With World Music Day in mind, we're celebrating with the most creative and inspiring innovations helping musicians master their craft
As the COVID-19 pandemic prevented us from being, celebrating and grieving with our loved ones, one of the few things uniting us from our homes was music. From images of Italians singing messages of hope to each other from their balconies, to patrolling policemen in Spain playing their guitars, the universal power of music has united and kept our spirits up throughout the crisis — all over the world.
Perhaps, for this reason, there is no better year to celebrate World Music Day, which occurs on the 21st June. Whilst it may still be difficult for musicians to take to the streets in many parts of the world, there is no doubt that we will hear them, wherever they are. To honour this, we have curated seven of our favourite innovations that aim to encourage and aid aspiring musicians to follow their melodic dreams.
1. AN AI ALGORITHM THAT TRAINS VIOLINIST
Researchers at Barcelona’s Universitat Pompeu Fabra developed an AI algorithm that provides violin players with real-time feedback on their technique. They used the Myo gesture control armband (now discontinued) in their research. The armband was able to track and record the exact movements made by a professional violinist as she played. Audio of the performance was recorded at the same time.
Once the movements were synchronised to the audio data of seven different bowing techniques, the researchers trained an AI algorithm to identify which bowing techniques matched which sounds. In tests, the model was able to correctly identify the technique used to produce a given sound 94 per cent of the time. The study was conducted as part of the TELMI (Technology Enhanced Learning Performance of Musical Instrument) project. The goal of the EU-funded project is to develop a suite of technological innovations to enhance musical learning, including the creation of “interactive music learning prototypes”.
2. FRENCH CROWDSHARING PLATFORM HELPS MUSICIANS MAKE RECORDS FOR FREE
French startup Diggers Factory wants musicians to make vinyl records and it wants them to be able to do it for free. The startup aims to solve the challenges that stop artists from recording on vinyl: cost and distribution. While there has been an increasing demand for vinyl records in recent years, the production process is time-consuming and costly. To make it cost-effective, large orders are usually required. This often leaves artists with stock they can’t sell, as well as the fact that distribution requires knowledge and a network of buyers, which most artists lack.
Diggers Factory makes the process free for musicians by transferring the cost to their fans. Artists determine how many records they want to sell and then use the startup’s crowdfunded-type platform to ask fans to pre-order records.
3. APP TRANSCRIBES INSTRUMENT SOUNDS INTO SHEET MUSIC
Startup Frettable seeks to facilitate music-making through a mobile application. The technology allows users to produce sheet music simply and easily, and is aimed at musicians of all levels. It is not necessary for users to have any prior knowledge of music theory before using the application.
The idea was thought up by Greg Burlet when he struggled to write music with his long-distance bandmate. He began work on the technology in 2015, experimenting with the possibility of a machine recognising musical notes. Frettable uses technology similar to that used in speech recognition, with artificial intelligence converting the sound into written music. The more the application is exposed to instrumental sounds, the better it gets at recognising them.
4. AI MUSIC SOFTWARE COMPOSES SONGS
Sony’s Flow Machine AI software can generate pop songs that include lyrics penned by a human composer, who also arranges the AI-generated segments of music. As an example, YouTube star Taryn Southern collaborated with AI company Amper to create an AI-generated hit single.
To create the music, Southern provided the beats per minute, rhythm, mood, and style, and the Amper software then used these inputs to compose the music. Southern wrote and recorded the vocal melodies and lyrics herself, and they were then combined with the Amper-produced music to create the final product. She described the process as allowing her to spend more time focusing on what she enjoys most, saying, “I get to spend more time doing more of what I love – ‘conducting’ the AI to create a great song, writing lyrics and vocal melodies, and making music videos.”
5. NEW TECHNOLOGY HELPS MUSICIANS PRACTICE BETTER AND AVOID INJURY
Learning a musical instrument to a high standard is a lot about maintaining the correct body shapes and posture. Getting your movements and positions correct is the secret to producing the best tone, to mastering technically challenging music and to avoiding injuries that can plague professional musicians.
Arthur Carabott, musician, developer and designer, has developed Musician’s Mirror to help his fellow players practice better, overcome bad habits and avoid injury. The computer vision-based system watches its users practice and feeds back instantly, sounding warning notes to make them aware when they slip into bad habits. The system uses a camera, typically mounted on the music stand, to track the musicians’ overall posture, or any part of their body that they want to concentrate on. In addition to instant feedback, the system will also monitor positions and behaviours over the longterm, with heat maps that track progress over time.
6. MUSIC KIT’S ADVANCED MIDI CONTROLLER TURNS ANYONE INTO A VOCALIST
London-based startup, Vochlea Music, developed a real-time MIDI controller for vocals — the Dubbler Studio Kit. The kit allows users to set a synth pattern by humming, trigger a virtual drumkit by beatboxing, or manipulate effects and filters with a simple “hmmm” or “laaaa” sound — all in real-time — which goes straight into a digital audio workstation.
The kit includes desktop software that creates a virtual MIDI instrument and is compatible with any production software, along with a low latency custom USB microphone. It is designed to allow musicians to convert movements such as a hummed tune or finger tap into real music.
7. A MUSIC LABEL IN AN APP FOR INDEPENDENT ARTISTS
Beatchain is an app helping independent artists reclaim power back from giant corporations. Fuelled by proprietary AI, automation and data science, the platform provides the functionality of a major label, distributor, promoter and manager in one place, empowering creators to build a career and a brand on their own terms.
The company is keen to emphasise that social media is no longer an add-on; it is an integral part of running a creative business. In an industry where data is often analysed in isolation, the Beatchain app offers visibility and insight into an artist’s entire digital presence, bringing social media data, streaming stats and ticket sales together to provide the full picture of their fan base. To further support emerging talents, the platform offers powerful social media management tools, with inbuilt photo and video editing.
19th June 2020