Classic Rock covered by Microsoft Songsmith
January 18, 2009 2:07 PM   Subscribe

We've all had some fun with Songsmith, Microsoft's new automated backing band. But other people have had some fun with it. Witness: Enter Songsmith and Intergalactic Songsmith.

One prolific YouTube artist has been mentioned previously. We can add to this list Sergeant Pepper and Just What I Needed. Finally, The Notorious B.I.G. raps over a harpsichord.
posted by CrunchyFrog (58 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Roxanne!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:13 PM on January 18, 2009 [8 favorites]


It's interesting to see how messed up the flow of the song becomes. I also kinda wish each person that did this would give the slider positions for hapy, jazzy and whatnot.
posted by piratebowling at 2:16 PM on January 18, 2009


Songsmith tunes sound like the orange gack that the dentist gives you tastes.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 2:24 PM on January 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


The Enter Sandman one almost kinda works. Metallica as dance pop. What hath this century wrought?!!?
posted by Afroblanco at 2:24 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


please make it stop
posted by pyramid termite at 2:35 PM on January 18, 2009


That Roxanne is LOLicious.
posted by storybored at 2:36 PM on January 18, 2009


I kind of like Roxanne better this way...
posted by riane at 2:38 PM on January 18, 2009


"Microsoft felt this song was techno, so who am I to tell them they're wrong?"
posted by you at 2:41 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm still trying to decide if Songsmith is a classic Microsoft blunder, or the greatest marketing campaign ever conceived by man.
posted by tracert at 2:45 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


I keep meaning to mess around with SongSmith, since I really seem like their ideal target audience: I have no musical talent, either with instruments or writing, but I have a decent voice and like singing to myself. SongSmith couldn't be more perfect for me to appease my desire to record mediocre covers of songs I like without anyone else ever actually knowing about it or being inflicted with the results.
posted by Caduceus at 2:49 PM on January 18, 2009


Some of these are not that bad, though.
posted by empath at 2:53 PM on January 18, 2009


Afroblanco, are you drunk? that was horrible. you's link was actually pretty decent.
posted by desjardins at 2:54 PM on January 18, 2009


Someone should try running Sarah Palin interviews through songsmith.
posted by empath at 3:00 PM on January 18, 2009


The Wonderwall one is, frankly, an improvement. Now get Gallagher out of there and it's gold.
posted by RockCorpse at 3:05 PM on January 18, 2009


I'm holding out until I hear Bohemian Songsmith-ody. Or maybe Songsmith to Heaven.
posted by tehdiplomat at 3:10 PM on January 18, 2009


Where do people get the vocal tracks to these songs?
posted by Corduroy at 3:23 PM on January 18, 2009


That original commercial deserved its reception, but after viewing those vids, I'd say Microsoft is sitting on a goldmine if they can create a karaoke style multi player game with this. I'd kill to look at the function calls and the variables stored in the objects used in the algorithms for Songsmith to begin creating something to score and game.
posted by sleslie at 3:25 PM on January 18, 2009


Man, I could see that Roxanne cut getting out into the wild. People all trying to grab the original Police song via torrent and ending up with that instead.
posted by cortex at 3:37 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Runnin' with the Devil, as it should have been.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 3:43 PM on January 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


MetaFilter: I'd kill to look at the function calls and the variables stored in the objects used in the algorithms
posted by BaxterG4 at 3:44 PM on January 18, 2009


Someone should do Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner" (the original, a capella), and see what it comes out like compared to DNA's version.
posted by Flunkie at 3:50 PM on January 18, 2009


Yet more songsmith, it just wont die.

If folks are interested, I've made a Happy Slider T-Shirt [mefi projects].
posted by mrzarquon at 3:53 PM on January 18, 2009


I kind of like these versions of Intergalactic and Wonderwall. This may mean my aesthetc sense is irredeemably broken and I should feel bad.
posted by hattifattener at 4:09 PM on January 18, 2009


I like the melancholy direction Songsmith took 'Just What I Needed', to be honest.
posted by Corduroy at 4:19 PM on January 18, 2009


Sorry, Mac user here. I don't know how this thing works, but..

