A random link led me to a series of fantastic tonal toys. Some of these are simply diversions, and some are elaborate programs that can be used to create amazing compositions. Here’s a quick run-down of what I found…
Think wind chimes. This little Flash app by Andre Michelle is hypnotic and addictive. Clicking on the black work area will create a circle that expands from the click-point. The circle will continue to expand until it touches another circle, so you need to create at least two for this thing to work. When two circles touch a bell-like tone is generated, and the circles reverse direction. If they had been expanding they now contract. A contracting circle will contract until it reaches a single point, then start expanding again.
The pitch of the tone is determined by the size of circles. A larger circle will create a deeper tone, and a smaller one a higher pitch. An interval is created, but sometimes the larger circle’s pitch is so low that it’s hardly audible. It sounds like the app is tuned to a pentatonic scale to minimize dissonance, much like a set of wind chimes would be be tuned.
Rhythm is determined by the expansion rates of the various circles. You can create very complex patterns by positioning circles closer to or farther away from each other. Circles within circles also create neat patterns. I find it fascinating to start with a simple pattern of three circles, and gradually make the pattern more complex by adding more circles.
Here’s a short video of one of my creations. However, I suggest that you follow the link and create your own to get the full sensation.
The next tonal toy, ToneMatrix, was also created by Andre’ Michelle, and is a simple tonal pattern sequencer. The grid starts with low notes at the bottom and increases pitch as you go up. Rhythm is generated by moving left to right at a constant speed. You simply click the square that you want to sound. This app was created before Pulsate, and is much, much simpler. Still it can be entertaining.
Now we get to a couple of full-blown audio applications that are VERY impressive. Even more impressive is the fact that both of these are FREE! I spent a bunch of money on software such as Sony’s Acid Music, but these do the same thing. Both of these apps have loop-based editing capabilities, similar to Acid Music and Garage Band. However, they also have lots of effects and tone-generation capabilities, too.
AudioTool is visually impressive, as well as having amazing audio capabilities. You start with a blank desktop onto which you can drag and drop all kinds of tools and sounds. There are synthesizers, sequencers, tone generators, mixers, and effects pedals like you would find for guitars. Andre’ Michelle’s ToneMatrix is also available. There is also a large library of audio loops – drums, bass lines, guitar patters, etc. – that can be incorporated into your creations. Each of these loops can be edited in a variety of ways. Here’s a sample created on AudioTool by one of its users:
Most of the creations posted by users tend to be electronica and dance beats. Any of these can be downloaded as MP3 or OGG-Vorbis files.
AudioTool was meant to be a visual representation of an actual studio setup. It can be a bit overwhelming, and the interface isn’t intuitive. However, they have put together a nice collection of YouTube videos to get you started. Here’s the first one:
More along the lines of Acid Music or Garage Band are the tools provided by the Aviary Suite. I just can’t say enough good things about Aviary. Any type of media creation tool you want – they’ve got it. The only thing they lack is an online video editing suite, but I’m sure that’s in the works. Each of the different applications in the Aviary suite is named for a bird (hence the “aviary” name.) The two audio editing applications are Roc and Myna.
Myna is a Garage Band-like application. Users can combine and edit loops from their extensive library, or import their own audio files. You can also record directly into the application your computer’s microphone. The controls seem to be a bit more intuitive than those in AudioTool, although it doesn’t have the synthesis and sequencing modules that AudioTool does.
One can very quickly create nice sounding audio files. Here’s a reading of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven that I created using Myna. I churned this out just using clips from their audio library, and recording my voice into the online recorder.
While Myna doesn’t have the same audio creation capabilities as AudioTool, another Aviary product does…
Roc reminds me most of Andre’ Michelle’s ToneMatrix. You click on the points where you want something to sound. This can either be a pitched instrument, or it can be a drum kit. The tool tends to work best for developing drum beats. You can load a kit so that the high-hat is on the top line, the snare on the second, etc., etc.
Playing around with the pitched instruments can be fun, too. You can use it as a rudimentary sequencer. However, I would use it for an effect, rather than to try to create an actual melody.
So, that’s today’s round-up. All of these audio tools can kill time, but they are very powerful, and fun to play with. Enjoy!