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Being in a band while growing up is one of those rites of passage many people go through. Unfortunately it’s only a select few bands which break out of their local vicinity to experience nationwide, or even worldwide, fame and fortune. However, even those who only ever get a couple of gigs playing to their family and friends still get to live out their dreams, even if it’s only on a very temporary basis.
Some of us, myself included, aren’t blessed with the gift of music, so we never get the chance to be a part of a real band playing real gigs for real people. But even we can now accomplish this rite of passage, thanks to Google, its Chrome Web browser, and the company’s attitude towards creating apps and services just for the hell of it.
JAM With Chrome
JAM With Chrome, which pitched up at the beginning of November, is a Web app designed to allow anyone to start a virtual band. Using the combined power of HTML5 and Google’s own technology, JAM With Chrome presents you with a choice of instruments, a host of features, and the ability to play alone or with friends.
It’s not actually pointless, instead being created to show off certain technologies utilized by Google. JAM With Chrome “makes use of several web technologies and Google products.” Namely HTML5 — Web Audio API, Websockets, Canvas, and CSS3 — and the Google Cloud Platform — the Google App Engine and the Go Programming Language. Oh, and did I mention that it’s also a lot of fun?
There are 19 instruments available to play in JAM With Chrome. Each of which falls into one of three categories…
There are nine different guitars: Plectrum bass guitar, Fingers bass guitar, Acoustic bass guitar, Crunch electric guitar, Classic clean electric guitar, Distorted electric guitar, Funky electric guitar, Steel string acoustic guitar, and Nylon string acoustic guitar. All of these offer different variations on a theme, and are played by plucking strings.
There are five different drums: Standard drums, Brushes drums, Hip-hop drum machine, Techno drum machine, and Analogue drum machine. The sounds created by these drums varies massively, with the drum machines in particular offering ample opportunity for experimentation.
There are five different keyboards: Brass synth keyboard, String synth keyboard, Arpeggio synth keyboard, Piano keyboard, and Electric piano keyboard. These all look very similar but sound very different to each other. The keyboards are perhaps the easiest of the three types of instrument to play in Pro mode.
Easy Vs. Pro
There are two distinct modes available to play in JAM With Chrome. Easy and Pro…
Easy is, as the name suggests, perfect for those who aren’t musically gifted, or those who don’t really want to put any effort in. In this mode you merely move your cursor over the instrument and press your mouse button in order to make it play. This method works surprisingly well, particularly when playing the drums.
Pro is more for the professionally minded amongst you. In this mode, switched on by flicking the Instrument Mode switch, each part of the instrument is assigned a letter on your keyboard. Unless you’re a touch typist it’s pretty difficult to keep track of which keys play which notes. This method works best when playing the keyboards.
There are several features designed to help you customize your JAM With Chrome experience. The following are just the main three, though different instruments offer more…
If you’re struggling to get a decent tune out of your instrument then you can choose the Autoplay feature instead. There are four assigned to each instrument, each playing a melody as you merely change the note they’re playing in.
Switching the Metronome feature on makes it easier to keep time as you jam, but the tick-tick noise can actually become annoying and at risk of overpowering your own efforts.
The Tempo feature simply allows you to alter the tempo at which the Autoplay tunes play at. If you have Autoplay switched off, or are creating your own composition in Pro mode, then this feature will make no difference whatsoever.
Playing With Friends
Playing JAM With Chrome on your own is a lot of fun, but there’s always the feeling that you’re merely practicing for the main event. You can invite friends to join your jam either by directly sharing the link to your session or automating a shout-out to Facebook, Twitter, and/or Google+. The first three people to answer your call will enter the room and immediately be able to pick up an instrument and play.
This is where the fun factor really ramps up. The app tries to keep you all making sweet music together by changing key automatically, and the autoplay tunes have been created so that they fit in well with those of the other instruments. Unfortunately things get a little messier when you switch to Pro mode. But even having several people playing completely different tunes is entertaining, at least until your ears start to protest.
JAM With Chrome is an excellent app from the boffins at Google; another which manages to be fun while promoting certain technologies favored by the company. It isn’t perfect: an option to record — either audio or video — without the need to use a third-party app, would be great, but that’s me just splitting hairs over something that is, after all, completely free to use.
If you decide to JAM With Chrome then please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.