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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

7 Tools Students Can Use to Create Music Online

Yesterday, I gave a short presentation on digital storytelling to the folks in attendance at the Ed Tech Teacher Teaching History With Technology workshop. One of the points I made to participants is that when creating multimedia digital stories the best way to avoid any kind of copyright issues is to have students create their own sounds and images to include in their projects. Here are some tools that students can use to create their own sounds online.

Using Aviary's Roc service you can create your own music loops or samples. After you've created your music samples you can download them, reuse them in Myna, or embed them into your blog. Below you will find a brief tutorial on how to create sound loops using Aviary Roc.



Beat Lab is a free service through which you can experiment with thousands of sound and rhythm combinations. Using Beat Lab is easy. Beat Lab provides a grid on which you select the sounds you want to have played. You can specify how often you want each sound played and how quickly you want the sounds played. There are twelve default sounds provided in the Beat Lab grid. You can add more sounds by selecting "add more sounds" and choosing from the huge catalog of sounds. If the sound you want isn't available in the Beat Lab catalog you can upload your own sounds.

Incredibox is a neat website that allows you to create unique rhythms and sounds from drag-and-drop menu. The sounds in the menus are recordings of a Bobby McFerrin-like artist making "human beat box" sounds. You can experiment with different sound loops, choruses, and instrumental sounds to create your own unique sound loops. To use Incredibox just head over to the website, select the English or French version, then start mixing sounds by dragging from the menu to the "people field." Every time you add a new sound a new person appears in the screen. Click a person to delete the sound he represents.

UJAM is a service that aims to make everyone a singing sensation. Okay, so it might not make you a singing sensation, but it could help you create music tracks that you can share with friends and use in multimedia productions. Here's how UJAM works; you sing or play an instrument while recording to UJAM. When you're done recording, use UJAM to alter the sound quality of your voice, turn your voice into other sounds, adjust the tempo of your song, and or remix a song to include your recording. UJAM is essentially an online, light weight version, of Garage Band. Watch the video below to learn more and see UJAM in action. 


Soundation is a free service that allows anyone to create and remix sound tracks online. If you have used Apple's Garage Band or Aviary's Myna, Soundation will look familiar to you. Soundation provides five tracks on which you can place music clips and sound effects to mix together. To create your original work you can select from Soundation's gallery of 400 free sounds, upload your own sounds, or record new sounds using the instruments and keyboard built into Soundation. When you've created a product you like, you can download it or share it in Soundation's gallery.

From the same people that brought us the great computational search engine Wolfram Alpha comes Wolfram Tones. Wolfram Tones uses algorithms, music theory, and sound samples to generate new collections of sounds. Visitors to Wolfram Tones can experiment with sounds and rhythms to make their own sounds. Wolfram Tones allows visitors to choose samples from fifteen different genres of music on which to build their own sounds. Once a genre is selected visitors can then alter the rhythms, instrumentation, and pitch mapping of their sounds. When satisfied with their creations, users can download their sounds or have them sent directly to their cell phones.

Having students experiment with rhythms on a drum set is usually a very loud experience for the students and for anyone within earshot of those students. That probably explains why my elementary school music class was held in a room behind the cafeteria kitchen and hundreds of yards away from any other classroom. Fortunately, developments in technology have made it possible for students to experiment with drum rhythms on a quieter scale than was previously possible. One such tool that makes this possible is Monkey Machine. Monkey Machine is a free web-based program that allows students to experiment with drum set sounds and rhythms. Using Monkey Machine students can customize the selection of drums and cymbals in their virtual drum set. Monkey Machine also allows students to customize the tempo in their drum tracks and the frequency with which each drum or cymbal is played. All tracks created using Monkey Machine can be downloaded as MIDI files.