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AndrewCollins

Playing together across an internet connection

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I guess your Montréal buddies were speaking English. That joke wouldn’t work in French.

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Posted (edited)

Since my last post, I’ve been jamming on Jamkazam nightly. What a pleasure. Part of the fun is connecting with musicians across the globe and chatting. Sometimes we talk about our isolation and lost gigs, our bands, jobs, kids, spouses, gardening, etc.

 

Then there is the music we play. Sometimes not so good, but other times extraordinary, like tonight. I joined a session and there were my old friends, Mike and Mike from Montreal plus a guitar player from Southern California. No latency issues at all. It was almost like we were in the same room together interacting as musicians do, in a normal way. Amazing fun, and we all reported that satisfying music was played.

 

If only there were more traditional tune players out there, but alas. So far, it’s been mostly pop, rock and blues. I like those genres well enough on Anglo concertina with my pedal board for added expression. Also, I've been singing as much as playing. "Siri, get me the lyrics to Stairway to Heaven". It’s a deep well to drink from, but... no reels and jigs.

 

In the past two weeks I have had to download seven new versions of the Jamkazam app. and it seems like the experience is getting better and better. I’m glad that the developers are on top of things and making improvements.

 

I know, it flies in the face of physics, but Jamkazam actually works... sometimes.

 

Edited by Jody Kruskal

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1 hour ago, Jody Kruskal said:

I know, it flies in the face of physics, but Jamkazam actually works... sometimes.

 

How easy or not is it to set up (for people with various levels of computer competence)?

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It's more involved than just "install-and-go" - but certainly not massively complex.

 

The instructions here https://thesession.org/discussions/44856 are really helpful.

 

If you have a computer with a wired network connection ( ie not using wifi ), a microphone and some headphones - plus a bit of time - then it's worth a go ; as you can get it installed, configure your audio gear and check your latency.

 

I got it working a couple of days ago to a friend who lives 50ish miles away and we had a play.  We had a 20ms latency - which was very workable.

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Not a live play along, but may be of interest to some.  John Spiers, excellent melodeon player of Bellowhead and Spiers & Boden fame has been conducting an "Isolation Pub Session" on Youtube.  Each week he uploads a recording of several traditional tunes and invites musicians to play with him and record the results.  Then he edits all the pieces together.  A couple of days later he'll release a number of folks playing and usually another version with many more as more videos come in - on one I counted 25 people playing.  Here's the latest example:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7xb2GGupuc

 

 

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Tonight, I got on JK quite late, so I couldn't really play out without risking disturbing the neighbors. I just logged on to reconfigure my settings for my latest piece of gear, a new audio interface, PreSonus Audiobox USB 96. Works fine... and I got to jam briefly with a guitar singer from Michigan and a bass player from Singapore. WOW, Singapore! That's almost 10,000 miles away.

 

BTW, Thanks Frank. I checked out John Spiers' group video. Way cool virtual simulation!

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Well, finally. A real solid trad. jam on JamKazam. My friend Cindy Harris on autoharp joined me for a private duo session.

 

We played the English “Three Rusty Swords” aka “The Rusty Gulley”. Then a few American tunes: “Amelia’s Waltz” and the “Hog Trough Reel”.

 

Cindy was playing from Pittsburg and me from NYC. It was not ideal. There were cut-outs and latency issues and when we were playing ok, the slower tunes sounded best. We both had a good time though and felt like we had actually played together.

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Posted (edited)

Playing slow

 

Clearly, this is the way to go on JamKazam.  I just had another session with my playing friend Cindy and the two of us confirmed what we already knew. Slow jams are better on JK. Arkansas Traveler at a snails pace sounded really good, and so delightfully jaunty!. Same with Coleman's March and the other slow tunes we were playing. It seems that the disjointed and slowing down effects of latency are reduced proportional to the tempo you play. Our very slow performance tempos left room for improvisation and filling in the eighth notes in a most delightful and free manner. At these ultra slow tempos that we were playing, latency issues disappeared and real interactive music could be made. We were responding to each other in the normal way musicians do. Great music tonight, though played quite slowly!

 

None of the other platforms, either Zoom or Google Meet or Skype or whatever could provide this interactive interface. JamKazam is clearly the way to play together, even with all of its limitations.

Edited by Jody Kruskal

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5 hours ago, Jody Kruskal said:

Our very slow performance tempos left room for improvisation and filling in the eighth notes in a most delightful and free manner.

 

If you “fill in the eighth notes,” isn’t that the same thing as playing fast?

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10 hours ago, David Barnert said:

If you “fill in the eighth notes,” isn’t that the same thing as playing fast?

 

Not at all. Here is how I think it worked. Take Arkansas Traveler for instance. It's mostly eighth notes with a few quarters scattered about. Whenever I got to a quarter note, it was tempting to play two eighths. That's all. Of course I do that at at proper speed too. It's just that at half speed there was twice as much time to come up with interesting lines that would fill in the time.

 

It's fun to turn a reel into an air, and quite beautiful too!

