Soundtrap: A Browser-Based Digital Audio Workstation. Online DAW. First published 2013. https://www.soundtrap.com/. Educational licenses start at $250.
Soundtrap is a browser-based, multitrack Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). All music students will need to become familiar with DAWs for recording, editing and producing any kind of audio track. In fact, each time they record themselves on a mobile device they are probably already using one. The market is filled with a variety of DAWs from high end professional products to prosumer and freeware versions, as well as a host of mobile apps. As an educator of future music teachers, my goal is to introduce music technology that will provide as few technical and cost barriers as possible for my students, as well as for their future students. Soundtrap is a DAW that will easily serve their teaching needs, whether their future schools are Mac, PC, Chromebook, iOS or Android based. Among the many advantages I have found by switching from using a desktop DAW is that Soundtrap allows all students to work on the assignment from anywhere, even their mobile devices, so they are not tied to our school’s computer lab or one specific operating system.
Soundtrap is a fairly robust no cost/low cost alternative to the higher end products. The Basic version is free, but it limits the number of projects users can create, as well as reduces the amount of loops and instruments that are available. The Premium education license, which also includes Autotune, is $250 for 50 seats; it offers scalable customization upwards to fit program needs with a minimal amount of cost increase. Soundtrap provides the following: an extensive loop library, a pattern-based beat-maker, an internal synthesizer with a variety of effects, a wide range of virtual instrument presets, and an automated mixing feature, in addition to allowing the user to import mp3s and MIDI files and to record original tracks.
The really “cool” feature is Soundtrap’s ability to provide live collaboration, so students can work together on projects in real time from diverse locations. There is a live chat feature for collaborators to communicate with each other. My students actually put that feature to the test during one of our many New England snowstorms last year. The online piano keyboard can be activated from the computer keys in addition to mouse clicking your way through a piece to input MIDI data; it is also possible to work in a piano roll view.
Browser-based software circumvents many of the issues associated with software updates and the requisite permissions that classroom teachers rarely have access to. The educational version provides a walled garden, so while students can collaborate with each other, their information and their work is not made public. Soundtrap also works extremely well with Google Classroom as a learning management system to push out assignments, and it integrates with Noteflight. As with any browser-based application, a good internet connection is crucial. Without a strong broadband connection, mixing time is very slow, and the DAW is unusable when users are in the midst of a power failure. However, that is a small price to pay for an inexpensive, full-featured DAW.