AI makes music now, but what can’t it do?

AI makes music now — but what can’t it do? Two weeks ago we talked about how indie artists can use AI (Artifical Intelligence) to help them make original music. It seems certain that some music composers will have a harder time finding work once AI takes some of the paying jobs. Therefore, it makes plenty of sense to take a look at what AI still can’t do on its own. Here’s some of what we know.

 

1) AI still can’t arrange its songs

After Sony proudly declared their “system that learns music styles from a huge database of songs” had created two original tracks, they were quick to point out that “French composer Benoît Carré arranged the songs.”

Anyone who’s composed their own music knows that the arrangement is crucial to a song. It is the musical equivalent of an author revising the first draft of a novel.

Wiki gives the definition of musical arrangement as, “a musical reconceptualization of a previously composed work. It may differ from the original work by means of reharmonization, melodic paraphrasing, orchestration, or development of the formal structure.”

This means there’s no telling how little Sony’s AI might have had to do with the end result. It also leads us to Number 2:

 

2) AI seems to make repetitious music

This isn’t surprising, given that many other music brains have already blown the cover off of how technology continues to make music bland, but when the definition of ‘musical arrangement’ also includes the important note, “Arranging is the art of giving an existing melody musical variety,” it’s hard not to infer that Monsieur Carré was employed because Sony’s AI originals were boring.

3) AI can’t write lyrics

Guess what else Benoît Carré wrote, in addition to all of the songs’ arrangment? Yup.

 

4) AI doesn’t make popular music

For whatever reason, be it prejudice against machines, a matter of taste, or maybe a failure on the part of Flow Records to hype their singles, people don’t give a darn about the world’s first AI music.

The very first track, “Daddy’s Car,” has 2.1m views on YouTube where Sony published it and just 15k ‘likes.’ At the company’s official SoundCloud page, listed above, the combined listens of both new songs still barely gets over 100,000.

Considering the historic importance of these pieces of music, that’s pathetic.

What’s more, since 2016 the Sony Labs team has published their entire album of AI-created music, appropriately titled, “Hello World.” The whole thing is freely available for listening here. While approximately 13,000 people have visited that YT page, the total number of listens of just the very first track on the album, “Valise,” amount today to only 360 plays.

No matter your stance on the AI situation, that’s a little sad.

 

So don’t hang up your musician’s hat yet, indie composers! Your real competition isn’t coming from a motherboard anytime soon. (In fact, you can probably use it for yourself until it does).

-S. McCauley

 

Best three DAWs for mobile

The best three DAWs for mobile are powerful, simple to use, and inexpensive. In case you’re new to the term, DAW means Digital Audio Workstation. If you thought you needed a soundboard and heavy technology to be an amateur music composer, we’re here to happily say it isn’t true! Scroll down for our favorite picks, and keep in mind, they’re not even the only options — just our opinion of the best right now.

Available for iOS and Android is Image-Line FL Studio Mobile HD

Suitable for novice and intermediate composers alike, the ILFL Studio is super easy and super fun to play with, not to mention absolutely capable of outputting professional-grade music. It’s less expensive than some other options, yet still comes bundled with a ton of features. These include (but are not limited to) 133 virtual instruments, a mini synthesizer with scores of presets, 10 effects, pitch blending, sampling, a step sequencer capable of 99 tracks, and, perhaps most importantly, a wave editor.

By the time you outgrow Image-Line’s offering, you’ll be among some of the most capable digital composers in the business.

Then there’s Steinberg Cubasis

Cubasis is more-or-less the industry standard for using your phone as a DAW, but at approximately 30 USD, you’re paying top-dollar. It’s also mainly for iOS, though Android users can hook it up with enough patience and tech savvy by following these instructions from the developers.

Steinberg’s own description describes it like so: Cubasis makes recording, editing and mixing a breeze. Record tracks in high-resolution audio quality, and edit your music with the Key and Sample Editors, while the included mixer and audio effects polish your song to perfection. Cubasis comes loaded with three virtual instruments which can be played in real time using the virtual keyboard and drum pads. Cubasis’ projects can be even opened in Cubase under Windows and OS X! Cubasis places touch-intuitive production tools in your hands, opening up a new world of possibilities for your creativity.