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Posted (edited)

I had a nice JK session today with concertina player Graham from Chipping Camden, UK. It was his first JK session and it went well. As slow tempos work best for trad. tunes, we had some success playing waltzes. Chatting between tunes was a pleasure as it's rare that I get to hang out with these old friends in the Cotswalds. If Graham were to JK with folks closer to him, I bet that the latency issues we encountered would be greatly reduced.

 

Although is is possible to have latency-free jams with folks from far away... best results are often achieved between folks who are really near each other.

Edited by Jody Kruskal

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I've now had some positive experience with JamKazam as well .... a couple of very good sessions with a friend in west Norfolk ( some 50 miles away ) - latency around 22mSec which is pretty good. 

 

One of the weak points of the software seems to be it's ability to find other people to connect to ( I'm not really up for joining in with random jams with people ) .... but reading the forum posts from their developers I get the feeling they are struggling to keep up with the recent massive demand on the software !

 

Andrew

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Posted (edited)

Hi Andrew Collins,

 

Glad to see that there are others experimenting with JK. Carry on!

 

Tonight, my Brooklyn family had another amazing and delicious feast. After dinner I went downstairs to my studio and texted autoharpist Cindy Harris to see if she wanted to play... and the answer was yes, in 15 min. So I opened up JK and carefully reconfigured my audio settings and then my computer sample rates in (Mac) Audio MIDI Setup to be sure that I was at my best. I invited Cindy to join my session and soon she did. We spent some time setting our levels in JK for both voice and our instruments until everything sounded good. I’m playing Anglo concertina through my pedal board which gives me added expression.

 

What fun we had playing together on JK tonight! Both of us were at a respectable 10+ ms latency and the connection was exceedingly good. Almost as good as real face to face playing even though I’m in Brooklyn and she’s in Pittsburg, about 400 miles away.

 

Though it was good, it was not perfect. One interesting thing about JK, is that as we played, our personal perception of time was not quite dead steady but strayed slightly with minute fluctuations that required compensation in a musical way. I was constantly negotiating between the urge to forge ahead and lead... and the need to hold back and respond. To play together, we really had to listen in a very concentrated way and be willing to react in kind to these slight but constant adjustments in the tempo.

 

This happens in normal playing too, but not so much.

 

We discussed this and agreed that there was a special skill needed to play successfully in JK. A skill that can be learned and soon becomes natural and habitual. A muscle that when exercised, becomes strong and operates without conscious effort. A muscle that is deeply involved in negotiating this un-natural and un-musical ebb and flow of time.

 

For this amazing session that Cindy and I had, we were close enough in time with our duo to be workable though, and once you realize that you each have to share in the chore of compensating by pushing the tempo ahead and not be thrown off too much by the inevitable latency and slight but persistent delay, well, then it all worked out pretty well. Both of us took responsibility for keeping up the tempo and the music flowed well with surprising and satisfying results.

 

Following and leading became one. Delicious music with Cindy was played including interaction and sensitivity. We were playing slow versions of lots of trad, tunes including: Black Nag, The Rights of Man, Jaybird, Winder Slide, a selection of jigs and then we even spent time teaching each other unfamiliar tunes with success!

 

I think with pleasure of this ability to actually play with my buddy Cindy who lives so far away. Without this emergency, I never would have even tried JK. Discovering the power of the amazing JK is one of the few upsides to this horribly destructive pandemic.

Edited by Jody Kruskal

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OK, I’m ready to try JamKazam. I have wired my laptop* to my router (not connected at the moment) and tested the connection. I have downloaded the software and set up an account. I have not yet dived in and explored who’s out there, but if Jody or anyone else wants to try this, let me know, either by continuing this thread or sending me a PM or if you know my cell# (Jody does), call or text.

 

I am not available to play at night (my wife goes to sleep early and there’s nowhere in the house I could play without waking her up), but I am available any time up to 5PM EST any of the next few days with the possible exception of Saturday after 2:30 or so.

 

* This is what took so long. I have a 2015 MacBook with only two places to plug anything into it, an earpiece jack and a USB-C port:

 

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSBKldTgC6fNFBNjPqWsTy

 

Turning that into something that I could plug an ethernet cable into required not only buying an adapter, but installing a driver, and the driver installer froze the first few times I tried it. Finally, earlier today, I tried a work-around and was able to install the driver.

 

If I ever decide I need to include a decent microphone, or Mike Eskin’s iPad-based audio pre-processor, I will have to buy even more adapters and splitters, but for now I’ll use the Mac’s built-in microphone.

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Sure David, I would be glad to play with you on JK.

 

Cindy and I just participated in a zoom Augusta play-around as we were streaming in JK. It worked well enough and was loads of fun.

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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, Jody Kruskal said:

Sure David, I would be glad to play with you on JK.

 

Cindy and I just participated in a zoom Augusta play-around as we were streaming in JK. It worked well enough and was loads of fun.

 

Does any time tomorrow (sorry, I meant today, Thursday) or Friday before 5 or Saturday before 2:30 work for you?

Edited by David Barnert

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David Barnert, FYI, I go by Michael, not Mike.

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