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AI Music and the Human Touch: Why Producers Still Matter

Since its release in late 2022, Google’s text-to-image concept under Imagen, dubbed “AI Art,” has created much controversy and debate over art and the value of human created artistic ideas. It has revolutionized the concept of what an artist is or is not, and music, like many aspects of society today, has not avoided AI’s clutches. Not unlike some of the dystopian movies in the past which have foreshadowed some of the pitfalls that AI may bring, its sudden explosion into society has understandably made many people uneasy. However, AI can be a great tool if used properly. As musicians, we have a need and duty to express ourselves through the sonorities available to us. What does it matter if we use an AI tool to help us bring our ideas to fruition, or to expedite our workflow so that we can create even more artistic works of sound?

Despite its current popularity, the AI we know today has a long history beginning in 1960 with Rudolf Zaripov’s Ural-1, which used algorithms to compose music. Just a few years later, Ray Kurzweil premiered a piano piece that was created by a computer after analyzing multiple compositions and creating new melodies using pattern recognition. As technology continued to grow through the coming decades, so did AI’s place in creative endeavors. By the mid 2010s, various technology companies began using artificial neural nets and algorithmic learning models to create software and other plug-ins for the creation of music. Many companies, including Coca-Cola, Google, and the Natural History Museum in London began to employ these tools to create music for their own needs. In other words, AI is not going anywhere and it is already being used by big name companies. Let’s discuss the best AI tools for music available to us today so that we may explore, create, and expedite our own workflow.

Up first is Google’s Magenta. Released in 2016, Magenta is a collection of production utilities that are constantly being improved by Google’s neural network. Using just a simple melody as a base, Magenta is able to create the drums, bass line, fills, and anything else needed to complete the piece in the desired genre. This google suite of AI music lets you choose from five different utilities:

  • Continue-adds new sounds to an existing MIDI file

  • Drumify- generates drums using a melody or bass line

  • Generate- creates melodies from scratch within given parameters

  • Groove- examines a drum track and makes it sound more natural or “human”

  • Interpolate- creates sound to combine two MIDI tracks together

These tools can be invaluable when used correctly and can save a lot of time. Generate, for example, can help you break through a writers block by coming up with a melody. How different is this really from plucking around on a piano, letting your senses guide you through the sound, surprising yourself when you hit a “wrong” note that actually ends up sounding great and taking the composition into new territory? They will not, however, do all the work for you. Generate could just as easily create a melody that is technically correct, fitting into the key and time signature, but maybe doesn’t sound that great. This is where human intuition comes into play to move around notes, change rhythms, and synthesize the computer generated melody into something more palatable. Best of all, Magenta is free to use!

Soundful is a little different than other AI music creation tools as it is geared towards creating royalty-free music that online content creators can use for social media like YouTube, Twitch, and TikTok. Choosing from various templates and a text input, Soundful will create a unique track for your social media needs. Some parameters can be changed, such as tempo and key, but it doesn’t offer the same level of creativity as other AI tools. Soundful uses a tiered payment system, however the free version still allows three downloads of three minute songs a month that you can later customize in your DAW of choice. With 50 templates to choose from, this can be a great starting point for producers and will likely cover all that is needed for those wanting some basic background music at the start of their YouTube video, but keep in mind that other Soundful users will be able to use the tracks you create on the platform. Also note that while Soundful offers royalty-free music creation, therefore avoiding copyright strikes when used online, the future of AI music and who specifically owns the rights to AI generated music is still up for debate.

