For my final inquiry project, I chose to investigate the program Soundation. Soundation is a web-based Digital Audio Workstation, like Garageband or Ableton. I decided to investigate this program because I was intrigued at the idea of such a program being free and needing no install or download. However, on my journey of knowledge I became disillusioned when I discovered how limited the program was – or at least, the free version.
I started by experimenting with the program without consulting any tutorials, seeing how far I could go on my own. Because it is a simple program, and very like GarageBand, it was easy to learn. I compiled a list of sources on Soundation however, since there were many more complicated concepts that I could not figure out on my own, such as special effects on tracks. Since the program is so new, it took a bit of digging to find good resources. Here is the blog post where I compiled the ones I found:
Next, I created a song with Soundation. This was when I found out that, sadly, one cannot save imported material or recorded audio in a composition unless one buys a subscription to Soundation. With the free version, only songs made from their sound library clips could be saved or exported. However, compiling a song from only clips was still fun, and I think is a great introduction to DAWs for new or casual users.
While making my song, I discovered several interesting features of the program that are good for both casual musicians and professional. In addition to possessing the basics of its fellow audio workstations, Soundation sorts its sound library into BPM, which is a great tool for users unfamiliar with music theory (or just terrible at rhythm). The program also offers the ability to alter the tempo of a clip to suit the rest of a piece. Unfortunately, this seems to mostly have terrible results.
Another fascinating discovery was the folder of everyday life noises in the sound library. It has everything from bird chirps to people sipping coffee. This is a great idea for creative music making, although the clips can be rough sometimes. Also, the program is German, so the clips of dialogue are all in Deutsch, which is very interesting.
PAY IT FORWARD
The final step in this project was making an instructional tutorial. I decided to just go over the very basics of using Soundation: what the difference was between an “audio” and “instrument” channel, what the “sound library” was and how to use it, how to drag and drop clips into the screen, how to lengthen clips to make them repeat, and how to save a song (and the limitations thereof). This part was difficult, partly because I was silly and only gave myself a week to work on it.
Due to time constraints in my life in connection with recording good audio and the fact that my PC couldn’t work with Apple’s video data, I wasn’t sure what to do. I made image stills simply enough – Photoshop for text and screenshots for images. However, the video screen captures I used to show things like dragging and dropping wouldn’t open in Windows Movie Maker. So, Thursday I realized that I would have to record audio in my house and then make the images and video fit the audio in iMovie the next day on the classroom’s Mac. Because of how rushed I was, my audio wasn’t the best (although it was clear!) and I forgot a few steps I meant to include in the tutorial, like splitting a track. However, I couldn’t record in class because my microphone would pick up my classmates. So, I did the best I could and wished I had started before the weekend.
I learned several technical things while working on the tutorial, such as how to use iMovie, screen capture in Quick Time, and how to soften noise in Audacity.