How we’re making music creation easier on the Web

In August, the creators of Cleanfeed, the online studio for live audio and recording, received the Engineering, Science & Technology Emmy Award for their work in film and television. Their audio technology is used in a variety of popular shows, including “Star Trek: Discovery,” “The Crown,” “The Walking Dead,” “The Queen’s Gambit” and “The Flight Attendant.”

This award shows how important the web is becoming for audio production. We appreciate Cleanfeed for recognizing the efforts of Chrome’s Web Audio Team, and particularly the efforts of Googler Hongchan Choi, for their work on the Web Audio API in the Chromium project.

We spoke with Hongchan and with Ben Morss, a Product Manager for Chrome, about their team’s work over the past several years to enable audio and music production on the Web, from recording and editing podcasts, to creating and sharing music.

Why was it important to advance audio and music creation on the web?

Ben: Technology has transformed humanity’s relationship to music — how we discover, listen to, share and create it. Hongchan and I both had careers in music, and we’re still active musicians. Our jobs are to make the web better and more capable for users and developers, but we love helping make it possible for others to create sound and music more easily.

Hongchan: To make this possible, the Chrome Web Audio team works primarily on two things. First, there’s the Web Audio API, which enables all sorts of audio on the web, from modifying sound and music to enabling videoconferencing. Then there’s the Web MIDI API, which lets electronic musical instruments communicate. We’ve been innovating on both projects since 2010.

What are some benefits of doing audio production in a web app?

Ben: People using desktop and laptop computers have come to depend on the web for all sorts of applications, but they might not know that they can use their browser to edit audio, make music, collaborate and share. Your browser is actually a powerful instrument for artistic expression and professional media production. This democratization of production has made it possible for anyone who can afford some basic equipment to become a producer.

The new crop of web apps makes this even more accessible to more people. You can meet and collaborate with people anywhere. You can discover other people’s music and share your own. You don’t even have to buy, download or install software. You can work on any device that supports a modern browser.

Are web music creation apps suitable for modern pop?

Ben: They are! Modern pop music is a collaborative process, and that makes the web ideal. “Old Town Road” happened because YoungKio sampled a Nine Inch Nails song, created a beat and put it up on Beatstars. Lil Nas X downloaded it and added vocals. It won’t be long before we see this happening with web apps, where it’s so easy to discover collaborators, work together and let others hear the result.

Hongchan: I actually introduced an example in Google I/O in 2019. In that example, three artists from three different continents were able to collaborate through a web app built with web music technology. The song became a hit in the UK.

What other changes are you hoping to bring to audio creation on the web in the future?

Hongchan: Our job is to create flexible and capable tools that developers can use to build their dream apps. So for us, it’s often a matter of seeing what trends are happening in web apps and helping those trends along. Some of the new video and sound production apps have AI features that accomplish previously impossible tasks, like transcribing speech as text, then letting you edit the sound by editing the text. Others can automatically reduce noise and improve sound quality or even change one instrument into another, and separate a track into individual instruments so you can create karaoke tracks or remixes.

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