Play together live, in real time, over the Internet?

Yes, it is possible, but maybe not for the faint of heart. Here is a basic introduction to real-time collaboration, intended for the classical clarinet player who is not a technology whiz.

Teaser: What is Possible

JamKazam Music Festival May 30, 2020
"... bands perform, with each band member playing from his/her home, yet together as if on the same stage 100% live and in sync over the Internet ... None of the performances are pre-recorded."
watch on YouTube

 Can a  common, ordinary, intermediate-level clarinetist do this? 

Yes, if you have the commitment, are willing to spend a little money on gear, and have enough faith that you can work through the technology challenges to make it happen. You may be pushed past your comfort zone with computers and audio equipment, but you can do it if you persevere.


When starting to play together online, most people think first of conferencing platforms like Zoom and Skype. The bad news -- a few years ago these platforms would sort of work (though not acceptably). I have some old recordings to prove it. However, they have been "improved" to prevent two people from talking at the same time. That's good for keeping a meeting on track, but bad for playing music together.

The good news -- I identified three software packages that provide online jamming capabilities: JamKazam, Jamulus, and SofaSession.  All are free, and have more-or-less the same system requirements. Later I'll do a more in-depth comparison, but my quick take is JamKazam is the only one that gets past my basic install test (as of June 2020). I tried installing and running the software on three computers, one MacBook and two PCs.
  • JamKazam worked on all three.
  • SofaSession would only install on the older of the two PCs. It was incompatible with the two newer computers. On the one where it did install, it changed the settings on my audio interface and did not restore the prior settings when it closed. 
  • Jamulus did not have a proper security certificate. It would not install at all on the Mac because of the security issue. I could disable the security check and install on the PC.
Overall, JamKazam looks like the best choice for features and ease of use. Jamulus might possibly give better session quality, but requires more computer savvy to operate.

System Requirements

So it's possible to play together online, but it's not as simple as just installing an app on your phone and running it. If you are serious about collaborating on line, you will probably need to buy some gear. You will need:

1. A Windows or Mac computer. Jamming software doesn't run on phones or tablets. Maybe some day, but not yet.
  • Minimum version for Windows is 7, but hopefully you have 10. Must be 64-bit windows operating system (not 32-bit). To see if you have it, go to Settings and type About in the search box. Look at System Type in the Device Specifications section.
  • Minimum version for Mac is OS X 10.8 or higher, 64-bit
With the base computer, an Internet connection, and some headphones you can do a a few simple tests to see how things work, and whether it is worth pursuing. What typically happens is that you get some success, but with a lot of echo and static.  Quick glossary:
  • Latency - the delay between when a sound is produced and when you hear it; echo. Latency is the main roadblock to getting online collaboration to work.
  • Jitter - the symptoms are static or poor sound quality. (Real audio engineers, don't shoot me for this one). There is a trade-off between jitter and latency. You can get better latency if you accept some jitter, and vice versa.
The biggest source of latency and jitter is your internet connection. Other sources are the sound system in your computer, and also its processor load. To get to an acceptable level of performance you will need to update your gear.

2. A wired (Ethernet) internet connection, to improve Internet latency. You may be able to run some feasibility tests with WiFi, but for serious use you need the wired connection. Note that internet bandwidth and upload/download speed is less important than having the wired connection. If you don't already have wired service, ballpark cost is $25-60 per month. Newer computers may not have an Ethernet port, and you will need an USB-to-Ethernet adapter (approx $20). You might need to invest in a really long Ethernet cable if your practice area is far from your modem. That's another $20.

3. An Audio Interface, to improve latency in your sound system. An audio interface is a box that sits between your mic and your computer and takes over functions of the built-in sound card.

