When we listen to a National Public Radio show while driving down the highway, watch a movie, enjoy a song from a wide range of sources, play a Podcast from the Net, or click on a sound player on a Web page, we listen to a mix of sound. These mixes will often include some simultaneous combination of human voice, multiple musical instruments and special effect sounds from nature or human-made sources. The layers of sounds in the mix are called tracks. The software applications for making and combining a set of tracks are called audio editors. The best of these is GarageBand by Apple, which is free, and enables music creation as easily as it enables general audio editing as well as providing a wide range of other excellent features, but only runs on Apple technology including Macs, iPads and iPhones. The other audio editors handle the basics of mixing tracks or other features, but none come close the feature set and easy of use of GarageBand. These other fine editors include Pro Tools, Adobe Audition, Logic Pro, Mixcraft and Audacity, that run from hard drives of computers. Though there are several online special purpose music composition and audio editing applications, only one is a reasonably full-featured online application, Soundation.
The development of online audio editors is still an area of growing development with new arrivals as well as departures when Web companies do not figure out a financially sustaining model. There was another well known online audio editor, the Myna Audio Editor but as of September 15, 2012, their entire set of media editors, including Myna, was shut down as the company moved on to other products. Soundation is an excellent online replacement for Myna, at the low rate of $19 a year, and charges $5 for each additional set of musical loops to supplement a small set of sample sounds made available initially. In addition to Soundation, other online audio editors handle some part of music composition: JamStudio, Indaba, DubStep and MixMatchMusic. There are also online music publishing services such as BandCamp for musical entrepreneurs. Further, there are collections of musical loops that can be imported into such applications, e.g.: Free-loops, freesound
tags, and ccMixter. The site called iCompositions has thousands and thousands of examples of compositions created with a variety of audio editors.
Loops are short musical ideas played by a wide range of instruments. They are not only fun and easy to use, but easy to create. Loop creation is a great introductory assignment activity to audio editors for students. Think of loop creation as inventing musical vocabulary words that can be used over and over in different patterns, whether as a primary musical motive or figure in the background. Think of each track as a special kind of musical sentence which through the uniqueness of music can be played in harmony with other tracks of sentences. Numerous commercial loop providing sites can also be found by searching for audio loops and music loops. The audio editor however is the master maestro that calls them all together in a larger effort.
Loops, riffs and licks can be quickly created at a computer with an online keyboard as well as by a wide range of musical instruments by those capable of playing them. As Audacity and Soundation do not provide online keyboards, several online keyboards can be found at Web sites. If the computer speakers are turned up high enough next to a microphone, playing on the keyboard can be recorded by audio editors in record mode. The best of the bunch to date is Virtual Keyboard (courtesy of Birmingham, England's Birmingham Grid for Learning), resizable with 9 different instrument sounds. There are other virtual keyboards, with both online and hard drive locations. Online keyboards: CMagic's Virtual Piano; Flash Piano; Paul Flavin's Piano/Oscilloscope; New Concept's Virtual Piano. Downloadable keyboards: Keyboard Virtual MIDI Piano Keyboard (download and install).