The Arts

June 6, 2023

AI, music production and musicianship

AI, music production and musicianship

By Osa Mbonu-Amadi, Arts Editor

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a relatively new technology in town that is both exciting and worrisome – exciting on account of the many complex problems it helps humans to solve, and worrisome on account of the potentials it has, not only to takeover many humans’ jobs and render some of our faculties redundant, but also the convictions its creators have that the technology, especially the Super AI versions, can completely destroy humanity and our entire civilization due to the inability of their creators to control them. Expectedly, music composition and production have greatly benefited from AI as other aspects of human endeavour. In this interview, Kenny Fasipe, a musicologist, music producer, gospel artist, sound engineer, multi-instrumentalist, content creator and music director, shares his professional experiences and thoughts on the AI technology:  

You said you’ve been using AI in your music production before AI became so well-known as it is now. How did you use the technology?

I remember using some amazing tools in music production that could be considered as the starting point of AI, even before it became well-known. These smart algorithms were able to analyze and provide the necessary adjustments for mastering music with precision and ease.

One such tool was Alloy 2 by Izotope which had a range of features including EQ, Transient Shaper, Dynamics, Limiter that made audio mixing and mastering so much better. I’ve been using these plugins ever since. Fruity Loops Studio was also another great software for creating beats, chords and harmonies. It’s amazing how far we’ve come with technology in music production!

In 2017, I wanted to produce our first album “Spiritual Songs 1” without the need for a studio or musicians. I searched the internet for software that could assist me in creating unique hymns, orchestrations, and contemporary productions while also improving my piano playing skills and beat creation abilities. Although I found several plugins, none were capable of handling everything I required, so I used a combination of them to achieve my desired output. The result was an emotional and heartfelt album that resonates with listeners of all ages at an eighth-grade reading level.

One program helped me generate basic chord progressions while another aided in improving my piano techniques such as arpeggios and scales. Additionally, I employed software that assisted with orchestration and instrument choices, as well as one for crafting beats.

Ultimately, I used seven different programs throughout the production process which took several months due to my lack of prior knowledge. Although using several different software may seem daunting, taking time to learn them can be rewarding. I was very pleased with the final result.

To record the vocals, we set up recording equipment in our living room. Crafting this music required patience and dedication but since it was personal to us, there was no rush.

I’ve been using a combination of software to produce music since then, and it keeps getting better.

By 2020, most of this software has been upgraded, and new ones were developed. I started using the ones that can generate and suggests good chord progressions for the melodies and assist in playing the drums patterns suitable for the rhythms of the song. Not only that, some will create the baselines that goes with the drums and chords of the music. These tools make the music sound professional.

So, if AI can do all these things you listed here – creation of beats, chords and harmonies, orchestration, playing drum patterns and the baseline that goes with it – of what use is our musicianship? Where does our training or talents as musicians come in?

Artificial Intelligence in music production offer musicians’ new possibilities to work more efficiently and creatively. However, AI is not a replacement for musicianship, but rather a powerful tool that can enhance and augment our creative abilities. As a musician, we still hold the power to translate our thoughts and feelings into melodies that resonate with our listeners.

Our training and talents as musicians remain crucial in making a unique piece of art that reflects who we are. Music is an expression of human emotions and experiences, while AI is a powerful tool that can greatly enhance our music production process. By using AI tools alongside our training and talents as musicians, we can push the boundaries of what’s possible in music production.

Also, most of these tools require some basic music theory, our musical training and natural abilities.

From what I am seeing in this AI, it can give a singer a better voice if his or her voice is not very good. What do you say on that?

Actually, AI can sing it with another voice, but I don’t like that. Many singers who may not have the best voices can benefit from these tools and produce high-quality recordings. With the help of AI technology, these artists are able to improve their pitch accuracy and tone consistency. Even those who struggle with singing can benefit from this innovative technology. These tools use sophisticated algorithms that analyze and manipulate vocal recordings to create polished sounds. It is important to note that AI is not perfect, and there are limitations to what it can do. While bad singers may benefit from AI tools, they will still need to rely on their own unique talents.

There are a lot of things I am thinking. First, I am afraid that our skills as musicians are under threat.

Not at all. It’s difficult for anyone without basic music theory to use most of these tools. That is why it has not taken over music creation. Our skills are still required. If you lack the skills, AI will mess you up.

But is there any software that can improve a bad voice without using another person’s voice? I already know what synthesizers, equalizers and mixers can do for a voice – that’s not what I mean.

Yes, you can tune a dis-tune voice and improve the timbre and still maintain the voice texture. Anything is possible. Although it may be sounding robotics if care is not taking.

Before now, we’ve been complaining that too many songs are being produced nowadays and pushed into the market because of the ease of music production brought about by improved technology. Do you think there will even be more songs in the market now with greater use of AI in music production?

Yes, as technology continues to advance, we’ve seen an increase in the number of songs being produced and pushed into the market. With AI becoming more prevalent in music production, it’s possible that this trend will continue. However, there are concerns about the quality of these songs and whether they will have the same emotional impact as those created by humans.

There is also a risk that AI-produced music could become repetitive or formulaic, lacking the unique creativity that makes music so powerful. Only time will tell if the use of AI in music production will result in even more songs flooding the market. But one thing is for sure – technology is changing the way we approach music creation, and it’s up to us to decide how we want to move forward with it.

Ultimately, the key to preventing AI-produced music from becoming repetitive is to keep pushing boundaries and thinking outside of the box. As long as we maintain our passion and curiosity for creating something truly original, there will always be room for innovation in the world of music production.