If you’re musical and you’ve ever been a part of a Google hangout or group Skype chat before, you’ve probably at least once thought “Hey, we could use this with our band!” hoping that you’d not have to battle traffic for your next rehearsal. And while the technology is pretty awesome for regular chatting, in reality it kind of sucks for music. This is because of unavoidable lag.
However, if jamming online is what you’re hoping to do then don’t despair. There are still a number of options you can try out – and they don’t cost the earth! Musicians tend to be rather a smart bunch, and there are some geeky musos who have been working hard on a solution to online jamming for some time. Lucky for you, this means all you have to do is have a go!
You Will Need Fast Internet
Before we get into the options, it should be noted that all services listed here will require broadband internet with decent bandwidth. No matter how you plan to do your online jamming, a crappy internet connection will ruin everything.
eJamming AUDiiO [Paid Solution]
The eJamming software is a little out of the price range for most amateur musicians, but I’ll mention it here anyway because it might be useful for semi-professionals and professionals. It really is good at what it does, such as allowing you to connect up to four locations together and record up to 16 audio tracks at once. There’s a free 30-day trial, but after your trial expires it will cost you $9.95 per month.
MusicianLink and JamLink Hardware [Paid Solution]
JamLink is a hardware solution to the online jamming problem, meaning that you and your friends buy a special JamLink box and use it to connect to each other for a session. They cost a bit upfront, but once you have the hardware you have no more costs to pay to use them (well, other than your regular internet and household bills). Sadly, everyone playing needs to have a JamLink box – even just to listen in.
Ninjam [Free Solution]
Ninjam is a multi-platform free way to start online jamming. It works beautifully and is really easy to set up. It allows users to set levels for everything they hear and to record every track. It does however have a few things that are worth noting.
Firstly, Ninjam hasn’t eradicated the lag problem. Rather, they’ve worked out a way to make it more workable by delaying people in measures. This means that unless you’re an organ player you’re going to find the deliberate-sounding lag a little weird. But, if you’re keen for a little improvisation it can be really cool.
There are many public servers for NinJam, some of which will be nearby (and possibly not very active), while finding more active servers will involve checking the forums. It is also quite easy to set up your own Ninjam server for yourself and your friends.
The last point of note is that Ninjam requires you to use a Creative Commons Share-Alike license for the tracks produced even if you run your own Ninjam server. This makes sense, when you think about it, as the software is under this licence and it makes it legal for all participants to record and use the recordings. While this is fine for random jamming, you might not want to use this with your band (unless you’re willing to share your work this way).
Online Jam Sessions [Free Jam]
Online Jam Sessions is a little bit different, in that it is more like a music-focused user-driven radio. Anyone can listen to the radio station or join in at any time, meaning that a form of democracy has come about where people schedule certain slots for certain kinds of jam sessions.
Llcon [Free Solution]
Llcon is similar to Ninjam in that each participant uses client software and connects to a mutual server to jam. Users can host their own server in order to get privacy for their band.
Delays are minimised wherever possible and a light will show you whether the delay between you and other band members is small enough to jam effectively or not. Users can label their instrument for the convenience of everyone and all players can adjust the levels of the others as they see fit.
Soundjack [Free Solution]
Soundjack is a slightly different solution again, allowing both a server-client connection as well as peer-to-peer connections nominally for use within a LAN. The lag is eliminated as best as possible and you are able to communicate via text chat while you jam.
Which One To Use?
In order to compare and contrast the available services, your needs must be considered. If you’re an amateur band wanting to jam with your friends, Llcon and SoundJack are your best options. If you have some money available for this, you might consider using eJamming or JamLink. If you just want to mess around with online musicians from around the world, try Ninjam or Online Jam Sessions.
Which of these will you be trying?