By Rudy Helm, Audio and Quality Assurance Tech, Visual Purple, LLC.
How does one tame a virtual musician? For a discussion on the UI, let’s go step by step with the process I underwent to generate a music bed. What follows is the style palette. (Other competing software tools may not look like these screenshots but will offer similar functions.) In one scenario, I chose one of the very many available country styles, but one that includes pedal steel guitar, as in Figure 1.
Figure 1 – The Country music selection from the musical styles palette window. Note that there are many sub-styles to choose from.
You can set the key (Figure 2). If you don’t care what key, leave this alone, your music will default to the key of ‘C’ (I didn’t; and mine did the default – for both styles). You can also set the tempo (Figure 3). This is a trial-and-error kind of thing. Experiment until it feels right for your purposes. If you don’t set the speed, it will default to 120 BPM (beats per minute…think Sousa March).
Figure 2 – Key selection menu.
Figure 3 –Tempo selection dialog box.
Figure 4. The interface is like a spreadsheet. Each cell entry represents which of the (1,4,5) chords will fall in the timeline. The first cell defaults to ‘1’ (in this case ‘C’), so you don’t need to enter any values yet.
Figure 4 – Cell one defaults to ‘C’ chord
Figure 5. But move over to the next cell (‘bar 2’ in musical lingo) and enter the number 4. It automatically knows which proper chord to enter within that key (in this case, the ‘F’ chord).
Figure 5 –Enter ‘4’; the ‘F’ chord appears
Figure 6. Move to the next cell and let’s enter the number we haven’t used yet, ‘5’. Let’s leave cell four empty.
Figure 6 – Enter the digit ‘5’ into cell three
Figure 7. Now, at cell three, you will see that the tool has automatically assumed the ‘G’ chord for you.
Figure 7 – The ‘G’ chord appears
What you have then is 1 bar of C, one bar of F and two bars of G. To finish preparing the body of your new music bed, highlight and copy the upper row of cells you instantiated, as in the following Figure 8.
Figure 8 – Copy four bars of music (cells one through four)
The next step is to paste those 4 copied bars into three more rows of cells. Now you end up with a 16 bar loop, as in Figure 9.
Figure 9 – Four bars pasted three times results in sixteen bars
Figure 10. Enter 16 bars (16 cells) to define the start and end of your loop.
Figure 10 – Enter 16 to indicate which cell is the end
Figure 11. Choose how many repeats for your loop. How many times your music bed should loop-play depends on how long you need it to play. If the music engine in your project will repeat the loop as many time as you need, set the loop count to ‘1’. If not, set it to the number of loops that will fill the time required.
Figure 11 – Click the loop button and select repeats from a pull-down menu.
I commonly say that whenever you can afford real musicians for crucial sonic moments such as main themes, hire them. But when budget cries Mary, maybe try some of the things I have offered in these blogs about synthetic music production, especially for BGM.
Let’s review the positive points — copyright free, royalty free, original music…that can be created by anyone on your team (with the help of your synthetic musician, of course). In our next blog we will cover a few more fascinating creations from our virtual composer, so stay tuned! And by the way, if you would like some consultation or some help developing your project please don’t hesitate to contact us.