Online Session Software

Online Session Software

(Sorry if this has been discussed before).

In your experience what is the best platform to play trad with someone else online?

I’ve tried Zoom and it wasn’t great, anyone tried MSN?

Thanks
Kess

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Re: Online Session Software

Hi,
Do you want to play with someone else at the same time? Seems impossible because of the time it takes for the sound to travel to (the servers and then to) your friend’s home. Latency would ruin everyting.

However, you can find some softwares designed for that, I doubt it works well (it also depends of your connection) but you can try one of those:

https://jammr.net/
https://sourceforge.net/projects/llcon/

Re: Online Session Software

Both JamKazam and Jamulus absolutely make this possible if you are not too physically distant and have the right audio gear and network/internet configuration.

On JamKazam, I was regularly playing with friends 1000 miles away with 40 ms latency, and less than 30 for closer players. 2000 miles was more like 50-70ms and hard to deal with.

Re: Online Session Software

There are indeed several discussions about this. There are a lot of us (including Michael there) that are using JamKazam and Jamulus, which are both software platforms specifically for minimizing latency between people so that they can play music together over the internet.

The problem with platforms like Zoom or Skype, etc. is that they work on central servers, which are scattered around the world. So you might be talking to your neighbor next door, but the server might be 1000 miles away, making for a 2000 mile round trip. On top of that, they are not optimized for latency, nor are they optimized for audio quality for music. Zoom does all sorts of audio processing, to remove any echos or feedback. That’s why you can join a meeting with your built in speakers and microphone and don’t need to wear a headset. It just quashes all the sound that came out of your speakers, and keeps it from transmitting that through your mic again. But at the same time, it tends to recognize sustained notes as some sort of feedback that it needs to quash as well. There are some settings in Zoom that let you get around this, but it still doesn’t help with latency. This is why most "Zoom sessions" are done with everyone muted except the person leading the set. So everyone feels like they’re just playing along with that one person, and that one person feels exposed, because they’re basically performing solo for a bunch of people.

So what JamKazam (https://www.jamkazam.com/downloads) does is starts up a web server on your computer, and then it makes direct peer-to-peer connections between your server and all the servers of the other people in the room. That gets rid of the big hop out to a central server, so each musician is transmitting and receiving directly to and from each other player. When it works, it can be really good. But there are some pretty specific requirements to be able to use it.

First off, most built-in sound hardware in computers is not built for low latency. The built in hardware on my MacBook Pro has about 12 milliseconds (ms) of latency just on its own. So most people need an external audio interface box. (You can get some small ones for around $100, like the PreSonus 96, or the Focusrite Scarlett). An audio interface will get your internal latency down to somewhere around 2-5 ms. You also need a microphone, mic cable, headphones, and probably a mic stand. You need to use ethernet instead of WiFi, so you need a cable that is long enough to get to a comfortable place to play. And you need fairly solid broadband. We’ve found that Cable and Fiber work better than DSL. You can’t use cell data, or satellite, etc.

Once you’ve got all that in place, the setup and configuration isn’t for the faint of heart. Their documentation is fairly poor at this point. We did write a little startup guide: https://docs.google.com/document/d/138vq1fEQOG7P2TKvHOz5tgmIT7rjG_UUOjUlUxevrhA

JamKazam is feature rich and powerful. You can configure VST plugins for things like reverb. It has a built-in compressor that you can use to make it sound pretty good. And you have a fair amount of control over people’s sound, volume, and balance. It also has built-in video capabilities like Zoom, too. But that just needlessly eats up bandwidth and processing power, so we don’t generally use it if we have more than 3 people in the room. But the fact that it is so full of features also means that it is kind of buggy. There are way too many ways to adjust things, and it gets pretty unstable with more than 6 people, to the point where it crashes a fair amount, etc. (To be fair, the team put a massive amount of work into it in the last 3 months, and it’s quite a bit more stable than it was… but it can still be frustrating!). But it also has a pretty miserable user interface that is feature after feature shoehorned in, and they could really use to consolidate and simplify the interface.

But when it works, it can be very very good. If you can keep the total latency between you and other players under 20 ms (which is about like sitting 21 feet apart, but without the sound dropoff from the distance), then it can feel a lot like being in the same room. I have a couple players that I am regularly under 10 ms of total latency with, and that feels great! I play with people about 100 miles away regularly, and it works pretty well. I have played with people 1000 miles away, and you really feel the latency. So it takes a little getting used to. If everybody pushes the beat a bit, and feels like they’re ‘leading’ the set, then it can be pretty good. But our nature is to sync with each other as closely as we can, but when you add latency to the mix, then the music slows down over time. (We’ve even come up with a word ‘eep’, which we use kind of like ‘hup’, but it means for everybody to push the beat a bit harder…)

Jamulus is another system (which Damien mentions above http://llcon.sourceforge.net/) which is similar. The difference is that it does use a central server, but one of the players hosts the server (preferably on a separate computer from the one that they’re playing on). So to the person hosting the server, it feels a lot like JamKazam, but to the other players it’s a bit more laggy, because the audio has to jump to the server and then back out to the other players, instead of going direct. But the interface is MUCH more stable than JamKazam, and it can handle more people. If we’re having a bad night on JamKazam and people are crashing, etc, then we just switch over to Jamulus. The user interface on Jamulus is much more simple and it does have some built in reverb that you can control. But without the compression, the audio never sounds quite as good to me. But it’s a fair tradeoff for the stability.

So it’s a wild, wacky time in the world, and I think we’ll see more innovations like this crop up that can help us connect as musicians! Best of luck, and if you need any help getting stuff set up, feel free to PM me. 🙂

Re: Online Session Software

thanks guys

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