Alone, bored, and yet feeling like you have something you need to express? This is the situation for so many musicians these days. Whether at home waiting for the next concert, unemployed, or just too lazy to cart your gear to your buddy’s house, you might be in the same boat.
So what’s the solution?
As with just about everything else right now, virtual contact seems to be the order of the day. That’s why I’m going to take a look at the best online jamming websites available. On these platforms, you can meet up and practice with your band without leaving the comfort of your own home.
You can provide lessons to your student in real-time, or even jam with musicians a world away. They’re opening up avenues for musical expression never before heard of – and all you need is a computer and a mic to get into the mix.
Why do all new companies have to add weird, mid-word capitals to their names? With JamKazam, it must be to highlight the apparent magic with which you can connect to other musicians and get a jam going.
How does it work?
This is an app that’s extremely robust and versatile and is basically leading the way in the field. You can use it to create sessions and invite players to meet you, much like you would in a Zoom meeting. But it goes a lot further than that.
Each player will have their own track and own monitor. So as a player, you can turn up and turn down the other players in your own mix.
You can also record
With each player’s input coming in as a different track. That means you can play along live with a band, then practice later with the recorded session, simply by muting your own track from the recording.
The platform also has a library of over 4000 (and counting) tracks in different genres that you can purchase as play-along tracks. Just mute out the instrument that you play and then play along live.
There’s also a lot of community focus on this platform. If you are a lone musician looking for a jam, you can look into public sessions that allow you to join in and jam with people anywhere in the world. That means you can find a jam at any time of day or night, plus practice your chops along with different players across multiple genres.
What do you need to get started?
You need to download the JamKazam application, and you can use it for free in a limited way. They also offer three levels of paid membership, giving you access to different features, from $5-$20/month.
Another similar platform is Jammr, this time with only one capital but a missing ‘e’ to make them up-to-date. This is a very similar app that you need to download to get started.
It allows you to create sessions that are either private for band practice, or public to allow you to meet and play with anyone else using the app. There’s a built-in metronome to help you keep in time, though this can be turned off if you have a drummer, or just don’t want it.
What do you need?
Once again, you’ll need a microphone to join in, or you can input a VST instrument to play sounds from your computer’s DAW. This is a free online music jamming app. However, to use all of its versatility, you need to upgrade to a paid Premium account.
That would allow you to record and download jams that you can then practice along to. There’s not as much functionality as you’ll find with JamKazaam, but memberships can be cheaper.
Jammr’s ability to avoid the problem of latency. If you’ve tried jamming over Zoom or Skype, you’ll know that there’s almost always a small lag that can throw everyone out of time. But Jammr uses a non-real-time solution to match chord progressions. It may not work as well with improvisation and unique styles, but does the trick on most normal-ish songs.
Rounding off the letter J names, Jamulus is a bit different. As one of the best online jamming websites, Jamulus is also free and open shareware which allows everyone to use it and also experiment with its code. It’s a cross-platform app that runs on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.
Other than that, Jamulus does much of the same as the other apps I’ve already covered. Again, you can make private or open sessions that connect you with musicians anywhere. You can also adjust levels for your own mix, either live or afterward, on recorded tracks.
This app brags of very low latency and also spotlights their weekly Saturday “World Jam,” which spotlights and connects different players for a live concert that the community can watch and make song requests to.
The all-caps NINJAM is another open-source free software platform for music jamming. Like Jamulus, NINJAM allows you to connect with musicians around the world in both open and closed sessions. You can adjust everyone’s levels and record jams for later practice, muting tracks as necessary.
So what’s different here?
NINJAM is unique in that it addresses the latency problem by intentionally exaggerating it. The software detects measures and then gives you playback of the measure another musician has just played.
In other words, you’re always 1 bar behind what the others are playing, but they’re always 1 bar behind you. It may sound impossible, but definitely makes for some interesting jams!
The last on our list of the best music jamming websites is the thankfully single-capital Soundjack. This is another of the open-source, freeware jamming platforms we’ve seen already. This time, it’s a browser-based application that you can download and get started with after reading their somewhat complicated instructions.
The issue of latency in distributed music, meaning people playing in different places, is left open here. Although the developers definitely recommend connecting through ether cable, rather than WiFi which can be influenced by your local network traffic. Otherwise, Soundjack allows you to do much of the same things as the other platforms.
You can input VST instruments or use a great microphone like Shure’s SM-57 to record real instruments or vocals. You can jam with bandmates or people around the world, and record those jams as multi-track recordings for later practice. It just happens to be free, but is a little trickier to use.
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The 5 Best Online Jamming Websites Today
If you’ve never thought about jamming online, or have had terrible experiences trying through a meeting application, it’s time for a change. These jamming platforms open up a whole world of jamming for your disposal.
Whether you’re going to use them to practice live with your bandmates, capture tracks for later practice, or open up your skills to the world, they really open doors. And in this time of lockdowns, closures, and restrictions, that’s a breath of fresh air for the musicians of the world!
Until next time, let your music play.