Even with the success of beginner-targeted software like GarageBand, computer music production is still something a lot of musicians have only started to explore. And while there are computer-savvy players of every instrument, there’s no question guitars are underrepresented for the size of the market versus, say, keyboards.

Sonoma’s RiffWorks has been one software entry trying to change that, by combining guitar-centric features (amps and effects) with loops, multi-track recording, and collaboration features. As with GarageBand and Steinberg’s Sequel, loops, machines, and effects assist in quick song creation. But unlike those products, Sonoma also emphasizes collaboration, and is targeted directly at guitarists.

Now, they’ve introduced a free version of the software called RiffWorks T4. While it’s free, it does quite a lot – presumably to try to get hooked on online collaboration on song making.

  • 4-layer song production
  • Basic effects (Wah, Multi-band Compression & Distortion, Modulation, Delay, Reverb, Compression, and British Style EQ), plus IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube LE guitar amp/effects and Gallo Engineering’s Studio Devil BVC amp model
  • An “InstantDrummer” drum machine/accompaniment tool with intensity, variation
  • Online collaboration and online song sharing community

Online collaboration has always been a challenge because the physical size of the planet Earth actually means that true real-time collaboration is basically impossible with music. The solution is simply to provide music that’s synced, if not in real-time. Sonoma describes their solution: “As a track is recorded, it streams to other players and is perfectly in sync.” (In other words, it’s better to be a bar behind but in sync than a fraction of a second off.)  [Update] To clarify: unlike many online music collaboration services, you can work simultaneously on a song recording – see reader discussion in comments. This is a step behind eSession-style near-real-time collaboration, in that you hear full riffs at once. (eSession is synced to a metronome, though it can’t do “true” real-time, either, in the sense that you can on a local computer.) It is a number of steps ahead of most other online tools, however – and the real draw is the software editing and effects anyway, as combined with these community features.

That said, I think online collaboration could be fun, if Sonoma can get a healthy community going. Many musicians still prefer in-person collaboration for other (non-technical) reasons. But then, the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, especially in our online-connected world. Sonoma tells CDM that over 1,000 people per day are signing up; now it just remains – as with other communities – to see how many get really involved.

Even if the online side doesn’t take off, perhaps the production tools will. Guitarists, if you do give this a try – or if you’re already a user of RiffWorks – we’d love to hear from you.

RiffWorks T4 [Free software, Mac, Windows]

  • This looks pretty cool! Online music collaboration is definitely the way of the future. Since we are already all online using social media tools, and are also using DAWs, why not combine the two to enable online music collaboration? Granted jamming live is better (and jamming in real time online is not great due to latency issues), but wouldn't you like to collaborate on recording projects with people from around the world? Think of what kind of great music and new genres this could make.

    Now, that's evolving music!

    But, while online music making is great, most musicians also need/want a way to engage fans and profit from their works. This is something RiffWorks fails to address. Because fan engagement and monetization can be easily and creatively done online, these need to be coupled with collaboration tools to make the ultimate resource for musicians. Something that would be a key part of a you home studio, along with your DAWs, Synths, Mics, etc.

    This is something my friends and I are working on at MixMatchMusic(.com). As a community for musicians, by musicians, we will soon begin to empower you with the ability to collaborate on music, engage fans, and profit from your works! In order to create the most effective service possible, we have prepared little survey. It's only 11 questions and will only take a minute — first 100 replies get a free (stylin' tshirt).

    You can find the survey @ http://tinyurl.com/5ce33d

  • The online community is already quite active for Sonoma Wire Works/RiffWorks. New songs and collaborations are posted every day at http://www.riffworld.com . You can also find a healthy backlog of "RiffRumble" song contests – there's one going on now!

  • There's a lot of legal issues with multiple people collaborating on a project and one person deciding to sell the work. I believe the current RiffWorks stand on the matter is to have everyone work under a creative commons license. If you want to sell the work, you have to take it up with the people who worked on it with you.

    While I think any musician would love to see income from their music making, a lot of RiffWorks users just really love to collaborate with each other. It's growing as a really supportive community, and I think a large reason for that could be that the users aren't looking to make money, they're just looking to make music.

    I would love to make more money with my music, but it's not really what drives me to make music. It's a desire to move people by recreating what moves me in the records I love.

