What if you could record directly online from a Web browser – no additional software needed? It’s not a new idea, but online music community Indaba has an interesting new Java-based tool that gets one step closer. We took a first look at the tool last month, but it’s now publicly available at indabamusic.com today. Indaba shared with CDM some video walking us through the feature set, and the company founders also answered some of my questions. For the musicians in the audience, we’ll have some more hands-on time with this tool to see if it’s something you can use. (My guess is, it’s something you might use alongside your existing tool of choice.) For the developers and Java fans (or skeptics), I also want to dig a little deeper in the Java and JavaFX platforms behind the scenes.

What can you do when making music in a browser?

  • Work online or offline.
  • Record directly online and share immediately.
  • Work across platforms, directly in the browser.
  • Add real-time effects, mixing, and even multitrack automation for adjusting levels.

Indaba isn’t alone in some of these features, but the ability to have high-performance, non-destructive audio effects and to record directly into the program without the typical browser restraints is definitely a step forward from other solutions.

Pricing will include a relatively full-featured free plan, plus $5/mo and $25/mo tiers adding additional clips, online storage workspace, and real-time non-destructive effects. (Video sharing service Vimeo recently adjusted their free/Pro distinction, a subject Jaymis covered for Create Digital Motion yesterday.)

Here’s our own Q&A to get things rolling:

CDM: Obviously, we have readers who are very comfortable with some existing, non-browser-based tools. But I can see them having a place for a browser tool as a supplement. How might some of those kinds of people use Indaba, as you envision it?

Indaba: The Indaba console is fully integrated with our global community of musicians, so it’s much easier to share work and collaborate on mixes. Even if your readers currently use non-browser-based tools, the Indaba console enables them to work together seamlessly from any computer without having to transfer files from machine to machine. What’s more, because the Indaba console is web-based, it can capture inspiration that strikes when artists are on the road or otherwise away from their studios. For musicians who don’t currently use complex DAWs, the Indaba console can be even more – a turnkey solution for recording, editing, and mixing.

Why JavaFX? What specifically was possible with JavaFX versus, say, Flash – given that at least some basic DSP functions we have seen in Flash?

The real decision was to build a Java application. A signed Java app gives us the freedom we need to tap into client-side hardware (sound-card, hard drive etc) and the power we need to handle multiple non-destructive effects. Other client-side technologies simply can’t offer this level of access. JavaFX gave us the ability to develop a sexy interface that wouldn’t look/feel like the stereotypical java apps of yesteryear. Going forward, this will enable us to do some pretty amazing things.

Ed. – note, that generally answer leads to some follow-up, specific development questions I have regarding implementation on Mac, Windows, and Linux, so we can talk more about those details – feel free to pass along your own thoughts and I’ll see what I can learn.

CDM: It’s nice to see the Creative Commons license on the sample materials. Will there be ways for artists using Creative Commons to release their own clips / share their own loops?

Not in this release but shortly thereafter. For now there are hundreds of clips available to our members.

Will there be an API for other sites to hook into what Indaba users are doing / what they’re doing on the Java-FX-based editing platform?

It’s definitely something we’re planning on releasing at some point. At the moment, we have private APIs for corporate partners.

What are some likely workflows with the new tool? How does that differ from previous versions?

It cuts a tremendous amount of overhead out of the process and is a simple and quick way to capture your ideas in high quality. Previously you had to download tracks, record locally, bounce them out of your DAW and upload them to the site… Now you can pop open the Console, record in high quality and mix your song all within Indaba.

Stay tuned for more details. And, of course, Indaba does have some competition on the Web; it’ll be interesting to see how it all stacks up.

  • JohnG

    Sorry, I just don't get it. Why would I give up functionality (my Pro Tools rig, and even GarageBand)? I'd rather do the work on my dekstop, then just upload. Seems silly.

  • Initially, I share JohnG's incredulity. However, after visiting their site and reading on and in-between the lines more, I see that this tool is really about collaboration more than anything else. It sort of seems like a Google doc-style DAW. Though I haven't used it yet, I can imagine that two people could work on it synchronously and see their changes made (which, if what is eventually intended, is something that I don't think I'd really want). But then, I can see how this could lead to really cool versioning of remixes.

    Thinking about it this parallel more (one that I've admittedly placed here), I either have my desktop or laptop available with me everywhere. I use Google docs because I want to be able to share docs with colleagues or access the docs on computers that aren't mine as well. I'm not sure if either of those things would apply to mixing or editing sessions (or any DAW-related sessions, for that matter). whenever I want to record, I just take my laptop and Traveler. It's quick and easy. With this, I'd still need to do that. Perhaps some plugin would be made that would take a Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase, etc. session and convert/upload it?

  • Johan Hellgren

    I like the idea, but at the moment it's just too slow to be a viable option(intel iMac on a 24Mbit connection). Besides, uploading to Soundcloud is not exactly cumbersome.

  • @JohnG: well, that's exactly the point – you wouldn't give that up. The assumption is, some people just want to record, so just as Google Docs is enough for some people, maybe a band mate records quickly online. Now, obviously, exactly 0% of the CDM readership falls into that category, and I still find native desktop apps very, very useful. But then, as a complement to your existing tool or for collaboration, this could be useful.

    I don't think it really replaces anything, but it's a nice tool to add.

    The other interesting thing is that, where development is going, it could be possible to build a Java desktop app and then also make it available on the Web. Some of the technical barriers to doing that are getting lifted. So you may soon see some things blurring those lines.

  • Johan – which part is slow? (slow can mean a lot of things!)

  • Johan Hellgren

    Peter: a several seconds long delay whenever I push a button or drag a slider.

    I tried it again to see if it was a temporary glitch, but now it doesn't even go past the login screen. Hopefully their server is just having a bad day.

  • Well, adjusting controls should actually happen locally on your machine, not on the server. May have been a temporary glitch. Login … well, yeah, that's probably their server getting hammered. You try to test these things, but launch never goes exactly as planned. 😉

  • nylarch

    I'm primarily interested in this from a tech perspective. I do a lot of Flex work by day and have been following Andre Michelle's really cool Flash audio work…interested in that this is probably the first significant JavaFX app I've seen anywhere to this point. JavaFX has seemed very 1.0 compared to Flex and Silverlight but it seems like an impressive interface….can't wait to try it out.

  • @nylarch: well, exactly, and the thing is that underneath JavaFX you're still writing Java — very much NOT 1.0, a whole lot more mature than Silverlight and (in some respects) even Flex. But I'm interested in how they're handling the audio APIs, as that's typically been the tough part. Flash/Silverlight aren't all that strong there, either, compared to what you usually get with a desktop app (like ASIO)!

  • JohnG

    @Hdez, I understand your Goole Docs analogy. But here's the thing: when I travel, I have my laptop with me. And GarageBand, Pro Tools, Logic, Reaper, Sonic — all the great tools we love — work just fine on a laptop. So I'd much rather use those tool. I prefer the Kompoz (www.kompoz.com) approach, which is to work offline, then share my tracks using Kompoz. Use the site for the sharing and social network aspects, and use my DAW(s) for the real work. I think Kompoz also has a dektop app, but it's only for uploading multiple tracks to their site. Not sure if Indaba has the same.

  • Eric

    JohnG: Indaba seems to be part DAW, part social network where musicians can collaborate (albeit asynchronously). I don't see this aspect as being particularly useful for my purposes – live interaction is too integral to my creative process – but I'd be surprised if that powerful social effect didn't yield some interesting results (Berlin techno-heads finding a Mexican horn section? I'll listen).

    For me, more a pop/rocker, I see value as an easy repository for band demos/practice – recordings. I get a lot of inspiration out of listening back to recordings and catching interesting moments/accidents that I'm practically oblivious to while playing. It's kind of tedious cutting my practice sessions, converting to mp3 and sending to bandmates. A quick place to collect practices and throw in ideas when we're not practicing might be inspiring…

  • nylarch

    Yeah I should probably clarify that when I say JavaFX is clearly 1.0 I'm referring to the display layer only (the actual JavaFX script or whatever its called), and everything else you're dealing in Java which is about as rich and mature an environment you can find…whereas Flash's handling of audio is really very 1.0 (while its display code is very mature).

  • @JohnG: Nope, absolutely — I hear the skepticism; I'm with you. Some of the assumption from the Indaba crowd is that a lot of people don't want to mess around with software, though, or that it's too complex or too expensive — but just being in a browser doesn't necessarily solve those problems, though it does mean the software is more immediately available (it's easier to impulse-use), which is important for some.

    @nylarch: Yep, I agree, though the SDK from this spring is a big leap forward. 1.0 at the end of last year definitely felt like 1.0. It'll be interesting to see how it may mature. It's already a lot more fun than Swing, for what that's worth.

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  • JohnG

    @Peter: I totally get it — "impulse-use" has it's place. But we're talking music here, something that we all (probably everyone reading your blog) take very seriously. I would think that the impulse crowd would gravitate towards JamGlue and Splice, while the more hard-core musicians (the desktop tool fans) would be found on Indaba and Kompoz. That's why I'm surprised Indaba would put so much effort into this JavaFX tool, unless they're trying to reach a different audience now. Good blog post, and good discussion.

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  • It's so almost…..but not…. there.

    I'm waiting for something like this for teaching purposes as it would be so great to have an tool accessible by all students regardless of platform and to some extent computer speed. The problem with that right now however is broadband speeds.

    As a collaborative platform it all depends on how good the offline application will be. I think I'd rather wait for Live to enhance their online feature because then I wont have to constantly swap platforms when editing.

    However as an "impulse-use" platform I can absolutely see it's use.

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  • calvin

    dis is freshhhhhh man yo cam do dis freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

  • lilwayne

    dat aynt cool man dis is wrong bullshit

  • dowggymane

    sushtcha stupid web' 'cause der aint no rap this is sushit gett lost