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Jam With Chrome (jamwithchrome.com)
220 points by robin_reala on Nov 8, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 78 comments

According to http://www.jamwithchrome.com/technology

"The real time websocket relay system used to make collaboration with JAM possible was developed using the Go programming language."

And the web app is hosted on app engine. AFAIK though, you couldn't host the Go websocket component on app engine (even though GAE supports Go as a runtime) since GAE doesn't support persistent connections directly.

In any case, very very cool!

I think you missed the Channel API : https://developers.google.com/appengine/docs/go/channel/

(also available for Python and Java)

The Channel API doesn't currently use WebSockets. Instead it uses Comet techniques like forever frame and long polling.


Lots of fun. Always wanted a live Internet jamming solution for a band. Now, if only it could work with real instruments plugged to the computer. But the network delays make it impossible. Waiting for the day when bits from Europe to the US won't take 100-150ms to travel. Not sure it's going to happen anytime soon, though.

Any 2 sounds played above 30ms apart start to be distinct to the human ears.

The speed of light is always going to be a limitation for these kinds of applications . I dont see how the latency can be reduced enough to make this close enough to a live jamming session . Considering your 30 ms threshold it takes light that much time to travel 10,000 kilometers . Could we perhaps use some of the predictive techniques that games like Counter strike use ?

You could maybe use that to smooth out envelopes, but whether a note is played or not isn't something you could possibly predict. I mean, you could predict the most likely note to be played next based on some musical analysis, but there's no way you could get it accurate enough to not compromise the surprises that make music so interesting.

Quantum entanglement, perhaps? It's supposed to transfer information without any speed of light limitation.

If we could get enough bits to work with quantum entanglement then sure. But regardless to get information out of a quantum entanglement you have to send a basis of measurement before you can decode the data so you are still bound by the speed of light.

That's the best explanation I've read of why quantum tunnelling doesn't allow FTL information transfer. Thanks!

I don't think it does.

  Now, if only it could work with real instruments plugged to the computer.
I haven't seen this in action, but isn't that what these guys do? http://ejamming.com

Just a few weeks ago an extended family member mentioned them to me. He'd been using their software to play with his old bandmates, who are now scattered around the country.

Edit: Here's a link to their "learn more" page, which is hard to find: http://ejamming.com/learn-more/

I tried this and it works 'sort of'. Better than I at first thought, it is not in any way tight, the latency keeps being irritating. I did have a good jam from Germany with a guy in the US, though.

Interesting idea there, about delaying by a measure and not running for the shortest delay since it's still not good enough.

try it. it is so fun.

I'm old school - when improvising on the guitar I like to be able to read the drum/guitar/bass player etc based on looks, nods and general "intuition" (being person to person that is). Don't think an internet connection is going to be able to do that quite as well!

But, perhaps I'm being nostalgic :)

Combine it with video chat? Skype or Google hangout?

Cute, novel, technically impressive from a web design perspective.

But does it have AISO low latency audio driver support? Lets not even get into the latencies websockets are going to create. Even if you set something like this up on a LAN, the latencies would still be too high for any truly professional musician.

Dont expect anything like this being used by any real musicians anytime soon, even minus the websockets collaborative part.

Still very cool though. But I still wait for a day when something like Rock Band or Guitar Hero actually has professional low latency audio that could seriously be used live on stage by a band with sub 10ms audio latencies.

If rockband and guitar hero cant even do that, I'm not holding my breath for chrome anytime soon, especially in a networked situation.

Presumably the WebMIDI authors are thinking about latency?


Ah what I didn't know there was a WebMIDI draft... do any browsers plan to support this?

Chris Wilson is an author of this and at Google so I guess Chrome at least will implement. No idea beyond that.

It appears to me you've excluded some cognitive capabilities of musicians. Music is all about timing and anticipation. Let's say you have an instrument e.g. drums which actually emits its sound a little time/milliseconds after the hit. That doesn't stop you to perform accurately with a band, and only little adaption is required. I'm strongly looking forward 'World Music' gets redefined.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: someone really needs to build the "Google Web Fonts" of Web Audio API instruments/effects. If developers were able to include sampled/synthesized sounds as easily as dropping in a script tag, it would open up a whole world of possibilities for interactive music on the web.

