As we move further and further into the digital age, new technologies are opening new for creative possibilities. Anyone can become a writer using a blogging platform. Anyone could become a film maker with YouTube. And anyone can be a photographer on Flickr. But how about music? Musicians, designers, and developers have been slowly creating tools for people without any musical training to easily make music for free. We've found some promising examples of how this can be achieved.
The tools to make music online are abundant. There are, however, very few which we believe are truly successful in their execution and intent. For instance, the Tony-B Machine, although seemingly full of functionality lacks a solid design and suffers heavily from a counter-intuitive and off-putting interface. Other interfaces such as Sheep Beats or the Daft Punk Keymixer feel more like a novelty than a serious tool to create enjoyable music.
We think the In B Flat project is the perfect synergy of intuitive use and beautiful music. Music producer and composer Darren Solomon developed the project on his own when he questioned the benefits of multiple YouTube videos playing simultaneously. He sent out a request to YouTube members to record a video of themselves playing a song in b flat with a few simple guide lines. He selected 20 videos which can now be played in any order at any time. The result is a near limitless arrangement of individual parts to make a unique and personalized song. After spending a mere 10 minutes with the website should demonstrate its great potential. We remember an older YouTube project some years ago where a user uploaded a massive amount of single "tone" videos that were about 10 minutes in length. The idea was that you could open up multiple tabs of the videos to create a long, droning tonal piece which was actually quite beautiful. Sadly, we think it is now gone.
The second project we've come to enjoy is the simple QWERTY-based drum machine brought to us by Ron Winter. Accompanied by some groovy graphics, this fun little keyboard app is responsive and has rich sounds. We've found this to be one of the better examples of an online drum machine because it was so simple, compared to others which feel bogged down with needless features.
Our final (and best) example of a fun, simple, yet incredibly powerful music tool is Andre Michelle's ToneMatrix. The concept is ridiculously simple (and highly intuitive). Each square within the matrix represents a tone. As you move across the matrix in any direction, the tone's sound shifts in relation to its position. The playback is on a constant loop, reading the matrix in a line from left to right. (Describing the functionality is twice as long as actually using the app.)
If you're wondering how you could record and save any of the music you make from the above tools, look no further than Audio Hijack Pro. It allows you to record music directly from an application such as your web browser.
The matrix seems like the best way for a non-musical person to relate to the sounds being played. Apple recently utilized the matrix in their Garageband app for their drum machine functionality. This lead us to search for audio visualizers and tools that were similar in structure to ToneMatrix for the iOS. One such application (which allows saving and includes a few additional features) is Grid Music, available for all devices. If you're looking for a more direct relationship to ToneMatrix, you can try Melodica or SoundMatrix.