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Online Dulcimer Group(s) - Pros and Cons

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Our local dulcimer group has not been meeting since the quarantine for COVID-19.  I belong to a ukulele online jam group that meets every week and meet on Zoom.  I have not explored setting up a group on Zoom.  I do miss everyone that met locally.  What do people think about this?  Is it easy to set up and what are the pros and cons?  Dawn


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Hi Dawn,

Welcome!  I understand how you feel as most gatherings and festivals have been cancelled for the next couple months. 

Zoom itself is pretty easy to set up if you wanted to set something up to meet and chat.  There would be some issues with folks trying to play instruments together live though.  Delay (lag) in the video and audio stream would be an issue with any conferencing app.

Imagine just two people trying to play together over an audio conference.  One starts playing, and the audio is broadcast to the other person with a small delay.  The second person hears the music and starts playing in time to what they're hearing, but they're really playing a little behind because of the delay even though it sounds to them as though they are playing in time.  The second person's microphone picks up their playing and sends it back to the first with an additional delay. 

So the first person is hearing the second person lagging behind them by the delay it takes for what they play to get to the second person, and then a second delay for the audio from the second person to get to them.  That's going to be really tough!  Now imagine that with a group of people who all have different delays between them and you can imagine it would be a bit of a mess.

One idea you might try is having everyone prepare a song to play individually so timing wouldn't be an issue.  Or maybe just have a get together to chat and socialize on the video conference without playing.  If you have someone who can edit a video together, everyone could record themselves individually playing along to a click track or the same recording of a song, and then someone could edit the individual performances together and play that back over zoom.

I'd love to hear if you Ukulele group has come up with some ideas that work.  Any ways to stay connected and keep playing during this time is great.

Btw, there are a couple virtual dulcimer festivals coming up.  The Berkeley Dulcimer Festival is going to be online this year.  Also someone is putting together the QuaranTuned Dulcimer Festival in early June that has a lot of well known instructors teaching. 

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I did a little searching to see if I could find anything more about jamming online.  One suggestion I saw that was interesting is having everyone in Zoom conference mute their microphones except for one song leader.  Then having everyone play along with the song leader.  Each person would only hear the song leader and themselves, but would allow some level of interaction and get around the delay issue that would happen with everyone playing together.

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Years ago there was a site for sharing audio.  I can't remember the site but a group for dulcimer players was started.  The site allowed people to put up their hand if they had a song to play.  So, when it came time for a person to play something, that person would click their mic "on" and play or sing their song.  It was such a lot of fun because it seemed to me like playing live on the radio.  We had some fairly large groups from anywhere in the country on some nights.  Some people would share more than one song each night and some people just joined the session to listen.  There was a space for chatting while each person was playing. 

Zoom might be a good way to organize such a session today and I also recommend one person with mic on and the rest of the players just listening or playing along with their mic on mute.  The added benefit of Zoom is that video of each player would be possible.


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