I was just thinking this the other day. What form do you think this would take?

I have only a fuzzy understanding of how this works, but I was thinking you could run a bunch of .wav samples through Web Audio to get their wave shapes ... save them as arrays, and then synthesize sounds from a single js file? (Rather than lugging around the .wav files themselves).

If this is possible, it would be awesome.

Well, I was thinking more along the lines of providing a service that takes care of all the note-sample mapping for you. You could either specify instruments/effects that you want via script tag url params, or perhaps using some kind of loading library (Google Web Fonts offers both of these methods). The bottom line is that you would be provided with patchable Instrument and Effect objects that expose a simple interface for triggering/releasing notes and modifying relevant parameters.

There is a complementary discussion to this happening at https://github.com/h5bp/lazyweb-requests/issues/82

a complementary discussion which, it turns out, I started! ah ha!


Go backend using App Engine.. Good to see Google pushing it.

Does anyone know if they stream audio or just events to peers over Web Sockets?

Some tech notes from a pro-audio software developer:

- All the samples are OGG ( http://chrome-jam-static.commondatastorage.googleapis.com/xm... )

- They're using some "DMAF" engine for the audio, though I can't figure out who made it: http://www.jamwithchrome.com/js/compiled/dmaf_all.js

It's pretty serious stuff from the looks of it - It's got a node graph with different DSP modules (envelope follower, delay, ADSR, distortion, LFO, chorus, compressor, phaser, equalizer, biquad filters), it plays MIDI files, and more.

It's all written in JavaScript too, and there's no way you'd write this just for one Chrome experiment. I don't see any outside party acknowledged on the website, but I'd guess that this DMAF JS audio engine is licensed from someone.

It's interesting to see what they've been able to do with the Web Audio API and JavaScript, but I think the Web Audio API is going to be forever limited to toys like this unfortunately. You just can't do real-time audio with a garbage collector waiting to pounce.

I developed a similar application for Chrome (which coincidentally had the codename "Jam"), but instead, it uses Native Client for audio instead of the Web Audio API. It's called SongStarter, and you can jam with it here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/jbkilbgofafobojkif...

(NaCl apps must be installed from the Chrome Web Store for the time being, otherwise they won't work. Google's choice...)

And as a side note, if you're interested in seriously jamming over the internet, I think NINJAM is the best tool by far: http://www.cockos.com/ninjam/

It deals with latency by ensuring that it's rounded to measures, so in a free form jam, everyone always stays in sync. It's an ingenious solution and it really works. Being in a jam where real musicians with different instruments just join in and play together is incredibly cool. (That's the achilles heel of these web experiments unfortunately - Cool tech demo aside, they're not really aimed at musicians...)

DMAF is our framework at www.dinahmoe.com. It stands for DinahMoe Audio Framework. I'm the one who's been doing the grunt work of the framework, so I'm quite familiar with it ;) We've decided to release the effects as open source at https://github.com/Dinahmoe/tuna , though it's not complete yet with all the effects.

Awesome, great job with it, and nice that you open sourced it!

How long have you been working on it for?

There's going to be loads of "big brand" companies looking for crazy audio doodads for their websites after this Jam thing. Probably lots of contract work to found be there... :)

Thanks :) Let's hope so.

It's been in the making since December, if I don't remember it wrong. I have to give credit to the rest of my team too, of course.

As far as I know http://www.dinahmoe.com did that part. The same engine was used on http://exquisiteforest.com

I haven't looked into it but I am almost sure it will not be streaming audio. It's most probably events.

http://www.multiplayerpiano.com/ is similar. It only supports the piano instrument, but it has a public lobby where you can play with other visitors to the site, as well as private rooms.

... as long as you're not on chrome mobile, which is 4 versions behind.

Make that 5. Desktop Chrome is v23 now. This would be great as an app for Android tablets, though - something like an alternative to Apple's Garage Band.

It seems yo can add this as an extension to Chrome, too:


It seems to say that I can use the QWERTY keys to play the guitar, and while the buttons are moving on the screen, the chords aren't. Is that a bug or am I doing something wrong? The sounds seem to work only when I used the auto mode.

When you're in "Easy" mode, the keys (or in your case frets) don't actually do what they should in reality; They're just used to define generally what range the autoplay pattern gets centered upon (the actual notes played are governed by the selected chord). It's kind of disappointing, really; It should let you play real notes in conjunction with the patterns in my opinion.

