BLOG: The rise of online music software

Flash music making tools like the Hobnox Audiotool are becoming more advanced
Flash music making tools like the Hobnox Audiotool are becoming more advanced

A few weeks ago we covered The Hobnox Audiotool, a virtual online ‘studio´ that allows you to make music online with synths, drum machines and effects. However, as ingenious as Audiotool is - and it´s the best online music-making tool we´ve found - it´s not a serious alternative to the likes of Logic, Reason and Pro Tools.

The problem for online developers is that Audiotool and its ilk are powered by Adobe´s Flash browser plug-in which, although a powerful and diverse platform, has little support for high-end audio and MIDI processing. This is something a group of Flash developers hope to change with their campaign Make Some Noise: a petition to Adobe requesting that more audio manipulation features are introduced into Flash.

What´s the point of online software?

You´d be forgiven for asking why Flash needs to be capable of high-end audio editing (after all, most of us are familiar with Flash as the platform that facilitates playing mini crazy golf at work), but the opportunities presented by online music software are numerous.

Software today requires an often tedious installation process before you can start using it, and once it´s installed it´s stuck on the machine it was installed on. Software delivered online could be accessed anywhere that has an internet connection, on any computer, with no installation. Tools for music making would be instantly accessible any time inspiration struck.

"Online only software isn´t just a pipe dream either: several software manufacturers including Adobe have predicted that all software will be 100% online in the near future"

What´s more is that ever increasing internet speeds are not far off being able to stream high quality audio in realtime. You could borrow a mate´s laptop, turn up for a gig in London, record it straight to a remote server and have your producer in New York mix the very same evening. In fact, the biggest struggle would no longer be installing the software, but finding yourself a producer in New York.

It doesn´t stop at audio either; there are petitions to get MIDI support added to Flash, which would open the door to a bizarre new world of, among other things, keyboards with Wi-Fi. Perhaps it won´t be long before we´re checking our Facebook from our Roland Fantom (or at least using it to play mini crazy golf).

Online music applications not only encourage creative spontaneity, but they make music making more accessible for beginners - something Apple´s Garageband has achieved in the traditional software world. It's not just a pipe dream either: several software manufacturers (including Adobe) have predicted that all software will be 100% online in the near future.

Adobe´s Flash isn´t the only platform that can deliver music software within an internet browser, but it´s certainly the most universal thanks to a thriving and passionate community of developers. We support their cause and hope that Adobe takes note of their petition.

In the meantime though here are a few online music programs to keep you entertained, ranging from the serious to the bizarre…

By Chris Wickett

Online music applications

Grotrian Pianolina - a charming little program that looks like a sort of musical pong. Make sure you check out the Beethoven preset on the right hand side.

Rolana TR909 - A brilliant online recreation of the classic drum machine.

The Whitney Music Box - An audio and visual demonstration of what happens when you play harmonics in a spiral (you´ll see what I mean). It´s hypnotic to watch and listen to, and it´s worth listening to one whole revolution.

Rubik´s Cube sequencer - It´s probably harder to work than the game on which it´s based, but it´s good fun none the less.

Tony B synthesizer - A simple sequencer reminiscent of the single finger chord mode on cheap pianos. It´s instant fun, complete with sound effect pads and fills.


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