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Virtual Piano – Play Piano Online

This is an irresistible website if you enjoy playing musical instruments – whether or not you have any real ability. Virtual Piano presents you with a keyboard on screen which you can play in two ways. Either you can click on the keys with your mouse or you can use your keyboard where the letters correspond to the white keys and Shift lets you play the black keys. You soon get used to finding the keys on the keyboard as they go in sequence, but it won’t help you actually learn to play a real piano keyboard.

The site is still being developed and at the moment it can be used for fun, or to play tunes and have them recorded for you. Future developments include the ability to print out music, which would be useful. Virtual Piano also has some music available using the alphabet so you can type the tune into your keyboard – so you can play even if you have no training at all! There’s a Virtual Piano Facebook group for more information and so that you can hear what other users have created using this quirky technique.

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TalentTrove – Share Your Talent on Video

Whatever your skill, if you can film it you can share it on this site to attract more viewers and perhaps even get talent-spotted. It could be comedy, music, writing, news reporting, acting, fashion, cooking or a variety of other talents typical of TV: TalentTrove lets you set up a free account to upload and share your videos in an organised way with an interested community.

The site is very neatly organised making it easy to set up your account and select the right categories from the toolbar and submenus so viewers can find your videos. It’s also quick and easy to find videos on the subjects that interest you. I went straight to comedy and watched the most popular videos, then set up my own account to upload my online interview shows so I gave it a good test.

The steps for uploading videos are straightforward if you’re uploading files from your own computer or selecting videos from your YouTube channel. I usually need to use embed code as my shows are on another website, and there wasn’t an easy option to do this – I’m sure it must be available on TalentTrove somewhere and it would be handy to have it on the main upload screen. With more and more people broadcasting their own talent and taking part in citizen journalism this site is an excellent idea and one that I’ll certainly use myself.

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MusicAndFiles – Find Music Downloads

Music and files is a much needed search engine that lets you find downloads of the music you’re looking for on the main filesharing and uploading sites, including Rapidshare, MegaUpload and MediaFire. I tried it out and managed to find albums I had been looking for on other sites without success – in fact it found a good number of them. It’s easy to use: just type in the name and then click on the list to be directed to the download site.

Sites like RapidShare offer free downloads that are slow, but you can be getting on with something else as it’s going on in the background, and they have premium services that let you get faster downloads for a subscription. One option is to take a minimum subscription for a short period and be ready with a list of all the music you want to download so you can organise it quickly, and for those on a tight budget the slower downloads are still bearable. It takes about half an hour for a whole album depending on your connection.

The filesharing sites do filter out pirate copies but it can take a bit of time if somebody has just uploaded one. When I was searching I could see a list of recent searches, and these included searches for material still protected by copyright. With new legislation on the way and tough penalties for filesharing pirate copies it’s important to make sure what you’re downloading is legal. Perhaps the filesharing sites will need to make it clear which ones have been approved for download and which are new uploads and not checked yet.

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SpotiBot – Recommends Music You’ll Like

This site is a little bit too good as it identified the type of music I like and kept me entertained for hours when I should have been writing. SpotiBot works together with Twitter and the music site Spotify to help you find music you’ll enjoy based on your favourite musicians. To use it you go to the SpotiBot site, or direct to your Twitter account, and type in ‘@spotibot similar to’ followed by the name of a musician or band you like. Spotibot will reply to you with suggestions for other musicians you’d enjoy.

I tried it with quite an eclectic range of music and the suggestions were similar in taste and introduced me to musicians I hadn’t heard of, including well established and new ones. SpotiBot gives you the suggestions together with links to the albums on Spotify, so you also need a Spotify account, otherwise you could look up the bands elsewhere. I right-clicked on the tracks on Spotify, copied the URL and pasted it on webotify.com, a website I reviewed here a while ago. On Webotify the Spotify track is played with a video, so the whole experience has been very pleasurable.

SpotiBot also compiles playlists for you, and although it’s independent of Spotify it works together with Spotify and also using Audioscrobbler.net. Audioscrobbler is a site that tracks and analyses listening habits. This clever, entertaining and incredibly useful way to find music you’ll like but wouldn’t otherwise hear about, is put together by Andy Smith who can also found on Twitter as @asmitter and @spotibot. Set aside a few hours when you try this one out.

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YouMicro – Like YouTube for Music

youmicro-comYouMicro aims to do for music and audio what YouTube has done for video. There should be great interest in this as many people want to share their music without having to film their performance or set their audio track to video. Another good thing about YouMicro is that it isn’t limited to music but could be used for any audio file. This will appeal to comedians and other performers, including writers performing their work and sharing fiction and poetry. It could also work as citizen journalism, which is really catching on at the moment, to let people tell their own news stories or voice their opinions.

YouMicro describes itself as a community so it should work as a social network, very like the YouTube approach. Members can upload their files, promote albums and events, and create playlists. A Help Centre and video tutorials help members get started, while the MicroForum encourages the community to get chatting. For ideas on what to listen to the most popular audio broadcasts are listed. It’s a site designed and run by a young team, and the vitality comes across. I’ll be using this one myself for broadcasts as I use video at the moment but sometimes sound alone is more effective.

