Splice Editor

Splice’s new interface looks suspiciously like a desktop music application — and even allows real-time effects. Screen grab by our friend Marco Raaphorst; if you can read Dutch, he sounds very, very excited about this website.

Okay, calling anything “Web 2.0″ is about as cool as casually slipping in the word “synergy.” Generally meaningless; definitely faux pas. But splicemusic.com was already tending that direction, with a website that allowed users to remix each other’s music live on the Web, and share and network with other community members in that process. Now, Splice itself has reached its own 2.0 release, and things are heating up fast. It’s not so much the typical Web community features that set it apart (blogging, becoming “fans” or friends of other users, bright, Web 2.0-y colors, and community-based ranking). Instead, it’s the fact that Splice can do things previously only possible in dedicated, offline software:

  • Online arrangements: as before, remix and arrange tracks without leaving your Web browser
  • Real-time effects — yep, you read that right. You can actually apply common effects like flanger, delay, and distortion via the Web interface.
  • Online virtual instruments in the Web interface
  • Store drafts online privately, until a track is finished
  • Collect samples from around the site to use in your song

Splice

Real-time effects and instruments in a Web browser? That’s a surprise. Java has made that possible for some time, but it’s new to Flash, and even in Java actual implementations have been few — let alone integrated in a full-blown community site open to the public and ready to use.

Best of all, we hear that Bram de Jong, famed as the gifted plug-in developer in the Smartelectronix collective, engineered the new plug-in system. There’s even a Web version of his SupaTrigger plug-in. If you don’t know Bram’s work already, check out his cross-platform, donationware plugs:

Bram @ Smartelectronix

We’ll be talking to Splice more about what’s new, where it’s going, how it was developed, and what this means for music making on the Web; stay tuned.

In the meantime, I’ll say it again — don’t assume you’ll be throwing away your non-Web music software anytime soon. Web software is still extremely constrained in terms of access to the local file system and audio hardware inputs and outputs, for starters, meaning it’s actually technically impossible to have anywhere close to the feature set you get in offline apps. Furthermore, for high performance processing and low latency, audio apps actually have to get more intimate with the operating system than even typical desktop apps do, and require support for plug-in technologies and ASIO and Core Audio drivers … the list goes on. And that just about wraps it up for the browser.

Where there may be new opportunity is in “rich clients.” Unfortunately, systems like Adobe’s Apollo — now AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) are extremely limited in comparison to so-called “native” development tools. In fact, the closest you’re likely to get is Java, especially if a Java app adds some additional desktop integration for the OS-specific dirty work; Java’s own internal APIs are in a woeful state as far as multimedia.

But that’s not to take away from the importance — and surprise, rapid development — of tools like Splice. In fact, they demonstrate just how rich the experience can be when you add the Web. Future desktop music apps would do well to take a close look at these kinds of features.

  • teej

    whoa.

  • http://www.sighup.ca Steve

    Bram's also the guy behind the Freesound project.

    Regarding Splice, why would you want to do arrangements and apply effects through a web browser? I suppose I can see potential for shared projects, sort of like the audio version of Google Docs, but still, I'm not sure it excites me that much when it is already so easy to swap files back and forth.

  • http://www.sighup.ca Steve

    Having just tested it out, it is certainly pretty high on the neat-o factor. Still not sure it's all that useful, but it is definitely slick.

  • http://gee-zu.com matt

    Andre Michelle is one of the flash guys behind the actual figuring out of flash making sound. Pretty awesome! I saw present on this subject a month ago in Minneapolis Flashbelt. I have video of the whole thing but I'm still waiting to get clearance to release it on my blog.

    http://blog.andre-michelle.com/

    m

  • http://www.quantazelle.com/ Liz McLean Knight

    I have been playing around with Splice for a bit over a month (and I wrote a bit about it here). The new version of the sequencer is definitely an upgrade, but someone pointed out that it needs some serious optimization–ie: it's really choppy on playback. I noticed this when I tried to remix a track but I figured it was due to my own bandwidth or something (and my intertronz is pretty geriatric on most days when I'm on the Sprint EVDO card. Big pain).

    And one of my readers pointed to this: Indaba Music which is pretty much the same idea but the sequencer looks a lot sexier (you can see the naughty bits of the actual waveforms, for one). Haven't played with it at all though, but I'd be curious to see if anyone else has…

  • http://www.quantazelle.com/ Liz McLean Knight

    @ Steve: I think it's exciting because you don't have to buy ANY music creation software–you can just log on to the site and get going. It lowers the barriers to entry even further than they are now with digital music. Pretty much you just need patience and persistence to get a track together –and then, you know, "talent" to actually do something decent. :-) .

