Aviary Gets a Music Creator

Online toolbox Aviary announced last week its new online music creator, Roc. Roc is free, in alpha, and available at http://aviary.com/blog/posts/online-music-creator.

When you first launch Roc, it’ll offer you the option to start off with an instrument (WHAT? NO COWBELL? — no, wait, I think they hid it in the drum kits) or to open a sample project. The sample project is the RocDemo which will give you a screen full of instruments.

This project is set in common time at 120 bpm. Each instrument has its own line, with a row of four dots per measure. If you want an instrument to play at one of the beats in the measure, click on the dot. There’s a bunch of instruments on the right side of the screen. You can add instruments individually or by the folder. I added a folder of drums and within a few minutes had several measures of percussion-y goodness playing in a loop, though sometimes the playing would skip — I think something wasn’t completely loaded. Individual controls on each instrument allow you to control panning and volume. If you have an Aviary account (free) you can save your creations, tag them, and set usage rights.

Just messing with this a little bit I found several things missing. I couldn’t find a way to change the BPM or time signature, for example. I couldn’t find a way to play tracks individually — it’s easy to play samples, but I couldn’t isolate an instrument on a track and just play it in a loop as a I added or subtracted beats. And I couldn’t find a way to record my own voice or cigar box guitar solo on top of the provided tracks.

Then I noticed that there was an “Unlock More Features” link at the top of the page, which I figured was a pitch (you’ll pardon the pun) for a pay version. It’s not; instead, it’ll unlock many of the features I missed if you’ll provide five e-mail addresses for beta invitations. Now, when I put up this post, it’ll go to over 15,000 people between the RSS feed and the e-mail and the Facebook “Like” page. But the thing is everyone receiving these posts has asked to receive them. I would be uncomfortable providing Aviary with five e-mail addresses unless I knew five people who are really looking for an online music creator – and, sadly, I don’t.

Roc will absolutely not take the place of more advanced desktop software any more than Phoenix can, for me, take the place of GIMP. But like Phoenix, sometimes you need accessibility and ease of use far more than you need every last little feature in your desktop software. Despite the fact that there are some fundamental things you can’t change about Roc (at least not without giving out some e-mail addresses) it’s easy to noodle around and crank out little musical loops. Play with it and see what you think.

Looking for Creative Commons Music? Dig.ccMixter

Are you familiar with ccMixter? It’s a web site for samples and remixes that are released under various Creative Commons licenses. Nowthe site has a new addition: dig.ccMixter, available in beta at http://dig.ccmixter.org/.

Dig allows people who are looking for music to find it more easily, whether you’re seeking theme music for a podcast, or background music for a YouTube video, or whatever. And you can tell that from the front page: here you can explore podsafe music, free music for commercial projects, etc.

I did a search for instrumental. I got well over 650 results. Yow! Pulldown menus let me restrict my search results to just those songs that are free for commercial use, while another menu let me zero in on party music, coffeeshop music, etc.

Narrowing the search to “Cubicle Music” got my results down to over 250, but that’s still a lot. An “advanced dig” would allow me to search further by genre, instrument, and style.

Search results include track name and artist as well as license type. Additional buttons allow you to stream the song, download it (the downloads I looked at were in MP3 format), or get an informational window that provides details on the song. I was surprsied at how many different genres were represented here.

If you just want to taste the music available without doing a lot of searching, visit the Featured Page, which has both curator’s picks and popular music. This page also has several podcasts, so getting a quick 40 minutes of groove is as easy as subscribing to The Mixin’ Kitchen or Cool Music.

What a fun visit! Hmm… maybe ResearchBuzz needs a theme song…

Get the Album Art, then Get the Music

It’s Music Thursday here at ResearchBuzz!

Do you like browsing album covers? Would you like to do it one giant page at a time? Visit Album Art Search at http://www.album-art-search.com. At this site, the search for album art comes first and the music comes second — if you ever stop enjoying the album art long enough to get around to the music.

The site starts out with a bunch of popular covers. You can browse by genre if you like but it’s much more fun to do a plain keyword search. Do a search and you’ll get a page full of album art that relates to your keyword. I started out with cows:

Now of course you can search Amazon’s music selection for cows and get a quite servicable result, but I’m wondering if there’s some different way these album results are being sorted. It seems to me that I’m getting more indy-offbeat-type stuff. (Cows with Guns? Two Cow Garage?) The albums are hard to appreciate in the result montage but click on one of them and you’ll get a much larger version of the album cover, a link to the Amazon page for the album, and an invitation to “log in” if you wanted to save an album to your favorites. Apparently this site was built using the Google Apps engine, so it also uses the Google login. I didn’t try it.

With search results that provide images only, this site isn’t good for serious research. But oh is it fun to browse around.

Dewey Organizes Internet Archive Music

I first read about Dewey last week at Boing Boing. Boinger Dean Putney has create a project that makes it much easier to find and listen to the huge archive of freely-available music on Dewey — over 1.1 million tracks by over 10,000 artists!

Dewey is available at http://deweymusic.org/. From the front page you can get the pick of the day, or you can look at the top-rated, most-played, or newest tracks. But if you’d rather, you can browse genres or do a keyword search. I found the genres list way too unwieldy — one of the genres, I promise you, was “a campfire and a tent and a flashlight and some matches and a tree and that river and my glasses and a spaceship and a really really big bear but the bear is really really far away” — but the keyword search works really well.

I did a search for ragtime and got a results page divided into several sections. There’s a list of artists (in this case none) albums, and songs. At the bottom is a list of venues, but this isn’t for venue information, it’s for performances that were recorded in that particular venue. The result list also includes the number of “thumbs up” for songs.

And here’s the really cool thing — you can use the icons next to each song or album to either play it immediately or add it to a playlist. (Looking at albums full of songs gives you an addition icon option to download each track.) The playlist shows up on the upper-left part of the page. If you’re trying to make a playlist of a certain length, you’ll have to do some guessing — track length is not always available even for album listings. But if you just want some music, pop in some music and albums and away you go.

Both search and playback were fast and terrifically easy to use. I didn’t see a RSS feed for search results, which would be fantastic, and track length would be a great thing to have for all the songs. But I’m quibbling — Dewey makes the million+ tracks in the Internet Archive SO MUCH EASIER to find and use! I wonder if anyone would do something like this for the feature films section of the IA, or maybe the Prelinger Archives?

iDig Launches Directory of Streaming Audio Broadcasts

iDig Network announced this week the launch of iDigRadio, which launches more than 990 radio stations from over 40 different countries. it’s available at http://www.idigradio.com/.

The front page has “iDig radio picks” and other stations, but the list of categories for browsing are over on the left. You’ve got a list of genres — everything from Rock-Pop to Vocal-Easy Listening — and then a list of different sounds and talk radio, including links to children’s radio, news, and sports.

The station listings themselves have a station name, image, a brief description, and a location. The listings on the front page were all over the place, including listings from South Carolina, France, Egypt, Turkey, and Australia.

Bear in mind that these are only links to sites — I did not see a case where iDig actually hosted the streaming media. That means that there are different requirements for each stream. Most of the time I could play music immediately, though a couple of times I had to specify an external player.

Extensive variety of music and talk here. Worth a look.