    For people already making a living off of music, RiffWorks can be great since it allows private collaborations as well as public. Put up an idea and have your producer, guitarist, vocalist or whatever, check it out and try some ideas on their own time. Then come back and listen to it when you're available.

    I should also mention that I'm pretty biased since I've been working with them for about five years now.

  • There are also a number of other websites built to help musicians collaborate online with each other such as WeMix.com, splicemusic.com, JamGlue, and IndabaMusic.com, to name a few.

    Indaba Music is currently running a Remix competition for the Mariah Carey song "I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time". You can download the stems for free and remix the song. Winner gets $5000 cash and top friend/top song on Mariah's myspace.


  • I've been using Riffworks for nearly three years now. Even before they brought online collaboration features to the software, it was a wonder. The software takes a different approach to the standard 'multitrackers' out there and brings loop-based recording to the masses in a way that's easy to understand and straightforward in it's design. Check my myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/sonicenergy for examples of things I've done with riffworks. Or head to Sonoma's 'hub' site for Riffworks called Riffworld and check out tune after tune at Riffcaster, where you can find collaborations and songs done by individuals using Riffworks.

  • Yes, there are in fact a significant number of places for posting songs. The difference is, you do need real client software to be able to do near-real-time collaboration, which is what this is. That is, you don't post a track and then collaborate on it later; you actually play together semi-live. (As I say above, you can't do true real-time over any significant distance.) That may or may not be preferable, but just saying. I don't think the others have full-blown client software with multi-tracking / recording / arrangement / guitar effects quite in the way that this does.

    The services with similar collaboration would be, for instance:
    http://ejamming.com/ http://esession.com/

    And while it's just the software side, not a community site, NINJAM is also interesting:

    …as is, for the geekier alternative:

  • I have been using Riffworks for around 2 years now. I was told repeatedly by a buddy to give it a go but was always afraid of recording programs. This was so simply to use, and the quality of the recording is amazing as well.

    I am not an avid user of the online collaboration feature, but I know several of my buds I have met from using Sonoma's software are what they refer to as "Junkies". In addition the gang at Sonoma as well as the users on the forums are super helpful, and a great community….I would call it a tight knit family of recording enthusiasts.

    If you doubt what can be done with this amazing program….go listen to the tunes I have posted on myspace….all of which were done by me using my trusty guitar and a cheap bass. When a program is as easy to use as this is, it makes it hard to not be creative.


    Try the free demo and I am sure you will be hooked. If you are a guitarist looking for the means to record your ideas quickly and easily….you cannot go wrong with Riffworks.

    It will change your life…..it did mine!

  • “As a track is recorded, it streams to other players and is perfectly in sync.” (In other words, it’s better to be a bar behind but in sync than a fraction of a second off.)

    Sounds like it's all fun and games until somebody changes to a different chord…

  • j$

    How many lead guitarists can you fit in one song?

  • RiffWorks isn't streaming live like an eJamming sort of thing. There's just too much latency to make that happen. It's kind of like real-time recording collaboration. In RiffWorks, you record just a few bars at a time into "Riffs". These can be any meter, tempo, or bar length you want, but typically are usually 4 to 8 bars in 4/4. Once you're done recording your 4 or 8 bars, it is available for other people to listen to. If they're online at the time, it'll will appear on their screen moments after you're done recording it. They can then add effects, lay a part on top of it, or leave it alone. So changing to a different key, tempo, or meter might alter the direction of the song, but it won't cause anyone to stop playing.

    And in response to how many lead guitarists can you fit in one song, the answer is six. Six lead guitarists.

  • While its true that making money from music isn't the reason why I make music, it would be nice if I could. In fact, I never have. We're trying to change that for DIY, unsigned, and indie musicians. In terms of the legal side, there is no reason why this couldn't work, as long as all the co-authorship rights are logged and musicians are always attributed.

  • Oh Travioso…….u kill me 🙂

  • @Oh Travioso: Thanks for the clarification. Now, even eSession etc. still can't sync to *literally* the same beat (i.e., you can't play the same beat on the same bar at the same time). But I'd say it's fair to say this is a slightly more primitive version of that.

