Tag Archives: music

Soundcloud and DIY music

Keeping on with our DIY theme, let’s look at site for musicians, sound technicians, and vocal artists of all kinds.

What Is It?

Soundcloud logoSoundcloud is a place for anyone who has created any kind of sound to upload that audio file to share with the world.

And that’s it – it’s like Flickr for audio files instead of photography. Any kind of sound that can be saved digitally and uploaded can be added to Soundcloud: music, singing, sound effects, talking, symphonies, or anything else. Then, it’s available for anyone to listen to and comment on, giving you feedback on how good (or not-so-good) your audio is.

How Does It Work?

If you just want to listen to the sounds already on Soundcloud, all you need to do is visit the site and search for something you might be interested in. You won’t find popular music here, but you will find millions of tracks by independent DJs, sound technicians, sound effects artists, vocalists, and other sound creators.

You can search for Tracks, for People, and for Groups. Most likely, you’ll be searching for tracks, and the easiest way to do that is just to type in a few words about what you’re looking for into the search box at the upper right corner. You can also go to the track search page and choose from the advanced search options to be more specific.

Soundcloud Track advanced search

Use words to describe the style of music (instrumental, vocal, electronic, acoustic), the feeling of the music (downtempo, some number of beats per minute), or other kinds of audio (sound effects, comedy recordings, podcasts). Then click on Search and you’ll get a list of track results.

Sample Soundcloud track

On the site (not in this image), just click on the Play button to listen to the track. At different points, you’ll see comments that other users have added about the music, good and bad. Then you can either search again, click on the track’s creator to hear more by them, or click on one of the tags off to the right for other tracks like this one.

If you want, you can also create an account to leave comments, or even upload your own files.

How Is This Useful?

For listeners, Soundclound is a free source of all kinds of sound. It’s a great way to discover DJs you enjoy and may want to see live, or for theater and filmmakers to find sound effects for their productions.

For sound creators, Soundcloud offers a free and easy-to-use way to share your work out to the world, and help bring together lots of different styles and kinds of sound art in one place.

Help & Resources

The best place to go is simply the Soundcloud help center. You can search for your questions, look at the existing questions, and even ask a support person for help.

Spotify – Much more than radio

Much earlier in Learning for Life Online, we talked about Internet radio – the ability to listen to radio stations or services like radio stations over the internet. Click back and read that post for a quick review of what online radio is and why it’s useful (spoiler: because it’s as easy to listen to music or talk online as it is on a radio).

Since then, I’ve gotten to know one particular online music service very well, and it goes far beyond internet radio. This week, let’s look a little more closely at Spotify.

What is It?

Spotify is, for starters, a great source for streaming music over the internet. Millions of songs from around the world are available to find and play whenever you’d like. It also will let you create playlists, subscribe to playlists other people create, share what you’re listening to to Facebook and other social networks, send suggestions to other users, and start a ‘radio station’ based on any song, album or playlist you find. On top of all of that, you can use Spotify to play and share the music you’ve saved to your computer, just like other music library services we’ve looked at.

Try it Out

In order to use Spotify, you need to a) sign up for an account and b) download the Spotify software onto a computer. (This is different than other internet radio services.) From the computer you want to have Spotify, visit the Spotify website. Click on Get Spotify at the top, and then on Get Spotify Free. Spotify will start to download – follow the directions to download and install it on your computer.

Once Spotify has been installed, open it like any other software – by clicking an icon or finding it in your applications folder. Spotify will ask you to log in with either your Facebook account or to create an account just for Spotify. If you don’t have a Facebook account, or you don’t want to connect your Spotify account with your Facebook account (you don’t have to), just create a Spotify account. Choose a username and password, type in your email address, and you’ll be good to go.

Spotify menuNow the fun starts! There are many things you can do with Spotify – we’ll cover some of the basics here. Check out the complete list of features to see everything you can do with this great online music resource.

Search for music. At the upper left, you’ll see a search box. Use this to find artists, songs, albums, or genres of music. You’ll get results separated out into categories; click on a title or artist to get to more information and to play music.

Playing music. When you’re on a page for a song, album or artist, you can just double-click on a track to play it. The playback controls are at the bottom of the screen. The wiggly arrows to the far right let you Shuffle and play things randomly, and the circular arrow Repeats a track until you move to the next one.

