How to Keep Rock ‘n’ Roll Alive: Turn It Down With JamHub [VIDEO]
Feb 24, 2012
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All you really need to be in a band, assuming you’ve got instruments, is a place to practice. However, not all practice spaces are created equally. Even the most lenient neighbor will get annoyed when you’re jamming through all hours of the night. Steve Skillings, the CEO, founder and inventor of the JamHub line, a guitar player himself, had that in mind when he left his job at Bose to find a quieter way to play music. The JamHub, now sold all over the world, basically creates as silent a rehearsal studio as possible. You can't silence drums (though electric drums aren’t nearly as loud) and singers are tough to restrain as well. Some instruments are just naturally loud. The way it works, the whole band plugs in to separate inputs on the JamHub itself. Each individual member has a set of headphones and they can adjust their own personal settings to hear the music as loud or as soft as they’d like. “Musicians each need to hear their own mix. I was thinking, ‘I don’t think this piece of equipment exists.’ So I dug into it and looked, sure enough, nothing like this product existed,” Skillings said. Skillings made the first JamHub with $700 worth of mixer parts and started testing it with his own band. “I knew I was onto something when my drummer's wife came downstairs and only heard the singer,” he said. To watch a band rehearsing with a JamHub looks a bit odd at first. No matter how you strum it, the sound of an electric guitar with no amp is just, well, underwhelming. Just watch the video below to see what I mean. But in the headphones, the band hears a full, plugged-in sound. “Being completely consumed with your sound is a lot of fun,” Skillings added. “It’s like turning your living room into an isolated recording studio.”
Hearing every little detail, of course, means you're going to hear the mistakes you've been making that had previously gone undetected. "The very first time we used it, it became evident that we were butchering harmonies," said Skillings. "We weren't starting words at the same time, we weren't holding the vowels. We were all over the place. "
Amateur rock stars everywhere could benefit from the objectivity of a refined playback machine. The demand for this product is there among musicians, but the plight of a startup is convincing distributors that what you have to offer is a both unique and highly desired. “As a startup, if you’re counting on distributors and retailers to help your company, you will be greatly disappointed,” said Skillings. “They stick with things that are tried and true.”
However, the JamHub seems to be steadily climbing toward “tried and true” status. “High schools and middle schools are buying JamHubs and adding rock programs. In the U.K., they’re going nuts. The kids are learning music through music that’s relevant to them.”
Here in Massachusetts, too, the JamHub is being used in programs like the Music & Youth Initiative in Lawrence. So what’s next for the 3-year-old startup out of Whitinsville? Skillings laughed at the question. “Can’t talk about what’s next,” he said. “But we have a 10 year product plan that we’re two years into. Our whole mission is, if you want to describe it in three words, it’s: more active musicians.”
Well, then. Rock on.