Welcome to Part 1 of a series where I outline how I’ve figured out how to live-stream surprisingly decent audio.
Live-streaming has always freaked me out a bit, as I have only just recently gotten over hearing my own voice recorded, let alone seeing my face on video. But here we are, and I’m trying to adapt. In what we now refer to as “the before times”, I knew a moderate amount about recording software, how inputs and outputs work, and most of that knowledge came from the logic of how to record from a CD player to a cassette deck. If I figured this out, so can you.
I have done a LOT of googling and come very close to breaking my brain, and I don’t want any of you to have to go through that. So here I will offer up what I’ve learned in order to use some basic tools to have more control over your audio while streaming. Playing your acoustic guitar in front of your phone on Instagram is also totally fine, but since we’re all going to be here for a while, why not try out some other options?
Part 1: Basic Streaming To Instagram Live
Going live on Instagram is probably the simplest and easiest way to stream things to your friends and the folks that follow you. But what happens if you don’t have an acoustic instrument, or that’s just not what you want to play? What if you don’t want to play an instrument at all and you just want your voice to sound decent? Well, turns out you can plug external audio devices into your phone, and Instagram will pick up THAT instead! Wild! Below is the way that I originally set things up to make that happen for me. If you “know what you’re doing” with audio and think these instructions sound absurd, keep it to yourself unless you want to walk us through an alternative in the comments. Cool? Cool.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A new-ish iPhone or just a phone whose power jack is also the headphone jack. I haven’t tried this on an older phone that has a separate headphone jack. I don’t think it’ll work on that, but I honestly just don’t know. Try it!
- A computer with a DAW (digital audio workstation) like GarageBand, Logic, ProTools, etc.
- An audio interface for your computer like this one
- Cables to connect your mic and other instruments to your audio interface
- Headphones that have a 1/4” jack, or an adapter to convert a 1/8” headphone jack to 1/4” jack
- A 1/4” instrument or speaker cable
- A 1/4” to 1/8” adapter (to convert your speaker cable to what looks like a headphone jack)
- A 1/8” to Lightning adapter (to convert the 1/8” jack to go into your phone)
Today we will review the easy version
Here is how you can get the audio that’s happening in the recording software on your computer to be what gets broadcasted through your phone. You won’t be able to hear that audio, but you’ll know what it should be sounding like.
- Set up your computer to recognize your audio interface. Every audio interface is different, so if you’re buying one and starting from scratch here, follow the directions that come with it.
- Tell your DAW (again, this could be GarageBand, Logic, whatever) that your recording input and output are both your audio interface. In Logic, this is found under Preferences >> Audio
- Using headphones attached to your audio interface, you’ll be able to listen to what you’re playing on your computer. You want to “Allow Input Monitoring” so that you can hear the instruments as you’re playing them without hitting record. In Logic, this is found in the Record menu up top, but once that’s enabled you can also turn monitoring on/off on each track.
Once you’re happy with how everything is sounding in your headphones, unplug your headphones, and plug a 1/4” instrument/speaker cable into your audio interface’s headphone jack. The headphone jack is just an easy way of saying “stereo output”. Using the adapters I mentioned above, plug the other end of the 1/4” cable into your phone. The audio on your computer should now be the audio on your phone!
It should look like this: HEADPHONE JACK <— 1/4” cable —> 1/4” to 1/8” adapter —> 1/8” to Lightning adapter —> PHONE JACK
- If your audio interface has a volume control for the headphone jack, that controls the volume of the audio now going to your phone. If it has a dial that controls how much direct signal or USB signal its getting, turn it all the way to the USB side. This means it’s getting just what’s coming out of your computer.
- To test this out, with the cable plugged into your phone, record a short video on your phone while talking into your microphone, playing your guitar, whatever it is you want to be playing on Instagram. Unplug the cable from your phone to listen back to it. You may need to go back and adjust your levels, or turn up the volume on the headphone jack.
- When you’re ready to go live on instagram, just plug the cable back into your phone, and whatever you’re playing into your computer should be what gets streamed live.
Again, you won’t be able to hear what folks on the other end are hearing while you’re streaming, but that might not be a total deal-breaker, depending on what you’re doing.
Logically, this should also work when going live on Facebook from your phone as well, but I haven’t actually tried it. If you try it, let us know how it goes in the comments. Similarly, if you use this general logic to figure out something else that you didn’t know was possible, please comment below.
Next week I am going to outline a more complex way of doing this so you can hear what’s being streamed while playing. Buckle up for that one, it was an adventure.
If this how-to was useful for you, or someone you know might find this guide handy, please share it!
This newsletter is ramping up to be a much bigger part of my life, with the ability to share more expansive and special things with subscribers and subsequently move away from social media as much as I can.
Substack has also stepped up to help a number of the writers on the platform with their Independent Writer Grants. I applied for one and miraculously they picked me as part of the group. Wild, right? With their generous help I’m able to have more flexibility and focus in the things I share with you here, and I’m incredibly grateful and excited for what that will mean. It’s great to see a company actively helping their artists during these times, which is both just a true statement and a slight dig at Spotify.
Huge thanks to Substack and also to my friend and fellow Substack grant-winner for texting me and reminding me to apply.