Recently Fresno City College upgraded their piano lab and we finally had what every group piano teacher has been waiting for–the ability to walk up and down the rows of their students, and be able to remotely change which student you are listening to! Yamaha’s LC4 Music Lab system with the Wi-Fi kit allows you to do just that. There was no previous lab system at my school so I was thrilled to be able to acquire a new system, especially one with remote capability. However, in my opinion, there is just one shortfall. There is no teacher microphone on the wireless headset. Fortunately I have found a work-a-round that makes the system perfect!
In speaking with Yamaha Product Manager, Ben Harrison at the NAMM Show, Yamaha considered the option to include a pair of wireless headphones with a microphone, but they felt that the cost was too great, and the latency with the wireless system was also a factor. They also figured that if you were speaking to a student while standing right next to them, that they would be able to hear you. My experience has been that the students say “I can’t hear you” and they take off their headphones. The reality for me has been that an additional $411 fixed the problem. For institutions of higher education, this is doable. For a private teacher’s lab, maybe not so much. In future posts, I hope to discus other lab system options for private teachers and their studios.
I wanted to see the system work how I thought it could. I was willing to give it a try, and had institutional funding that needed to be spent before the end of the fiscal year. So I called up Vern Crews at Sweetwater. I don’t understand all the ins and outs of the system. I know just enough to be dangerous, and Vern was great to be patient with me and figure out what I was after! I wanted a wireless microphone system that would allow me to wear a body pack mic that would feed through the system into the student headphones. His concern was the potential for hum and feedback. After discussing it with his colleagues, they came up with a configuration that they thought might work. I got the parts and hooked them up, and it did!
I ended up ordering products similar to the following:
- Shure BLX4 Mic Receiver
- Shure BLX1- Body Pack Transmitter
- Shure PGA31-TQG Headset mic
- Hosa XLR Female-Right-angle 1/8″ TRS cable
- ¼ “ male to ¼ “ male cable
- Whirlwind IMP2 Direct Box
I plugged the male 1/4″ plug into the back of the wireless mic receiver, and the other end into the in jack on the direct box. The direct box has a mic jack on the other end that the Hosa cable plugs into. The other end of the Hosa cable is an 1/8″ jack that plugs into the microphone jack of the teacher box. Initially I ordered the clip-on lavalier mic. However, I found that I had to have my chin to my chest so the mic was right in front of my mouth for students to be able to hear me. So I returned it for a headset lavalier.
Just a couple of other pointers with the iPad:
One other thing that I have noticed is that you must change the Auto lock settings on the iPad for the screen timeout. If you don’t, when you hit the home button to wake the iPad, the selected student piano will be deselected, and you won’t be able to hear the student. You will have to reselect the student piano on the LC4 app to continue hearing and speaking with the student. To do this, go to Settings, General, Auto Lock, and change the screen timeout option to a longer time. Also, David Love recommended this iPad case. It has worked out great for me. I love it because I can hold the ipad by using the holes in the back of the case.
Feel free to contact me if you have questions, or need more clarification.