Imagine you have thousands upon thousands of melodies, going back to the 17th century, to create a vocabulary of a song to help inspire your own music making. Press a button, and a new tune springs out of this rich set of ideas.
That’s how AI-powered app Amadeus Code works to spark creativity. Taking centuries of songs, it divides them into their smallest units, the atoms that make up a groove or lick. Then it uses algorithms to generate new tunes and chords based on era, rhythm, and range. The approach that powers the algorithms sets AC apart, finding novel ways to understand melody and chord structure that have nothing to do with scores or audio file analysis. The generation engine then flows seamlessly into an easy-to-use mobile interface for creative prompts on the go.
“We all have those moments when we’re looking for a little push, that nudge that gets us to explore fresh territory when we’re writing or working on a new track,” explains Taishi Fukuyama, co-founder and COO of Amadeus Code. “We imagine musicians and producers using Amadeus Code the way designers use idea boards, as a way to keep the creative juices flowing.”
CEO and founder Jun Inoue got the idea for Amadeus Code in a flash of insight in the shower, in a period of his professional career as an electronic music artist and producer when he had to come up with what felt like an endless series of melodies for clients. “About seven or eight years ago during my busiest period as a music producer, I was having trouble coping with an increased demand for hit songs from my clients. Continually churning out songs that are not only better but also different to the previous ones is a really hard thing to do. At that time, I was also unable to take sufficient breaks or enough time to recharge my creative batteries. Then I was struck with an idea that AI could come up with various ideas for melodies by analyzing all the hit songs of the past and thus assist me in the songwriting process. I actually came up with an image of a system that would enable this.”
Amadeus Code built this system with methodical attention to what makes a good song. First, the researchers who joined Inoue established a lab that carefully laid out what songs could be considered hits, taking into consideration several centuries of composing. They then determined the smallest possible unit of music that could still hold meaning–the phonemes of musical language–and that could combine to create larger melodic “sentences.”
There are distinct challenges to generating melodies and chord sequences to make music. Though Inoue and his colleagues put themselves into composers’ and musicians’ shoes, AI isn’t necessarily perfectly suited to the ultimate goal of Amadeus Code, to give songwriters viable ideas. “AI is proficient at searching for a single correct answer from among countless candidates. However, our biggest challenge was to provide an infinite number of different products to an infinite number of people,” says Inoue. “It was difficult to come up with an algorithm capable of doing this with hardly any precedents available.”
By perfecting an interlocking series of algorithms and creating a proprietary system for building melodies from the basic “licks” of selected works, Amadeus Code has solved this challenge, opening up AI-generated song ideas to anyone with a smartphone.
The app lets users adjust the AI-generated songs in a wide variety of ways. You can limit the era of the melodies it draws on–even projecting possible future hits by setting the parameter to 20xx. You can try more sustained notes or go for rapid-fire staccato. You can play around with lines that sound familiar, using the most common pop song patterns, or that veer off into wild and unexpected places, drawing on less popular approaches.
Once you hear something you like, you can save the entire song or pop out a section, asking the app to regenerate a new song based on that piece. “You can put together a collection of melodies that you connect with in your Song Library,” explains Fukuyama. “Then you can export them as audio and MIDI files to your favorite recording or production software and play around with them a bit more.”
These nuggets may inspire a new twist or turn in a song when you’re stuck. Or they may get you writing something in a whole new style. “We see this as a way musicians, songwriters, and producers can seek inspiration from some of the best songs in history,” says Fukuyama.
“This experience taught me that there was a lot in common between songwriting processes and genetic evolutionary processes,” reflects Inoue. “It convinced me that the feeling that encourages musicians to write songs was essentially the same as humankind’s urges to share and change, and thus ensure high-quality evolution. This astounding fact is one of the things that I want to share with everyone.”