Avoid spending thousands of dollars on expensive hardware or software gear or simply feel like killing time at work? The world, or rather the web, is full of browser based instruments that can be used for free and in this feature we will guide you to the best ones. Needless to say we are somewhat sarcastic when saying that these browser based instruments could fully replace any real gear. It will take time before these tools can replace the real stuff, a bottleneck is of course the inherent limitations that are quite common to many browser based instruments; such as limited export capabilities, lack of mixing and mastering controls, precision in the details (although sometimes as a result of your connection type), stand alone instruments instead of a DAW like environment, etc, but as you will see there are many strong candidates also for the seasoned musician. So, next time you are far away from your home studio and inspirations hits you we have you all covered.
So, in this feature we have stayed clear of musical ‘toys’, instead focusing on platforms that sound good and function as genuinely useful instruments and studio environments. Most of these websites enable you to input MIDI and export audio in some way, making them perfect for drafting ideas whilst you’re away from your main rig and giving you the option to transfer your sounds and projects to your home studio when you’re back. You’ll need a compatible browser and personally we recommend Google’s Chrome, as receiving data from a MIDI device is easy with this browser.
All of the Audiotool devices can freely be added to the app’s desktop where cables can be manually dragged from input to output mirroring the workflow of early electronic musicians. This approach gives full freedom when it comes to the routing, splitting or merging of the different synthesizers outputs. The easy-to-use interface enables you to rig up Roland-style drum machines and synths and route them through Boss-style stomp boxes and into a virtual mixing desk. Some basic DAW functions – including a piano roll display – enable you to program or record MIDI.
ROLAND TR-909 CLONE
Probably one of our ultimate favorites.
MODULAR SYNTHESIZER II
If WebModular isn´t enough for you perhaps you should try out TrueGrid? This one is clearly for experimental musicians and anyone interested in modular machines. It is without a predetermined signal path, and it has individual modules that can be linked together in many different ways. TrueGrid is a digital recreation of a modular synth, letting you patch modules together to create many different types of sounds. While it doesn’t have a keyboard, you can use your MIDI keyboard to play the synth if you’re using Chrome.
KORG MONOTRIBE – WEBOTRIBE
The Webotribe is a digital recreation of Korg’s popular Monotribe analogue groovebox. Just like the hardware, the Webotribe is a monophonic synth, drum machine and sequencer, all rolled into one. Actually the designer of the Monotribe helped the developer improve his emulation of the Monotribe. The Webotribe is a Java applet, so you need to have Java installed.
Interestingly enough the developer has a lot more cool stuff on his site, such as browser clone of the Moog Minitaur
ROLAND RHYTHM MACHINE – iO 808
Vincent Riemer emulated this legendary drum machine on the web. To be honest the browser version’s sound isn’t quite as good as the real 808, it still holds an impressive punch in its kicks, claps and cowbells. Click the link below to make some drum patterns right now.
This online synth for Chrome and Safari was built by Nikolay Tsenkov. It’s a simple and great-sounding synth that can be played either with your computer keyboard or by rigging up the output of a MIDI keyboard.
It comes with 30 presets and you can save and load your own. Common waveforms can be assigned to the 3 oscillators and shaped with an LFO and envelopes. The onboard compressor, delay and reverb units thicken up the sound.
This is a fab instrument on which to learn the basics of synthesis.
DAW – AUDIO SAUNA
This is a completely free online DAW. It resembles a lot Apple’s GarageBand and, as such, has an intuitive interface and well laid out controls. Much like Soundation, it runs in Flash or as a Chrome app, and although the package hasn’t been updated for a while, it’s still a good option for quickly sketching ideas using basic tools.
Sound-wise, there are good FM and analogue synths and also a sampler which covers drums and a few other instruments. You can load your own samples into the sampler and apply distortion, chorus and looping. Songs and tracks can be exported as WAV files or saved for future recall.
CHIP / SID SYNTH
Finally if yo’re into SID and chip music you may want to play around with the WebSID. The WebSID is a digital recreation of the iconic SID sound chip, as used in the Commodore 64. It’s very simple and easy to use, with a straightforward interface, and can be played using your computer keyboard. The on-screen keyboard also responds to touch if you’re accessing it on a smartphone or tablet.
There are of course many more but we are quite sure that this will keep you going for a while. Happy composing!
Today we came across this amazing browser based tool that we just had to mention in conjunction with this article – it is a new tool called BlokDust.
The open source project works like a digital version of Lego… for sounds. You get to play with colored blocks in all kinds of shapes, to create a musical machine to your liking. By coupling Power blocks with Source and Effect blocks, it’s easy to get an interesting concoction up on your screen. You can play with MIDI or a computer keyboard, but there are also a section of automatic triggers the developers call “power.” These include particle emitters and the like, and they seem in fact the best opportunity for open source development, because they could take this all in some new directions.