, but my gear all uses standard XLR connections*

  • Shure SM58 – This is the microphone I use for talking, if not for everything. Generally, a dynamic microphone with a cardiod pickup pattern works very well for voice, although I also needed an inline mic preamp (Klark Teknik CT1) to get a loud enough signal that was still nice and clear.
  • Other instrument specific microphone – While I can usually get by during teaching with good enough sound quality on my trombone by adjusting my playing position and input gain, when I was doing a lot of teaching online, I preferred to have a separate mic that I felt was better suited to pickup my natural sound on the instrument. This greatly complicates things, so it’s probably not worth doing unless you really understand what different mics do, input gain, etc. I found different, but good results using a few different setups – an Audio-Technica AT4050 Condenser, Golden Age Project R1 Active MKIII Ribbon, or even an Audio-Technica Pro35 Clip-On Condenser.

Audio Interface

If not using USB mics, you also need an audio interface (Focusrite Scarlett 2i2) that connects the XLR microphones to your computer. In addition to just physically connecting the devices, they also give you more control over levels, more options and, usually, better quality audio.


I never saw a need for open-back headphones until I started teaching online – they are a game changer. There are many different price points, but I like my Sennheiser HD 599.

Headphone arm/stand

Often overlooked is a good way to position your microphone. I think the best option at a desk is one of these boom arms that clips to your desk and can be positioned however you want it. I bought this cheap Innogear microphone arm and, while it feels pretty cheap, it’s held up for a few years now.


If you’re teaching online a lot, a second monitor is a big help. Exactly what your computer needs and how large of a screen you want may vary, but something like this helps me see music, lesson notes, etc. while still clearly seeing my student and whatever other resources may be needed on-screen.

Midi Keyboard

I use a piano often while I teach to reference pitches, demonstrate theory concepts, etc. When teaching online, I find it extremely helpful to have a little MIDI keyboard on my desk, but this also complicates things. These do not make sound on their own, so it needs to route through a program like Garageband/Logic instead. I use the discontinued predecessor of the Alesis Qmini.


So the most complicated part of all is that I use a program called Loopback. It is, essentially, a software version of what a big mixing board would do – take various inputs, balance them, and route them to whatever outputs you want. This allows me to capture things like my midi keyboard, audio interface, various apps (iTunes, Logic, Youtube, iRealPro), etc. Technically, Zoom allows you to do some of this already via screen sharing, but Loopback is just so much more capable and makes for a much smoother experience on both sides of the screen.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please comment below or contact me!

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