Quick bullet points, in no particular order:
  • Price range: $100-200
  • JamKazam publishes a list of compatible interfaces 
  • You need phantom power and at least one analog input. You don't care about MIDI. Nor do you need to worry about connecting your guitar. Assuming, of course, that you are a clarinetist.
  • Primary feature you are looking for is low latency. Also, having a manufacturer's ASIO driver is usually a plus. 
Depending on your computer gear, you may not be able to play in a JamKazam session without an audio interface (though you should be able to listen to one). My fairly new MacBook Pro would work at a very minimal level with no audio interface, and even over WiFi. Not acceptably, but enough that I could see how the process worked. I played over the Internet with a friend who had wired Internet on her PC but no audio interface. Again not acceptably, but it worked. However, one of my older PCs would not work -- I could listen to a session but not participate. I think I could have coaxed it to work by installing some special software, but the battery died before I could try. The bottom line here is that you may have to invest in an audio interface just to do a serious test.

4. A New Mic.  You need a mic that connects to your audio interface. Usually an XLR mic -- not a USB mic, and not a mic that connects with 3.5mm or 1/4 inch headphone jack.
The mic can, of course, make a big difference in your sound. $70-500+, depending on quality. And you will need a cable to connect it with. Maybe $20 for the cable.

5. Good Noise-cancelling headphones to plug into your audio interface. I had some reasonably good headphones, but they used a 3.5mm jack, and my interface needed a 1/4 inch. That could be handled with a low-cost adapter. In fact, when I was setting up my system, I was constantly encountering situations where stuff I ordered had the wrong connectors. Looking back on it now, I would have been smart to get a complete set of gear in one kit rather than trying to assemble my own. Price range for headphones: $30-300. The high end is, of course, Bose. Probably overkill for this purpose.

6. Tinker with computer settings, both settings in the jamming software and basic computer settings. In fact, adjusting your computer settings might help even at the feasibility stage. A few ideas (only for the duration of your jam session):
  • Turn WiFi off entirely (assuming you have wired internet)
  • Turn off Bluetooth.
  • Close any programs you don't need for your jam session. Skype, Zoom, Google Drive, DropBox, screen capture utilities, recording software, music players, email, messaging software, etc. Put notifications in Do Not Disturb mode.
  • [Windows] Open Sound Settings and set input to the built-in mic and output to built-in speakers. This makes audio interface exclusive to the jamming software
  • [Windows] Prevent USB from shutting off. Windows Key+X, select Device Manager. Open the Universal Serial Bus section. For each USB item, right click, select Properties, Power Management, and uncheck Allow this computer to turn off device.

JamKazam Feasibility Test

The first thing I want to do with a piece of software like this is see what it does. Here's what I would suggest

1. Download and install the software

2. Set up your audio devices.  If  you don't have an Audio Interface, setup should be pretty straightforward.
The video talks about how to set up if you have an audio interface (ASIO). Since you don't yet have one, you should only have one choice when selecting devices. More about gear:

3. Create a "solo" session and investigate the controls

4. Join a an open session on JamKazam and see what it sounds like. Not to play, just to listen and get a feel for how it works. Jammers usually don't mind you doing this. Some perfect strangers have even offered to help me troubleshoot gear.

5. If everything is still good, find a friend to do a test with you. It's a good idea to have a Skype session on your phone at the same time, so you can discuss issues. I'm willing to be a friend. Just leave me a message in the contact form on this page.

JamKazam vs Jamulus

I have worked mostly with JamKazam, starting about four years ago. I only spent a few hours with Jamulus, so these are very surface observations
  • JamKazam can do video, session recording, and live streaming. Jamulus cannot (unless integrated into other software).
  • JamKazam allows playing with an audio file. Jamulus (probably) does not.
  • JamKazam has more of a social media flavor, with friends, bands, etc.
  • JamKazam's session process is more user friendly
  • Jamulus has, I suspect, a little better audio quality. And hardware settings are more clearly explained.
  • Jamulus requires more knowledge of computers and computer terminology
  • The biggest flaw in Jamulus is the security issue that prevented me from installing it on my Mac.


If  this is more technology than you are comfortable with, there are a few fallback positions. One that is very popular right now is the Acapella app, that I discussed in a previous post. There are also online equivalents of a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) that allow several different players to contribute tracks to a group project. The DAW approach is on my list for a future post. Or, if you really want it really simple, try one of the playalong web sites: