8 Browser-Based Virtual Instruments for Musicians on the Go

Keep your musical skills sharp with browser-based instruments, even when you're away from your gear.

If you’re a musician, you may find it frustrating to be separated from your instrument. However, you can still satisfy your musical cravings through virtual instruments that run in your web browser.

Feeling the urge to play some music? You can try your hand at any of these 8 browser-based virtual instruments. They are perfect for those moments when you’re away from your physical instrument.

While these online instruments are not a complete substitute for high-quality hardware or software instruments, they are promising signs of what might be achievable in the realm of web-based music. Typically, these virtual platforms are more focused on synthesizers, but they still offer a ton of fun.

And who knows? We might soon see a web-based version of an electric guitar that does justice to the real thing.

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Collaborate on Music Online with Ohm Studio

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1. WebSID

The Digital Nostalgia of Commodore 64

WebSID interface

If you’re a fan of 1980s culture, WebSID is sure to evoke some nostalgia. It’s a digital version of the iconic SID sound chip found in the Commodore 64.

The interface is user-friendly and intuitive, making it easy to play using your computer keyboard. The virtual keyboard also supports touch input, making it accessible on smartphones and tablets.

Moreover, WebSID features a built-in delay effect, expanding your options for sound design.

2. MZ-101

A Simple Monophonic Synthesizer

MZ-101 interface

The MZ-101 is a monophonic synthesizer, taking inspiration from the analog synths of the ’70s and ’80s like the Roland SH-101. While it may not be the most complex synthesizer, many iconic records were produced using similar equipment. The MZ-101 allows you to save and load presets, and you can even share them on Twitter.

You can interact with this synth via your computer keyboard or the virtual on-screen keys. Keep in mind that the MZ-101 relies on the Web Audio API, so it won’t work on browsers that lack this support.

3. Sympathetic Synthesizer System Mk 1

A Nod to Retro Gaming Sounds

Sympathetic Synthesizer System Mk 1 interface

The Sympathetic Synthesizer System Mk 1 offers a simple-to-use interface and evokes the iconic sounds of 1980s and early 1990s videogaming.

Unlike WebSID, it doesn’t emulate a specific synth or chip. However, its sound is distinctly reminiscent of retro videogames rather than the analog synths of the same era.

You can interact with the Sympathetic Synthesizer System Mk 1 using your computer keyboard or the virtual keys on-screen. The tool is built on the WebAudio API, so it only functions in browsers that support this API.

4. Patternsketch

Your Online Drum Machine and Audio Sequencer

Patternsketch interface

Patternsketch serves as an audio sequencer and drum machine. You can craft patterns or play the drumkit in real-time using your computer keyboard.

The platform offers a variety of drumkits, including realistic Jazz and Live sets as well as electronic and classic Roland TR-808 and TR-909 kits. It even provides some premade drum patterns for quick use.

Patternsketch allows you to save and share your creations, enabling collaborative work. You can also export your patterns in WAV, MP3, or OGG formats for offline listening, and even upload directly to SoundCloud. It is optimized for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.

5. TrueGrid

A Sandbox for Modular Synth Enthusiasts

TrueGrid interface

TrueGrid is designed for experimental musicians and those intrigued by modular synthesizers. Unlike traditional synths, modular synthesizers don’t have a fixed signal path and consist of individual modules that can be interconnected in numerous ways.

TrueGrid is a digital version of a modular synth, letting you patch modules together for a wide range of soundscapes. While it doesn’t offer an on-screen keyboard, you can use a MIDI keyboard if you’re running Chrome.

Keep in mind that TrueGrid is still in its beta stage, so it has some limitations. There’s a restricted selection of available modules, and you can’t pick modules within the tool just yet. To configure a synth, you’ll need to register on ModularGrid and use their planner. TrueGrid performs best in Google Chrome.

6. Waveform

Wavetable-Based Synthesizer in Your Browser

Waveform interface

Waveform is a web-based synthesizer inspired by renowned wavetable VST synths. Craft your own unique soundscapes using thousands of wavetables, and easily share your presets through a URL. You can interact with Waveform using a physical keyboard, on-screen keys, or a MIDI keyboard. While Google Chrome is the recommended browser, other modern browsers should also suffice.

7. WebModular

A Simple, Vintage-Inspired Modular Synthesizer

WebModular interface

WebModular is a simpler modular synthesizer that takes cues from classic synths like the ARP 2600. Similar to TrueGrid, it allows for custom signal flows but is tailored for more conventional sounds.

You can interact using the on-screen keyboard and even employ Modern Music Macro Language (MML) to write and playback melodies, riffs, or entire songs. WebModular offers a few presets to kickstart your creativity and runs on the Web Audio API. It’s also being tested with a Javascript and Flash combination for wider browser compatibility.

8. Audiotool

A Complete Music Making Suite

Audiotool interface

Audiotool goes beyond being just a virtual instrument to offer a comprehensive music-making platform. It boasts four synthesizers and three drum machines, along with a variety of effects like distortion, reverb, and delay. The platform also features sequencing capabilities, allowing for complete song compositions.

If you prefer to simply explore the instruments, pressing Caps Lock allows you to use your computer keyboard for real-time play. Built using Flash, Audiotool is designed to run smoothly across different browsers.