Music production

ToneStone is a music production app from the people behind Guitar Hero and Left 4 Dead

ToneStone is an application designed to make music production easy, even for users without any music experience, and it’s created by people who have worked on Guitar Hero and Left for dead. Even though the app is officially announced today, it is still in closed beta, and there is a waiting list for those who want to try it. As a music production enthusiast, ToneStone’s interface and gaming features are a lot like my kind of jam, based on the videos I’ve seen of the app and my conversation with founder Greg LoPiccolo.

If you’ve never heard of LoPiccolo, you’ve probably heard of games he helped create. He worked at Harmonix, the studio that created music-based games like Rock band and Guitar Hero. Another founder of ToneStone is Tom Leonard, who has some of Valve’s biggest hits, like Left for dead and Half Life 2, registered on his LinkedIn. LoPiccolo said ToneStone’s mission is to “empower a global community to create and share music,” which he sees as a “basic human need that everyone wants.”

In an attempt to make music production friendly to beginners, ToneStone uses a system of loops and turntables. Think of loops as building blocks of a song – they can be used to add drums, synths, strings, etc. The loops are then organized into decks, which represent different musical genres such as synthwave, trap or pop. ToneStone has built-in preset decks, but you can also create your own and even add your own sounds or recordings as loops.

This video tutorial illustrates what the music making process looks like in the app.

The team behind ToneStone also hopes that it acts as a sort of social music creation platform, making it easier to share your music and remix songs that others have made (at the moment most shares are done on Discord). There have been other games that allow users to make music, but it’s hard to find the line between being too complex for beginners and too simple.

Remixing another ToneStone user’s song (which is currently shared in Discord) gives you access to the entire project file, or as LoPiccolo says, musical DNA, which allows you to really change. things compared to the original. You can also share all the songs you have created by exporting them as an MP3 file and uploading them to services like SoundCloud.

With founders who have years of experience making games, it’s no surprise that ToneStone has gamified elements. LoPiccolo told me that the tutorials, which are meant to teach the basics of software and music composition, are slightly gamified. He also spoke about the similarities between building a loop game and building a card game in games like Foyer Where Magic: The Gathering – there are also built-in decks, but the real fun comes when you start making your own.

LoPiccolo told me that the team has “some, dare I say it, revolutionary ideas” that are currently in development that “would allow people to make music decisions, write and play music as gameplay. “. While it’s unclear what the actual gameplay will look like, the idea is to give the player enough decisions to get them into the beat, much like what can happen when playing more traditional games like Call of Duty. The difference would be that in the end, you would have a musical creation.

I walked out of the discussion imagining a series of quick events where you decide where the song is going to go, which seems like a really fun thing to play with (although it’s not clear if there’s a sort of seed or some other process that prevents everyone from ending up with songs that sound similar). LoPiccolo said the ultimate goal is to make the experience single-player or multiplayer, giving you the ability to collaborate with someone else to make music.

Like video games, LoPiccolo says ToneStone will also be editable and expandable. Its engine is written in JavaScript, and it says that users will be able to contribute not only music, but also interactive content like tutorials, guides or even game modes. As someone who has spent time in In the world of DIY music production, the idea of ​​these kinds of community contributions reminds me of YouTube tutorials, shared project files, and VST plugins.

Compare this image of ToneStone’s UI from one of its tutorial videos to the FL Studio UI, seen below.
Image: ToneStone

A project file for a relatively simple song in FL Studio.

If ToneStone seems to have a good number of advanced features, simplicity remains a priority for its creators. They say users should be able to go from opening the app to making music “in seconds” – more advanced things can wait if you’re not interested or ready to learn it.

I’ve spent hours and hours learning how to make music in apps like FL Studio and Logic Pro (mostly for fun), and hearing LoPiccolo get excited about ToneStone makes me wish I had something like this ago. has years. I suspect I might end up using it for quick sketches and soundtracks that I would have used Logic for, just for speed and ease of use.

Of course, ToneStone isn’t the first app designed for music newbies to create songs. Apple’s GarageBand has a feature called Live Loops, which has a equally user-friendly interface on iPad. I remember my experience with Live Loops as being fun but extremely frustrating when I tried to really make the song my own. GarageBand is also limited to Mac, iPad and iPhone, where ToneStone runs on Mac and PC and is distributed via Steam.

The goal of ToneStone is to mix the social aspects of the game with the content focused on the creators of platforms like Instagram to ultimately make music. While the social aspects of music production that ToneStone relies on are not new (especially in the indie and amateur music scene), it’s true that making music can be intimidating for beginners. When I started, the tutorials for beginners looked like this, which is definitely scarier than ToneStone’s own tutorial.

ToneStone is still in its infancy, but his team has high hopes for him. LoPiccolo painted a picture of what the app can currently do, saying it can be used to “create unlicensed soundtracks for indie games or live streams,” and said the team was working on make things like live performances and collaboration possible. With the app still in closed beta, there isn’t a business model set in stone yet, but LoPiccolo told me the intention is to offer a basic app for free, with access to advanced features unlocked by subscription (although it didn’t share pricing information). He also said that the app will include a marketplace where you can buy new loops, effects or mods.

You can subscribe to the beta waiting list at The ToneStone website.

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