I personally believe that there’s no better music creation software for non-musicians than Apple’s Garageband. Sadly, that great tool is only available for Mac users. So far, I haven’t been able to find similar tools under other operating systems that can compete evenly with Garageband. Almost all good music maker apps out there belong to the complicated and expensive group, while the cheap/free tools stay on the lower end of the quality spectrum.
I recently found an online music creator from Aviary called Roc which can be a good alternative for amateurs who want to create some quick music but don’t have access to Garageband. The tool has limitations and can’t be compared to Garageband, but it’s free and easy to use.
Preparing The Stage
The first time you visit the Roc page, you will be greeted by the option to open a project using an instrument as the base, or to open a sample project.
If you choose the first option, there are lots of instruments on the list that you can choose to start your project. Pick one and click the ‘Open’ button.
Roc will load the instruments from its server, and the process could take some time depending on the speed of the internet connection and the processing power of your machine.
As everything is saved in the cloud, it’s very important for you to continuously save your work. Even a seemingly harmless action like refreshing the page could cost you your creation. That’s why Roc comes with pop-up reminders to make sure users remember to save their work.
There are several important areas in Roc’s environment. First is the ‘Control’ area on the top left area of the window. This is the place to play/stop the loop as well as setting the BPM (Beats per Measure) of the project.
The number of BPM is reflected directly on the ‘Beats’ area. For example, 4 BPM will divide the area into groups of four dots. On the very left you have sound slots – the place to put sounds that you want to play later on.
The next one is the ‘Instruments’ area where you can choose what instruments to play.
And under Instruments is ‘Sounds‘. This one will list down the available sounds for each instrument.
After knowing the general functions of those areas, creating music with Roc is as easy as drag and drop. Here are the steps:
- First, choose an instrument to play from the ‘Instruments’ list.
- Then pick one sound from that instrument and drag and drop it to one of the (empty) slots on the ‘Beat’ area. You can click the small ‘Play’ button next to each item to hear the sound sample.
- With sounds lined up in their slots, click on the dots next to each sound to set the timing – when the sound should then play. Blue dots represent ‘play’ while empty dots represent ‘not play‘. Clicking on an empty dot will turn it on, and clicking on a blue dot will turn it off.
- Click on the ‘Play’ button on the control area to start the loop.
- You can listen to the result while the loop plays, and edit the beats along the way.
- The circle on each slot is the volume (green) and pan (blue) controls. You can click and drag them to adjust individual sounds.
The description might sounds a little bit confusing if you haven’t tried to use the tool yet. But the process is actually fun and addictive once you try it yourself. You can easily lose track of time while trying different combinations of sounds and beats.
The image below is an example of how a complete project might look like.
And after you have finished your project, you can save it by clicking on the ‘Save’ button on the upper right of the interface.
Since the music project is a creative endeavour, Roc will ask you to set the licence for your work. The default is ‘Creative Commons Attribution’ where people can use your work freely as long as they give you credit for your work and link back to it.
You also need to log into your Aviary account (or register first if you don’t have an account) in order to save your work.
As an online music creation tool, Roc is very capable. Even though there are limitations on the number of sounds that you can add and the length of the loop on every project, this music maker is easy, fun and addictive to use. If you love music, Roc could be a nice alternative if you are looking for a free program to edit music.
Since experience is the best teacher there is, I suggest you get your hands dirty and try the tool yourself. Then you can share your thoughts and opinions using the comments below.