Forte Teacher Spotlight: Stephen Borgovini

Name: Stephen Borgovini
Instrument: Drums
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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Stephen Borgovini is a multi-instrumentalist and music educator; he is mostly recognized as the original drummer, composer, and co-producer for the band Fun Lovin’ Criminals. During his tenure with the band, he toured the world as a signed Major Label artist Capitol/EMI/Chrysalis. His involvement allowed him to record and produce in some of the biggest recording studios in the United States and Britain (Electric Lady/Platinum Sound/Avatar/BBC).

He has starred in numerous music videos and his compositions have been used in feature films such as: Exit Wounds, The Big Hit, War on Everyone, and Netflix original, Billions.

He graduated from Syracuse and New York University with a degree in music performance and has been playing drums for 43 years.

Stephen is also accredited with a diploma from New York’s Sound and Music Institute where he learned the holistic approach of sound healing.

Through his lessons, Stephen offers teaching of all genres of music, as well as focusing on the techniques of drumming. Bringing his experience to the classroom, he prepares his students for every aspect of being a drummer in today’s world. He offers both Rockschool and his own “Freestyle” curriculums. With his Rockschool students he has had 100% success with achieving high merit or distinction results. His “Freestyle” curriculum is a customisable, non-exam based, real world prep syllabus. It focuses on a per student needs basis. For enquiries, contact Stephen on Instagram @borgodrums or book a lesson through his Calendly link.

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Live Performances:

Full Teaching Demo:

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Teaching Setup:

Forte is built to accommodate all different levels of hardware setup – from just your laptop to something much more elaborate. As you will see, Stephen is a 5 out of 5 on our basic to elaborate scale! He has invested heavily in some amazing hardware, demonstrating that Forte can support even the most technologically sophisticated online lesson studios.

Studio Hardware Inventory:

Studio Workflow:

The Universal Audio (UA) interface is a two-channel interface that integrates with the UA Console software. The Vanguard stereo microphone is sent through both channels on the Apollo Twin, which sends a stereo signal to my students.

The Console application allows me to adjust my microphone output volume and monitoring level. Both of these may need to be tweaked from student to student. The console also allows me to add inline effects on the microphone.

I use the Sonnox-Oxford Limiter plug in to control the output of the microphone when demonstrating on the drum set. This provides an automatic balance between my speaking voice and the sound of the drum set.

I chose the Hero 7 Black model GoPro due to its high-quality feed, aspect ratio, color, and exposure settings. But, most importantly, it’s HDMI capability at an affordable price.

Each camera Is routed to the LivePro L1 mixer using HDMI cables.

The LivePro allows me to switch cameras instantly on the fly, which I feel is necessary to keep the momentum of the lesson going.

The LivePro mixer is sent to the MacBook using an active USB cable, which results in a zero lag experience.

I use an Ethernet adapter going into my laptop to negate WiFi inconsistencies.

The 3 Godox video lights are LED. They cover the drum set well while not producing any heat at a reasonable price. They each have adjustments for brightness and color temperature, which is necessary to balance with the GoPro cameras.

The wireless Magic Mouse allows me to control my computer from my drum set.
This gives me the ability to access all of Forte’s functions without having to leave the drum set. It’s especially handy for accessing Forte’s recording function during a lesson. The mouse also allows me to adjust microphone and headphone levels through the UA Console application from the drum set.

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Why did you try Forte, and why do you still use it?
Forte was suggested to me by a friend and colleague here in Kuala Lumpur. I wasn’t happy with the quality of Google Meets and Zoom didn’t resonate with me at all.

I like that Forte gives the student a unique experience, in the fact that it’s music lesson specific.
Hopefully, students get a different vibe right from signing in for their lesson, in contrast to their day-to-day academic learning.

I still use it mostly because it sounds better to me than the alternatives. A drum set has many different frequencies and dynamics; Forte captures them all more clearly. I’m also loving the recording and camera flip functions.

What gave you the courage to make this big investment of time and money to master teaching online? Has it paid off?
Here in Malaysia, we were locked down for a good part of two years. When the academy I work for switched to online classes, I worked for about three months with just my laptop camera. It made teaching drums very difficult. It wasn’t fun for my students or me, and most of all, I felt my students weren’t progressing like they did when we were face-to-face. So, I started to look for alternatives.

Keep in mind that I saw this studio as a vehicle to improve my online teaching experience as well as an art project. During Covid, like most of us, I needed a project to make me feel like I was still growing. When I set out to do something like this, whether it be writing an album or restoring a vintage drum set, I’m never overly concerned with payback or expense. My goal is to see if I can create what I have in my head.

However, I did have a budget in mind, and I went a bit over mostly due to the cost of the cameras and surprises like needing an active USB cable due to the distance between the L1 and my computer. The payoff hasn’t been monetary yet, but it has paid off in other ways. My students are now progressing as they had before, and it’s opened me up to an international market for my lessons. I will continue to teach online since I now have students from all over. In certain ways I prefer teaching online. Being in my own studio I have access to all my resources and can access them quickly when needed during a lesson. With the camera angles it’s very close to being as good as a face-to-face lesson.

Did you follow instructions somewhere on how to create this setup? If so, where? If not, what was that process like? What challenges surprised you and cost more money than you wanted to spend? Was anything easier than you thought it would be?
There were no blueprints to be found.

This was something that I envisioned in my mind and figured out by researching and consulting friends. I knew I wanted multiple camera angles around the set and these would have to be quickly switchable in the moment. Keeping momentum in the lesson, as well as setup simplicity and stability, were priorities. There were tons of hurdles along the way. Things like camera lag, overheating, balancing the audio mix between my voice and my drums, and room constraints. The most monotonous part was figuring out which cables, what lengths, and power points. It’s a fairly small room with limited outlets. I wanted to have as clean a look as possible to keep it a viable workspace for my students that visit me at the studio.

Is there anything you bought that you feel like you don’t actually need? Is there one thing that you cannot live without?
Because we were in lockdown, I had to purchase everything online. It’s difficult to return things here in Asia so I had to do a lot of research before I placed an order. Fortunately, I didn’t end up with any part that I don’t need or use.

The L1 is an integral part of the setup at a reasonable price. It’s pretty much plug-and-play. Once you match the aspect ratio of the cameras with the aspect ratio options in the settings, you’re good to go.

The coolers are also a part that pretty much saved the whole setup in the end. After I had finished building and had everything talking to each other, I ran into the problem of the cameras turning off due to overheating. My first few lessons with the new setup were a disaster. Cameras were shutting down left and right. My students were confused, and I was frustrated. Some days I’ll work 6 hours straight, and digital cameras, no matter how expensive, will shut down if left on for long periods of time. It was something that I never took into consideration, and I thought it might sink the whole project.

I eventually got lucky and found these devices that cool down phones. I believe they are used for gamers. They were inexpensive and were the right size to fit the GoPro’s.

I attach the cooler to the camera stand and the camera to the cooler. The coolers allow the cameras to stay on indefinitely.

I also spent a lot of time trying to find a solution for mounting the overhead camera. I couldn’t drill into the wall, so I thought of hanging it from the backdrop curtain rod. Professional photography mounting systems aren’t readily available here and they can be very pricey. While surfing our local Amazon (Shopee), I came across an adjustable pole camera mount for a motorcycle. Again, I got lucky and it attached to the curtain rod perfectly.

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Book a lesson with Stephen!