make more music

OK so you want to make some music. I mean electronic music. So let’s talk about a free cloud based DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) : BANDLAB. With this kind of tool, you’ll be able to start your career as a famous beatmaker, yes really but you’ll be able to just start it. Anyway, this marvelous cloud webapp has a lot of interesting features. On Youtube, bandlab is sponsored by an artist called Eumonik, his idea is to not waste your time with software configuration, just make more music!

During the pandemic era, I’m pretty sure you’re alone behind your computer, just like me. I used to make music with friends and it was not possible anymore, finally I got frustrated and it’s not great. I decided to find a way to make music with my buddies remotely. I did think about skype or any conferencing tool to record our virtual freestyles. We’re rappers, so at the end, we just need to play an instrumental and record 2 or 3 vocals at the same time, not a big deal. I realized that it was not that easy.

The video conferencing tools are not built for this. My idea was to use something similar to Audacity (a basic recording software I like, I've been using it for decades) but hosted in the cloud. I’ve found a weird chrome extension for audacity but it looks like spyware and it doesn’t do the job, so please don’t give it a try. After several tries, I’ve found Bandlab. The promise was above my expectations.

What I understood was the possibility to collaborate on the same track in real time. My friends just need a Mic, a sound card and a laptop… And also a pretty solid Internet connexion (we’ll get to this later). So I make sure everyone in my team has the required hardware, in the meantime I’ve started testing it. In bandlab you have the possibility to create a band to share and collaborate on tracks. You can also launch a live session, invite any bandlab users and create or record music with remote friends in real time. It sounds amazing, doesn't it? Another great advantage of Bandlab is that you don’t need to install the software on your laptop. It’s a cloud webapp, you just have to start it in a chrome browser tab. Simple and efficient, I just like it.

As you can see, it looks like any other DAW without the need to configure or install anything. It could be cool but it’s also a limitation, we’ll see the ‘cons’ at the end. It’s a DAW so you don’t have to just record vocals, you can make music so I’ve plugged my Akai midi keyboards and it worked instantly, there’s a ton of instrument available directly in Bandlab, unlike any “real” DAW you can’t add your own plugins or VSTs. The presets for reverb, noise gate, EQ are good enough but to be honest, I’m not an expert as I’m just starting. The drum boxes are also good but I don’t feel it’s great for making drums. You can add your samples just by a simple drag and drop. As a DAW, Bandlab is pretty basic but it does the job.

What is really cool about Bandlab is the loops/sounds library. It’s huge. It’s huge mainly if you like rap, electronic loops. And good news, all the loops are royalty free. You can build your own beats using the sounds and loops from Bandlab and sell it… So I have to try it and sell my first beat. Using the web interface, you can really create a solid beat, I mean, I’ve tried to create some trap beats and even if I’m not a guru in this genre, at the end it looks like any other type beat you can find on the Internet. What are you waiting for ? Go ahead, cook some fresh beats and record your own mixtape !

It’s really cool and I like it. OK it’s not really like I was a famous beat producer. There is no search for the perfect sample, no finger drumming like with my MPC but you are still in control of your creativity… This is what I like. You can select the loops or the sounds, create chorus, music cuts, ending etc.. As said previously, it’s a good start and in my journey of music production, this is exactly what I need now, maybe not later, we’ll see.

Another good point for Bandlab is the mobile app. You have almost the same UI on the mobile app with few limitations but you have a big plus : the looper. It’s so easy to select a pack, press record and start/stop loops using your touch screen. If you’re lazy just like me, you can create beats on your couch. That’s so easy, I’ve asked my 10 years old son to create beats for me and he did it ! So I’m sure you can. Check some fresh sounds by Bibichon Beats, you’ll see !

Using the mobile app I was also able to start a beat (created by me) and record my own vocal while listening to the beat (monitoring) : awesome. I mean I can use this tool to record a demo or just to capture an idea when I have it. There is an option to configure the latency when you are recording vocals. What does that mean ? Unfortunately this is the main drawback of bandlab in my point of view. When you play the instrumental from Bandlab and you record your vocal from your local laptop, the sound has to go from the internet to your ears then the voice is captured on your laptop using your mic and sound card and then it has to go again through the Internet to be record as a new track in Bandlab. You get my point, it’s not absolutely done in real time, there is a very low latency during this. It's a few msec, you can configure it in Bandlab to try to compensate for it but it’s really hard to find the perfect tuning. On the Internet the latency can fluctuate, it’s not the same all the time. When I’ve tried to record my voice on bandlab, I was everytime “off-beat” which is very embarrassing for such a good rapper like me :) So I’m using it to create the instrumental then I download it. There is a great feature for automatic mastering, including 4 different methods of mastering : another free feature super cool. After that, I'm doing it “oldschool” recording through a local DAW (and I'm sure we'll talk about it in another post).

To conclude, Bandlab is a great full cloud based DAW, many limitations but a lot of fun. In my point of view this is more important. OK you won’t be able to become a famous beatmaker when using it. You’ll be able to create your own beat, just as you want and sell it. It’s free, it’s royalty free, I encourage you to give it a try (non-sponsored blog).

As you have finished this blog post, and if you read “blography” my wonderful blog which is very unlikely, I can give you a little secret. On bandlab, this famous DJ with thousands of plays and likes : DJ Low-Ha!. It’s me. Koby is the rapper, Low-Ha! Is the DJ.

Check out this awesome band in bandlab