Around the turn of the millennium, it became common for professional musicians to collaborate on recordings over the web. Not only did it save on air fares, but the technology meant artists could in essence pick and choose the session musicians they wanted from anywhere in the world.
The concept of long-distance collaboration has come on in leaps and bounds since the days of George Michael and Aretha Franklin performing a duet in 1986. These days, anyone with a solid web connection and the necessary musical inclination can make a holy racket online.
Soundjunction.org offers the means to create your own music. You don't need to be a trained musician - plenty of advice is given on how music ‘works', as well as the various musical tastes and genres.
The site offers interactive tools that dissect audio and help you understand how the elements fit together. Such training will help you work out how best to put together your own compositions.
Soundjunction's two main applications, Composer and Note Canvas, run in Shockwave. Composer is a sampler that allows you to mix audio files into new tracks. Note Canvas is a sequencer that allows you to build up tracks by adding any variety of individual notes.
Note Canvas uses the musical instrument digital interface (Midi) to generate a particular set of sounds from your sound card. This tool is fast-loading and very flexible - you can even create your own music from scratch. All that's required is some imagination and a willingness to experiment. The results can then be shared with the Soundjunction community.
Over the next few pages, we'll guide you through using Note Canvas to create your own compositions. It's also worth exploring the collection of articles and tutorials provided on the company's website - not simply for additional tips on how to use this and other applications, but for advice from the experts on what makes great music.
1. We'll be using soundjunction.org to create music over the following pages. Before we begin, however, it's worth mentioning that the site offers far more than this. The Explorer tool, for example, breaks down different types of music and helps you prepare your own sounds.
2. Although it's not required, we recommend that you register with Soundjunction. Doing so will allow you to save, upload and share your work. Click the Register link at the top of the screen, enter details such as your name, username and password, then log in once you've finished.
3. Next, click ‘Create music yourself'. This page provides an introduction to the website itself and the various tools that it offers. On the right-hand side are links to Soundjunction's two main applications: Composer and Note Canvas. We'll be concentrating on the use of Note Canvas.
4. Both Composer and Note Canvas require the Adobe Shockwave 11.0 plug-in. If this isn't already installed on your computer, allow the browser to install it and any additional missing plug-ins. Once Shockwave is installed, Note Canvas will load in the main window of your browser.
5. The default setup for Note Canvas has three toolbars. At the top is a list of tools you use to add and edit notes; on the left there are options to select different instruments. At the bottom of the screen is a navigation toolbar for moving through your composition and zooming in to view more detail.
6. Upon launching the tool, a basic screen with a few sample notes will load. Clicking ‘Go to rhythm view' at the bottom of the screen will display repeating blocks of sound. This feature is particularly useful if you want to repeat those sounds to create a bass line for your audio track.
7. To begin a composition in Note Canvas, select File Tools, New. Click the tab marked Instruments and select one. Your chosen instrument will be shown in the list in the lefthand menu - you'll need to click this before you can begin adding notes to the canvas.
8. Select the top ‘Group manipulations' option in the tool bank, then click the button labelled ‘Draw note'. With this selected, you can begin adding notes to the bars in the main canvas to create your composition. If you make a mistake, choose ‘Delete note' and click the individual notes you wish to remove.
9. Note Canvas allows you to add multiple instruments to your composition to create complex harmonies. To do this, as in the previous two steps, select the Instruments tab and ‘Draw note' before adding a new line to your composition. Every now and then, click the Playback button to listen to your work in progress.
10. You'll probably want to repeat certain sections throughout the composition. In the Tool bank, click ‘Multi-select' and then choose each of the notes you want to repeat. These can be grouped together using the Group option, then repeated using Copy and Paste.
11. The tool bank has a number of other operations that you can use to enhance your composition. For example, ‘Chord patterns' will suggest a chord for your overall creation, while ‘Tempo and metre' change the speed of the composition and the number of beats in each bar.
12. One option you could try is to move a group of notes up or down by an octave. To do this, group together a number of notes and then, in the Tool bank, select the second ‘Group manipulations' option. Hit ‘Extend group' and then click on the canvas in the direction you wish to shift the notes.
13. Another useful trick is to manipulate individual notes with the Duration tools. For example, if you've set the tempo to 16 beats in the bar, individual notes will be semiquavers (or sixteenth notes) by default. You can use ‘Lengthen note' to turn them into quavers or even longer notes by clicking twice.
14. Once your composition is complete, save it to your hard drive as a Midi file. Select ‘File tools' in the tool bank, then click ‘Save' or ‘Save as'. In future, you can continue to work on your file by going to the Open option; alternatively, you can share it with others on Soundjunction.