The real bug, though, is that the "key" setting at the top of the UI that's supposed to update the available set of chords is completely wonky, and rarely does what it's supposed to (what, you wanted B? Let's go with A instead. You chose major? Minor it is!)

So this is kind of odd... Nothing loaded when I first opened the page. I opened developer tools and had a javascript error "Failed to load resource http://connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js . Well, I keep all facebook widgets blocked with Ghostery and disabling it allowed the website to load.

Seems kind of strange. I mean if FB goes down or moves the location of that js file or something, the whole jamwithchrome site won't work?

What is missing from firefox that makes it incompatible with this?

I think Firefox and Chrome have different (experimental, advanced) audio interfaces right now.

I'm not really sure about the differing capabilities, or what standardization of either looks like right now. But I think Mozilla's api is more low level, so it might be possible to create a compatibility shim on top of it?

Mozilla will be adopting the WebAudio API from Chrome and have deprecated their own (lower-level) API. Work hasn’t started yet though.

Oops, hadn’t realised that was a metabug, just saw that it didn’t have any attached patches. Mea culpa.

They were probably thrown off by this page[1], which states that "Work has not yet started on the new Web Audio API in Firefox." :)


This is really cool. Nice going. I'm amazed to see how many people have been working on similar things. I took a shot at this a while ago (http://soundtype.com) but I was stuck using Java for MIDI. Really looking forward to the MIDI spec for the Web Audio API.

Being that this is HN many of you might have seen this already, but there's an exciting Google IO talk from Chris Wilson about Web Audio: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFsCG7v9Y4c

And see the corresponding slide deck for code: http://webaudio-io2012.appspot.com/#1

Online music players like this are pretty cool, but I find it really hard to actually produce a meaningful tune while holding down keyboard and dragging mouse around.

Oh well, maybe I just need to practice more!

You can use your keyboard too.

This is very cool, but would love to see an easier way to strum the string instruments. It is hard to get a good rhythm going while holding the button down and fighting cursor drift.

Also check out http://www.instajams.com

My best friend and I built this in a few months and we're really proud of it. It's still very early but we're adding new features all the time.

It doesn't have the graphic design and branding of jamwithchrome, but you can start creating music really quickly.

Also, if you sign up for free, you can create and loop clips and jam with yourself if you like.

Give it a try and let us know what you think.


"There is something wrong with the plumbing. Check network connections."

Not sure where to go from here, since I certainly have a connection.

You are probably blocking some ports it expects to communicate on. WiFi or Ethernet?

Just finished my jam session... was awesome. Crashed my chrome but I think that must be something about the memory in my mac. But amazing app... have a lot of fun :)

Think of it like smashing your guitar or something else equally rock 'n roll :)

Crashes under Chrome 23.0.1271.64 (xubuntu 12.10). :/

23.0.1271.64 on 64-bit Kubuntu 12.04 works fine, fwiw.

Would be interesting to know what it is about the page that is causing Chrome v23 on Ubuntu to "Aw, Snap!" so reliably.

Not working for me on Version 23.0.1271.64 on Ubuntu. I get an Aw, Snap after I select my instrument.

I'll try this after they fix Chrome to stop kernel-crashing my Macbook Pro 2012.

Crashes my chrome page. Lame.

Works fine for me and is pretty awesome. Upgrade Chrome or your computer

Crashes for me. Chrome Version 22.0.1229.94 m. There are no upgrades for chrome. What should I upgrade on my computer?

Current stable version is 23.

I have Chrome 23 and a pretty good computer.

Nice! All it needs is MIDI, which is already on the way in HTML5.

crashed chrome for me =( Version 22.0.1229.94 (on Debian testing)

What would a million people all jamming together sound like?

Blank screen for me.

Productivity = lost

the amount of work to get this working is incredble

If you use it, disable the vimium extension.

Disabling Vimium is a bit overkill, you can press "i" to go into insert mode and it'll let you do as you please...if you use it more often, though, it's best to blacklist it.

I didn't know about the insert mode thing for a long time, but when I figured it out it was a "duh" moment :)

scaringly fun, just lost 15 minutes here :)

Judy G


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