Jamie Cullum leads world’s first 5G music lesson

June 2019

On June 25th 2019, critically acclaimed musician and songwriter Jamie Cullum led the world’s first 5G music lesson from his piano at the two thousand year-old Roman Amphitheatre in London, playing live with amateur musicians in Bristol and Birmingham using 5G technology, on behalf of Music for All.

Why do a 5G music lesson?

The event demonstrated how technology can remove barriers to learning. The advent of 5G technology will ultimately deliver super low-latency (i.e. low delay) connectivity everywhere, enabling an Internet of Skills where skills can be shared with others wherever they may live, work and play.

Here, we brought together music teachers and aspiring musicians. Research shows that making music: helps people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to keep smarter, younger, healthier and more sociable.

Who was the music teacher and why?

We wanted someone who was well known in public, could straddle musical genres, could involve and communicate with musicians and an audience compellingly, and who was a consummate instrumentalist and singer, but with a non-traditional route into music, consistent with Music for All’s aims.

With all of that at stake, there was really only one name in the frame, and to our delight he not only said yes, but approached the opportunity with huge enthusiasm – Jamie Cullum.

Jamie Cullum: “I’m delighted to be part of this ground-breaking event. I believe that the future of music can evolve hugely by adopting the latest technologies, like 5G. Having the privilege to perform with others via the power of 5G can open up new opportunities for artists, enabling them to practise and perform together remotely and communicate at a level that we never thought possible.”

Jamie Cullum is a Music for All ambassador. Listen to his new album, “Taller”.

Who were the amateur musicians and how did we choose them?

We launched an open call for musicians, specifying that they had to be amateurs but with a background in specific instruments and on vocals. We asked them why they wanted to join the band and what questions they would ask to help them with their musical journeys.

In the end our wonderful 5G band, as selected by Jamie, was in Bristol:

and in Birmingham:

Where did the 5G technology come from?

We combined the public 5G network from EE with the 5GUK testbed at King’s College London and the Smart Internet Lab at the University of Bristol. Technology assistance was also provided by Digital Catapult, Prof. Alexander Carôt – developer of Soundjack and Focusrite  – provider of fine audio interfaces.

How does 5G allow music to be played over long distances?

Before 5G, each generation of mobile technology, aimed to transmit ever faster data rates. 5G does that too, but for us it’s especially important that it has especially low latency. Latency is the delay over the network. As humans, we need low delays to make our connections feel real and personal. In the case of playing music, performers need to make rapid responses to be able to play in time and to convey the emotional connection / feel / swing / groove – call it what you will!

Sound travels about 33 cm (about the length of standard ruler) in a millisecond – a thousandth of a second. Performers sitting a few metres away from each other get used to delays of a few milliseconds, feel an emotional connection with each other and can play in time and with expression. Much longer, and that personal connection is lost.

So how can we do that between cities? Well in the same time as sound travels the length of this ruler, radio waves travelling at the speed of light travel three hundred kilometers! In the past, wireless technologies have added lots to the delays, but 5G has been engineered specifically to make them as low as possible.

Our experiments in preparation for our event showed we could make the delay between a note being played in London and that sound being heard in Bristol or Birmingham as low as 10 milliseconds. In other words, it’s as if our performers, who were actually separated by well over 100 miles, were actually in the same room and playing just three and a half meters away from each other!

So we can now make the internet personal – and when 5G networks are rolled out across the country we can share our skills, and help more people enjoy the benefits of music.

Where were the musicians?

Musicians were playing in three iconic venues across three cities:

Julian Lloyd Webber, principal of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, said: “As a world leading institution providing diverse music education opportunities to a broad range of students in a state of the art building, we are absolutely delighted to partner in this global first. Access to exceptional music-making sits at the very heart of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and our significant investment in technology and venues – including the Eastside Jazz Club – ensures a vibrant and memorable experience for all. We look forward to further exploring the possibilities of 5G in music education following the success of this fantastic artistic endeavour.”

Can I watch the performances?

Absolutely! The full recorded live stream is available here, and you can jump to particular tracks and sections through the links below:


01:06 Introduction
04:21 About Music for All
07:47 About 5G technology
19:28 How the musicians and teacher were chosen
23:56 Jamie Cullum intro
25:30 “Drink” performance (Jamie and the 5G band)
29:49 “Drink” feedback
36:26 “Use Me” performance (Jamie and the 5G band)
44:58 “Use Me” feedback
01:00:06 “When I Get Famous” performance (5G band tribute to Jamie)

What was it all in aid of?

At Music for All we know that making music changes lives.  Ask any of the performers playing today, anyone playing purely for their own pleasure or those who play in front of audiences, all know that there are huge benefits to making music.

Our  charity is a small one but with big ideas.  Founded 10 years ago our initial aim was purely to help make more musicians, but now we want to take that further and ensure that everyone in the UK who wants to should have the opportunity to play a musical instrument.  To achieve this we need to support those who are currently unable to access instruments or tuition because of financial issues, geographic limitations, or physical or mental disabilities.

As the name of the charity suggests, we are “for all” so we support all age groups, playing abilities and musical genres.

There are four core activities we use to support new and existing musicians:

Through the generosity of many volunteers and a very small and dedicated staff, we are able to operate on very limited overheads, meaning that monies raised are able to go straight to the good causes.

Please help us by donating or running a fundraising event in aid of Music for All, become a member or leave a gift in your will.

Who do we have to thank for making this possible?

While Music for All led the event, it was all made possible by a group of diverse partners who gave financial, technical and spiritual support:

And, behind the scenes, a group of over 60 committed individuals who gave their time, effort and patience for bringing our event to life. Thanks to you all.

Further reading