Is it possible to play music together over the Internet?

Here’s a seemingly simple question: Can musicians in quarantine play music together over an Internet connection? We’ve migrated birthday parties, happy hours and church services to video calls these days, so couldn’t we do the same with band practice? Across ubiquitous video conferencing tools like Zoom, FaceTime and Skype, it takes time for audio data to travel from person to person. That small delay, called latency, is mostly tolerable in conversation — save for a few overlapping stutters — but when it comes to playing music online with any kind of rhythmic integrity, latency quickly becomes a total dealbreaker.

This video follows pianist and composer Dan Tepfer down the rabbit hole. Tepfer often occupies the intersection of music and innovative technology (just check out his Tiny Desk concert), and by proxy has served his fellow musicians as a tech support line of sorts. A public inquiry on Twitter led him to jazz trombonist Michael Dessen, also a researcher at the University of California Irvine, who has centered his work around networked performances for over a decade. The solution: an open-source software called JackTrip, developed by Stanford University researchers Chris Chafe and Juan-Pablo Cáceres over a decade ago, that can transfer high quality audio data across the Internet at low enough latencies, within a geographic radius, to mimic someone playing music roughly 30 feet away; that’s the threshold at which most musicians can still play together in sync. It takes a bit of hardware and a strong Internet connection, but the setup has enabled near instantaneous latencies for musicians who want to improvise together online.

Tepfer has spent some of the last few months building a community of musicians using JackTrip at home, so they can practice together, work on new music, and even perform live-streamed concerts to fans as a revenue source while music venues remain closed in the pandemic. And while it’s not nearly the same as playing in the same physical space, it’s a close second in the era of social distancing.




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25 Thoughts to “Is it possible to play music together over the Internet?”

  1. Does anyone have the name or the link to the study he is talking about? I cant find it anywhere.

  2. Am I crazy or is that off by a decimal? Or is saying 2.6 milliseconds the same as 2.6 x 10raised to the -3?

  3. We have a band in Brazil, called Virtual Jam Band.

  4. Thank you for the info, it would have been nice to show us a bit how Jack Trip (sic) works? Do you need special hardware, is it audio and video or audio only? how fast does your internet connection need to it free?

  5. Jamblaster by JamKazam already exists, it also has some cool backing track options for isolating each instrument but basically 4 separate members of a band each divided by 1000km of distance can in fact play together

  6. I play on Jamkazam every night! Usually with random people and it's great fun! And then on weekends I play with a group of professional musicians that I've met through the jamkazam community. It's absolutely brilliant. We play a lot of 80s music and we can play perfectly fine and all in sync with very little latency. I'll probably meet these guys one day and play a real gig! 😁😁

  7. Great video, u can count on a musician to figure it out

  8. but it doesn't need to go round trip, each signal only needs to travel one way so by your calculations if it could travel at the speed of light it would be 26 milliseconds one way. so you could do it.

  9. This is great, I am wondering if Christian has been using this tech during covid? Also there is a new stand alone jack trip box you can buy on amazon, has anyone used this? A follow up video from these guys would be great now that we're a year into covid.

  10. More! . . . YOU ~ ROCK ! !

  11. All these comments, and not one pointing out that 30 feet of sound travel is only 6 msecs of latency, not 30 msecs? At least someone noted that many internet delays come from switches and routers en route rather than only from the speed of light. However, I see no mention of jitter (variance in latency), which is a reason why buffering is usually imposed at a receiver to hide jitter, but at the expense of increasing effective latency by the size of the maximum jitter to be hidden/tolerated. Anyway, other comments lead me to conclude that for a significant amount of unison play, far more than 30 feet-equivalent of sound delay must be tolerable, as 6 msecs of one-way latency+jitter is hard to achieve, even in the same neighborhood let alone across oceans. A nearly-perfectly synchronized "virtual baton", however, is not at all hard to achieve.

  12. While I love this video, the duet video at the end is deceptive at best (at the very least, there should be a disclaimer (although watching it a second time does reveal it to be a Skype session)). It sets up false expectations for anyone watching this video and could lead to difficulties down the road for musicians (why can't you teach my child (or perform or rehearse) online in realtime? I just saw this report on NPR and it says you can).

    Looking through Jacktrip, it seems to be far from user friendly (although (again) based on this video, one would never know that). 

    I feel that this report could have been so much better by including the various sound projects out there, including​,, and (new to me), explaining their issues of setup and equipment needed, and skipping the simulated video duet altogether.

  13. this 30' thing also explains why the big pop shows on the HUGE stages w/ everyone running around sound out of synch, unless it's a lip sync. In rock my best example is the rolling stones on a huge stage vs on a small stage.

  14. Man i miss playing together

  15. And what about the relationship between the audio and video latencies. For a jazz musician it´s crucial to follow the movements, intentions and cues from the partners. Is the latency over zoom much bigger than the audio through jacktrip? Does it disturb?

  16. Ninjam works differently and has no distance limitations, and has public rooms that people can just join and start jamming.

  17. Dan Tepper: In order to jam over that distance you literally need the laws of physics to change…
    Quantum Physics: Hold My Beer!

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