Can Musicians Play Together Over the Internet?

can musicians play together over the internet - decibel peak

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Can musicians play together over the internet?

The short answer is YES, musicians can play over the internet using platforms such as Jamulus, Jamkazam and more.

However, if you want the explanation you’re going to have to keep reading. Although jamming with other musicians over the internet is possible, it’s difficult to do well.

After reading, you’ll at least know how to maximize the quality of your online jam sessions.

Audio Latency vs Network Latency

Even today, audio latency is still one of the major issues with digital signal processing (DSP).

However, that latency has been significantly reduced with the evolution of the CPU. That’s great if you’re networking musicians in the same recording studio, BUT…

What happens when we’re trying to connect musicians all over the globe?

Assuming that you’ve already managed your audio latency, now you’ll have an entirely different problem to deal with called NETWORK LATENCY (also referred to as ping).

The amount of audio latency is dependent on…

  • The quality of your CPU
  • The quality of your audio interface

The amount of network latency is dependent on…

  • The speed of each user’s internet connection
  • The distance of each user relative to the server
  • The amount of users connected to the server
  • The type of network connection (cable, DSL, etc…)
  • The amount of network traffic

As you can see, there are MANY more variables to take into consideration.

Even if you do your best to optimize your end, the overall performance will be dependent on EVERY musician’s performance in the network.

That being said, even the best scenario will still produce noticeable amounts of network latency.

The only platform I think has found an actual solution to this is NINJAM which is made by the same company that makes Cockos Reaper.

However, I never said that playing with musicians over the internet WASN’T possible.

Keep reading to find out how to make it work…

Requirements for playing with musicians over the internet

In the hopes of maximizing the performance and quality of your online jam session, I’m going to be sharing with you my personal list of requirements.

I also recommend sharing this list with your other collaborators/bandmates.

Here it is:

  • Cable or Fiber Optic Internet
  • 30-60 Mbps Bandwidth
  • Ethernet or 5 GHz Connection

That’s what I recommend in regards to internet packages.

Besides that, you’ll also need to make sure that your computer is up to date (8th-10th generation processor or equivalent) and that you’re using a high-quality audio interface.

Just think of it this way… 

You pretty much need the same specifications as an online gamer.

I don’t think you need fiber optic internet, but I definitely recommend cable over DSL. You’ll also want at least 30 Mbps of bandwidth which can be expensive in certain regions.

Ideally, you should connect your computer to the internet using Ethernet.

Wi-Fi will introduce additional network latency GUARANTEED, especially if you’re using 2.4 GHz instead of 5 GHz.

The last thing you’ll need is a server and/or online platform to host your online jam sessions.

We’re going to be looking at some options RIGHT NOW!

Play online with other musicians using Jamulus

Perhaps one of the most popular remote jamming applications is Jamulus.

That’s probably because it’s FREE, but is it really good enough?

The answer to that question depends on what you’ll be doing with it.

If you’re just planning to rehearse with your bandmates, then Jamulus is great.

If you want to use it to broadcast remote concerts/performances, it’s probably not the best option. Jamulus DOES provide you with its own servers, but you can also use your own .

It has servers all around the world, so it should accommodate most locations.

The main issue you’ll experience with Jamulus is network latency (obviously). However, the application hasn’t provided any other solutions other than monitoring the processed output (not the direct output) which can be difficult to adjust to.

You’ll need to adjust your playing which will be awkward, especially for drummers and singers.

Still… I think it’s an excellent option to substitute rehearsals and it won’t cost you ANYTHING!

Play online with other musicians using Jamkazam

If you’re looking for something a little more comprehensive, then Jamkazam is the application you need. It leverages the power of P2P and DSP to give you the ability to…

  • Rehearse
  • Jam
  • Collaborate
  • Record
  • Broadcast (audio/video)

If Jamulus and OBS had a child… It would look like Jamkazam.

With that kind of infrastructure, streaming remote concerts/performances and teaching remotely becomes possible.

Jamkazam also supports VST/AU plugins and believe it or not… MIDI!!

That makes it a really powerful tool for collaborating on remote recording sessions.

In other words, you can route Jamkazam’s output into your DAW as if it were an input on your audio interface. Think of it as a virtual mixing console.

Being loaded with all these features though, you know it has a price!

You can easily try it out for FREE with a maximum session length of 1 hour and a monthly allocation of 4 hours.

That may be suitable for most, but Jamkazam also offers more to users interested in integrating this tool into their workflow. They’ve got pretty affordable monthly rates considering what you’re getting.

Play online with other musicians using NINJAM

I think NINJAM has provided the most logical solution to network latency. Instead of fighting the latency, they’ve decided to work with it by making it musical!

What that means is the latency/delay is quantized into musical units of measure and buffered.

The party selects the optimal delay time (usually in beats) and accommodates their rehearsal to fit that variable. In other words, everyone will be playing one beat behind, but it’ll sound in time.

Of course, it’ll take some adjustment… BUT it’ll result in perfect synchronization.

It’ll also serve as an excellent musical exercise for your entire band!

NINJAM actually comes with Cockos Reaper because they’re the ones who created it. It can be integrated into your DAW in the form of a plug-in or it can be used as its own standalone application if you don’t use Reaper.

If your internet connection isn’t the best, NINJAM is the perfect alternative.

It makes it possible for EVERYONE to play remotely while cleverly overcoming latency.

Summary: Can Musicians Play Together Over the Internet

Does playing with other musicians over the internet still sound appealing?

Well, it’s pretty neat considering that this is only the beginning. However, the only way for the situation to get better would be with an improvement in the infrastructure.

In other words, the internet itself needs to get better.

Online gaming is much easier because it doesn’t need to be perfectly synchronized, but music is much more susceptible to even a few seconds of network latency.

The only platform that has cleverly overcome this is NINJAM.

So, which platforms have you been using to play online with other musicians? Is there a platform that you feel needs to be added to this list? Which solutions have you come up with?

Let us know in the comments and feel free to ask me any questions there as well!

Thanks for reading, now get out of the house and go play with some REAL musicians!

Sources:

https://jamulus.io/

https://jamkazam.com/

https://www.cockos.com/ninjam/

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