Singing + Zoom = "Zinging"!

A Potted History of Zinging

Only a very short time ago the idea of joining an online singing group seemed not only ridiculously difficult to do, but totally unnecessary! Our choir responses to the global Covid-19 pandemic
included a speedy upskilling of singers and choir leaders as we realised anew the importance of staying connected to our communities of song - especially during times of isolation in lock-down.

The technology kept pace with our demands, and the experience of zoom singing has developed greatly in the space of a few months. LIke other areas of our lives, things are changing and evolving rapidly, but in this case it's exciting to see the new possibilities emerging as people
the world over take up new tools to do what we've done since the dawn of time (sing together!)

A new group of folk entered our awareness during the lockdown sessions - people who have been isolated in their homes for many years, not because of a pandemic, but for all sorts of other reasons. They weren't members of our community choirs, but they were really keen to
connect through singing online. Zinging might have started as a stopgap during lockdown, gleefully abandoned when we could return to 'live' singing. But for others it opened the door to a whole new online world of connection through song that they want to continue. So for those people - the elderly, disabled, caregivers, or those of us who would just like to noho for the time being - the long-term use of singing on Zoom is a lifeline to community.

Singing on Zoom involves two little hurdles: singing and Zooming!

Let's tackle how to Zoom first of all.

Zoom is an online video conferencing programme. A "meeting" (in this case, a choir practice) is organised by a "host" (the song leader) and invitations are sent to singers to join. The invitation is a link that you copy and paste into your internet browser, and it's usually sent by email, or you might see it in a Facebook post or displayed on a website.

So the first thing you'll need is a way to climb on the old interwebs.... a desktop computer is fantastic, but a laptop, tablet/Ipad or even a phone will do. Ideally your device will have a camera (so we can all see you) and a microphone (so we can have a two-way conversation). A lot of devices have both camera and microphone built in nowadays. So, I guess if you're reading this, you've successfully mastered getting online! And if you can do that, you can go to YouTube too (see, click on the word YouTube, and it will take you straight there - I've been learning website development over the summer as well!)

Now, the reason I mention YouTube is that there are some great learning videos there, it's often the first place I'll go to research the latest Zoom feature that they've dreamed up. Point is, things are changing all the time, so I'm not going to suggest any particular videos for you to watch, try searching (in YouTube) on something like "getting started with Zoom" or any other phrase that you think might get you results...

All I will say is that you can either download the Zoom software onto your device (it might be known as the Zoom client, software or app, depends what kind of machine you're using) or you can connect into a specific meeting without having anything to do with Zoom, other than going to their website and finding the 'join a meeting' button. Now, having the app/software on your device doesn't mean you have an account with Zoom, you don't have to give them your credit card details or part with any money.

More than that - there are some limitations as to the Zoom features available to you if you don't have the software/app on your machine, and also if you're on a phone or tablet things might not be optimal (for a start, you've got a much smaller screen, so it's harder to see things). Also, all of this is using quite a bit of data/bandwidth interwebs-juice, and if you've got a limit on how much you can use (a monthly cap on your home broadband, or a specific amount of data you can use on your phone).

Most important - make sure you have the latest version of Zoom on your device (if you've installed it, that is). Now, go search YouTube for how to do that....

So how does Zinging work?

So, you've received your first invitation to a Zing. You click on the link in the email, and find yourself in a virtual "waiting room".... ah, you're a little early: "the host will start the meeting shortly" (translation: fun is about to begin, song leader is busy checking sound levels & putting on lippy).
Oh, you might get a prompt that asks you to give permission to allow the host to unmute you. Say yes - I'll explain later.

Once the session is open you'll see the group on your screen - a video of each person, or sometimes just the 'speaker' (should be your host, the song leader). You can change from 'gallery view' (see everyone) to 'speaker view' (see only the person talking), you can 'hide self view' (lovely - you stop seeing your own video, but everyone else can still see you - I find this very relaxing in a not-looking-in-the-mirror sort of way) or turn off your video completely (your video disappears for everyone). You can't turn off other people's videos, but your can 'pin' someone - that will make them into 'speaker view' for you alone (sometimes the host can turn this feature off). It's possible for the host to 'spotlight' someone - that makes the video they've chosen into the dominant or 'speaker view' for everyone (though each of us can still choose gallery view if we want to see everyone on our screen). Confused? Off to YouTube....

Usually when you enter a meeting your video will be 'muted', ie nobody can hear you. This is a security thing - you might not want to be heard as soon as you enter a meeting (perhaps the dog's barking, or your phone starts ringing, or you enter while someone else is speaking in the Zoom meeting). If YOU want to unmute (ie, be heard) you have two options: you can click on the icon of a microphone with a red line through it (it will be labelled 'unmute') or you can press the 'space' bar if you have a computer keyboard - hold it down to speak, and when you take your hand off, you're muted (silent) again. Now, the host can mute you too, whether you like it or not! The good thing is that if you gave permission at the start, the host can unmute you if you're having trouble sorting it out for yourself (its a bit tricky on a phone, for sure).

So onto the Zinging itself. Well, you'll hear the song leader, in all their stereo glory hopefully - a lot of this will depend on how well they've set up their sound system at their end, and on their Zoom settings - nothing you can do about that. But you'll have some sort of speaker at your end where the sound comes out, and you should be able to at least adjust the volume for your own comfort. Everyone else will be muted, so when they sing you won't hear them. And they won't hear you. But of course you'll hear you. And you'll hear the song leader. Voila - a duet right there in your house!

There are several reasons why we can't all be unmuted and sing together. Boring, technical reasons. But I'm working on it.... give me time and we'll get there!


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