9 ways to make music in your web browser

24th Aug 2011 | 13:48

9 ways to make music in your web browser
The internet gets tuneful

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, it’s now possible to make music on your computer without even having to go to the trouble of installing an application. Assuming your machine is online, all you need to do is boot your browser and fire up one of the many web-based tools that are available.

To save you some trawling, MusicRadar is here to point you in the direction of a selection of the best online music making solutions. From full-on DAWs to web-based synths and other sound-making offerings, there’s something for everyone to try.

NEXT: PowerFX Soundation Studio

9 ways to make music in your web browser
PowerFX Soundation Studio
All-in one web-based DAW

What does it do?

A full DAW in your web browser would have seemed impossible just a few years ago, but that’s exactly what’s on offer here. There’s a hint of GarageBand to the interface, which gives a good clue as to the features on offer. Soundation takes a loop-based sequencing approach and offers virtual instruments and piano roll editing.

How well does it work?

Soundation is remarkable: a versatile DAW which lends itself to most production styles. With great virtual instruments and a decent collection of audio loops, it’s quick and easy to get started.

What really blows our mind is the ability to record audio directly into your projects via your web browser. The app has been updated on a regular basis, so we’re confident it’ll continue to develop and evolve in the future.

Soundation is the perfect example of what web-based music tools have to offer, proving that the cloud computing model works surprisingly well for music production.

Open PowerFX Soundation Studio

9 ways to make music in your web browser
Naïve Solutions Audio Sauna
Online audio workstation

What does it do?

The newest arrival on the web-based music scene is Audio Sauna, a DAW based around built-in virtual instruments. Launched as a public beta, Audio Sauna currently offers MIDI sequencing with FM and virtual analogue synths, plus a sampler complete with preset drum and instrument patches.

How well does it work?

Even at this early stage in its development, Audio Sauna has a lot to offer. Each instrument includes excellent real-time chorus, distortion and bitcrushing effects, while auxiliary delay and reverb sends are available through the mixer section.

The instruments themselves sound great, with a range of useable presets and incredibly versatile editing options. The analogue synth’s impersonation of a Roland TB-303 is particularly impressive, serving up all the acidic bleeps and squelches you could ever need. The quality of Audio Sauna’s instruments and effects alone suggest that it’s going to be a serious contender as it matures.

Open Naïve Solutions Audio Sauna

9 ways to make music in your web browser
Angry Octopus Webotribe
Virtual Korg Monotribe

What does it do?

Programmer Shannon Smith started the Angry Octopus site with the intention of featuring his video game projects. Luckily for us, he often finds himself gravitating towards synths, which he says are “small enough that I can get them finished (mostly) before I get bored”. Among the many synths on the site you’ll find virtual recreations of the likes of the Roland SH-101, Minimoog, Yamaha CS-01 and - in this case – the Korg Monotribe.

How well does it work?

The Webotribe might just be the best of Shannon’s creations - it actually offered a virtual version of the Korg Monotribe before the real thing even went on sale. A web-based emulation obviously lacks the hands-on appeal of the real thing, but the Webotribe’s faithful imitation of the hardware’s workflow makes it genuinely useable. The sound isn’t identical, but it’s close enough to trick most people.

Just like the Monotribe, the Webotribe is great fun and genuinely inspiring.

Open Angry Octopus Webotribe

9 ways to make music in your web browser
Hobnox Audiotool
Roland-influenced production environment

What does it do?

Back when it first launched three years ago, Audiotool offered a revolutionary approach to web-based music-making. We’ve seen plenty of incredibly realistic Roland TR-909 and TB-303 emulations over the years, but by bringing them into our browsers, Audiotool gave us a real glimpse into the future of web-based music.

How well does it work?

Since its launch, Audiotool has developed into a full-on cloud-based production environment with great sequencing options, a range of drum and synth sounds and a variety of versatile effects. The workflow is slightly different to most DAWs, based around hooking up virtual wires to connect pieces of equipment, but it doesn’t take long to get to grips with the approach.

The community aspect is also one of Audiotool’s strongest features, with users able to share finished tracks and make them available for others to remix. No wonder Audiotool has built up a loyal following.