Key features • Unlimited audio and MIDI tracks (depending on the device used)? • 24 assignable physical inputs and outputs • 32-Bit floating point audio engine • Audio I/O resolution of up to 24-bit/96 kHz • iOS 32- and 64-bit support (depending on the device used) • Micrologue virtual analog synthesizer with 50 ready-to-go presets • MicroSonic with over 100 virtual instrument sounds based on HALionSonic and 16 Allen Morgan drum kits • MiniSampler with more than 20 instrument sounds to create your own instruments • Mixer with 15 revamped effect processors (insert and send effects) • Over 550 MIDI and audio loops • Virtual keyboard and virtual drum pads • Sample Editor and Key Editor • Automation • MIDI CC, program change, aftertouch support • AirPlay, Buetooth and HDMI audio out support • Export to Cubase, iCloud Drive, external hard drives, wireless flash drives, Dropbox, SoundCloud, AudioCopy & email? • MIDI clock and thru support? • MIDI over Bluetooth LE • Core Audio and Core MIDI compatible hardware supported? • Full Audio Unit, Inter-App Audio and Audiobus support • Import audio from your iTunes music library or iCloud Drive or iTunes filesharing, use AudioPaste or set up a Wi-Fi server in Cubasis

Keep in mind, folks, that you don’t really need all the above to cut beautiful tracks on your phone.

And of course, there’s Apple GarageBand

GarageBand has been around a very long time, and the devs have spent most of that time dialing everything down to a gorgeous UI that your kid brother would have no problem using.

Two major issues with GB, though: it’s iOS only (of course) and it’s strictly beginner-level. Anyone who uses GB with the intent to create bigger and better music is going to feel its limitations before too long.

That’s not to say you can’t make pro-grade music with it, though. A great song shouldn’t be unnecessarily complex, and a fine songwriter won’t need too many bells and whistles, anyhow.

Oh, and it’s super affordable.

 

That’s all for this week’s MondoDIY! Be sure not to miss last week’s related post on how you can make artificial intelligence work for you in the music studio.

How to use AI in music

How to use AI in music

It’s still new technology, but you can already start using AI in music right now. Artificial intelligence is expected to take up more and more space in the music industry as it grows, so why not get involved? It’s only scary if you haven’t learned about it, yet. Let’s go.

If you happen to be using an iOS device these days, then you’re especially in luck. Having become publicly available as of 18 August 2018, Amadeus Code downloadable from the Apple App Store for free with in-app purchases now.

Amadeus Code has been developed with music artists in mind, so don’t get the idea that it’s going to put every creative mind out of business. Its main function is to aid the human composer. Or, as the Amadeus people put it, “Say goodbye to writer’s block.”

The Amadeus Team describes their program as: “a powerful yet simple melody composing app that lets you make songs in minutes, whether you’re a beginner or a professional musician. Melodies are composed by a first of its kind proprietary artificial intelligence engine and can be exported as audio and MIDI files to a DAW of your choice for further creative production.”

Sounds great to us.

If you do not, however, belong to the iNation, then today your best bet is Adobe’s Amper, shown above.

As you can see from the image, Amper is streamlined, user-friendly, and accessible to anyone who’d like to install the software and put it to work. It’s still in beta, which is a good thing for indie artists because as of now it is still free. Creative musicians wanting to see what it’s like to collaborate with an algorithm can start here.

A cloud-based platform, Amper calls itself: “an artificial intelligence composer, performer, and producer that empowers you to instantly create and customize original music for your content.”

This means that Amper really is likely to put a few songwriters and composers out of work if it makes songs for film, TV and video games just as well as people can. However, since the rights to its outputted songs belong to the user, you can use its music in your own compositions and even get paid for them when you’re done, too.

Other options for very interested and somewhat more technologically advanced artists include Google’s Magenta program and Jukedeck.

So get out there and ‘borg it up, artists!

Also don’t forget to check out last week’s MondoDIY entry:

Four ways to be a pro music manager

 

Four ways to be a pro music manager

To be a pro music manager, you’ve got to follow a few key tips. Just as last week we offered ten ways to be a great band member, this week we’re doing the same thing with management. Whether you’re managing yourself, your own band, or someone who has hired you for the job, these four tips will help you know what you’re doing. Let’s get to it.

Keep your artists visible

Even if the band are handling their own social media accounts, you should have a separate one you’re operating at all the major sites. You should be updating these daily with news, photos, and comments about your artists.

You should consider flyers around their hometown, professional press releases, and interviews on blogs and college radio stations. Anything and everything to make a buzz around their name and their music.

This is connected to merch.

Handle their merch

Merch isn’t hard to create, but it is time-consuming. Your artists need that time for writing, practicing and performing.

Get some art together and show it to your artists. They select their favorites, you take these to the merch people and order however many shirts, stickers and such it makes sense to order.

Don’t waste your artists’ money. Buy what you know you can sell, then put those profits back into more merch.

Every sticker and shirt is free advertisement. That’s what merch is for.

Book the right shows

One of the primary jobs of the music manager is to call venues and book live shows for your artists. This can be accomplished online, but often means phone calls and actually visiting the venues in person.

You want your band to feel comfortable there, if possible, but most importantly, the people likely to show up should be the kinds of music fans who are likely to enjoy your artists.

Remember when the Blues Brothers played that country-western bar? Avoid that.

Keep your artist’s calendar full

Keep a calendar online accessible to your artists. Let them circle the dates they’re available to play.

Push them to perform at least one night a week, preferably on weekends when music fans come out, but it’s most important to have them onstage weekly.

Fill all those dates. This is probably the most important job a manager has.

If your artists play onstage every week, they’re going to get great at their music very quickly. After that, it’s a matter of time and persistence.

 

With these basic tenets, you’re good to go! Thanks very much for reading.

-S. McCauley

 

 

10 Ways to Be a Good Band Member

Last week we talked about how many tracks to record for a single song in the studio. This week we’re discussing how to be a good band member.

Everyone would rather have a popular, successful music project than just a hobby, but you’ve got to work together. Here are some plain-spoken tips to keep you from getting the evil eye (or worse, kicked out).

These words to the wise work equally well as guidance for hiring new members. If you can’t see the new guitarist following all or most of the below, maybe you should keep auditioning new guitarists.

     1. Know your music

Don’t bring fresh material to band practice only to make the others wait for you to figure it out. Do everything you can ahead of time.

     2. Come prepared

If you show up to practice — or, please god no, a performance — without your strings, sticks, power cable, whatever, and everyone has to wait for you to go home to get your stuff, you’re being unprofessional. You were taught to bring your pencil and paper to school for many years. Coming prepared is a skill you should have.

     3. Lose the rock-star attitude

You may be the best player in the county, but if you act like you know it, you’re the worst guy in the band.

     4. Help out

Help carry the drums in and out. Help the guitarist find the chord. Help the band with gas money. Don’t let people walk all over you, but definitely help out.

     5. Contribute to the sound, don’t dictate the sound

Even if you did write the song, you’re not the boss. Offer your creative input and welcome that of the others. You can’t have chemistry if you don’t mix anything.

     6. People first, then music

Music-first band members tend to be the most-driven and often most-successful artists. But they’re also often the most despised. That’s a hard way of life for you and for the poor people putting up with you. It’s far more fun and healthy to remember your band mates’ feelings before prioritizing what you think is best for the song. Besides, what’s best for the music is sometimes not what’s best for the band, and vice-versa.

     7. Eat ahead of time

Seems silly, but it’s really annoying to the people who are already plugged in and tuned when you walk in munching a hoagie.

     8. Work out what sounds best, not what’s the “right way”

Sooner or later every musician gets into it with the guy who’s determined to teach everyone the “right way” to do X. But there are many, many, many examples of world-class players with awful technique to prove that the only right way is the way that sounds best. Jimi played upside-down, Ringo plays backwards, and Dick Dale plays on one string. Just go with what sounds good.

     9. Be democratic

Groups of musicians in odd numbers have it easy: there’re no tie votes. Vote when the band takes one, and accept the results of the votes. You’ll have enough indecision in the band without arguing against the majority.

     10. Be friendly, be family, and have fun

You may be deathly serious about succeeding as a professional musician, but if you don’t follow #10, you and everyone working with you will be miserable. Even pencil-pushers in stuffy offices can follow #10. You should be able to do it playing music, for crying out loud.

