Canadian Musician - May/June 2021 - Page 61


Performing Online : The State of the Art at This Moment

By Allan Molnar

The idea of performing with other musicians live via the internet is very exciting , but the logistics of doing so can be complicated and frustrating . Our biggest challenge is audio latency .

Here are a few strategies for mitigating latency issues when engaging in online collaborative performances : subscribe to a super-fast internet connection ; connect your computer directly to the router with an ethernet cable ; practice good computer hygiene ; purchase quality audio equipment ; collaborate within a physical distance of 500 miles ; and be patient and keep your expectations reasonable .
Traveling at the Speed of Digital Audio : JamKazam With optimal settings in place , I have experienced online collaborations using JamKazam that felt very close to being zero-latency sessions . But as with all such platforms , this is still a work-in-progress . It takes some time and effort to assemble all of the component parts , so it ’ s important to remain patient as you navigate through the process .
I suggest that you begin your first couple of sessions by testing the latency factor . Clap simple rhythms while counting out loud in unison with your colleagues on the remote connection .
Remember : Keep your ensembles small , and begin with easily accessible repertoire . All of this , of course , can eventually lead to live-streamed performances with a paying audience !
Traveling at the Speed of MIDI : Shared Piano Google Creative Lab ’ s Shared Piano program has literally been a plug-and-play experience for me . All you need to make this work is a MIDI keyboard , a MIDI interface , and a reasonably fast internet connection . Make sure that you use the Chrome web browser for optimal MIDI compatibility .
This program was designed specifically for teaching group piano classes online , but can easily be adapted to a wide variety of creative applications . I ’ ve had much success exploring the use of Alternate Mode ’ s MalletKat and DrumKat MIDI controllers with Shared Piano . ( Note : Shared Piano doesn ’ t have a video interface , but a dedicated video platform such as Skype or Zoom can be used during a Shared Piano session .)
I plan to continue exploring and using these amazing resources , not only as a performing artist , but also as a music educator . I will go into detail in a future article , but for now , please review the following narratives of a colleague from Warman , SK , and a student from the Bronx , NY .
Mr . William Martin Music Education Facilitator , Music Teacher , Prairie Spirit School Division Warman , SK
“ Our rural school division has both itinerant and some on-site music specialists . There is a huge opportunity for using online software such as Jamulus , Jacktrip , and other platforms to change the way we operate day to day . The ability to bring trumpet players together across our entire division for a masterclass , sectional , or different schools from different regions for a small ensemble or solo , duet rehearsal , or performance . We have several bi-weekly mass band rehearsals in the north , east , and west of our division . Is there an opportunity to link those hubs to rehearse and interact together ? Can we create efficiencies with our time and travel while still best serving student needs ? There are these and lots of other questions , like : Will it be cost-efficient to work ? Can rural bandwidth support it ? Do we purchase now in an evolving market that will likely continue to boom and increase in quality in terms of latency and sound ? Either way it is an exciting new pathway to explore that can only supplement and support our rural programs better if we can implement it effectively .”
Erick Pichardo Angeles Music Major , Class of 2021 , Lehman College , Bronx , NY
“ Mr . Molnar has been monitoring my performance progress in preparation for my senior project throughout this , my final semester at Lehman College . Students , mentors , and professors are all trying to adjust for distance learning , and the obstacles that we ’ ve encountered are often based on internet and other technical difficulties . Shared Piano allowed me to simply connect and play my digital piano . This application on its own really helped me as a student because of its ease of use . I didn ’ t need to invest in a good microphone , nor did I have to worry about audio latency . This opened a gateway for us to effectively share progress , provide critiques , and explore new ways of learning music . Shared Piano is an excellent application to use for musicians that are tutoring , learning , or performing with others !”
Conclusion It is my opinion that online performances will never be as satisfying as performing together , in real time , in the same room ! That said , the development of software programs that allow us to connect with others from the comfort of our home studios provides us with a new way to not only rethink our performance skills , but will broaden our ability to develop new audiences by broadcasting our virtual collaborative real-time performances online . This will also strengthen the link between traditional acoustic music performances and the cutting edge of music technology . We have much to look forward to and much to do !
Allan Molnar currently lives in New York City where he freelances in the music profession and teaches music production and jazz at Lehman College in the Bronx . Allan is also the producer of the Johnny Pacheco Latin Music and Jazz Festival at Lehman College . www . percussionstudio . com .