Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, July 15, 2005

Online Music Collaboration: Real-Time Web Jamming Is Here

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As I was driving back home with my car, after a long day at the office, I drifted off into a visualizing a creative idea I had never thought of.

What I was suddenly picturing in my mind was a technological option, that not only allowed me to stay connected to the net from my little car stuck in the peak hour Rome traffic jam, but to be able to use that connection to creatively collaborate to other people.


Photo credit: Phil McCracken

As some of you may know, I have a long past as a DJ, radio personality and even as a buddying amateur percussionist. So when I am in my car, I can't avoid tuning in to music stations and contribute my own solitary vocal overdubs and drumming solos, as I am literally stuck into traffic jams that move at a snail pace.

But for me, the real joy is when you can share and join with others to ride the pleasure of creating music together.

So, I said to myself, wouldn't it be great if I could hook up myself to the Internet, find some other buddying and available music jammers and dive into a live jamming or remixing session with a few others from the world around?

As I later found out my desire was not unique.

The desire to collaborate and creatively participate in the creation of live music was already on the drafting board of a few geeky music enthusiasts, which just released their first real-time online jamming technology software to the public.

Ninjam, which stands for Novel Interval-based Network Jamming Architecture for Music[ians], is a new software which allows individual musicians to collaboratively create and perform real music via the Internet.

Every live participant can hear every other connected musician. Each one can also tweak their personal mix to his liking.

Ninjam uses compressed audio which allows it to work with any instrument or combination of instruments.

You can sing, play a real piano, play a real saxophone, play a real guitar with whatever effects and guitar amplifier you want.

If your computer can record it, then you are in for doing a full session with remote musicians from around the world.

Since the issue of inherent latency (audio delay) that the Internet naturally imposes prevents true real-time synchronization of all the musicians getting into a jam, and playing music with a significant latency is nothing enjoyable (if not altogether uncomfortable), Ninjam has come up with a unique solution to circumvent this issue.

Ninjam leverages the problem itself to turn it to its own favor.
By making latency much longer than it really is, NINJAM creates the opportunity to create something that would have appeared otherwise impossible.

The latency in Ninjam is measured in measures, and the Ninjam client records and streams synchronized intervals of music between participants.

Just as the interval finishes recording, it begins playing on everyone else's client. So when you play through an interval, you're playing along with the previous interval of everybody else, and they're playing along with your previous interval.

If this sounds pretty bizarre, it sort of is, until you get used to it, then it becomes pretty natural.

And yes, you guessed it right: although it has many flexible and powerful features, Ninjam is designed with an emphasis on musical experimentation, rather than traditional production.

How does NINJAM work?

Ninjam uses OGG Vorbis audio compression for audio, then streams it to a Ninjam server, which can then stream it to the other people in your jam.

This architecture requires a server with adequate bandwidth, but has no firewall or NAT issues. OGG Vorbis is utilized for its great low bit rate characteristics and performance.

Ninjam can also save all of the original uncompressed source material, for doing full quality remixes after the fact.

To get a good idea of what a music session recorded with Ninjam may sound like, here is a good sample:

You will be impressed at how effective the online collaboration can get.

Here is a full set of other sample recordings recently done with Ninjam.

To find out more about tips, tricks, and information on how to help and support further development and testing of Ninjam here is a good reference document. This is a good source of up-to-date information on how to use the software and what are good practices to adopt when playing live online with others.

Also accessible online is now a full public support Forum providing the opportunity to ask direct questions to the developers or to other Ninjam users.

Last, but not least, Ninjam offers also a Jam Farm (essentially public jamming rooms) for those who want to experiment with this new technology, without having to set up their own Ninjam server. There are a few rules, but essentially, everyone can get one hour per day of online collaborative music jamming at no extra cost. Here is everything about you need to know about the Jam Farm.

System Requirements

The Ninjam software client requires a fair amount of CPU power, a moderate amount of inbound bandwidth (192kbps for a typical 4 person jam, 512kbps for an 8 person jam) and less outbound bandwidth (64kbps typical).

Windows version
+ Requires Windows 2000 or later, 2GHZ P4 (or Athlon 2000+) or faster recommended.
+ Requires sound hardware with ASIO drivers (works well with asio4all)
+ GUI and ncurses versions

Mac OSX version
+ Requires OS X 10.3 or later, G4 (1GHZ or faster recommended)
+ Terminal ncurses application

Linux version (eventually)
Ninjam Server:

Other requirements:
The main requirement for running the server is outbound bandwidth. For example, a 4 person jam needs approximately 768kbps of outbound (and only 240kbps inbound) bandwidth, and a 8 person jam requires approximately 3mbps of outbound (and 600kbps inbound) bandwidth. We are planning on updating the architecture to support a more distributed model, but this is just an alpha release.

Download software for Windows, MacOS and Linux.

Other interesting projects in this direction:

Ninjam is the work of love of cockos and Jesusonic/Brennan Underwood.

Readers' Comments    
2009-06-26 04:54:45


Learn & teach Jamming online at Wikiversity.

2008-10-23 19:10:49


Check out by far the best place for online music collaboration

2008-10-12 06:34:04


Check out this new online music collaboration site:

At this community you can post your music tracks no matter if they are ready or not. Enhance them in collaboration with others, ad a video, if you like, discuss your lyrics or tracks with other songwriters.
On top you can market your work as well.

2008-07-25 19:10:34


RiffWorks T4 free guitar recording and online collaboration software. Record riffs and songs with drums and effects, collaborate online with musicians worldwide, and post songs to - all for free.

2007-12-19 01:41:36


Check out

By far the easiest site to use so far and the community is great!

2007-10-12 03:53:35


RiffWorks recording software features RiffLink online collaboration with users from around the world - no issues with latency or distance between users. Getting great results!

2007-07-29 16:49:47

The NetStudio

The Virtual Recording Studio at is another free Internet Music Collaboration website.

Stop by anytime.

2007-06-06 17:20:06

Music Collaboration

Don't forget!

2006-11-21 20:38:53


Theres a new online jamming site

2005-11-04 12:49:35

Alex Buck

also see features free VST plugin with video for recording over internet (not so much for realtime jamming but for project work).

2005-10-01 16:46:41

Jeremy Cooperstock

You may want to take a look at our own (continuing) work on real-time, low-latency musical collaboration... we have supported truly synchronized violin duets in the same city and a reasonably synchronized jazz jam across the North American continent (in collaboration with partners at Stanford).

If you require any further information please feel free to contact me by email or telephone at +1-514-398-5992. Note that my email is filtered by a whitelist-based SPAM blocker.

posted by Robin Good on Friday, July 15 2005, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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