    I'm waiting for transporters and holodecks; that should really make for a richer online experience. 😉

  • Marino Mamac

    This is cool man! I'll download it and try… coz' for me it's almost imposible to make music IN-PERSON collaboration, TOO BUSY,,, now adays…

  • I've used the Standard version of Riffworks for about a year now and it's an awesome program. It's great for getting ideas down quick. It is particularly geared towards guitarists and the results can be really impressive. Of course, you don't have to use the rifflink collaboration part of it and you can use it just as an easy way to record. The instant drummers are really good and there are quite a lot you can purchase from the website on an individual basis. For me, however, the real bonus is being able to jam with people from all round the world. This has brought me back to guitar playing and improved my technique no end (there are some awesome players on the system). It's not jamming as in 1,2,3,4 and you all start playing, but you interact with others, exchange ideas, chat, and generally construct the song between you. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, of course, so give the free T4 version a go. You won't be disappointed. You can check out some of the stuff I have done with it at my profile page (see link). Some of this is online collaborations some just me:


  • I have been using RiffWorks for 2 years and its hands down the best thing out there for recording guitar, vocals, and other instruments for Songwriting.

    The Instant Drummers are amazing. For us non-drummers we can just pick a beat and Jam even change the drummers after we record our guitar and bass with the greatest of ease. People are amazed with the production quality that I get out of my recordings.

    The online collabs are great. Being able to get people from around the world to lay down tracks on your song ideas is awesome. Also writing songs with people that are not geographically close to you is really cool. I live in the US and have written and recorded songs with people in Germany, China, UK, Sweden, and Parts Unknown.

    Do yourself a favor and check it out. You will want the full version before long; it’s a steal for the price they are selling it at.

  • So many have already done a great job telling you how it works and what you can do with this. Let me tell you how inspirational it is. I've been playing guitar for many years and nothing has ever inspired me to play like RiffWorks. Open it up select a drummer and tempo then click record. It is that simple!

  • I forgot to say you're not just getting a software package, you are joining "THE BEST" online community in existence. Sonoma's customer support is the best I've known; great group of folks.

    You're invited to give a listen to some of my recordings at RiffWorld

  • DaKingofSchwing

    I just heard of another community site focused on music and collaboration, although not " quasi real time" This one has been created by the guys from Koblo….It says it will have a free DAW that is Open Source with hooks into the web based community back end for seeling of tracks, concert tickets etc….


  • I love RiffWorks!! I've collaborated on MANY songs with this community and it's been amazing!! This software completely restored my inspiration for music. Here are some songs I've created and co-created with other artists:


  • I've only been using RiffWorks for about six months, but I can tell you it's addicting! I've recorded more than I have in a long time, and collaborating is awesome. Even got a recent case of tendonitis in my left forearm from playing so much! Sure there are kinks in it (no easy way to add random drum hits, loops), but overall it's cool.

  • Trayesh

    It is simply amazing!

  • phobik

    I've tried ejamming, but haven't found anyone near me so it failed there. I've been told it can go down to minimum 15 ms latency which is the natural latency for a 5m room. I do use ninjam for live jamming and it works great. Only bit that isn't possible are very fast variations, but as anyone who as done a real life jam knows, you don't do such thing in a real jam, you usually play something and repeat it long enough for others to get a feel for it. That's way it's called a jam 😉

  • funkychicky

    ok how do you download this?

    and is it free?

  • pauncy chaul

    Riffworks? Yes we can!

  • clarinetdude

    This is a piece of shit it is the worst music software I have ever used

  • Ghost

    This blows. You can't even import any of your own music you have to be forced to sign up to their website to even get any music and then you can only use their music. What the fuck?


  • Upgrade to RiffWorks Standard ($129) for 24 tracks plus drums, a tempo-synced REX Player (tons of free Rex files available online), ReWire, 9 InstantDrummer sessions, 32-bit recording, export, and more. There is also a way to import your previously recorded music into RiffWorks.

    You can still do a lot with RiffWorks T4 free recording software, and RiffWorks Standard gives you even more. RiffWorks Standard and RiffWorks T4 Feature Comparison Chart and download info.

  • Saba (9 years old)


  • Vantrell Lewis

    Yo, that look like a real cool way to make music.

  • Bani

    this is cool, but how do i download?

  • gosh..thats look cool

    but i have the same question as Bani 🙂

    btw. ive started exploring music with the MAGIX Music Maker, and im still using it. it has powerfull features and a enormeous product depth

    i love it 😀 . anyways i will check out riffworks

  • Hey I like the website http://www.splicemusic.cm but I think They shut it down. Is there another site besides this one.

  • ano


  • shraddha

    yeah its great…but how do we download it?

  • I want to have a digital music software.