AIVA is an advanced AI tool that is probably best thought of as a partner in music creation as opposed to a tool. Created in Luxembourg by Pierre Barreau, AIVA specializes in emotional classical music aimed towards supporting scenes in film, video games, and commercials, drawing from its neural net that analyzes thousands of compositions including those by composers like Bach, Beethoven, and Haydn. It is the first non-human composer to be recognized by the French music society SACEM, commissioned a piece that was premiered at the National Day celebrations in Luxembourg, and was used by singer and technology enthusiast Taryn Southern on her album “I am AI.” As for the program itself, it functions much like an online DAW with a full suite of options in editing MIDI tracks and adding effects. While it may have originally been designed with classically inspired music, when creating a new track you can choose from genres ranging from Lo-Fi, Old School Hip-Hop, or EDM to name a few, as well as a song of your choice from any genre as a source of inspiration for AIVA. Some of the initial parameters to choose from include key signature, pacing, instrumentation, duration, and number of compositions, all of which can be set to automatically generate. Keep in mind that it cannot generate songs longer than 5’30,” it may have trouble with odd musical pairings, and the free version only allows three downloads at three minutes in length per month. It also has encountered quite a bit of pushback from human composers as an affront to natural human creativity, and while it can create some great tracks it is important to keep in mind that a human producer is still needed to add the creative touches that make a piece of music set for film work well in the scene.

Boomy is a great collaborative AI tool that allows musicians and non-musicians alike to generate music, collaborate, share, and even upload to services like Spotify and YouTube. With its advanced AI you can generate original music in different styles and moods, make edits to it yourself, or even let Boomy’s top of the line AI make edits for you. Submitting your AI generated songs to streaming platforms allows you to get paid when people listen, although you will be competing with thousands of other users AI generated music, in addition to the ever expanding list of other non-AI artists trying to get recognition. Boomy offers a free version that lets you get started creating music right away, and a paid version that adds a few more features like the ability to download your generated song, three releases per month, and the option for commercial use. Overall, Boomy is a great AI tool for music lovers with little to no musical experience that allows them to create music of their own with an AI sidekick.

Soundraw is an AI music generator best suited to create unique music for content creators to add to their videos. It generates royalty free music and allows you to keep the license even if you unsubscribe from their services. After choosing the genre, mood, and length of the desired track, Soundraw will do the rest with just a click of the button. It also allows you to customize the generated music to better fit your taste and needs. The free version allows you to generate as many pieces as you want, but you will be unable to download or use them. The premium plan allows up to 50 songs a day, as well as the ability to download and use them for personal or commercial use. While Soundraw does allow you to test the music created on the platform with your video, there is no way to add the music to the video directly, so that will have to be done separately. Soundraw has a unique feature that prevents producers from flooding the market with AI generated music, however it does not allow collaboration between creators. Lastly, Soundraw is probably not the best choice for complete beginners as it is designed with the assumption that the user already knows how to produce music on their own, and this is a quick way to generate ideas to tweak and use.

Orb Producer Suite 3 by Hexachords is a powerful AI tool for generating patterns, melodies, and basslines. Version 3.0 allows the user to create polyrhythmic patterns, generate more lyrical melodies, and chain together blocks to form a musical masterpiece from all the ideas. It has a ramped up chord engine, a pleasing and easy to navigate interface, and can quickly and easily generate a baseline from the chords. With such high quality and fully customizable AI, these four plug-ins have a one-time cost of €99 or a little over $100. That being said, this is one of the best and most useful AI powered plug-ins on the market right now. It is fully compatible with all DAWs on both Windows and Mac, except for ProTools. While it is a bit of an initial investment, it is well worth the cost and you can keep the plug-in for life.

SongStarter by Bandlab is a great AI tool designed to help you get out of writers block by generating royalty free songs based on things like genre or lyrics, as well as emojis and any combination of the three to get the right sound. After the three songs have been created, you can generate three new ones based on the same parameters if the initial three don’t feel right to you. After you have chosen a song you like, you can choose between three different moods -day, night, and dusk-to generate three different instrumentations of the same song. With its unique animal caricatures, easy to use interface, and numerous plug-ins and features, SongStarter is a fun way to get new song ideas for your next project. The best part—it’s completely free!