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Webotify – Share Spotify Tracks with Video

Now and again I find a website that gives real pleasure and this is one of them. Webotify lets you share your favourite tracks from Spotify with friends, or on Twitter, and adds a video from YouTube. Whether or not you want to share the track it’s also a joy to choose favourite artists from Spotify then use Webotify to enjoy them with a surprise video automatically selected. It could be the singer performing, the words to let you sing along, or a set of images that go with the track – something fitting will be chosen.

The website consists of just one page where you enter the link to the Spotify track, and this is where the design could be improved. There are no instructions, just a picture of the Spotify screen with the menu choice highlighted that you would use to copy the URL. There’s a brief description of what Webotify does and space to enter the URL of the track on Spotify, so it really lacks a simple instruction to guide users. The process is straightforward: select tracks on Spotify then right click on them and click on the menu to either Copy Http Link or Copy Spotify URI. Paste this on the Webotify website and enjoy the track and video.

Webotify provides a URL you can copy and paste to share the track and video with friends whether or not they have Spotify. There’s also a one-click button to let you post it to Twitter and Webotify generates a message to show what you’re listening to. This is a website I’ll be using regularly and I hope to see some brief instructions as Spotify isn’t the most instinctive website to use either – and it’s another good one.

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PureSolo – Record Yourself with Backtracks

puresoloFor all the singers who would like to record themselves with musical backing PureSolo offers backtracks, recording and a variety of ways to share your creation. The PureSolo plugin is free to let you record, and then it’s possible to choose from more than 20,000 popular tracks. The download for each track comes with backing and sheet music. The cost for each download is between £0.49 and £1.99, and the download can be used to create multiple versions of the track. For pure karaoke there are 1,500 tracks costing £0.99 each. Help screens with FAQs are vital on this kind of website and they are very clear and easy to understand.

The lyrics, sheet music and backing track (which PureSolo describes as being recorded by high quality session musicians) all come in a single file download. The recorded tracks can be burned to CD, saved as MP3 files, emailed to friends or used as ringtones. PureSolo also aims to build community, offering ways for musicians to network internationally. There are also competitions with musical prizes, including one for a Gibson Les Paul Studio Guitar at the time of writing. With increasing opportunities to perform and share music online this provides a first step for singers to record and broadcast their performance and meet contacts in the music world.

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Swift.FM – Share a Music Station with Friends

swiftfmSwift.FM lets users create a shared music list with friends to build an online radio station via Twitter. Users log into Twitter from the Swift.FM main page and start by building a Swiftlist of favourite music. This is done by filling in a link to an MP3 file on the net and adding a message to be posted to Twitter. To include the MP3 in a specific channel add hashtags, such as #hiphop or #techno. MP3 files of up to 10MB can also be uploaded, so users could add their own original music.

Swift.FM helps with links to music sites and music search engines, and aims to help promote musicians and events by spreading awareness of the music people are enjoying. Once MP3s are uploaded a message goes out to the user’s followers on Twitter. Friends and family can build a customised radio station together, making this a fun site and an extra way for original musicians to share their work and get noticed. This website is still in beta so difficulties are still being resolved, but it’s a well thought out and appealing use of Twitter. The tips and help pages are clearly presented and welcome at this stage of development.

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Songkick – Live Music Concert Database

1420v2-max-250x250Songkick claims to be the biggest concert database in the world with information on more than a million past and future events. It combines a simple method of finding where your favourite musicians are playing with an invitation to join the Songkick community and share your experience of music with other fans. Wherever your favourite musicians are playing live you can find them by typing in their name for a list of international gigs.

There’s no need to be a member to get information on upcoming concerts, but those who join can also fill in details of gigs they’ve been to in the past. Other members can click ‘I was there’ and the database turns into a social network where participants can share photos, videos and reviews of each event. For future concerts members can click ‘I’m going’ and see how many other Songkickers will be there, so they could find a group of friends to go with.

Songkick’s extra features help members to track the music they like with calendar alerts for artists, venues and festivals. They can also see which of their friends are going to a concert and get together. There’s a Songkick plug-in to import up to 50 favourite artists, and once members choose a concert it’s possible to find the best value tickets via a ticket aggregator using the inventory from 29 different ticket vendors.

This is an attractive and easy-to-use site that also provides networking for members and seems to be attempting to provide all the features its target audience would require. Not much wonder it’s already proving one of the most successful London startups. I couldn’t fault it and teenagers using it should already be aware of the caution needed in meeting up with online friends at events like this.

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Zajet – What are you sharing today?

Logo I recently had to share some documents with friends. The problem was that the online sharing websites had little to offer with what we had to do and that was sharing/blogging/editing/versioning at the same time.  And then I found zajet.com, which made the whole thing simple and fun.

This website allows you to share almost anything you want (the file size is limited though, only 2 MB per file which is really a shame; make it at least 5 guys!). You are given your own page when you sign up and then in that page you can blog/post articles/share files etc. A nifty little feature is that your own widgets can be added to your page.

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