Last Friday night the inaugural lines/Disquiet Junto Ninjam occurred. @pirxthepilot hosted myself, @mzero, @bellyfullofstars, and @ikjoyce. An amazing time was had by all. Sincerely, it works far better than I ever could have imagined. Two west coasters, one east coaster, someone from London, and someone from Indonesia. There were moments when it felt like we were all in the same room. One of the best parts was the wild variety of instrumentation the five of us brought to the experience. I can’t think of any other network music technology that would allow for all that diversity.
We learned some things.
Set your NINJAM client channel level to 0db, and then make sure the mix you’re sending into the channel is peaking at -12db. We all tried to intuitively mix by ear (mainly using the dynamics of our instruments) and while it sounded incredibly good to each of us, when we played back the recordings we were all unpleasantly surprised at how uneven our levels were. So, until we’re all doing this by heart, we need to keep an eye (not an ear) on the levels. As we gain experience I imagine we’ll learn more about how different setups can mislead you on how you’re mixing in.
The way NINJAM works, everybody shares a BPM and a BPI. We had the defaults set, which are 120BPM and 8BPI. What each person hears is the prior interval from everyone else. So, in our case, what we were hearing from everyone else was always 8 beats behind what we were playing. While it’s incredibly confusing to think about, in practice it turned out to be no big deal at all. We electronic musicians are already pretty used to thinking in 2-4 bar loops, and everything just sort of naturally synced up without anybody really having to try to make it so. It just works.
I think one of the reasons it worked so incredibly well is because we all brought with us an attitude of focused listening as well as care and concern for the ensemble. Nobody tried to grandstand. We were in it for each other.
There are a lot of different NINJAM clients. The official NINJAM client won’t compile for Intel Macs. Expert Sleepers has a 32-bit plugin that may work (not really sure about that one). Ninjam JS appeared to work at first, but turned out to not be very reliable and also a complete CPU hog. Reaper has a native plugin that works very well. That’s what we all ended up using last Firday. But since then we’ve all been experimenting with a plugin called JamTaba and it works great (except it is 64-bit only). I recommend JamTaba if you use a 64-bit DAW already. Otherwise, try Reaper.
@pirxthepilot hosted us on his desktop computer. Since then @mzero and I have set up more permanent servers. You can connect to mine at beepboop.fm, port 2049. Use a username, but no need for a password. In JamTaba, that looks like this:
The public servers can also be amazing. Today (Sunday) there was a nice ambient/noise jam from 11-1 Pacific time. There have been incredible jazz jams off an on every time I’ve checked. All of the NINJAM clients list the public servers, and JamTaba will even let you listen in on channels before you join. You can also listen in on public servers at http://ninbot.com
I’d love to schedule a regular lines/Disquiet Junto NINJAM session. Or maybe two or three. It makes sense to set them at times that are agreeable to participants’ time zones, so it might be necessary to have more than one regular session to achieve that. Please leave comments with your general availability for such a thing, so that we can gauge the best times for scheduled jams.
That’s all for now, can’t wait to jam with you!