Microsoft Songsmith: bad music made easy

It's been a big year for software products designed to dumb down the process of making music for entertainment purposes.

It's been a big year for software products designed to dumb down the process of making music for entertainment purposes. Products like Apple's "Magic Garageband" and Guitar Hero: World Tour's "Music Studio" have given wannabe musicians across the globe their collective songwriting fix- without the need to even learn an instrument. Being a musician myself, a small part of me wishes software like the aforementioned didn't exist. These kinds of programs are admittedly fun for a few laughs, but being devoid of much of the creativity or discipline involved in actually writing a song, they make me a bit fearful for future generations.

Think I'm being a bit dramatic? After all, Guitar Hero is a game- it's supposed to be fun. And the non-Magic features of Garageband can actually be really useful to musicians. Well check out Microsoft Songsmith- the latest head-scratcher bestowed upon us by our beloved Redmond overlords. This one is almost guaranteed to make you share my cynicism for the future.

I played around with Songsmith for a while and it's truly every bit as silly and useless as the video makes it look. For one, as I'm sure you've noticed, the midi samples are very fake sounding; the arrangements very goofy. The software is in fact easy to use, but thanks mostly to its lack of features and song customization options. You can choose from preset song genres, the tempo of the song, and adjust the mysterious "Happy" and "Jazzy" sliders, but that is about it. If you were hoping to change drum patterns, instruments, arrangements, or time signatures, you'll have to export your song to MIDI and edit it manually in a program like Logic or Reason. Finally, chord detection in Songsmith is so-so at best. If you stick to a simple and fairly predictable vocal melody it follows pretty well, but throw anything remotely out of the ordinary at it and Songsmith yields some pretty awkward sounding results.

Does anyone remember when music was made by humans?

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Mike Keller

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