How many tracks does a song need?

So you’ve got a new single you want to record, but you’re not exactly sure how many tracks to lay down.

We can help you decide. Read on.

For most indie musicians, the digital audio workstation software looks something like this.

Do you need all those differently colored tracks? Answer these two questions to get a definitive answer.

     1. Does adding a track make the song better, or just fuller?

You don’t want more than the song needs.

Excess tracks make the music harder to mix and master, and muddy the tone of the whole thing. It’s actually harder for listeners to listen to the same way that more pages are harder to read than fewer pages, even if the reader is an expert one.

Swedish music mastermind Max Martin has described his studio recording style as “direct, effective, we don’t show off … A song that sounds simple is not simple to make. It’s all about the taste and making sure you don’t add more than what the song needs.”

Words to live by.

     2. Can you make listeners feel the same way with one instrument as you can with two?

Lets say you record your bass line and it sounds good. Then you record someone on synthesizer keys and that sounds good, too.

Take a second to see if the players seem to be playing similar notes at similar times. Try muting the bass line you recorded earlier.

Does the song sound much worse? What if it were taken out of some or most of the song, but not all?

Same for the keyboard. Can you do something similar using just the guitars you have rather than including the keyboard?

Same for vocals. Same for drums. Same for every track you record.

If you don’t really need it, ditch it.

 

And that’s exactly how many tracks you need.

 

Make a great cover tune with 3 basic rules

Making a great cover song doesn’t take a genius. Anyone who plays live should have a few in their repertoire. If you’re performing for public audiences without playing any cover songs at all, you’re missing out on a slam-dunk trade secret.

Everyone loves to hear music they recognize, regardless of who is playing it. You can make your audiences love you more simply by doing a song everybody knows in your own style.

But! it can be done wrong. Here are the three rules you should follow in playing or recording cover tunes.

Rule 1: Don’t cover music you can’t improve somehow

If you go out and just perform a Beatles song as closely to the original as you can, you’re going to disappoint your audience. You aren’t the Beatles. Why would you do that to yourself?

Pick a song pretty much everyone knows, something flawed, something you can do in a new way everyone is going to appreciate.

Protip: there are lots of one-hit-wonders who weren’t very good but made a song everyone loves. Those singles are often pretty easy to improve on. People will think you’re really hip for remembering that one song they haven’t heard in years.

Rule 2: Perform the song in your own style

If you’re a hip-hop band, do a hip-hop rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Bad.”

If you’re a country band, do a country/western rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Bad.”

If you’re a metal band, do a heavy metal rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Bad.”

(Except, you know, it doesn’t have to be Michael Jackson’s “Bad”).

If you think people don’t frickin’ love to hear familiar songs played in totally different styles, you’ve got another think coming.

How many people in the audience have forgotten that time Rob Zombie played the theme from 1960s TV, “The Munsters?” None of them. Or when Green Day recorded the theme for the movie version of “The Simpsons?” Exactly zero. People love that stuff, and admit it, so do you.

Rule 3: Don’t introduce the song when you play it live

Introducing your songs before you play them is pretty tacky most of the time, anyhow, but it really stinks when the song is something everyone knows already.

What’s more fun? The vocalist goes to the mic and says, “You guys might remember this one from a show back in the nineties called ‘Friends,'” or, nobody says anything and you just break into the song. A few seconds later people start murmuring to one another. Now there’s a ripple of applause and everybody’s smiling at the stage. Seriously, how is that even a debate?

Don’t announce it. Just play it and have fun.

BONUS Rule: Maximum two covers per set

Play your music. That’s what you’re here for.

The covers are just a sneaky way to get people paying attention.

 

 

 

How famous rappers write songs

This week on Mondo DIY we’ve collected some rare statements from famous rappers on how they write songs. Beat first? Rhymes first? Read on to know.

Ice-T on Dr. Dre: “[Dre] said there’s a difference between a rapper and a songwriter. Dre says, ‘You’ve gotta write me a song. I don’t need bars — I know you’ve got skills, but we need songs, so give me the hook first.’ He says a lot of rappers get lost, but that’s what Eminem does. They write these incredible songs, and that’s basically what Dre likes to take to the marketplace.”