Does the program have the ability to strip-out (or maybe even dim the volume on) the original works' backing music? Or are people using vocal-track-only versions of these songs?

if it's the latter, I'm kinda curious how people are able to get ahold of such things. I wouldn't know the first place to look.
posted by revmitcz at 4:48 PM on January 18, 2009


running with the devil made me laugh unstoppably for the entire duration.
posted by nonreflectiveobject at 5:01 PM on January 18, 2009


Am I wrong for thinking the Biggie remix is actually really good?
posted by prunes at 5:04 PM on January 18, 2009


Does the program have the ability to strip-out (or maybe even dim the volume on) the original works' backing music?

No, because it's supposed to be used with your singing, so there is no backing music.

Someone should try this with the Beach Boys. They have a multi-disc box set that has some of their songs with all the vocals panned right, and the instrumentals panned left and such.
posted by smackfu at 5:10 PM on January 18, 2009


My evening has had the "happy" and "jazzy" sliders moved into the "11" position.
posted by maxwelton at 5:14 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was sitting there, listening to the Oasis one, thinking, wow, the music remains in pretty decent sync with the video. Then I realized the whole point of the software working is that it syncs itself to the beat in the lyrics, which, well, needs to be in time with the music, which is usually in time with the video. I'm going to go feel kind of dumb for a while now.

By the way, if anyone gets a chance, they should try out some of the groups out there with really odd singing/rapping techniques. Off the top of my head, Missy Elliot's songs would probably be a touch different. Good different, or bad different, only one way to find out. Maybe toss in some Tool, just for fun.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:21 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cuil!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:34 PM on January 18, 2009


running with the devil made me laugh unstoppably for the entire duration.

I had to stop halfway for fear I'd break myself... I haven't laughed so hard in ages.
posted by jal0021 at 5:53 PM on January 18, 2009


Yet more songsmith, it just wont die.

I disagree. Songsmith's living at a pace that kills.
posted by Tube at 5:54 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Then I realized the whole point of the software working is that it syncs itself to the beat in the lyrics

Actually, the software is nowhere near that elegant. You set a straight tempo and the software runs mindlessly along at the tempo regardless of what the rhythmic elements of the vocal provided are. If SongSmith actually did beat-detection and paced itself to what was being sung, I'd be a hell of a lot more impressed than I am.

These mixups are nice because someone took the time to get the pacing right—which requires, at bare minimum, a track that already sticks perfectly to a integer-value metronome click all the way through and the patience to figure out what that tempo is and feed the vocals in at the right time.

If the song has a steady non-integer tempo (say 130.2 bpm instead of 130 or 131), you'd further have to preprocess the vocal track to push it to an integer tempo before doing the above.

If the song, worse yet, has tempo changes, you'd have to put in some extra work to either normalize the tempo of the input track or do some wizardry on the SongSmith output to match it to the changes in the source. At least one of the newer mashups does that, if I remember what I was listening to yesterday or the day before.

SongSmith has some neat core stuff going on, but not that neat.
posted by cortex at 6:44 PM on January 18, 2009


And where's the happy, jazzy version of "punch'em in the dick"?
posted by qvantamon at 6:46 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Someone should try running Sarah Palin interviews through songsmith.
There's always this from the guy who did that other thing.
I'd kill to look at the doodads and the watzits stored in the majiggididoos used in the algorithms
They published a few decent papers on the algorithm way back when.
posted by you at 6:48 PM on January 18, 2009


<1988>
Wow, you heard this great Ministry song, Enter Sandman?
</1988>
posted by lekvar at 6:58 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm kinda curious how people are able to get ahold of such things.

