Is Everything On the Web? Start a Virtual Band with Online Instruments

By Jen Heller Meservey

Recording music can be an expensive hobby. Home recording artists need instruments, amps, microphones, pedals, recorders, software, and more to get their music from their minds to their fans’ eager ears. Some websites aim to help lessen the burden with online instruments. Several online synthesizers, drum machines, and even guitars are free for indie artists to use while recording their masterpieces. Any starving musician can now add new sounds and beats to a demo using only a mouse and keyboard.

Monkey Machine: An Online Drum Machine

Monkey Machine is a free online drum machine created by Pekka Kauppila. Recording artists can use Monkey Machine to create their own drum beats using samples from over 20 high-quality drum kits, or download over 10,000 beats from Monkey Machine’s drum beats database.

Nvate Monkey Machine Drum by Pekka Kauppila machine AngryOctopus by Shannon Smith synths virtual band

The Monkey Machine

Kauppila said he created Monkey Machine because of “a natural combination of lifelong passions for creating music and programming computers.” He used Java to synthesize Monkey Machine’s drum sounds, which he said allows him to “control every byte that is coming out of [the] speakers.” Kauppila himself uses online instruments as practice tools, because he feels that their sound quality is not yet good enough for professional recording, but he believes that will soon change.

“The benefits of being online are accessibility and the social aspects like sharing, collaboration and commenting,” Kauppila said. “The downside is that current web-based technologies are limiting.”

Kauppila feels that the future of online instruments lies with established recording software like Steinberg Cubase and Pro Tools. He believes that someday soon these programs will develop online features for sharing and collaboration.

As for the future of Monkey Machine, Kauppila said he has some new online instruments in the works, including one he said will work in the “traditional non-online music production environment, but will bring some online aspects into it.”

AngryOctopus: Online Synthesizers

Nvate Monkey Machine Drum by Pekka Kauppila machine AngryOctopus by Shannon Smith synths virtual band

An AngryOctopus online synth.

On his blog, AngryOctopus, Shannon Smith creates a wide variety of online synthesizers and games. It would seem that the two are unrelated, but Smith said he began creating online synthesizers after several attempts at making computer games “without much success.” Smith said he built his first online synthesizer as a way to add music to a game without adding a large download size. “I spent quite some time trying out various techniques,” he said, “and found I was having more fun writing synthesizers than writing games.”

Smith also uses Java to produce his synth sounds, but he finds it problematic. “The tricky bit is dealing with all the problems that come with doing this digitally,” he said. “Almost every component presents a unique set of difficulties that make it extremely difficult to achieve a really good sound.”

This difficulty is one reason why Smith doesn’t believe that online instruments are the future of recording, but he does agree with Kauppila that professional recording software will one day include “more social media type aspects for sharing songs, patches, loops, [and so on].”

Smith feels that there is one big advantage to online instruments, “the ability to instantly try stuff without having to install it.” However, he doesn’t use online instruments to record music because he said he doesn’t actually make any. “I’m not very musically talented,” he admits.

However, he continues to use his programming talents to create more online synths. AngryOctopus’ long list of synths even includes some drum machines and synth guitars. As Smith said, “I always have new synths in the works. Hopefully I’ll finish something soon.”

If you’re a musician looking for a free, easy way to record your melodies and beats, try online instruments from Monkey Machine and AngryOctopus. Maybe they’re not the future of recording, but they’re excellent tools for practice and demos, or for starving indie artists to get started in home recording.

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