MS Songsmith Turns Anyone Into a Songwriter

Just as blogging makes everyone a writer, and digital cameras make everyone a photographer, Microsoft is now looking to make everyone a musician with its new Songsmith software. Songsmith is actually a relatively simple program with some very complex technology behind it. Using "signal processing and artificial intelligence techniques developed at Microsoft Research" and the University of Washington, Songsmith analyzes your voice as you sing into a microphone connected to your computer, and then automatically generates musical accompaniment to compliment what you sang--think of it as your own recording studio backup band.

Microsoft is positioning Songsmith as a way for both songwriting neophytes and seasoned musicians alike to create songs. The simplicity of the interface is definitely geared more towards non-musicians, however. You first pick a song style from one of the 30 available styles, such as Pop Ballad, Rock, or Country. Next you pick a tempo, and then you start singing along to a drum beat track using the tempo you chose. Once you finish singing, Songsmith analyzes your singing and creates instrumental tracks to accompany your voice. You can make adjustments to the instrument tracks using the "happy" and "jazzy" sliders.

As to how real musicians might benefit from Songsmith, Microsoft sees the software as "a super-useful 'intelligent scratchpad' for exploring new melodies and ideas." Behind the simple exterior are actually some powerful tools: You can edit the chords or even add your own chords. Instead of singing, you can play an instrument and let Songsmith automatically generate "instrumental melodies." Songs can even be exported as MIDI files, which can then be bought into more robust music editing programs for further tweaking. Songsmith's instruments are MIDI samples from Garritan; additional MIDI instruments can be purchased from Garritan, and more musical styles are available from PG Music.

Songsmith will be available as a $29.95 download from the Microsoft Store. In the meantime, a free trial version of Songsmith can be downloaded from here on the Microsoft Research site.