Open Hobnox Audiotool

9 ways to make music in your web browser
Andre Michelle Tonematrix
Tenori-on-style virtual instrument

What does it do?

Audiotool is Andre Michelle’s day job, but he also makes parts of the bigger app available separately through his personal website. Tonematrix is our favourite, a virtual instrument which draws inspiration from Yamaha’s groundbreaking Tenori-on. Think of it as a polyphonic step sequencer triggering a simple sine wave-based instrument.

How well does it work?

Tonematrix is as simple as it gets. Use the 16x16 grid of buttons to program repeating patterns, then mutate and develop them as they loop. Copy and paste functions allow patterns to be stored and recalled, while the space bar wipes everything if you want to start from scratch.

The simplicity means that Tonematrix works incredibly well as a standalone tool, with absolutely no musical knowledge or experience required to get started. Don’t be surprised to realise you’ve wasted a couple of hours just creating and developing melodic ideas.

Open Andre Michelle Tonematrix

9 ways to make music in your web browser
8-bit-style sound FX generator

What does it do?

The clumsily named as3sfxr, developed by Tom Vian, is the perfect example of a simple but incredibly useful web-based sound utility. as3sfxr is essentially a Flash port of sfxr, an open source tool originally developed by Tomas Petterson and described as “MS Paint for sound effects”, which should give you some idea of the simplicity of its approach.

How well does it work?

as3sfxr makes it easy to create a wide variety of bleepy, lo-fi sound effects, drum samples and synth tones. Start with one of the generator presets - explosion, powerup, laser and so on - then mutate the sound or adjust parameters manually until you achieve the desired result. Even the randomize option often spits out great noises. Once you’re happy, export your sound as a WAV file and load it in your DAW.

Whether triggered as one-shot FX or loaded as instrument patches in a sampler, sounds created in as3sfxr are perfect for adding a bit of 8-bit-style video game magic to your tracks.

Open as3sfxr

9 ways to make music in your web browser
Generative sequencer

What does it do?

Another one to file under ‘simple but addictive’, Batuhan Bozkurt’s Otomata app is a great generative sequencer that takes a unique approach.

Cells are set off along rows and columns, bouncing off walls and colliding with each other. Simple settings create melodies which repeat in short loops but more complex arrangements of cells will continue to evolve and develop over a much longer period of time, creating melodies and harmonies with a life of their own.

How well does it work?

Create an initial setting by making cells active in the 9x9 grid, then click Play to set them off. These cells then create tones each time they crash into a wall and rotate clockwise each time they collide. Built-in scales and modes ensure that everything stays in tune, while your project can be shared as a link or recorded and downloaded as a WAV file.

Open Otomata

9 ways to make music in your web browser
Indaba Music
Collaborative recording environment

What does it do?

Launched in 2007 and now firmly established as one of the most popular web-based music tools, Indaba Music is a recording environment which follows the crowd-sourcing model for collaborative projects, allowing users to recruit other members of the community for assistance in creating their songs.

How well does it work?

Tracks are recorded, edited and mixed directly through your web browser in the (slightly buggy) Indaba Console. Whether you want to remix someone else’s song, contribute a track or two to an existing session or create a new project of your own, Indaba’s integrated social network allows you to find and meet amateur and professional musicians from around the world. Search for users with the skills you need and then recruit a band and production team for your project.

Indaba Music genuinely breaks down geographical boundaries, which can only be a good thing for collaborative musicians.

Open Indaba Music

9 ways to make music in your web browser
Backing track generator

What does it do?

For beginners and solo musicians, JamStudio offers something slightly different to most web-based tools. Based on just a few simple choices, the “online music factory” can create backing tracks and demos. Start by entering the chords of your track, then choose from a selection of guitar, synth, bass, piano and organ samples in order to construct a full arrangement.

How well does it work?

JamStudio isn’t perfect - it certainly falls a long way short of allowing you the freedom to create full songs from scratch - but it gives you an easy way of trying out chord progressions and experimenting with alternative arrangements. We can’t think of many quicker ways of putting together a backing track for a practice session.

Subscription is pricey but allows you to download MP3s of your creations. We’d give it a miss and just use the site to create quick and easy backing tracks.

Open JamStudio


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