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How to Pick Up (or Perfect) a Music Project at Home

There are heaps of free resources online to help you pick up an instrument, perfect your production skills or start a new project while you spend time at home.

As Australia and the world prepare for long stints in lockdown and social isolation, many of us are considering taking on new projects or learning a skill to make the most of our time at home. If you’re already musically inclined or you’ve been meaning to dust off that guitar in the corner of the room, there are plenty of free resources to help make the most of your time in the house.

Apps

Japanese synthesizer brand Korg is currently offering its iKaossilator app for free until the end of March. Usually $20, the app allows users of all skill levels to create beats with 150 inbuilt sounds. Another world-famous synthesizer brand, Moog is offering its Minimoog Model D app (normally $5) for free. Users get to play with one of the company’s famous synths, the 1970s-era Model D, which was a favourite among musicians such as Dr Dre and Herbie Hancock. Both these apps offer an extensive range of sound customisation options, so you won’t get bored with them. If you want to learn your favourite songs on guitar, the Ultimate Guitar app is free and has 1.4 million tabs and chord charts in its database.

Lessons

If you’re interested in picking up (or mastering) guitar, bass or ukulele, Fender Play is offering its app for free right now. The easy-to-navigate platform has lessons for players of all skill levels and adds new songs every day, so there’s a good chance plenty of your favourites are on there already. YouTube also has a seemingly endless number of video tutorials for almost any instrument, so if you’re thinking of digging your keyboard out of the garage, right now is as good a time as any.

Digital Audio Workstations

Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) allow you to produce music, record songs and essentially use your laptop as an entire band or orchestra if you want to. GarageBand comes preloaded onto Macs and iPhones, and Audacity, Pro Tools and Ableton all offer free tiers for users to get started and learn on. All can be used to build tracks from scratch with deep levels of customisation built into each and plugins available, too. For those who have existing recording equipment, these apps allow you to record and mix songs as well. As with any instrument, there are a heap of YouTube tutorials on mastering DAWs available.

Samples

Once you’ve got a handle on the production side of things, you may want to introduce sound samples into your work. Producers with prior experience will already know where to access these, but there are a few interesting ones available for free online. NASA has samples available from rocket launches, moon landings and other missions free for commercial use on its website. This means that if you decided to release a song with one of these samples in it, it won’t cost you anything. The same goes for sounds in the Yellowstone National Park sound library. It features sounds from an extensive range of animals, weather conditions and even geysers – a great way to add a feeling of space to your tracks. The BBC sound effects catalogue has over 16,000 samples on offer. Sounds are free for personal use, education or research purposes. If you want to purchase a sample to use in a published song, individual files are $5.

Photography: Scott Renton

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