- 1 Introducing Jamspace Studio
- 2 Jamspace Studio Concepts
- 3 Using Jamspace Studio
Introducing Jamspace Studio
Jamspace Studio is the primary workstation at Jamspace. Here you can create projects, record tracks, import audio and MIDI files, mix, arrange and export audio files. There are a lot of features packed into this screen, so please take a moment to get acquainted. Even if you don't want to use these features right away it'd be good to know what's available should you want to use them in the future.
This first section provides a brief overview of the studio and how it works. The following section goes into concepts used by the studio and the final section instructs how to use the individual features.
Web Audio is an evolving standard for web browsers. One of the key features is the ability to record audio directly by the browser. Before Web Audio the only way to do this was by using a plugin such as Flash or Java applets. Web Audio is a much cleaner and more secure alternative that is consistent among browsers since it is a W3C standard. As Web Audio is an evolving standard things are bound to change and implementations may vary among browsers, but overall the consistency is high and most modern browsers will work will with JamSpace Studio.
Digital Audio Workstation as a Service (DAWaaS)
There are several trends in the field of computing that have come together to make Jamspace Studio possible. One of these trends is the above mentioned Web Audio standard. Another trend is the proliferation of cloud based services for computing, storage, network and so forth. By leveraging these trends Jamspace Studio is working to bring the familiar Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) capabilities to the cloud. In doing this we gain several advantages, some examples:
No software to install
Typically a DAW is a software package that you install on a particular device. First you buy the software, then you install it on a device that meets the system requirements, then you have to maintain updates to the software and back everything to keep it safe. Jamspace Studio eliminates all of that, simply log into your account from any compatible device and go. You'll always be running the latest version of the software and there's nothing to back up!
Social networking is another major trend in computing which Jamspace incorporates. Just as you can connect to your project from anywhere in the world you are also connected to a community of potential collaborators.
Use Jamspace to set up your own bands or join others' bands. Bands allow you to control who has access to your projects, enabling you to work privately with collaborators of your choice. Bands are a great way to collaborate on songwriting, to share demos, hire a session musician to add his or her contributions, etc. Another great use for bands is to compile a library of tracks that you can reuse by importing them into new projects.
Public Music Library
While bands enable you to work privately with others you can also share projects with the public and we hope you will. One of the key built in features of Jamspace studio is the ability to import tracks into your project. This can be a great way to build for example a basic starter track. It's also a great resource for practicing, for instance, load up a Blues in Bb project that someone has shared, loop it and let your inner B.B. King out for some fun. If you'd like you can add your own recorded or synthesized parts and save them as a new project.
Lossless audio storage
In order to conserve on storage space Jamspace studio uses FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) encoding to store files in our cloud. Using lossless compression means that your audio quality is preserved to the greatest degree possible. When you record audio it is also compressed in this way so that you retain every bit of the audio quality that your system is able to provide.
Jamspace Studio is a truly cloud based service, meaning that almost everything happens in the cloud and your browser is only a window into that. When you record music it is streamed and stored in real time to our cloud, the reverse is true for playback. This of course requires an Internet connection and the better your connection the better your experience will be. However, Jamspace is designed to work well with typical Internet connections and incorporates buffering to help smooth over hiccups in the Internet traffic.
Despite being cloud based Jamspace aims to provide a similar liveness as you would expect from a standalone DAW running on your local device. For example, if you adjust the volume or pan setting of a track you will hear the change almost immediately.
Sharing your music
There are a couple of basic ways to share your projects with others:
This is where you make your project available to others, either publicly or privately through bands. If you share a project publicly then anyone can open the project and make changes, but any changes won't affect your original. They can save their changes as their own project which they then own. This is a great way to share basic tracks, for example a rock tune with drums, bass and rhythm guitar which others can flesh out with vocals, leads, etc.
Export audio files
The other option is to export your project in a standard audio file format. We currently support exporting as MP3, Org/Vorbis or FLAC formats. Exporting audio files is a great way to give other people copies of your music, play them in your car, make mix tapes, etc.
Jamspace Studio Concepts
As much as possible Jamspace Studio sticks to the familiar concepts used by most Digital Audio Workstations (DAW). This section explains the concepts behind the studio, understanding this will help you get the most out of Jamspace Studio. After the concepts have been introduced in the section the following section will show you how to use them to create and share music.
Projects and what goes in them
A Jamspace project is a hierarchy, with the project being the top level in that hierarchy. Before delving into projects though we should first introduce the parts that go into building a project, starting from the bottom up.
Content represents a single piece of audio, there are currently three types of Content supported by Jamspace Studio.
Audio content is sampled audio, it's basically a digital audio file. Audio content comes into Jamspace either by recording directly or by importing an audio file such as MP3 or Ogg/Vorbis. Jamspace Studio stores audio using FLAC compression so whatever you record or upload will maintain its full fidelity.
Jamspace Studio incorporates a software synthesizer that is based on the General Midi (GM) specification. GM has a standardized set of programs or patches so that when you play a standard MIDI file you will hear the right instruments for the right parts. There are two ways to get Synthesized content into Jamspace Studio, the first is to import a standard MIDI file. This is a powerful feature because there are millions of MIDI files out there with complete songs, drum tracks, backing tracks, etc. The other way to create synthesized content is directly in the Jamspace Studio. There is a crude piano roll editor that allows you to place notes (events in MIDI parlance) onto a track.
