Do you feel the need to mix a song but you don’t have a pc at your disposal with all the required sequencers and plug-ins? Are you some amateurs who want to approach the world of digital audio production either avoiding any outlays or occupying your own computer’s CPU too much? The innovative technology of cloud computing finally makes it possible to create or edit music tracks at any time except for one condition: having at one’s disposal whichever pc, smartphone or tablet as long as an internet connection is available. If you want to learn more about the general details of cloud computing, you can read the first part of this article here.
The web “cloud” allows us to use some music editor/creator softwares such as the Roc and Myna couple. Funnily enough, the two programs belong to a web site which has nothing to do with the music field. As a matter of fact, we’re dealing with available tools from the already famous Aviary site/application, which finely replaces the very expensive image editors like Photoshop and all. In order to take advantage of the Aviary’s services it only requires signing in for free. If you don’t
feel like creating a new account, it’s given the option to access directly via your Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo or Soundcloud profile, so that the sharing with all your friends will be much faster. Safely sign in straight away, even just for a test run, for the site policy is “we won’t share, sell or spam”: you won’t be bothered with an avalanche of email notifications or adverts.
Roc (Pic. 1) is a limited creator. It’s not meant to create full tracks, but rather for creating short 8 bar loops in 4/4. The editor is one of the most intuitive ever: just one page to represent it, a simple window to fill in with your own beat (Pic. 2). On the left side there are our 12 line references, we can load a sound in each one. It offers a good 50 presets which group sets such as percussion or synth bass, piano sounds and also an unusual set of sounds from old videogames. If we’re not pleased with them, we can load our own sounds or rather sample some new ones by the recording function. The basic functions are all there: pan and volume for each sample, tempo, master volume, single note volume or percussion beat (velocity mode), the opportunity to create random loops. Once our file is finished, we can save it in a few seconds. In addition to the title, we can add a short description for the track and the indispensable tags in order to be tracked by other curious users. We can load the track back at any time and change it. Roc allows us to create small pieces which can be later put together with the help of Myna or whichever editor. In fact we can export our creations to mp3 or wav and keep on working offline as we’ve always been used to do.
Myna (Pic. 3) is the editor which helps us mix our tracks. As in Roc, there is a time limit for our song (6 minutes). We can load files with extensions like like wav, aif, mp3, wma, m4a, ogg. It is possible to load tracks from the Soundcloud database (our own ones or the ones from other users who are willing to share them) and obviously to access the database within Aviary in order to use the Roc beats we created or the “public” ones. A new feature allows us to use a series of samples from Quantum Tracks (APM Music) created by cybernetic composers and put there for us to combine, modify, remix them. To make it easier for us to find them, they have been divided into categories and subcategories: we’ll find intros, loops and ends for each genre. It’s worth reminding that, though having the full authorship on anything created by ourselves, we will not be allowed to use tracks containing samples by Quantum Tracks or by other users until we get us a license for it. Apart from the time limit, Myna seems to be a rather complete editor (Pic. 4).
It contains within itself all the basic instruments we need in order to edit our tracks: automations, effects whose parameters are completely editable (Pic. 5), besides the loop, stretch, trim and reverse options. Once the mixdown is done, we can save it online or download it choosing between the mp3 or wav format. Needless to say that everything is as simple as that.
Being them online platforms, Myna and Roc add something to what our Cubase, Pro Tools and Logic are lacking of: not only it allows instant sharing but also collaborations among other users on the same file, as it happens for Google Documents, with the exception that the file in question is an audio track.
For an active user in terms of music production, pros seem to be:
• Having some very intuitive softwares and all their basic function at our disposal without spending a cent; it already happens with the free software around, you would say… but which software is updated and upgraded on a daily basis so much that it offers us its highest performance and the timely solution to any mistakes? None thus far; with this kind of software in cloud (as well as in the case of Ubuntu) there is vast room for improvement;
• quick sharing and the “multi-recording” function among other musicians on the internet;
• No need for a pc any longer which should be powerful enough to allow us to work on audio editor;
• No need for any fixed storage any longer in order to save our creations;
We’re clearly talking about the pros in relation to non-professional users, who don’t need whatever nowhere-to-be-found orchestra samples recorded at the Royal Albert Hall. But then I am sure that soon we’ll also witness to the commercial launch of records which have only been recorded via cloud.
• limited softwares, not yet complete for professionals, but more suitable for an happy-go-lucky amateur or experimental approach;
• slowness in loading the tracks within Roc (i.e. about 10 minute time, a little bit too much!)
• the risk in losing everything if the platform should close or be affected by unexpected malfunctions;
• as much as we are willing to trust a whichever site, chances of getting a work stolen raises dramatically in comparison to recording a track within the familiar offline environment where we are the only ones to witness our creations;
It’s absolutely a personal question whether the choice is towards pros or cons. In the third part of “A cloudy future” we’ll be talking about the most common use of cloud computing which can be done by users within the musical area: online storage of every one’s own tracks. ICloud, MP3Tunes and Google Music phenomena are altering the digital market. But they hide consequences which needs closer examination.
Annalisa De Martino
Italian to English translation: Umberto del Giudice