Jam sessions online!

Jazz is meant to be played with other people. In the current climate of Covid-19 and State-wide lockdowns, it is more important than ever to get together and overcome the isolation and frustration that many musicians are experiencing. We’ve been helping our students by organizing jam sessions online!

Our most recent jam had 8 musicians playing together over the internet. There was a full rhythm section of drums, bass, piano, and guitar plus a bunch of horn players. And it was great.

It’s worth noting that these aren’t just Zoom calls or anything like that. And it isn’t just backing tracks either. Those things can be excellent and certainly have their place, but a jam session is something that people do together, in real-time. Our setup makes that possible for our students.

So, how does it work? Firstly, numbers are limited some what – too many people in one jam is less fun for everyone and also risks overloading the server. So, we send out an invite and jammers must RSVP by email. Then, just before the jam starts we send out the server address so everyone can join. We run our jams on private Jamulus servers. Here’s what you see during one of the jam sessions online:

Jamulus user interface


That’s pretty much it. Once connected, at the click of a button, the jamming starts. People call tunes and play together for the next couple of hours.

There are some prerequisites to joining in and some rules:

  1. An external audio interface or an up-to-date Mac computer
  2. Headphones and a microphone (see here for a quick guide to getting set up for online jamming).
  3. A ‘Real Book’, iRealPro, or other lead sheets.

The rules are simple:

  1. You must RSVP. Invited musicians only.
  2. You must write your real first name and instrument on the profile in the session.
  3. No swearing or “vibing” (bullying/attempting to intimidate or put off other jammers). Off-topic conversation should be avoided.
  4. Don’t take too many choruses
  5. Take turns in the rhythm section
  6. It’s a jam not a lesson. Be prepared to call tunes and have lead sheets/real book/iReal etc. ready.

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