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The UK Brass Band I play with has already hosted one on-line meeting for our locked down brass players (via Zoom).

It was immediately apparent that timing latency makes it impossible for us all to perform together as though we were all in the same room. So we can't play pieces together.

But we can do exercises. If we were all in the same room, this is the sort of thing we might do:

  • breathing exercises
  • scales and intervals
  • lip slurs
  • copying back a played phrase
  • watching the conductor
  • improvising over a held chord
  • listening for intonation
  • fingering patterns
  • stylistic techniques, e.g. how to swing
  • etc.

When I physically stand in front of an ensemble my ears tell me which players are OK with what they've been asked to do, and who might need extra explanation/encouragement. But in video conferencing, the sound is mono, so everyone's sound comes from one point in space. It's much harder to know who needs the explanation/encouragement. So mono sound is another limitation of video conferencing.

My question is - what useful exercises can a group of musicians in lockdown do that still work despite timing latency and mono soundfield?

  • There was a brass band on national news this morning. It's on BBC I-player, maybe ask how they did it. – Tim Mar 24 at 15:21
  • @Tim Which band was that? – Brian THOMAS Mar 24 at 16:37
  • Sorry, can't remember - or find out! – Tim Mar 24 at 17:11
  • Cory Band, the finest brass band in the world. – Brian THOMAS Mar 27 at 11:42
  • Hope that was of some interest to you! For the future, if you ever get the band recorded, it would be fun to issue each member/section with 'music minus one' - the recordings without their part. I've just done similar for a vocalist so he can sing along to the rest of the tracks because his voice I've taken off. – Tim Mar 27 at 11:48
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As a preface, my experience playing duets via Zoom is that in addition to the latency, Zoom doesn't handle the simultaneous sounds well -- I can hear myself or my partner, but not both.

That said, a few experiments you could try:

  1. IF the latency between each instrumentalist and the conductor is close enough to the same, the conductor can conduct as usual, and to each player, it will seem they are in time. The burden falls to the conductor to stay consistently ahead of the beat (and therefore out of sync with the heard performance). Might be necessary for each performer to turn off their own speakers.

  2. Try arranging or creating some music that incorporates phasing, and therefore might even benefit from the latency. This would be highly non-traditional as far as brass band repertoire, but could be a fun, experimental way to incorporate the kinds of exercises you describe above. For example, take a look/listen to "In C" by Terry Riley (

    ) or any of Steve Reich's "phasing" pieces (e.g.,
    ). The pieces I mention depend on rhythmic exactness, so you wouldn't be able to play them as intended, but the latency problem might allow you to catch the spirit of them in interesting ways.

  3. Have one musician improvise a short musical segment or phrase and have each band member in succession pick up the idea and continue or develop it in some way. Latency would probably create awkward rhythmic breaks between each musician, but since the primary exercise is one of listening and being musically creative, the breaks between phrases might be not only tolerable, but necessary.

  4. Picking up on that idea, you could try a game of "operator". Only two musicians communicate at a time, with everyone else turning off their speakers. Musician #1 plays a musical idea -- maybe from a piece you're rehearsing, maybe improvised -- to Musician #2. Musician #1 turns speakers off and Musician #3 turns them on. And so forth until you come back to Musician #1 to see if the phrase has maintained correct notes, rhythm, tempo, dynamics, etc. No cheating by watching to see what fingering is being used.

  5. A "Watching the conductor" excercise / game: The conductor conducts and everyone else tries to guess which piece (or section thereof) is being conducted. Good practice for both conductor and band!

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  • thank you so much for these suggestions! – Brian THOMAS Jul 12 at 9:35
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The bandmaster could play (alone or with a small ensemble) a piece in his style and make a video that shows him conducting and giving the accents, fermatas etc. Each member can play at home his part to the video just when he wants to practice.

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I've posted this link https://www.jamkazam.com This allows musicians to play with each other via a video without any delay or latency. I haven't used it myself, but the musicians I know that have tried it, say it works

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    I am very sceptical about this. This looks like an advertisement post to me. No other posts, no activities on any other stack exchange site. I've checked out the link, theres a video of musicians who have tried it and say it would work. In the comment section of the video are a couple of comments from people who say it didn't work. The comments which say it would work look a little bit suspicious to me... Just thinking, but the latency is caused by slow internet speed, which is controlled by the internet provider and the physical circumstances (like fiber or copper cable and the distance the – Olli May 28 at 14:33
  • signal must travel). There is no way a software would be able to do anything about that. Has any one here tried it? Maybe out of desperation I will give it a try with some fake email for registration. – Olli May 28 at 14:33
  • There does exist software which makes the delay uniform, so that while nobody plays immediately, the notes line up with the beat/ measure (I'm thinking of Reaper's NinJam, but I have zero experience with it; that's how they describe their software as working, so it might be similar for the answerer's software.) – awe lotta May 30 at 22:49
  • The link is legitimate, Jamkazam works pretty well. It requires good bandwidth, a cabled (not wifi) connection and low-latency audio cards. Another package called "Jamulus" is also available. I found the latter to be less confusing to set up, but not nearly as well documented. – Duston Jul 13 at 14:01

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