  • http://www.myspace.com/ohtravioso Oh Travioso

    This makes me realize the importance of stable unaffected audio interface drivers. I work a lot on my laptop, and find that having my wireless connection open or even a cabled connection to the internet causes frequent dropouts in my audio streams when using my external hardware interface. I use this rig for live performance and one of my steps is disabling my network card before going on. If offline software is to use the internet for collaboration, then more work needs to be done on making sure that the internet does not interrupt the audio process.

  • Oh Noes!

    OMG Teh Interwebz R Clogging Mah Amp Tubez!

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Travioso: What operating system are you using? "The Internet" should never interrupt audio performance on a modern system, unless you have an application using CPU cycles (which I've seen even iTunes do) or are trying to actively stream audio online.

    Generally, we're conflating some issues here:

    * Bandwidth: The biggest problem here people are experiencing is streaming audio reliably over the Internet. I actually think this is likely to be the *first* issue resolved, though it doesn't change fundamental issues with latency and bandwidth that one has putting the audio on a remote machine. (Latency in particular is ultimately limited by the speed of light, once you have the whole planet to contend with.)

    * Feature set: There's also the issue of having limited feature sets, which is itself two issues — one being the economics of putting this in a Website, the other limitations of the software used to produce these tools.

    * Hardware driver access: One of the ongoing issues I think remains the inability to get direct access to hardware for audio and MIDI. This is an even bigger deal on Windows, since the default audio subsystem is often unusable for reliable audio mixes. But people aren't even getting to that point here, because they're running into bandwidth first. (And, admittedly, this isn't really an issue for things like Splice because of their more limited scope.)

    Bottom line is, this is clearly intended to complement, not replace, existing software, or to be a simple interface for people with more casual desires for remixing and sharing. And there are really multiple reasons dedicated software will remain necessary for the foreseeable future, not just one. Despite the hype that all apps will be online coming from certain quarters (certainly not the music community, and certainly not Splice), you have to assume that the Web will simply add to what we already do and broaden the audience for music creation and active consumption.

  • ryan

    It runs reallllly slow on my box. (Of course I'm dated, 3000+ AMD Barton/1gig of ddr cas lat 2/x800xt/WinXP Pro SP2)

  • NineTailedFox

    Some kind of Firefox extension/VST bridge which might help integrate this with conventional software…? How or if that might work, I have no clue…

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  • http://www.kompoz.com Simon

    Whether Splice or Indaba, I couldn't disagree more in terms of what could be best described as an online copy of Garageband. Getting past the admitted "neato factor", you cannot compare Splice to even Apple's Garageband, not to mention ProTools or Logic. That won't change. Most users want that control. Music Collaboration is musicians sharing ideas about everything music. You didn't mention any other dot coms in that space which was disappointing.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Simon,

    I'm not sure what you're disagreeing about. I think I was clear in that this isn't a replacement for those tools; I said that explicitly and was even explicit about technical limitations that prevent this from happening.

    A round-up of collaboration sites is really a story in itself, rather than cramming it into a story about Splice and specific hurdles they've tackled, like making Flash do DSP. Sites like yours absolutely have a story to tell, though; I hope we can cover that! The very fact that websites are now relevant on this site is a huge change; whether they're replacing software or not (and I agree that they're clearly not ANY time in the forseeable future), they're adding a dimension that was previously not there. Even a year or so ago, CDM was really talking about local software exclusively. If these sites can add additional functionality *beyond* that (add, not replace), I think that's promising.

  • http://www.kompoz.com Simon

    Peter,

    You are correct and my disagreement is not whether it's press worthy, because I think it definitely is. It's very cool as you pointed out and they are tech savvy to boot. In fact, we were going to do the same at Kompoz. However, after a lot consideration could not justify it because the tool would be greater than the platform itself.

    What we want to do is create a music collaboration platform where the "why" will be justifiable. We will be there soon.

    I disagree with the degree of it's usefulness within current tech limitations is all. Whatever the case may be, it is very exciting to see all these sites advancing.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Oh, no, I agree — there's the issue of technical limitation, which to me is why "client" (rather than server) apps will remain so important as a platform. Then there's the question of the application itself. Splice is assuming "remixing" is the point, and that's interesting, but I do tend more toward the idea of collaboration, as well, in terms of what will make people come online. See my comments on the client side attempt to do this with FL Studio in this month's Keyboard Magazine — will post that here when it's online! ;)

  • http://www.melodiefabriek.nl/ Marco Raaphorst

    Technical limitations will make a lot of people very creative. Time will tell. But Splice is one step into more open tools you can use anywhere. I love that, although for my current project I will need Ableton and Reason. But that might change one day…

  • http://www.musigy.com Musigy

    You might alo want to check Musigy that makes it possible for people to make live music together over the Internet. Just plug in your guitar, keyboard, microphone or whatever you’ve got, and make music with other members of the Musigy community. As if you’re in the same room! You see each other on a video screen and play in synch.

  • Jonny Spitarellis

    There are plenty of collaborative music sites out there right now, you should check out the hyped sound collaborative music site , once its released its gonna be amazing