Another great AI tool for making music, Loudly follows the same format as other AI generators in that after selecting desired genre, tempo, and duration, the AI will create a new royalty free song for you to use on your desired form of social media. What separates Loudly from the rest is that its advanced AI can recommend generated songs based on what happens in your YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok video. This can cut down workload dramatically. Unfortunately, there aren’t as many customization tools as there are in other AI generators, however you can edit the sound in your video directly on the platform. The free version allows you to create up to 2,500 songs with a license for use on social media only, while the premium and pro plans give you a license for use on livestreams, podcasts, and digital advertising to name a few, as well as unlimited downloads. While the pricing plans could be better, Loudly is a great tool for marketing yourself on social media and creating appropriate background music for your company.

Adding to OpenAI’s large database of AI driven tools, MuseNet uses the same deep neural network that Chat GPT-2 uses to create new and unique musical compositions, blending together different genres of work as the seed for the new song. For example, the user can give MuseNet the first couple notes of a Haydn piece and ask it to generate a song in the style of RnB. In this sense, MuseNet was not directly created as a music AI, so you will not find the same options as you would find in other AI’s programmed for music only. Instead, MuseNet is more of a consequence of the ever expanding neural network used by Chat GPT to create music based on pattern recognition and predictive learning to generate the next beat. Still, it is a great tool for creating new and unique music based on prompts that may not work in other AI’s, even those designed specifically for music. The downside is that the compositions are limited to four minutes in length, and it can struggle with odd musical pairings. All in all, MuseNet is a solid AI music generator and should not be discounted just because it is part of the larger Chat GPT family.

Last on our list of AI driven music generators is Beatoven. It boasts a wide variety of options for a range of content creators from YouTube and audiobooks to video game developers and in-house production companies. First pick a genre, enter a title to act as a text prompt, or upload a video, then make some cuts, change the mood, and hit compose. All the heavy lifting is done for you, with no need for extensive knowledge on music theory and chord structures. With eight genres and sixteen moods available, there are plenty of options to choose from within the AI, and its extensive customizability allows you to mix the best song for your online content. Additionally, at launch Beatoven had region-specific music compositions within India to choose from, and it has since planned to expand to other geographies such as Africa and Indonesia. While you will need to pay to download and use the generated music, it does have a free trial version to test out before you buy. Beatoven is newer on the scene, having been released just in 2022, however this is one you will want to keep an eye on as it expands and grows in the coming years.

What do these AI tools mean for the future of music?

Well, you may be surprised to know that we already have been using some form of AI in much of the music created in DAWs. If you’ve ever asked a DAW or plug-in to generate a drum pattern, you have used a simple form of AI. Keep in mind that AI means artificial intelligence. It still requires some kind of human input and uses machine learning to give its best guess as to what we need. With more input, the machine learns faster. This is how we can generate things like an Atlanta trap beat, a four on the floor EDM beat, or a classic rock beat with the click of a button, drastically decreasing workload and making more efficient use of our time. While it can get us close, we as producers still need to shape the sound and add the finishing details to get the desired output. The main difference between a randomly generated drum pattern and the AI used in music today is that it’s capabilities have been expanded to generate melodies, instrumentation, and musical form to a higher degree of accuracy than years past. This still cannot replace the role of a producer. Computers and AI can only generate based on input—a producer is a living, breathing collaborator that can help refine ideas beyond the capabilities of artificial intelligence. When a company uses AI for background music in their 30 second commercial or ad, they may find that it doesn’t cater to their specific needs or the sound placement is wrong. When the amateur artist uses something like ChatGPT to write lyrics based on love for their acoustic set, they may find that it lacks the integrity and personalization they were looking for. When the studio replaces their session musician with an AI instrument, they may find it lacks the soul found in human collaboration. As stated before, AI isn’t going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean we should totally fear it either. At the end of the day, it is still a machine learning algorithm designed to give an output based on an input. As humans, we do not strictly function in this way and that is where the magic, mistakes, and music happen.

AI generates, but humans create.


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