Apple’s GarageBand is a powerful tool for recording MIDI and audio and arranging loops. It can be puzzling to songwriters, though, because it doesn’t really understand chord changes. Sure, you can transpose MIDI loops or (more problematically) audio, but that process is a bit clunky and rarely sounds right. Many beginner-level GarageBand songs (especially by students) simply stay in one big, long I chord for an entire piece, which, by astounding coincidence, is what I sound like playing guitar. (Come on, I went to the trouble of getting my fingers on these frets — now you want me to move them? Where’s a piano? I’m through.)
Enter ChordStudio, an entirely Web-based tool that takes the opposite approach. Running entirely in a browser, the free Web app presents a blank score and lets you construct song structures with chords. Behind the scenes, 30,000 loops seamlessly render those chords into something that actually sounds like music. You can control the mix with common instruments, including electric guitars, bass, drums, piano, and electric piano.
The results are very simple, but I can see them being very useful. Aside from making it fun for a beginner with limited computer and/or music skills to put together basic song structures, it’s not hard to imagine someone using this as a quickie web tool on the road to get an idea down. It’s no GarageBand killer, of course — it’s just a simple Web interface — but if you like the loops, you can purchase them as a US$99 DVD and use them with GarageBand or your favorite looping app of choice.
Web applications are unlikely ever to replace dedicated, standalone music and audio applications, because these applications by definition require an intimate relationship with your computer’s hardware. But that doesn’t mean the Web won’t be a place for some simple, useful ideas to complement standalone apps. Previously: