December 29, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Trapped in the Office? Save Yourself with 6 Free Web-Based Music Apps

Photo of office courtesy of Flickr/skunks

Well, it’s the holiday break again, which means you’re either celebrating with friends and family, recovering from having done so, or preparing to do so again — all, potentially, while stuck in an office without much to do, because even if you’re around, a lot of other people aren’t.

If you’re looking for a way to while away a few of those extra minutes in between your year-end projects or otherwise-occupied leisure minutes, you could do worse than to check out these six free web-based music activities. Even with minimal or non-existent experience with creating music in more traditional ways, you can come away with something worth sharing in minutes.

Build Music Farmville-style, with ‘Isle of Tune’

Music sequencers that play samples or phrases at certain times in order to create a larger composition can take years to master. But by now, many of us know how to drag and drop stuff onto a pastoral setting, a la Farmville and other web-based games. In order to compose an original piece of shareable music with Isle of Tune, all you have to do is create a road, add rhythm elements and notes in the forms of houses, bushes, trees and street lamps, and then drop a car onto your creation to trigger the samples as you drive by.

As with Farmville, this pleasant diversion can quickly consume minutes or hours. You can tweak the musical characteristics of each element on the map, edit previous additions, and create up to three “road loops,” each with its own car, allowing the creation of some fairly complex songs, depending on your ambition. The results are easily shareable via Twitter, Facebook, or a simple URL.

Creating a complex creation this way can be a challenge; for inspiration, check out the Top 50 list at the top of the screen — Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and MGMT’s “Kids” are current crowd favorites, but you might also want to take a drive through Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” and an original (I think) called “The Staring Contest.”

Send a Postcard.fm

You know those greeting cards with a sound chip and speaker inside play a sample when you open the card? Postcard.fm is like that, except it’s free and you can use whatever audio file and image you want. Once it’s uploaded, enter your friend’s email address, preview the audio postcard, and send it along.

Clearly, several options exist here for entertaining one’s self. You could find a ridiculous photo of a Facebook friend, pair it with a particularly apt song, and share the URL with everyone both of you know; send out thank you notes or New Year’s Eve invitations; or just pick a song from your collection and check Flickr for photos that remind you of it, the way I did for this postcard.

Remix Bob Dylan and Share the Video

Now it’s time to get your hands dirty with Bob Dylan, the Ting Tings, and a bunch of other talented musicians who have uploaded their renditions of instrumental and vocal tracks from the Dylan classic “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”

The Remix Project (more here) is an easy-to-use-albeit-powerful web-based app for remixing that song, and that song alone. Choose audio/video loops from the slider menu at the bottom of the screen and drag them into four verses-worth of the song, making the mood and texture change from verse to verse using your personal taste, and Bob’s your uncle.

Sort of.

Bombard Your Friends with Music

If misery loves company, boredom loves diversion. Should you find a good musical diversion during this week of occasional, widespread boredom, why not share? We’ve been looking for a great way to sound out full songs on Facebook without infringing copyright, running one’s own server or both; so far, YouTube is the best option.

Search out new or old favorites on YouTube, copy the link, paste them into a Facebook update, and that’s it — all of your friends can hear the song. If you haven’t done this in a while, you may have forgotten, but with millions upon millions of full-length songs on YouTube available for full-length embedding within Facebook. Pretty much the only limit is how well you react to a blinking cursor in a search box.

Sing with an Artificially-Intelligent uJam Backing Track

On the fourth day of Christmas, the non-denominational Evolver.fm would like to share uJam, a stunning web-based reverse-karaoke app (see also LaDiDa) that constructs full-blown harmony, beats, and backing tracks around whatever you sing, be it a version of a pop song by Diddy or a ditty of your own construction.

Think of something to sing and it’s all gravy from there — especially when you get to alter the mood and genre of the song by toggling instruments and beats. You can listen to mine here, but the real fun is in making your own and sharing it with kith and kin.

Invent the Future

Earlier this month, we opened the Untapped Apps contest for voting, where you can decide which music app you’d like to see made and submit ideas for the next round of voting.

Think about it, then let us know: What music apps (web or otherwise) would you like to see made in 2011 and beyond?

Top photo courtesy of Flickr/skunks; Snowy driveway photo courtesy of Flickr/Per Ola Wiberg; snowball fight photo courtesy of Flickr/Andrew Bossi