SoundJack - Virtual Jam Sessions: Part 3
Updated: May 9, 2020
If you have not done so already, be sure to check out my initial and second blog posts about my foray into the world of online collaboration for musicians. This post is a continuation of that discussion that you may find helpful if you're experimenting on your own:
DISCLAIMER: If we all had unlimited time, great technical chops and decent fiscal resources we
could all engage in musical collaboration in our individual home studios, by using our favorite Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software and create music remotely via Cloud Collaboration.
Professional studios do this type of thing regularly, but they typically have access to dedicated engineers who earn big bucks by keeping up with and investing in the latest music innovations for DAWs. I guess I'm saying it is very possible for a typical working musician to use such products. However, most "working" musicians I know don't have that much time, interest, nor the level of skill required to do such things. Most of the cats I know "just want to play" and are looking for the simplest and least expensive way to remain connected with other musicians, to play together and/or to create music tracks for money.
The product SoundJack, so far, has produced the best results for playing online. I was introduced to SoundJack by my friend, Alden, who is the guitarist of jazz trio I play with in Baltimore. The software works on either a Mac or PC. I used a PC and I think the other cats in the trio were using a Mac on their end. Another neat feature of this program is a Linux option for those who use that OS, like real IT professionals. I won't say SoundJack is easy to install and use, because that's not true. In fact, the Home Page states "THE DEFAULT SETTINGS DON'T ALLOW RYTHMICAL INTERACTION - YOU MUST ADJUST THEM MANUALLY - PLEASE READ THE TUTORIAL AND FAQ BEFORE USING SOUNDJACK." They're basically telling you it can be difficult to use; however, the steps to get started are pretty straight forward if you read the documentation. It's a matter of doing the steps below:
- read the tutorial and the FAQs
- create an account with SoundJack at their website
- download the software for Mac, PC or Linux and install it
- ensure your instrument or mic is attached to your computer (see my initial blog post)
- configure your software settings, based on your internet connection and instrument
SoundJack has a very good installation guide and tutorial that MUST be reviewed before you get started. You'll be lost otherwise. Using the Windows PC version I was up and running in less than 30 minutes.
I suppose you could say SoundJack is NOT a visually pretty or sexy program. It's technical and allows for the realtime adjustment of the sound quality and latency parameters by the users. As such, it can quickly become overwhelmingly technical if you start to make changes to the settings without understanding their technical impact. The good news is that you can just start over if you get stuck. I strongly recommend working with a buddy on the remote end so you can test hearing each other.
SUMMARY: SoundJack works well for Windows or Mac. It has been around for awhile and is supported by lots of educational research. It's not an easy program to install and use, but most folks will have no issues if they have all the necessary equipment and time to get started. As for other hardware, you'll either need some type of USB mic or a USB interface box to connect your instrument. I used a $100 interface box but there are many options available. See my list of pros and cons for SoundJack below:
- It’s free to download, sign up and play
- Legacy product that is backed up by years of research and technical experience
- Performance is better than most I have tried so far
- It has lots of individual adjustments to tweak for optimal performance (which is great for some)
- Very good installation instructions and technical support forums
- It is not a simple program to install and requires the use of a tutorial
- Lots of individual adjustments to tweak for optimal performance (which is awful for some)
- The user interface is very bare compared to most graphical options, like Jamkazam
- The "private room" option was recently added. Have not tried it to see how well it works.
- Really awful reviews from a few folks online.
I'll try to conduct a few more reviews by this time next week, where I'll be looking at NINJAM and Jamulus, for playing LIVE music together on a PC or Mac. I hear both are pretty good, so be sure to check out the next blog review.
Basic instructions are below for my cave man friends who hate to read:
You can use SoundJack to rehearse or play together online with others:
- Sorry... There are no easy install instructions for this one but SoundJack provides good videos to view as tutorials.
Installation: Kinda hard
Cost: Free (really free - no hidden cost)
Ease of use: Really hard
Sound: OK with minimal delay
Finally, special thanks to Magic Ray of Magic Ray Jazz for helping to share this information via social media with our local partners. A few of you have shared information about your own experiences with hardware and online music software with me. Please continue to do so and I'll be happy to partner with anyone else who has an interest in sharing information to get more of us playing online in the interim. My email is below if you'd like to send me a note.