On day three-hundred-and-something of a global pandemic that forced us to cancel in-person jams. We all need to experience the thrill and pure pleasure of trading musical ideas in person again. However, the truth is internet speeds, lag and the limitations of DAWs make online jamming next to impossible in real-time without making some serious compromises. Here’s my hard truth for today—online jamming isn’t the easiest way to collaborate remotely. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t methods to create fulfilling collaborative relationships online.
Most online jamming tools are a little of a letdown
I’ve checked out a number of tools that claim to make online jamming a reality.
The most effective I’ve found so far is Ninjam, which plugs into Reaper (a superb low-cost DAW by the way).
With Ninjam you’ll find a lobby of other musicians and contribute to a jam session, with exactly one bar of lag. This means that lag is synced to the tempo of the jam.
This latency compensation makes it possible to play a lick and listen to it come out one bar later. That is how Ninjam allows musicians to playback the audio to all members and stay on beat.
It’s clunky on its own. And it works effectively enough with Sessions if you want to broadcast your jam to wider viewers.
But even then, with high-quality audio streaming from Sessions and a lag controlling plugin, any contributions you make to a jam will come in a bar late.
Sure! That’s a novel method to create music with another remote collaborator. However, it’s not really that helpful for any serious attempt at working on a track or developing your skills.
There are better methods to collaborate and actually make new musical art. Actually, because of the digital nature of working remotely, there’s a case that some online collaboration methods actually make music production easier!
Take a look at a DAW session
If you work with someone else, the best way to get into their head and jam on ideas is to jump into a DAW session together.
You’ll be able to trade ideas about the direction of a track, provide commentary about mixed decisions. You may also hear how a completed product sounds.
In fact, you’ll need to make use of a video conferencing tool that prioritizes audio over video—ideally something like LANDR Sessions which plugs directly into your DAW and pipes high-quality audio directly from your project.
You can hear changes to a synth tone, an EQ band or compression setting in full detail is pretty much as good as being there yourself.
Whether you’re working through the fine points of an arrangement or fully drafting new ideas, video chatting while exploring a DAW is a really effective method to collaborate remotely. And it actually gets work done on a track.
Send your stems
If you want to actually get your hands dirty and work on a track in a collaborative way your best choice still is to record yourself working out your ideas in a DAW and send your project or stems.
I know two beatmakers who keep a shared dropbox folder where they are always uploading new beat ideas with comments that the other can take and elaborate on.
There’s nothing new about this type of remote collaboration strategy. However, it’s a tried and true way of committing to working on a team project.
It’s as simple as making the act of uploading your ideas to a folder a part of your workflow.
Take a lesson
Because of internet speeds and lag, jamming in real-time over an internet connection isn’t a reality quite yet.
However, taking a lesson is completely viable over the internet.
Personally, I’ve been taking guitar lessons over video chat, and regardless of the occasional issue with sound, I’ve found it to be almost as good as learning in person.
If developing your skills on an instrument is a reason why you love online jamming—signing up for lessons is a wonderful alternative.
Believe me—the local musicians in your scene might be happy to take on another student.
Jam with a backing track
Maybe you can’t jam with a real band right now, however, you can always play along to a backing observe.
There are plenty of methods to find cool backing tracks, like on YouTube for instance.
You’ll be able to even make your own custom backing track with sample looping tools like Creator—the new beat-making tool for LANDR Samples.
LANDR’s YouTube host Anthony did a live jam with some Creator arrangements of the free loop packs on Reddit recently—check out how he used Creator as the backing track for his jam!
There’ll be jamming in person soon
It’s been a strange and hard time to be a musician.
So much about the LANDR artform is built on in-person interaction.
And there’s something unique about the relationships you form with the other human beings you play music with.
It will be better to jam in person once again when the world re-opens.
However, for now, there are still loads of ways to collaborate remotely. I think those connections are just as useful.
Plus, you might discover that working with other artists over the internet might remove some barriers since the physical distance is not a consideration!