You may already know that incorporating technology into your music classroom doesn’t need to be a costly exercise. There are plenty of free and low-cost resources available and the only thing you need in order to access them is an internet connection.  In this post we’ll take a look at some of the free audio recording and editing programs.

These audio recording/editing programs can include a combination of features such as looping, sequencing, recording and editing and there are hundreds of uses for the classroom.  Here are just a few:

  • Record student performances for archiving purposes
  • Record student performances for instant feedback and student reflection
  • Create original compositions
  • Arrange songs
  • Make backing tracks
  • Change the key of an existing song
  • Remove vocals from a song
  • Edit a song for dance class/performance
  • Make a podcast
  • Engage in digital storytelling
  • Invent soundscapes
  • Compose to film

1. Audacity

Audacity is one of the most popular free cross-platform audio editing programs.  It’s great for chopping up existing recordings, changing the key of a song, speeding up/slowing down tracks and creating fade ins/outs.  The latest beta version (1.3.9 at the time of writing) even includes a vocal “remover”.  Audacity doesn’t include video, loops or MIDI features but it has some specific effects not found in some of the other programs.   It works really well as a “companion” application and is an ideal free solution for podcasting in the classroom.

2. GarageBand

If you’re after a user-friendly interface that incorporates multiple functions, GarageBand (Mac only) has long been the ideal solution.  It comes already installed on your Mac, it’s very intuitive and comes with lots of great ready-made loops.  The team at Apple have also built in some smart extras like a podcasting template, instrumental video lessons and easy access to other media on your computer, such as your iTunes library, photo collection and movies.

3. Acid Xpress

If you’re a PC user Acid Xpress – the younger sibling of Sony’s Acid Music Studio and Acid Pro – has a user-friendly interface.  It includes video so you can use it to compose to film and you can build your loop library by downloading the weekly “8pack” projects (8 loops arranged into a song).

4. trakAxpc

There’s another PC alternative to GarageBand called trakAxpc. Made by a crew in Ireland, this application has been around for a couple of years.  TrakAx does include video, but unfortunately it doesn’t currently support MIDI which could be a deal-breaker for many schools.

5. Myna

Myna is a new kid on the block.  Launched in mid-September, Myna is an online audio editor and a new addition to Aviary’s suite of image editing tools.  With an attractive interface, Myna’s features include the usual automation and effects necessities: fade-ins, fade-outs, pan, reverb, delay and pitch change as well the ability to trim, loop and stretch clips.  Although pieces are limited to 10 tracks and a maximum of 5 minutes in length, the price (free!) and online collaboration possibilities will be appealing to many schools.

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