Ok, here we go with another handy tech tip!
(Disclaimer: As I write this post, Jamkazam has decided to go from a 100% free platform model to a tiered, subscription-based model. Just so you know, I am in no way affiliated with Jamkazam, and do not make money from promoting their products. They still offer a free subscription, as well as paid subscriptions at various service levels. See their website for more information.)
The pandemic. The lockdowns. The social distancing. It’s all anathema to the Irish Music Session. For those of us who love to gather and play in intimate settings, sharing stories, news and tunes, maybe even a drink, it is the WORST!
But–there is hope, for those that have the fortitude to jump through some technological hoops. All you have to do is say the magic word with me now. Ready? One, two three–
Jamkazam is an application for Mac or PC that allows you to play along with your friends online, in real time, by reducing the latency (delay) inherent in internet connections. If you tried to play along with a friend using Zoom, for example, here’s what would happen: you count in–“one, two, three, and…” and you start playing. Three quarters of a second after you play it, your friend hears your first note and starts playing along. Meanwhile you’ve moved on–you’re a measure ahead of your friend, and now your hearing their notes coming back at you with even more delay. Needless to say, this isn’t going to work!
People can begin to perceive delay as short as 10-30 milliseconds (that’s THOUSANDTHS of a second!) Any delay shorter than this is perceived as nonexistent. Jamkazam helps reduce this latency.
To use Jamkazam you’ll need a few things:
A computer running either Windows 10 or Mac OS X 10.8 or higher, connected to your home router using an Ethernet cable (WiFi doesn’t work well).
A microphone–the one built into your computer may work ok if you have a decent sound card in your machine, but if not then you’ll want an external mic. This could be any number of USB microphones, or a standard vocal mic with an XLR cable, and to connect that to your computer you’ll want an audio interface.
An audio interface–a piece of equipment that gets the sound from your external microphone into your computer. The mic plugs into it, and it plugs into your computer, usually via USB. The advantages to this setup are that you get better sound quality and also the interface itself will do most of the audio processing much faster than your computer will, thus decreasing the delay in the system.
Headphones–you can’t use your speakers or they will feed back into the microphone. SQUEEEEEEEAL!
Our anchor Ted and I have used it and we were both amazed at how well it worked. It wasn’t perfect, but that’s mainly because of the limitations of our equipment and computer systems. I hope other members of the LVISS will jump on the wagon and give it a go, so we can play together again, safely and remotely!