Rehearsal room in virtual space

Date of publication

Video conferencing solutions, whether closed or open, are unsuitable for joint rehearsals. It is already difficult enough to meet the ONE together in the real room. But with the latency, it is technically impossible. Or is it?

It's good not to see the others for a few days. The ceiling doesn't fall on your head right away. When the longing comes, there is video conferencing software like Jitsi.Meet or BigBlueButton. But if the passion for music makes social distancing painful, there must be solutions.

Video conference and rehearsal room - Forget it

Looking at it is good. That's what it's good for. Playing music at the same time? Forget it! By the time the sound reaches you, I'm already in the next bar. At least that's my experience so far, even with the Zooms and WebExes of this world. Funnily enough, you don't even notice it in a "normal conversation". This damned delay.

In my old days as a rock musician, that wouldn't have bothered me for the one or other rehearsal. Most of the time we sat together and drank beer anyway. That works great via video conference :)

I have been singing in the choir for a few years. Rhythm is already a challenge at normal times. But it's definitely not possible with delay. There must be software for that?

Thank you Jamulus

Volker Fischer has brought a wonderful piece of free and open source software into the world: Jamulus. For exactly this purpose: mucking about together in times of social distancing.

The clients for Windows, Macintosh and Linux computers can be downloaded from the Sourceforge site. Admittedly, the UI does not win a beauty prize. But we want to rehearse and not look at beautiful user interfaces.

And making music together works wonderfully when the framework conditions are right. For your first steps, pay attention to the following

  1. A headset or audio interface (do not sing or play your laptop!)
  2. Better cable than wifi
  3. Fast server (green instead of red in the frontend)
  4. Get to know the user interface

If you take these things into account, it works quite well. You will find that not being able to see the other musicians is a bit disconcerting. Think about how you count in and how you deal with the absence of characters that are typically "no brainer" in the shared rehearsal experience. It's different. But it's exciting mostly because you can do spontaneous sessions (relatively) easily with people from everywhere. That's great and has always been great when making music together.

Provide own server

Jamulus is a very typical open source project. People do it because they feel like it. There is no auntie from America who sponsors the infrastructure. So if you want to do something good, install the Linux client in the server variant and make it available to the world for testing. Install a second instance that you can use for your own rehearsal room (which you don't share with the world). As always, a few parameters make the difference when starting the application.

The following links will make your life easier:

The smallest version of a VM at Upcloud, for example, is suitable as a server and currently costs around 5.00 €/month.

Short video for my choir

Not every Macintosh user is able to install software that does not come from the Appstore. For this target group, I have provided a "short" installation video (~ 8 minutes) that also describes the GUI and introduces the most important buttons.

Linux users know how to install software and I have no idea at all about Windows. You'll manage.

Have fun making music.

Update (05.04.2020)

The onboarding is hacky. Tools like Zoom clearly win.

Noticed:

  • Windows 10 users need the ASIO4ALL driver. You can get it here or here.
  • It was noticed that the local Windows protection prevents the installation until "More information" (I do not remember the exact wording) was clicked in the Windows dialog. The dialog then appears with 2 buttons and the new button allows the installation.
  • No matter how many times it is written somewhere, users basically come into the room with the microphone activated and immediately provide echo or feedback.
  • Muting yourself is a great idea and a boon to the ears. I then no longer hear myself. Here, "mute" actually refers only to playback.
  • A simultaneous video conference makes for weird surprises. It is better to run only one application at a time. Alternatively, run a video conference with a second device.

During the rehearsal, it helped us a lot to have a metronome running along. Here it would be helpful if Jamulus had a synchronized metronome as a feature.

Conclusion: It was a lot of fun for everyone and is a great way to somehow make music together in times of social distance.

Image
Jamulus in action

Jamulus Kanalmixer

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DeepL is a deep learning company that develops AI systems for languages. The company, based in Cologne, Germany, was founded in 2009 as Linguee, and introduced the first internet search engine for translations. Linguee has answered over 10 billion queries from more than 1 billion users.

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Stephan Luckow

Stephan is an open source evangelist and constantly curious about technologies. Thematically, his blog posts can best be summarised as "curiosity satisfied".