In my professional job, we're able to hold conference calls with offices all over the world using Skype, and Google Hangouts.

Does anyone have a workflow to remotely practice/perform with a music group? (Like a rock band) Some obstacles I foresee are latency, reliable connection, etc... What tools, software and techniques contribute to your workflow?

Thank you

  • While the idea is great, I fear that there is no reliable possibility for this. The only method that I can think of, is by recording your band rehearsals so that you can replay them and practice along afterwards. Communicating sound/video between computers on a network is impossible without noticeable latency.
    – Lee White
    Nov 18 '14 at 9:18
  • Slightly-less bleeding-edge, I remember reading that Faith No More wrote the songs on their later albums by starting with a keyboard+bass+drums jam (those three lived in the same city) then mailing the tapes to the guitarist then mailing the tapes to the vocalist. This type of "workflow" can be done now with email and ftp and stuff. Nov 18 '14 at 17:38

I'm going to say "yes, but not yet". While the technology to do this is beginning to emerge, it is currently a costly thing to arrange. The problem is simply delay time vs reliability. First of all, transmission errors do happen over any network you and I would commonly use, even over an office LAN. These errors normally have to be accounted for. When you send a file over a network, an errant block is simply re-tried, because a file with ANY error is not useful. But for live audio, such correction doesn't make sense, because it would only delay and break up the 'real time" flow to repeat an errant transmission. This is one reason why cell phone connections will appear to break up, when packets are lost and simply discarded. Now you can add some "retry" capability by buffering. The more buffering, the more delay, but the more immunity to errors. Hence, streamed video or audio can seem flawless, as the buffers typically span several seconds. The communication is only one way, so you'd never know. Much shorter buffering, as is done in a service like SKYPE, will allow a few more errors occasionally, but comes closer to "real time".

But the trouble is "close", when it comes to music collaboration, is not good enough. Try skyping between two machines side by side on different networks, and you'll hear noticeable echo. Obviously that delay, up to several hundred milliseconds) would cause any attempt to synchronize playing to gradually slow down, as time was continually added to each completed transmission.

To make live music collaboration work requires a network that gives such high enough priority to each network packet to avoid the need for error correction or buffering, with more frequent and very short packets to allow near real transmission and replication. To satisfy a drummer, that delay would have to be less than about 30 milliseconds across all points, and NEVER be cumulative! Does the technology exists? I believe it surely does, but it is still not something you could do over your ordinary broadband internet service connection. Give it a few more years, and I'd not be surprised for it to be come an inexpensive add on, which the various ISPs will be clamoring to offer.

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