MIDI is an area where Jamspace is looking to greatly enhance. This includes an improved editor, support for auto-generating tracks (drums, bass, etc) based on preferences and WebMIDI which will allow your browser to record and play to an external MIDI device.
Composite content is a very powerful but fairly unique feature that makes it much easier to manage projects. We'll revisit composite content after we've talked about Scenes below.
Tracks and clips
If you've used a DAW before then you're familiar with the concept of a track. It is usually a single instrument, voice or part, so for example in recording a duo we might have four tracks, one for each's vocals and one for each of their instruments. Keeping parts isolated into separate tracks has significant advantages. It is possible to adjust the parameters (volume, pan, etc) of tracks individually to create a desired mix. It is also possible to eliminate or replace certain tracks without affecting the others. While editing a project individual tracks can be muted or soloed to help you hear what's going on.
More specifically, a track is a single piece of Content as described above. Each track is loaded with one piece of content of any type. A track also has some settings you can tweak, currently just pan and volume but stay tuned, there's more to come.
Clips are closely related to tracks in that a track holds some number of clips. The track itself is just a container for Content, the clip decides when and how much of that content is heard. In some cases, say recording the vocals for a song, the track will contain one long clip. In other cases, say a repeating drum or bass pattern, you can either drop down multiple clips of varying length or you can loop the clip. Clips can be stretched from the front or back to make them loop once the end of the content is reached.
The image below shows a single track. The yellow box on the left is for setting the track's properties:
- V: track volume
- P: track pan
- Solo: Silences all other tracks that are not set to solo
- Mute: Silences this track
- Title is 'New Recording', double-click on the text to change the name
- The black box with a plus (+) sign opens up more options (discussed later)
This track has a short piece of content and there are two clips shown. The first clip plays from measures 1 through 4, ending at the start of measure five. The second clip starts at measure 7 and plays until the third beat of measure 14. Since this second clip is longer than the content it is played as a loop. The red vertical bar shows the start of a new loop.
Working with clips
When working with clips you have control over how many clips there are in a track, where they start and how long they play.
- Double click on a clip to remove it from the track
- Click on an empty space in the track to drop down a new clip. It will default to one loop (i.e. no repeat)
- Drag the left and right edges of a clip to set it's duration. If you drag a clip from the left side it will incorporate audio from the end of the previous loop.
- Drag the entire clip left or right to place it where you want it on the track
- Clips will snap to fractions of a beat, to increase the resolution you can zoom in using the global editor controls (discussed later)
A scene is a collection of tracks with some global settings such as volume and tempo that affect all tracks. The scene volume is a master control, the individual track volumes are still maintained relative to each other but the overall volume goes up or down.
In a typical DAW a scene would be the song you're working on, all of it's tracks, settings, etc. Scenes can be used this way in Jamspace Studio too, but there are much more powerful ways to use scenes.
- Scenes can be used to organize a collection of related content. For example, you might create a project called 'Rock Drum Tracks'. Each scene is one drum pattern, and you may have scenes called 'Basic Rock Beat', 'Rock Shuffle', 'Long Fill', etc. In this way you've built a collection of rock drum tracks and organized them into individual scenes.
- Scenes can be embedded as tracks into other scenes. This is a very powerful feature which will be explained shortly.
A scene is like a canvas where you arrange your tracks and clips to get them sounding how you want. Then you configure the overall settings for the scene by using the various settings controls at the bottom of the screen.
- Tempo - this is the speed, in beats per minute, that your track plays back at. Synthesized tracks will automatically match the tempo, that's one of the really great things about synthesized tracks. Audio tracks will not change in pitch or duration but as you change the tempo the starting point will remain the same. For example, if your audio clips starts at measure two at 60 beats per minute it will still start at measure two if you change the tempo to 100 beats per minute.
- Meter - This controls how many beats are in a measure
- Measures - this is the total number of measures in the scene. When scene playback reaches the end it will seamlessly loop back to the beginning.
- Metronome - This feature provides an audible beat during record and/or playback. We'll go more in depth on the metronome when we learn about the recording process.
Composite content was mentioned briefly above when we introduced the three types of content. Now let's find out what composite content is and why it's so useful.
Composite content allows you to embed any scene from your project as a track within another scene. Why is this so useful? Here's one example scenario:
- You create a scene with your rhythm tracks, or import a pre-existing scene from the Jamspace public library. This scene may have several tracks of its own and you've got them all dialed in just the way you like them.
- Now you want to add vocals and lead tracks over your rhythm section. So, create a new scene and import the rhythm section scene as a single track. Now you've got your entire rhythm section incorporated neatly into one track which reduces the clutter and makes it easier to focus on the new stuff.
- At any time you can go back into the rhythm track and make changes, even while the main scene (that embeds the rhythm section) is playing. So, for example, you start to layer on a lead guitar solo and you decide that the bass track needs to be louder, go back to the rhythm scene and raise the volume on the bass track. Voila! The change is reflected anywhere that this scene is used.
A great use for composite tracks is to embed parts from other projects. There is a built in tool (covered later) for importing scenes into your project. You might for example import a scene called 'Blues in A', it is a complete 16 bar backing track with bass, drums, rhythm guitar and organ that can loop forever.
Tracks with composite contents behave exactly like other tracks, you create clips, loop them, set the pan and volume, etc.