Jam Kazam (media) PC

mwonow

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Sep 4, 2005
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Does anyone here have experience with Jam Kazam? It's a finicky app that enables physically-dispersed musicians to jam together. Internet latency, I/O, and an external mic are necessary, and memory is important; everything else is pretty optional, as the app doesn't need a lot of storage or graphic resolution.

I had it working at one time, but tbh, it was always unstable, and I'm now locked out of the app, told that my aging if till stable AMD A10-baed Dell laptop has insufficient I/O (the external M-Audio device connected to a microphone has its own issues, but I'm trying to take these one at a time.).

Is there a way to goose I/O on a machine that is no doubt cluttered with junk, or should I simply move on to another PC? And if so, what should I look for in terms of specs/etc.?

FWIW, I am in Canada (so US supply sources aren't helpful), and Jam Kazam currently costs me $5/month (so I'm unlikely to spend thousands to support it). I also move between two locations, each of which has a monitor and external keyboard - so portability is important, but I could manage a small form factor non-laptop if necessary.

Many thanks in advance for your guidance!
 

Moosey

Mooseyed Farvin
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Jul 20, 2005
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My band could never get it to work well enough that it didn't spiral every song into a death march. There was just enough latency that it invariably caused each person to slow down just a touch and our tempo ended being super slow by the end of the song. We fiddled with it for about a month when Covid started before we just ditched it.

We were all on either mid range to high end machines as well, so I'm not sure it's worth it unless they really improved the ability to sync up effectively.
 

mwonow

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Sep 4, 2005
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Thanks. Did you find a better alternative for remote jamming? And, what kind of machine (PC, but also outboard audio) were you using?
 

Jimbodandy

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Jan 31, 2006
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We tried it Dec 2020 for our annual Christmas jam. Finicky is putting it politely. Of 10 people, I think 4 were working well together. All sorts of client-side problems. We aborted.
 

cgori

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Oct 2, 2004
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There's a set of (free) tools called JackTrip that do a similar thing - I talked to someone about these just at the beginning of pandemic but haven't used them myself: https://www.jacktrip.org/

They also have a no-PC hardware widget for ~$250 that can connect to people using the software, if someone doesn't have a PC/Mac.

Again, I haven't used it, just know it does something similar.
 

bob burda

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Jul 15, 2005
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Thanks. Did you find a better alternative for remote jamming? And, what kind of machine (PC, but also outboard audio) were you using?
I've been using Jamulus for the last two years, for playing classical music (often quite complex - string quartets/quintets/sextets). I had a regular weekly night during the worst of Covid for this, and we'd play for 2-2/12 hrs. About 2-4 of us liked it so much we kept with it, and we play maybe 2-3Xs a month. A typical session usually features a string quartet with one violin and a viola in VT about 50 miles from each other, the cellist in Westchester Co., NY and another violinist in Philadelphia, PA.

A friend of mine has used both Jamulus and Jam Kazam services. I understand Jam Kazam is a "peer to peer" network where you are connecting only to each other and then can play. With Jamulus, your sound goes into one of the many centralized servers, is mixed together and comes back out to you. The goal is to play with the mixed sound you hear in your headphones. I understand each of these systems has upsides and downsides. I have only had experience with Jamulus

Our experience has been that as long as total latency is below 50ms you can make it work...that is the "real sound" equivalent of people playing in a non-echo gym sized room with all of them around 60 ft apart (9 ms delay for every 10 ft). Not ideal, but totally workable, right? BUT...you have to learn the ins and outs of the system and the delays. For example, we find that short notes fool the server/system into thinking you've stopped altogether in between, so in bowing on a violin/viola/cello you don't let the bow "clear" from the string too much to avoid the problem. As you might guess, slow sustained tones in the ensemble work out better. Everyone playing has to have a sense of where the next beat should be and then go for it, rather than doing so much listening and reacting to what you hear (as you might normally...you know, like a good musician!). My understanding is that for rock/jazz, which tends to fit better with an agreed upon/understood groove, things tend to go better than with classical. My friend noted above does both, and that has been his experience.

Online ensemble playing is unique and a special test of your listening/rhythmic skills, but it is rewarding is its own way. Maybe it's a classical players thing, but a lot of us have come away from it thinking that much of our "real world" ensemble playing is too flexible with tempo, fails to keep time/rhythm in often unintended but permitted ways, and Jamulus breaks you of some of this and suggests you shouldn't be quite so OK with this as much as we tend to be. What I've learned from it is how much chamber music can also organically flow just by maintaining a consistent agreed upon pulse without so much reliance on listening and reacting. If you are having trouble keeping the playing from turning into an ever slowing mess, my sense is that this comes from players compensating in the usual way, and not in the somewhat peculiar ways that Jamulus demands.

Feel free to PM me for details/links on getting hooked up with it. There are some non-computer hardware needs that are absolute prerequites: an ethernet/wired internet connection (you can't use WI-FI), a mic that samples at 48Khz or better, and CLOSED headphones (pure headphone with no mic attached). Many built in laptop mics sample at that rate, and can be used to try out the system, but you'll want a separate devoted mic for more serious use. Your internet also has to be "good" - FIOS based, and with packets that arrive consistently.....internet upload/download speeds are different from this, and I think everyone's internet quality is different, and hence the "clent-side" problems that arise for some but not all, as Jimbodandy described.

I would encourage you to look into it - there can be many early frustrations and getting out kinks, but especially if you have far flung friends who are all set up and ready to play like I did, you'll get going in no time.
 

mwonow

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Sep 4, 2005
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Thanks, folks, this is great input! @Jimbodandy, I agree that "finicky" is a darned polite description of the experience. @cgori, I will check out JackTrip.

@bob burda, thanls sp much for your detailed response! I'm a classic rock guy, but my stepdaughter is a viola player, so I'm familiar with the different challenges (and will let her know about Jamulus). I'll send a PM asking for recommendations, but fwiw, I have pretty fast internet when I'm in the city, and reasonable (~60 MS latency, via Starlink) when I am up north. Hopefully, that's "close enough for rock & roll," as the saying goes. Certainly, a unified stream would be grat, though it would seem to be at the mercy of the slowest connection (probably me, tbh).
 

cgori

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Oct 2, 2004
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I would guess that the Starlink latency is going to be a problem, but it will be interesting to see what your results are. You might just be under the threshold where it comes out ok.

(Speed and latency are very different things, if that wasn't apparent already.)