In today’s music industry we have access to a lot of power and technology at our fingertips. What used to cost 5 figures and fill up an entire room, can now be obtained at a fraction of the cost and, depending on how you work fit on a laptop and carried everywhere you go allowing you to compose at will.
Whether you know it or not, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a huge part of how we consume music in the 21st century. Everything from suggested songs, and playlists on platforms such as Spotify down to what loops and chord progression recommendations based on prior sound selections we’ve chosen on Splice.
It’s only natural that AI becomes a part of the music creation process and, while exciting for many, can be frightening for others. Especially to those who have spent years honing their craft and paying dues, but it doesn’t have to be.
Hopefully, this post opens your eyes to the possibilities, showing how AI and other writing assistance applications can help you both innovate and create music versus shunning it.
Fearing AI and Modern Music Writing Tools
Musicians and composers are always in fear or feel threatened whenever faced with the most recent top-of-the-line technology and some have every right to. With various technological advances, many musicians have been sidelined due to sampling drum machines, and robust sample libraries giving skilled producers and novices alike the ability to control full orchestras and do most, if not all of the recording, mixing, and mastering from their home production setups.
Technology is always changing and oftentimes for the better allowing music creators to perform tasks quicker, more creatively, and more efficiently when used correctly.
Where would music be today without MIDI? Where would ‘Pro Tools’ be if it were still Tools’ or Digital Performer if it were still ‘Performer’ and never advanced?
Does anyone remember when LANDR first surfaced? A lot of people thought this would be the end of the mixing/mastering engineer. Can LANDR produce good results, yes and no depending on what you feed it. Will it have the adaptive ability that a real engineer has? This has yet to be determined.
Benefits Of Using AI For Music Production
There are many benefits to using AI and assisted music writing tools. The biggest has to be having a constant source of inspiration. They’re all great for writing and sketching out music when you have a limited amount of space and gear at your disposal. Being able to pull your laptop out on a plane and get your ideas out before you forget them.
Another benefit is simulating a jam session. This is normally done with a band or group of writers running lines and ideas by each other in real-time or passing session files back and forth.
If you’re a one-man-band, you may find yourself improvising over tracks to find new melodic lines and ideas. The same thing can be done with assisted writing tools but in a much faster and isolated manner.
Think about having a melody line, but not knowing which harmony fits best. With assisted writing tools, you can cycle through harmony options for the basis.
For some, it’s difficult to come up with drum lines, not everyone is a drummer. In the past, singer-songwriters would purchase drum machines and lay down basic drum lines/tracks to kick start their ideas. These drum machines would range, some going up in the thousands of dollars. Today that same writing style can be employed using Logic X’s stock drummer or Reason Studio’s Beat Map as well as various other writing tools.
Same process different tools.
Tools You Can Use Today To Improve Your Music Production and Avoid Writer’s Block
Audiomoderns Chord Jam is a great chord progression writing assistant tool. It allows you to choose a scale (mode), audition progression options, pick a chord progression as well as use AI to randomize articulation, velocity, and timing of notes, leaving you with a realistic humanized feel.
Though ‘randomization’ is the highlight feature here, you still have the ability to make manual adjustments, thus creating your own unique feel.
The chord progression(s) can be programmed and sequenced inside of Chord Jam. Creating presets of your favorite progressions helps with future workflow and said progressions can be later imported as MIDI into your DAW. Importing the MIDI (drag and drop) gives you more control over the progression.
This is a highly inspiring plugin you can use to create arpeggios, drones, background candy, or add rhythmic richness to your music productions. Sometimes in order to create a good composition, you need a good rhythm. This can be obtained by using the randomize option (DICE). You can also control the amount of randomization as well as which parameters will undergo randomizing.
Once you have a good rhythm going, you drag and drop the MIDI into your DAW and use it however you like.
One of my favorite features to use in Animation Station is ‘Reorder’ This allows one to reorder the arp steps which can be handy for creating different sections within a composition or creating more complex arps and phrases.
Riffer is a melody assistance plugin developed by Audiomodern. While it is similar to other melody-generating tools, it has a unique feature that isn’t found in many and that is the ability to randomize melodies every time it loops.
This nifty feature can be highly beneficial for those who like improvising, live settings, or having the option of constant change within their music.
The change doesn’t have to be huge or on the lead, but as a secondary or background sound can keep the music very interesting.
Like other tools mentioned, the performance can be randomized and drug into a DAW. Another way to obtain midi from Riffer is to have the DAW record Riffer’s MIDI in real-time. This would be great for capturing everything adjusted in Riffer prior to committing to it within Riffer.
At least this is the case with DAWs such as Reaper.
Writing Music AI
This is where the fun and excitement of experimentation is.
- Choose your sound selection (synths, bass, pianos, etc)
- Assign a writing tool to it each
- Roll the dice and generate a few ideas
- Take the ones you like and drag them into your daw
- Refine the ideas
Outlook on AI Composition
Artificial intelligence is a wonderful thing, not only does it allow us as music producers, writers, and composers to analyze compositions but it’s becoming a part of everything that we do.
For example, if you like using analog emulation software for mixing: EQs, Compressors, Saturators, and other processors then you’ve more than likely been exposed to AI, more specifically machine learning whether you know it or not.
Without getting too technical, picture this. In order to emulate mixing tools (accurately) the original hardware, let’s use a compressor as an example, is hooked up to a computer. The computer then goes through the process of learning nuances about how the compressor reacts to different input signals, compression settings, and various scenarios over time. The extrapolated data is then used to create some of our favorite mixing tools we rely on for our finished sound.
This hardware emulation software is then placed on the market for everyone to purchase, or dare I say obtain by any means necessary. With those tools now in everyone’s hands, they have what they need tool-wise to churn out a good mix and master. This doesn’t mean that everyone is going to be able to provide a good mix and master as there’s still a great bit of skill involved in the process.
The same is true when it comes to Music Creation and Composition. The tool is just the tool but requires a skilled individual knowing how to piece together a great composition and evoke the right emotion for the client (or project) via sound selection, orchestration, and arrangement. This is not something AI can do proficiently.
Conclusion (Final Thoughts)
Oftentimes, AI writing tools are making the features already available in our DAWS more focused, easier to use, and manipulate for our personal needs. At the end of the day, AI software, chord generators, melody assistance applications, groove, arpeggiation, and parameter randomizers are all tools that music creators can use to improve, assist or enhance their workflow if they choose to.
Composers like Brian Eno have been using generative music techniques since the 70s and yet we’re still here today, decades later, creating new music. Technology, not only makes things easier but allows music creators to explore and innovate at the same time.
Software applications like the ones listed above shouldn’t be looked at as a one-button push method to churn out a piece of music but instead should be understood and utilized for their ability to spark ideas and inspiration.
About Author: Greg Savage is a music composer/sound designer with 20+ years of music licensing experience. For information on the music business and mentoring please visit https://www.diymusicbiz.com/