Joey Bada$$: “How I avoid writer’s block is always switching it up, like always switching up my structure. Sometimes I will be walking and a melody will come to my head and I’m like, alright, I’m just going to keep repeating it and keep adding on. Or I might be feeling another way. Like, maybe I just want to draw something out. I want to actually illustrate the picture to the listener.”

Tech N9ne: “I’ll sit there and just wait. In my living room, I’ll just wait for the word, and it always comes. So I sit next to my Google — I love my Google, because I gotta make sure I’m using the word in the right context, because words will just pop up in my head, I’m like, damn, what’s happening, who’s putting these words in my head?”

Eminem: “Like, I’ll get my starting line and I’ll try and figure out — just mumble words to myself until I find the right ones I wanna use. Or, sometimes, a word will pop in my head, I’ll be like, what the f–k? Lemme write that sh-t down. I put it at the bottom of my pad, and then I’ll start coming up with words and then OK, this goes here. It’s like a puzzle.”

Andre 3000: “I write all the time. Like I write down thoughts that I think would be interesting or things that are kind of just concerning me at the time. Sometimes I write them on a napkin, sometimes I type them in my phone. And when it comes time to do music, I go through and see what thoughts work for this song. Sometimes they’re in rhyme and sentence, and sometimes they’re just a thought. Sometimes it’s a melody. With phones now they have the recorder on it, so I can sing melodies or I can say lyrics right into my phone.”

Kool G Rap (author of the foreward in How to Rap: the Art and Science of the Hip-Hop MC): “I wouldn’t really say there is a set process, it’s me just trying to go in that zone. I just try to zone out and let the beat tell me exactly what should be placed on it and let the beat give me the lyrics. Each track calls for something different, whether it’s a flow, whether it’s a subject matter, whatever it is. Some tracks call for you to be a little more hyper, some tracks call for you to fall back a little more and to just talk to them.

“[These days] I don’t use paper, I type now. It took a long time to do that transformation, but I finally got the transformation to typing now. I just type in my phone, I don’t really type on the laptop or nothing like that because who’s gonna lug a big laptop around with them everywhere, so I just type in my [Sharp] Sidekick. I can go to the studio or wherever, do a feature with somebody else and my phone is always gonna be there. Typing it [helps you play around with it more], because instead of crossing out, you’re going back and deleting words and replacing them. And it’s not sloppy, as opposed to writing—with typing it’s easy and simple and it’s not a bunch of cross-outs and scratches on the paper.”

Advertise Your Music Online for Free (Part 3)

Continuing our series on How to Advertise Your Music Online for free, this week we’ll be talking about how to use other people’s blogs and websites to boost your visibility.

Previously, we talked about publishing your own press releases and broadening your public reach through social media. A great deal of free advertisement is also available through the free efforts and websites of other people. These people run blogs, news websites, and music sites in general which depend on having new things to say on a regular basis. This MondoTunes DIY blog, in fact, is a perfect example of one such site. Other examples friendly to independent musicians such as yourself include Indie Music News Worldwide and the Independent Music Times.

A good website always has an email address somewhere so you can email the owner or administrator of the site. Just write an email to that person including the news you’d like featured on their website. This news can be almost anything, like, “Brooklyn rock band ‘Vipers’ to play Coney Island,” or, “Indie hip-hop artists form new collective, ‘Titanz,'” or, “Jane Doe to tour East Europe.”

Make sure the material you want published has no spelling or grammatical errors. Some admins will revise your English for you, but most will choose to ignore a train wreck rather than fix it.  (Of course, a professionally written press release is best).

Don’t stop at just one website, either. You can submit material to as many blogs and online music newspapers as you like. Each one will prefer an exclusive release (meaning your news is only available at their site, nowhere else) but you work for yourself, not them, and you want your news as accessible as possible.

If you really get in good with the admin of a certain indie music website, you might even get them to interview you. This may seem improbable, but you’ve got to keep in mind that these writers come up with material every single week. If they like your music enough and think your sound fits the format of their site, then you answer all the questions and they hardly have to write at all. You can even suggest the questions for them, too, so they don’t even need to do that.

In any case, the point is that music blogs and news sites can be extremely useful to indie artists, and they’re not at all as utilized as they ought to be.

The door is wide open to you. All you gotta do is step through it.