Online singing

Another Jamulus singing

One challenge with Jamulus is reducing latency, and in some major metropolitan areas (like the Bay Area), you can have a great deal of latency to singers who live close to you, even if you both have good fast Internet service. Because if the packets have to travel up to a Tier 2 network, then up to a Tier 1 network, then back down to a Tier 2 network, and further down, it’s going to take a while — and the Bay Area has so much Internet traffic from small users up to really big users that things are just going to get slow at times.

In online forums, I came across one way to reduce the potential latency for all singers: host your Jamulus server in the cloud. The idea is to host your server on something like Amazon Web services that has a data center near you.

So Mark, one of our Bay Area singers who’s also a software engineer, set up a Jamulus server for us on AWS’s norther California data center. We tested it this afternoon with four log-ins totaling five singers, and the latency was better than I’ve experienced using Jamulus servers that are hosted locally in Palo Alto or Mountain View.

Not to say the latency was low. I probably had the highest latency, ranging from about 60-70 ms to 40-50 ms by the end of the session. This was counter-intuitive, because although the location of the AWS server is a Big Secret we sort of know where it is, and I was probably physically closer to it than anyone else in the session. Cyprian, who joined us from the North Bay, had better latency than I did, though he was probably 75 miles farther away. Also of interest: Adam joined briefly from Seattle, and his latency was about the same as mine.

Because of the latency, we had to keep the tempos slow. Then we often let the tempo slow down while singing a tune. And once or twice a tune just turned into chaos.

Nevertheless, it was so good to sing with other people in real time that all the frustrations were worth it. I hadn’t realized how much I missed singing in four part harmony.

I had to go back to work, and only stayed in the session for an hour. But it was good enough that I’m looking forward to doing it again.

Online singing

Jamulus singing

David set up a Jamulus server at his house in Berkeley, and we both logged on this afternoon to try it out. The latency was perhaps a little high, and it was strange at first singing without being able to see David leading, but we got used to it pretty quickly.

We sang a couple of tunes, then noticed that someone had dropped in to listen. We wound up chatting with Rob from Rancho Cucamonga. A trained musician and a guitarist, he was interested to hear us singing solfege; he’s just discovering Jamulus and was listening to different sessions to get a feel for it. It was sort of like when you’re singing Sacred Harp in person, and someone hears you and comes in out of curiosity. This could be a side benefit to singing on Jamulus!

David and I sang a few more tunes, then we both had to go. While it’s not the same as singing in person, it was really good to be able to sing together with another person in real time — it was also really good to be able to sing with David once again, who is a really good singer.

Online singing

BASH Zoom singing

We had the inaugural Zoom singing for Bay Area Sacred Harp this evening. Lena Strayhorn was the gracious host, and she followed Clarissa’s lead from the Seattle Zoom singing by asking people to say a little something about the tunes they chose.

Leigh did the screen sharing, and she came up with a couple of innovations that I liked. First, she shared audio only, so that while the recordings were being played you could still see all the other singers (though of course they were muted); it was nice to be able to see everyone else while we were singing to ourselves. Second, her husband Mark developed a Web app that allowed her to find recordings of the tunes online very quickly, which made everything run more smoothly.

I also enjoyed the people who chose to sing their own tunes. Of special note: the Kostka family had all four parts in their family, and led us in Rainbow; it was great fun to hear them singing for us live.

We had over 20 people on the call, so at the last moment I introduced another innovation: during our 15 minute socializing break, I randomly assigned people to breakout rooms with half a dozen others for about 10 minutes. That way, we could have actual conversations; otherwise, with 20+ people on a Zoom call, it would have been pretty chaotic.

I’m already looking forward to next month’s BASH singing.

Online singing

Seattle Zoom singing

Clarissa let me know about the Seattle Zoom singing, and for once I didn’t have an evening meeting for my job, so I decided to attend.

I was somewhat doubtful about the Zoom singings that people have been doing: get on a Zoom call, share a recording of a Sacred Harp tune, and sing along while you and everyone else is muted — where’s the fun in that? But it really was a lot of fun. First of all, you get to see people that you’ve met at past singings. Then too you get to see singers that you’ve never met before. And it was surprisingly satisfying singing along with a recording.

I was interested in how this singing was organized. Clarissa was the host, and she asked people to put their song choices in chat. Then Gillian found videos of the tunes that people chose, and sent those links to the person who did the screen sharing. I wound up doing the screen sharing of the videos for the first half of the singing, then Erik took over. Clarissa, Gillian, and Erik made it look easy. I liked the fact that Clarissa asked people to say a little something about whatever song they chose, and it was nice to hear what people had to say.

At the end, Clarissa said that there were singers from 10 different states logged in to the Zoom call.


Reviving this blog

We’re in the middle of the pandemic, there’s no live Sacred Harp singing in the Bay Area, and there’s no way that I’m going to be traveling to any live singings. It’s time to revive this blog. I’m going to turn comments on again and see what happens, and I’ll write an occasional new post. Stay tuned….