This is a rapidly evolving area for online music making. What once required hundreds of hours of work - and preferably a Masters degree in multimedia, audio and video production! - is now within the reach of community music leaders and participants. These apps can be used to support music teaching and learning, showcase your group with virtual choir/band videos, and share music making within (and beyond) your community. Well planned and coordinated projects can be motivating for participants who miss performing or the feeling that they are developing musically, but beware the possibility of frustration and delays due to the time people need to learn and use the programs, as well as get their contribution up to a level they are happy with. Because new platforms can be intimidating for participants to learn, we’ve included tips for an “old-school” approach to online music projects below, using technologies with which they may be more familiar.
TIP: Ask a tech-savvy member(s) to run the tech - this will free you up to focus on the music and the participants and not be overwhelmed by the production process.
Each of the platforms listed below aims to simplify the process of collaborating and sharing files, as well editing audio and video, and are free for participants to use, though sometimes have a cost for the leader. All group members would be required to create a user account within the platform and, in some cases, download an app.
Top project-based apps for making, performing and learning
Popular sound-sharing apps
Bandlab for Educators: Free, cloud-based, audio workstation app that works on all common devices. The leader creates a “project” by recording, creating or uploading a guide track - it is best to give a very clear, long count-in and use a metronome/click, you can always remove this later. People can then add their part to the recording using the app, and this is immediately synced by the software. The project remains “in the cloud”, i.e. no need to email files back and forth or store files on their computers. There are easy to use tools for sound editing within the program. Bandlab has received positive feedback from CMVic members for being relatively easy for both leaders and participants to use.
Soundtrap: Free, cloud-based, audio workstation in which a leader can create, record or upload a track and then “collaborate” with selected users. This has many sound editing features, some of which require a paid subscription which take some time to learn, unless you are already familiar with similar software such as Audacity and Garageband (discussed below). Participants will need a good internet connection as CMVic members report having had some issues with syncing, and recent reviews mention an issue with audio buffering when the internet connection is unstable. Generally, it is well regarded by music teachers and gives you a bit more control than Bandlab, but at the cost of more complexity and less stability.
Popular video-sharing apps
Flipgrid: Primarily used for teaching, but with significant potential for community music making, Flipgrid is a video sharing platform that is free for educators and can be used on all common devices. The leader creates a “grid” (i.e. a community of participants) inviting members to respond to a “topic”. In practice this “topic” could be to sing or play along to a pre-recorded video. Participants simply press the green button and record their video. They can personalise their responses with stickers and text and can even pixelate or put a virtual “sticker” in front of their face if they are camera shy. It has many useful features for making teaching videos and potentially virtual band/choir style videos with minimal time lost to editing (though the quality will depend on the videos your participants upload).
Acapella: This popular video-sharing social media platform is only available for Mac/iOS (i.e. not PC and Android), and will cost the leader approximately $70 per year. It is free for participants, but they must each have access to a Mac iOS device to upload video, which could be a major limitation for community groups if you are trying to make a virtual choir/band video. Acapella is a good tool for leaders to make multi-part videos as a teaching resource and export them to the web (e.g. Youtube) and these videos can be accessed by everybody. CMVic members have reported that for the leader it takes some effort to learn how to set up and manage a collaboration, however it is very simple and user-friendly for participants to add their part. To create “virtual band/choir” video the leader would begin by creating a grid and then record or upload a guide track. As with all guide tracks a long count-in and metronome/click are a good idea - you can record over your guide track later to remove the click and count-in. Importantly, participants must then take turns to add their track one at a time and they cannot all do it at once. A limitation of Acapella is that the production process is serial: one person records their part and then passes it on to the next person. This is unlike all the other cloud-based software in this section, which can handle parallel processing: where everyone can add their parts at any time and in any order. The pay-off for getting the production process right (e.g. by allotting an order, or schedule for people to add their parts) is that you save yourself a lot of time editing, mixing and uploading the file, as the video is already synced and easy to export and Acapella has some easy to use tools to achieve a good audio mix.
Tip: Katie Wardrobe from Midnight Music has a free comprehensive list of current online tools for music education, including all the latest asynchronous platforms: https://midnightmusic.com.au/ Midnight Music provides a range of training and support for music teachers on the latest tools for teaching and leading music online.
Online Music Projects - the “old school” method.
For groups whose participants are less comfortable with new technology, and/or for leaders who want more control over the process, we recommend the “old-school” method of using email as your tool for communicating and sharing files, and freeware to do audio and video editing. For these groups we have included a list of sound and video editing software options below, as well as tips for storing and sharing files.
Editing and mixing sound: Digital Audio Workstations
A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is like having a recording studio in your computer, allowing you to record and edit tracks for teaching or sharing. The software can either sit on your computer, which means files need to be downloaded and uploaded in order to be shared, or it can be accessed over the internet (e.g. Bandlab, Soundtrap discussed above). The latter are called “cloud-based DAWs” and have the advantage of using less memory and processing, and file sharing is as easy as sharing a link. They do, however, require a reliable internet connection.
TIP: For a more detailed comparison of common cloud-based DAWs see: https://musiceducation.global/get-your-head-in-the-cloud-part-2/
Popular free computer-based Digital Audio Workstations
Audacity: Free, open-source (i.e. made and maintained by volunteers), audio recording and editing software that works across all platforms. It has all the features you need for making community music resources including: easy cut and paste, transpose, change tempo, fade-in/fade-out, a vast array of audio effects, easy to import and export tracks. A long-time favourite of musicians and music leaders, this reliable tool takes a bit of learning to use if you are new to audio engineering. However, once you’ve learnt the basics in Audacity, all the other software in this section will be easy for you to use.
Garageband: Free with Apple devices (for Mac iOS only), simple to use and, like Audacity, has all the features you would need as a community music leader (and many, many others besides). The interface and menus are clean and easy to navigate however, like Audacity, the names of some elements take time to learn and may require googling help forums. Garageband is the free version of Logic Pro Logic Pro has more advanced mixing and mastering tools, including pitch correction - not that we would ever need pitch correction, of course!
Popular Video editing software
iMovie: Free with Mac iOS (not available for Windows/PC), is a very popular choice for musicians and music leaders and is relatively easy to use if you are not trained in video editing.
Free, open-source options that work across all platforms include: Shotcut, Lightworks (NB. has limited output file-types unless you pay), and Blender. These each require a steeper learning curve that may see you regularly visiting the help forums, as there are many more features than just video editing.
The two most popular paid software options are Adobe Premier (all platforms) and Final Cut Pro (Mac/iOS only). As with each of the above this involves a steep learning curve, but help is available in the software and in help forums.