Put together a Play Queue. You can set up a play queue of music so you don’t have to search and play songs one a time. To set up your queue, search for music using the search bar. Once you’ve found a track, click and hold on the title and drag it over to the words Play Queue on the left. That adds the track as the next thing to play. Keep searching and adding to stack up hours of music at a time. Note: Your Play Queue is emptied every time you close Spotify. To make a more permanent list, create a Playlist.

Share! At the top of the screen for every song, album, artist or playlist, you’ll see the Share button. Click on that and choose whether to share to any Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr accounts you have. Log in with your social network username and password (don’t worry – Spotify doesn’t keep track of it) and share your music.

Start a custom radio ‘station.’ Look at the top of any page for the Start [a] Radio button to create a temporary radio station based on the music you like. Spotify will play music that it thinks matches the song or artist you started with. You can see all the stations you’ve started by clicking on Radio in the left menu; click on any of those older stations to play them again.

Play your Local Music. Click on Local Music to see everything you have on your computer. You can play these songs, add them to playlists, and share them to others just like all the other music in Spotify.

Playlist instructions on Spotify: The playlist is currently empty. To add to this playlist, drag a track to the playlist title in the sidebar, or right-click on a track, select Add to and select this playlist.Create Playlists. Playlists let you permanently collect music by theme, artist, genre, or any other category you want. To create a playlist, click on + New Playlist on the left, then type in a title. Follow the instructions on the screen to find and add music the same way you do for the Play Queue.

Subscribe to other people’s Playlists. You can also listen to playlists made by other people. Use the search bar to find playlists, then click on the playlist title to see the tracks on it. Click on Subscribe at the top to add the playlist to your list of favorites and listen to it whenever you want.

Neat stuff, huh? And this is only the beginning: check out the full features list and read the articles below for more.

Help & Resources

Online audio – Music & audio libraries

Now that we’ve talked about freely available internet radio and podcasts, let’s start looking at your music and audio – the stuff you’ve downloaded or copied from your CDs.

What Is It?

Not too long ago, your personal audio library – the recordings you owned – might have included vinyl records, magnetic 8-track or cassette tapes, or laser-decoded compact discs (CDs). You usually kept these storage devices on a shelf, organized by title, by artist or by genre. You might even have had the same album in three different formats at one time or another.

Since the invention of the mp3 file format in the 1990s, music listeners have been moving away from physical recordings to all-digital music libraries. Music is stored on a computer or a device just like any other computer file, usually in MP3, AAC or WMA format.

Digital music libraries began as folders on the computer, organized like other files of documents or images. In 2001, Apple released iTunes for Mac computers and the iPod, a portable audio player (and in 2003, the iTunes Store and the music industry has never been the same. Now, music lovers are able to easily buy albums or individual songs, quickly share music over the internet, and take their entire music collections with them wherever they go.

The latest change in personal music libraries is streaming (remember streaming?). Music files are stored on your own computer, but you can also securely access that music over the internet or from a mobile device. Now, no matter how big or small your collection is, you can have it all with you all the time. We’ll discuss this feature in our next Learning for Life Online post on music “in the cloud.”

How Is It Useful?

Why digital? The obvious answer is that owning digital audio takes up no space in your home – no more shelves of records, tapes or CDs. Also, by syncing your personal media player to your library, you can bring most of your collection with you on a single device – no more lugging around a bag of cassettes or CDs! However, it’s the flexibility of having your music in digital format that’s really exciting.

Music library software is designed to make it easy to get, store and organize your music, not just by the album but by each individual song. You can put all of your music into a single collection and then sort by artist, album title, song title, genre, time, date added or dozens of other details. You can easily add and remove songs from playlists you create, use the search bar to find specific songs or artists, or randomly play anything in your library. In the newer programs, you can see album cover art and (in iTunes) have the computer Genius create playlists that show off your music in interesting ways.

iTunes is the most well-known music library software out there, but there are others: MediaMonkey, Helium Music Manager, JetAudio and MusicBee (for Windows only) are just a few. Most of these programs work on either Windows or Mac computers, and will cooperate with many of the mp3 players on the market.

Try It Out

If you already have a music library program like iTunes on your computer, poke around in it and try something beyond clicking Play. Create a playlist and add items to it, change the details you can use to sort your music, or add star ratings or descriptive comments to a song. This is your music library – customize it to work the way you want it to.

In our next, last post in the online audio series, we’ll look at purchasing music and moving it “to the cloud” – what that is and what it means. Stay tuned….

Help & Resources

Music Library Programs

General Audio File Information