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.