Microsoft Research Helps Novice Musicians Discover Their Inner Songwriters

Songsmith software automatically composes accompaniment music for whatever tune a singer belts, hums or whistles into a microphone, regardless of skill level.

Bruce Springsteen has the E Street Band. For Johnny Cash it was the Tennessee Three. But there are countless aspiring musicians without their own backup band or technical training in writing music. Today at 2009 International CES, Microsoft Research released Songsmith, a new software program that generates musical accompaniment to match whatever a person sings. The software application makes it easy for everyone to create original music just by using their voice, whether they’re shower-stall singers who want to make tunes for fun or serious musicians looking for a scratchpad to capture their creative ideas.

A free trial download of Songsmith is available on the Microsoft Research Web site, and a full version can be purchased at the online Microsoft Store, providing musicians of all skill levels with a fun, affordable way to express themselves. Aspiring songwriters can simply select from one of 30 styles of music, such as jazz or country, and sing into the microphone on their Windows-based computer. Songsmith automatically creates music to back up the singer’s voice, using signal processing and artificial intelligence techniques developed at Microsoft Research to analyze each melody the singer records.

Songsmith users can easily share their completed recordings with friends and family, and even import them into Windows Movie Maker to create music videos. Songsmith also enables users to edit the chords, instruments or arrangement without having an understanding of chord structure or music theory. Users also can purchase more musical styles from PG Music Inc. ( or expand the size of their virtual band or orchestra by purchasing additional digital instrumental files from Garritan Inc. (

Dan Morris and Sumit Basu, the primary researchers at Microsoft Research responsible for creating Songsmith, say the company’s lab allows them to pursue their personal passions at the same time as they address complex technical problems. Morris and Basu shared a love of music and a desire to create a tool that could help people experience music on a deeper level.

“Sumit and I are hobbyist musicians, and although neither of us is going to write the next hit single, we both have fun working on new songs,” Morris said. “We saw an opportunity to use our backgrounds in computer science to give everyone a first taste of songwriting and to let everyone have fun making original music.”

While Songsmith is an entertaining product and is easy enough for young kids to master, serious technology underlies the product. Songsmith was inspired by Microsoft Research technology, developed in conjunction with Ian Simon at the University of Washington, that uses signal processing techniques to sample a user’s voice and automatically select appropriate chords. The release of Songsmith exemplifies how Microsoft Research develops technology that consumers can experience through existing Microsoft products, as well as entirely new ones, and how computer science enables new forms of entertainment.

More information about Songsmith and the download is available at The full version can be purchased at the online Microsoft Store for $29.95 in the U.S. and 29 euros in the EU.

Source: Microsoft Corp.

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