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Getting Started with Music on Jitsi Meet

Micced Cello

Last time, we talked about telematic music, lag, and compression. I recommended using Jitsi Meet. This post describes how you might use that service to sing or play a keyboard or acoustic instrument with others. If you play your computer as an instrument, the following information will still be useful. We’ll cover the extra steps for routing software audio in a subsequent post. Here, we’ll talk about which web browser to use, how to get sound in and out of jitsi, a bit about levels and which server to choose.

Web browser

The browser that works best for video live streaming is Chromium or Chrome.

My favourite browser in general, however is Firefox. I’ve found that, for me, it works ok with very small groups on Jitsi Meet, but fails with larger groups. Students tell me that Safari handles audio but not video on that platform. If you have a smart phone or tablet with a good microphone, running the free jitsi meet app may be the best choice.

For people who can’t run Chrom/ium and don’t have a smart phone/tablet, the main jitsi meet server allows people to phone in with numbers that are local in several countries. You can find those by clicking on the ‘i’ button in the lower right hand corner.

Getting Sound In to your Laptop: Internal Mic, External Mic or Line In

Internal Mic

If you don’t have an external mic and your instrument doesn’t have a line out, then you’ll be using the internal mic of your computer or your phone. You’ll want to test this. Ask your friends which sounds better. Also, try connecting to a larger group. If this causes your computer’s fan to start making noise, then you’ll need to rely on your phone – either the free smart phone app or calling in.

External Mic

This might be a headset mic or it might be a more pro-audio mic. Ways that you could connect your mic might be to plug it into a minijack (read: audio jack) on the side of your computer, to connect to it via bluetooth, to plug it in via USB, or to plug it in via a sound card or external audio device. Some recorders, like Zoom recorders, can work as USB microphones. If your audio recorder has a USB connection for reading memory, it may also work as an external microphone.

Headset mics are of widely variable quality, so you’ll need to test whether it will work better than the internal mic or not. Many computers, especially Apple, do tend to have good internal mics. However, if you have a USB mic, that’s probably better quality.

Line In

If your instrument offers a line out, then, depending on your computer, you may be able to plug it into a minijack (read: audio jack) input on your computer. You’d be likely to find a line out jack on an instrument like a keyboard. If you play electric guitar, however, that is not a line out. In that case, you’d be better going through your amp and micing it or taking a line out from your amp.

If your computer does not have a line in jack, you’ll need to either mic your instrument or connect via a sound card.

Routing Sound to Jitsi Meet

In Jitsi Meet, once you’re in a meeting, on the lower right hand corner of your browser window, there are three icons. The first one is a set of four boxes. This switches between “grid mode” and automatic switching to whoever the algorithm has determined is speaking. If you’re playing with a group of people, grid mode allows you to see all of them at once.

The middle icon, the ‘i’, gives information about the meeting, including how to ring in, if your server has that as an option.

The right-most icon, the three dots, allows you to set many things. If your sever supports it, this is where you’ll find the option to stream to youtube and to record to dropbox. One of the options under the three dots is settings.

Options menu for a non-flagship jitsi server. Settings is highlighted.
Options for the right most icon.

The settings dialog allows you to pick your webcam, pick your input and pick your output, regardless of what you’ve got for your system settings. Pick the input that you want – this could be a line in, internal mic, or an external mic. The default option refers to what you have for your system settings and if that’s what you want, you don’t need to change anything.

Microphone Settings menu on linux
Linux Input Settings
Microphone settings on mac
Picking Input on a mac

Monitoring

Your output settings on jitsi will output all audio generated by that web app. However, this only includes incoming audio from other participants. You will not hear a copy of your own sound. This means that if you are using a line-out from a keyboard, you’ll need to also turn up the speakers if you want to hear yourself. Or do some slightly more complicated audio routing on your computer. We’ll talk about how to do that in an upcoming post.

If your microphone is picking up audio from jitsi, this causes echo and eventually feedback. This can be a fun thing to do on purpose, but it’s not what you want, you may find it helpful to use headphones.

As with input, if you like what your system settings are, you can just set it to default.

Audio output settings on linux
Output settings on linux
Audio output settings on mac
Output settings on mac

Levels

Jitsi meet’s intended purpose is to work for video chats, which assume that only one person would normally speaking at a time. It does not do automatic mixing of levels, so if four participants are sending it maximum amplitude sound, the output will definitely peak. Participants need to keep their amplitude low enough that they’re not taking more than their fair share of available levels. How to deal with this may require some compositional or performance strategy, which we’ll talk about in a future post.

Pick Your Server

This is an optional step, but if you’re concerned about too much lag or low video quality, it may help. Many users will be happy with the flagship, official server. That server is located in North America. That may be a long round trip for your data and if you want less lag, you might want to pick a closer server. (Or, as we’ll discuss in a later post, you can roll your own!) Recall that you can never get rid of all lag, so if you’re hoping to synchronize beats, this is not the answer.

The servers listed below are hosted by various organizations. The flagship server has a corporate sponsor and doesn’t need donations, but some of these organizations do. If you you’re using a particular server regularly and you can afford it, look for a donate button on their main page. I’ve sorted the list below by the physical server location.

Europe

Belgium

France

Germany

Finland

Netherlands

North America

USA

Does your organization host a public server not listed here? Leave a comment!