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How To Do Band Practice Online

March 27th, 2020

Yes it is possible, just about, to do music together online but no, you can’t use Skype or Zoom or whatever. At least not on their own. As you’ll know if you’ve tried. There’s just too much Lag

Music is all about timing, and not only is there a delay between you talking and your band-mates hearing it in those video-conference apps but that delay is even variable. You couldn’t compensate even if you could compensate.

But as you can see from the video of our first proper online band-practice here, it can be done.

The key is of course the right software. And that software is a little open-source application called Jamulus. It is not fancy. It is not all that pretty. It doesn’t do video. It concentrates on one thing: Getting that lag down as low as it can go.

You will help the software by all being in the same city, for a start. The lag half-way around the world isn’t going to work for anyone.

You’ll all want fiber broadband ideally, and ADSL or cable internet at least. The fastest you can buy!

Everyone needs to download the Jamulus software and install it on their Windows/Mac/Linux machine. Then everyone connects to the same server.

But which server? Aren’t they all overloaded because of everyone having to stay inside because there’s a virus stalking the streets?

That is the beauty of open-source. You can just run your own!

You want a server in your city, as close to everyone in the band as possible. We used an Amazon Web Services cloud server. They have compute centers in a few big cities, and luckily for us London is one of them.

If you can all use the same ISP it’s going to help, and especially then you can maybe host the server in your home. Or rent one from that ISP themselves.

I spot-rented a t3-medium Linux machine for a few hours, installed the Jamulus software on it and ran it under the command-line with:

./Jamlulus -s -n

The “-s” says “Be a server” and the “-n” says “Don’t try and open any windows, this machine hasn’t got a graphics card”.

Then you just need to give the IP address of your server to your band mates and have them connect to it.

In Linux, it runs on JackD. You want to launch JackD with very low latency. That’s the “-p 128” here:

/usr/bin/jackd -dalsa -dhw:0,0 -r48000 -p128 -n2

Then run the Jamulus software.

Our bassist was on Windows and our Drummer and Guitarist are on Macs while I’m a Linux guy. So everything works cross platform, but I have no tips on whatever they might have done to tune it.

Everyone gets a volume-slider for each person in the band so they can tune their own mix. You see me turn up my vocals audio in the video here. That didn’t affect the noises in the other guy’s rooms.

You will have to find a way to mix your microphone and instrument sounds down into a single jack or USB input for input to the computer. My synth allows me to plug a mic into it. Think the rest have some kinda hardware splitters.

The software works by sending signals as fast as it can to the server, which forwards them as fast as it can to everyone. But the internet is a strange thing, and the bits of sound don’t arrive in the same order that they are sent. In order to not have any break in the sound, it has to store up a few of the packets of sound in a queue, slotting each bit of sound into the right order as they arrive and feeding the queue into the sound-card at your end.

If that queue is too long, you get lag and delay and can’t play in sync.

If that queue is too short, some of the sound arrives out of order and kinda sounds like it wobbles and chirps. Known as “jitter”. You have a slider to change the length of the queues.

With them set to about six, and an incredible 2ms ping to the AWS server, I was getting about a 40ms lag. The rest of the band broadly similar.

This is just about playable, but feels weird.

Our Guitarist Adds:

Oh. If only I had fibre and a 2 ms ping. That would have given me <10ms latency. As it was, I had a 15/20ms ping with my cable connection, for a 35/45ms round trip. Odd, but workable once you get used to it. Which didn’t take that long, really. Needs must and that.

That only gives you audio, and it isn’t enough. It really isn’t. So we run a Zoom meeting alongside it. I put the Zoom on a different Laptop. The bassist had his phone running the Zoom app and his laptop running Jamulus. I think the guitarist and the drummer ran the zoom just in a different window on the same machine.

The video is not in sync, obviously.

Thought y’all might want a few clues on how we managed it.

The guy who wrote Jamulus seems bemused and surprised at how his software which was getting like one download a month until last month has shot up in popularity coz everyone’s not able to get to band practice now and he may be a bit overloaded with support email.

He is not a big corporation.

So I thank him. Cheers dude.

Cancelled Gig: The Fiddlers Elbow, 5th April 2020, Sunday Afternoon

February 26th, 2020

The gig is cancelled due to the obvious risk of spreading disease. Sorry everyone. See you on the other side of the mayhem we hope.

—-

We’re playing an afternoon gig at the Fiddler’s Elbow in Camden on Sunday the 5th of April

Doors about 2.30pm, show start about 3.30pm.

Everyone out by 6pm

It’s our drummer’s birthday that week, so come celebrate with us.

The Fiddlers Elbow
1 Malden Road, NW5 3HS London, United Kingdom
5th April 2020

Gig: Roadtrip and the Workship, 8th March 2020, Sunday Afternoon

January 29th, 2020

We’re playing an afternoon gig at the Roadtrip bar in Shoreditch on Sunday the 8th of March.

Doors about 2.30pm, show start about 3.30pm.

Everyone out by 6pm

It’s our frontman’s birthday three days before that, so come celebrate with us.

Photos from Showcase Gig, November 2019

January 15th, 2020

Rachel’s Photos from the Showcase gig in November have been up for a while. Check ’em out.

Gig: Zigfrid von Underbelly of Hoxton, 29th Sept 2017

August 4th, 2017


Do come along. Bring your friends!

It’s our bassist’s birthday, so we’re celebrating with a rare instance of an actual gig, on an actual stage, in an actual cellar-bar in Hoxton.

Doors open at 7pm, and we’ll have some of our favorite musicians on stage too for some fun and dancing and drinking and mucking about.

Gig: Absent Kelly at the Amersham Arms, 27th Nov 2015

October 7th, 2015

Dom the drummer is off on a six month long snow-boarding holiday again in December, so we’re once more doing a final gig to see him off.

BandLogo

We’ll be playing on Friday 27th of November at The Amersham Arms in New Cross, London. Tickets are six pounds each. Please let us know if you need one.

Hope you can come, if there’s another it’ll be at least six months later.

“Babies” at Chilled In A Field 2015

August 20th, 2015

Here’s us performing “Dare” to open up our set at the wonderful Chilled In A Field Festival on July 31st 2015.

We had an awesome time, thanks to all who made it happen.

HJS sings Babies at Chilled

“Dare” at Chilled In A Field 2015

August 4th, 2015

Here’s us performing “Dare” to open up our set at the wonderful Chilled In A Field Festival on July 31st 2015.

We had an awesome time, thanks to all who made it happen.

Gig: Chilled In A Field Festival, Near Lewes, 31st July 2015

May 11th, 2015

We’ll be playing at Chilled In A Field Festival on the 31st of July from 18:45 on the main stage.

Do come and say hello 🙂

Taxman – How It Would Sound Today.

May 17th, 2014

What would the Beatle’s “Taxman” sound like if it were written today? Probably not like the original we reckoned….