Microsoft Research is working on a new technology, that’ll make huge impact on how amateurs and hobbyists write music. The technology and software prototype is called MySong, which records your singing (preferably in tune) through a microphone, and it systematically generates an instrumental accompaniment for your song. The quality is even comparable with a professional accompanist, not to mention the cost and time involved.
The technology was developed by Ian Simon from University of Washington in collaboration with Dan Morris and Summit Basu from Microsoft Research. They’ve published all of their research and methods in a paper (PDF) of the same name to present at the CHI Conference 2008 in a couple of months in Italy.
Without getting into too much detail, the technology uses the Hidden Markov statistical model which has been ‘trained’ by preprocessing a database of nearly 300 musical lead sheets. The sheets come from a variety of sources, genres and popularity to give a broad set of melody and chord sequence combinations. When it comes to the end user, it uses this abundance of data to find chord sequences which work best for each segment of melody. Presumably that means more ‘training’ can be done to improve the output even more.
The paper also points out “there is not a single correct accompaniment for a particular melody; chord selection will vary among musicians and genres, and a single musician may recognize many appropriate chord sequences for a single melody.” As a result, the software also gives the end user some room for creative adjustments in the form of “jazz factor” and “happy factor”. Both of which have a reasonable effect on the resulting accompaniment as demonstrated in the video.
If that wasn’t enough already, the researchers sought reviews from 30 independent musicians asking them to rate the different accompaniments produced by three different systems from one vocal input. They compared the result of MySong with hand-crafted chords and as well as Band-In-A-Box, the “state-of-the-art” commercially available software which they recognize to be the only automatic accompaniment generation system.
Here is just one example of the twelve they’ve ranked.
Microsoft, Research, Microsoft Research, Microsoft Project, MySong, Music, Audio, Music Composer, Software