Tools for Online Musical Collaboration

Gregory Ristow, Associate Professor of Conducting, Director of Division of Vocal Studies, and Director of Vocal Ensembles
June 14-17, 2021

Registration deadline: May 17, 2021

For lifelong learners of all backgrounds.

Gregory Ristow at piano with student.
Photo credit: Julie Gulenko '15

Age range: High school and older

Course Description

Making music with people around the world in real time is possible today, without the need for expensive equipment or software. We'll use cutting-edge programs that let us sing and play with each other from afar, and that open up a world of possibilities for collaboration.

Meeting Times

June 14-17
Monday through Thursday from 7-8:30 p.m. ET

Course Fee: $150

Register

Sessions

1. Making a connection

We'll learn how to make music together semi-synchronously over Zoom, along with basic tools of audio configuration that we'll use in each session. We'll also enjoy a few minutes of semi-synchronous improvisation.

We'll take a quick look at the causes of latency in internet audio connections and what we can do to reduce that latency so we can collaborate in real time.

Then we'll connect to each other using Jamulus, a platform for making music together in real time over the internet that is especially good for small ensembles. We'll learn how to find other people to collaborate with on Jamulus and how to set up your own Jamulus server to make music with people you already know.

2. Sounding your best

We'll learn basic audio techniques such as microphone placement and level adjustment to help sound our best and diagnose problematic audio from those we're collaborating with. In a user-friendly way, we'll learn about how low-latency audio over the internet works, including samples, buffers, User Datagram Protocol (UDP), firewalls, and compression. We'll intentionally break and fix our connections with each other on Jamulus. And once we get everything working, we'll do some fun group singing and playing together.

3. SoundJack

We'll apply our knowledge of samples, buffers, and compression when we connect to each other using SoundJack, a program for peer-to-peer low-latency connections. SoundJack reveals and lets us configure all of the parameters for low-latency connections, allowing us to tweak these to get the lowest possible latency.

4. Sharing other sounds, recording your collaborations

We'll learn the basics of "audio mapping" to let us share sounds from our computer, add digital effects to our audio, and record our collaborations with other musicians.

Technical Requirements

Required:

  • A Macintosh or Windows computer
  • A pair of wired headphones
  • An ethernet connection

 Recommended:

  • An external audio interface and microphone (preferred) or an external USB microphone

Faculty

In addition to his work as director of vocal ensembles at Oberlin, Gregory Ristow has a background in audio and video production, having worked for a television station for more than a decade, as well as in computer programming. He is the founder of uTheory.com, an online music theory learning platform used by more than 100,000 students. While managing the singing restrictions in place during COVID-19, Ristow helped lead Oberlin's vocal studies division in the adoption of cutting-edge technology to allow students and faculty to work together in real time from afar.