Networked Music Performance Resources

I use this page to link the tech documents I’ve made, and to offer some quick entry points to this practice. (For information on artistic projects, please see my Telematics page.)

Hardware/network basic info

When using low-latency networked music software, you should turn off wifi and connect via an ethernet (wired) connection, and you should also use an external audio interface and mic, not the mic/speakers built into your computer. Using wifi and/or built-in audio is technically possible, but usually does not work well enough. Also, the Quality of Service on your home network is a huge factor, and is related to but not the same as your speedtest results. It can also help to reduce activity on your network during a session, i.e. ask housemates to avoid video calls if possible, and pause apps on your own computer like automatic backup software.

Software suggestions (all free)

To try playing with a small group, I recommend starting with SonoBus. It has a well-designed interface, and compared to most networked software, it is relatively easy to learn how to adjust settings during a session, in order to fine tune your results. My brief suggestions for starting out are in the doc Sonobus usage notes.

For larger groups or more complex scenarios, JackTrip is a state-of-the-art software framework that has been central to the networked music performance community for the past two decades, and is still being actively developed. JackTrip enables you to reduce the bandwidth requirements at each location by using a central audio server. The JackTrip Virtual Studio platform also offers a simplified end-user experience via inexpensive Raspberry Pi devices pre-configured with a high quality audio card, running on managed servers. Another Pi option is Jambox, which enables you to run Sonobus, Jacktrip or Jamulus on a Pi device.

If you’re comfortable with computer music tools, Miller Puckette’s Quacktrip suite of apps made in Pure Data (Pd) also offers great options, as well as Damon Holzborn’s Quaxtrip that runs within Max.

An introductory article for musicians and educators

In September 2020, I self-published Networked music performance: An introduction for musicians and educators, which summarized all the information people had been asking me about during the first months of the pandemic. There’s also a shorter version in a guest blog post for SmartMusic.com. Both versions cover the main practical considerations of playing music with people via internet, and end with some broader ideas on how to use networks for teaching and social transformation.

Shorter help docs on specific topics

  • Sonobus usage notes: Sonobus now has a detailed user guide and support forum, but this is a simple doc I keep with some suggestions for new users.
  • Quacktrip and Nettie McNetface basic usage: Miller Puckette has now added detailed documentation for these 2 apps he developed, so this doc (a “quick start” doc aimed at novice users when those apps first came out) is no longer being updated, but I’m leaving it here in case it’s useful to anyone.
  • Jacktrip remote server notes are instructions for setting up a remote Debian server on the Linode hosting service to use for running a JackTrip server, written with Bonnie Kwong.
  • Nettie McNetface remote server notes, a “how-to” doc for setting up a remote Debian or macOS server to use with Nettie McNetface.

Max patches for mixing JackTrip sessions on macOS servers

Jacktrip Max Mixer is a pair of Max patches that provide mixing/monitoring functions for a small group of musicians using JackTrip to connect through a self-managed, macOS server. The server patch allows for the creation of individual monitor mixes for each JackTrip client, as well as a master mix that uses the “broadcast” feature introduced in JackTrip v1.3.

A sprawling technical googledoc

Notes on Telematic Music Production includes a mix of tech notes, links, and production suggestions for large-scale telematic concerts. It’s not the best starting point if you’re new to this topic, but I’m leaving it archived here for now.

A short series of introductory videos

Intro to Networked Performance @ Home is a short video series I made at the very beginning of the pandemic in April 2020. They feature some FAQs, audio examples of duo playing 70 miles apart, a quick screencast to show basic JackTrip usage, and a short video about latency at longer distances.

Part 1: Synchronous music on home networks @ 70 miles
Part 2: Bandwidth and tech overview
Part 3: Screencast of basic JackTrip connection
Part 4: Duo performance example with score
Part 5: Playing music at longer distances

JackTrip Basics videos

These are two 2013 videos on using JackTrip on macOS. The install instructions are no longer current, but I am leaving them online because the basic principles for multi-channel and multi-site connections (shown in part 2) still apply. For help with installation and more recent features and versions, please see the video series created by as Jan Stoltenberg (Mac) and Synthia Payne (Windows) and the help resources at jacktrip.org.

Jacktrip Basics Part 1: Installation and 2-site connection
JackTrip Basics Part 2: Routing, multi-channel and multi-site connections