The guy said in the comments to one of the songs that he's been collecting them over the years from various sources.
posted by TwoWordReview at 7:17 PM on January 18, 2009


Oh man this is uncanny hypnotic, I don't know why I can't stop watching. I think because when songs you know and that effect you become reduced to just the vocal track, you kind of have to double take, it's like, what, is that it? That's all there is to these songs? Of course Microsoft's efforts are typically laughable and fail-ridden, but I think they're kind of on to something and I kind of can't believe no one else hasn't already done this better.
posted by kaspen at 7:40 PM on January 18, 2009


Wow, you heard this great Ministry song, Enter Sandman?

Ministry?
posted by Bort at 7:45 PM on January 18, 2009


It just occurred to me that somebody with computer skills but no singing voice or knowledge of instruments needs to make a Songsmith/Vocaloid duet.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 7:58 PM on January 18, 2009


Bort, have you ever heard With Sympathy?
posted by lekvar at 8:06 PM on January 18, 2009


I have to say, I'm genuinely impressed at the algorithm.

Sure, the happy sliders and cringeful 'latin' etc midi sounds are quintessential Microsoft-anticool; and the CES advertisement was brutal, brutal stuff ("I'm playing with my Songsmith, 'cause it's the cool new thing"); but I do find it remarkable how well the software picks up chords and works whatever it's given into a decent progression.

I think that if Apple had introduced this as the 'Genius Backing Track' in Garageband, using more tasteful sounds and without sliders and genres, we'd all be lapping it up.
posted by stepheno at 8:39 PM on January 18, 2009


The Roxanne is some sort of beautiful.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:28 PM on January 18, 2009


Runnin' with the Devil, as it should have been.

I am suddenly very much onboard with all of this.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:11 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


> I think that if Apple had introduced this as the 'Genius Backing Track' in Garageband, using more tasteful sounds and without sliders and genres, we'd all be lapping it up.

Because quite honestly, if this was a feature in the already advanced mixing options of garageband (or any intro to mixing software), instead of the sole focus of a $30 application (not a plugin mind you), you could actually do some interesting stuff with it.

Songsmith is a one trick pony, and it doesn't do that very well.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:26 AM on January 19, 2009


Wow, you heard this great Ministry song, Enter Sandman?

Ministry?


*slaps Songsmith on the side of the monitor* Sorry, it's a genre slider bug. There will be a hot fix for this out on next month's patch day.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:45 AM on January 19, 2009


If the song, worse yet, has tempo changes, you'd have to put in some extra work to either normalize the tempo of the input track or do some wizardry on the SongSmith output to match it to the changes in the source.

I just figured you'd make different tracks in Songsmith and then put them together in, I dunno, Audacity.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:24 AM on January 19, 2009


Yeah, that could work, though it means having to manually sync-up each separate vocal chunk with SongSmith's record-start, which multiplies some of the annoying labor. And for slow steady accellerando/deccellerando stuff that's wandering into madness territory regardless.

I'm considering putting in the time to fudge Killer Queen into usable territory by pre-editing the isolated vox against a click track with minor like per-bar time adjustments in a wav editor, which even at that is a kind of pain-in-the-ass thing to do but might be worth it for the laughs.
posted by cortex at 8:47 AM on January 19, 2009


And here's the result of the above plan put into action.

Kill Me Now, Queen

There's a stretch in the middle of the song that is just about beat-perfect at 117, so I used that as my key tempo, cut the song up into small chunks, and made adjustments to the pieces to reorient them to the beat as best as I could without spending too much time on it.

I also cut out some blank space in the middle of the vox, since SongSmith lacks a "play a great fucking guitar solo here" function.

The results are pretty terrible, something like the polar opposite of that Roxanne result as far as efficacy goes.

I have no idea how SongSmith grapples with the harmonic content of the input, but presumably it was designed to work with melodies rather than harmonies (maybe it does something along the lines of seeking out the fundamental frequency of the input over timeand treats that as the key note for analysis?), so those nice lush four-part harmonies end up clashing ridiculously badly against what SongSmith chooses to put up against them.
posted by cortex at 11:03 AM on January 19, 2009


cortex, for this crime against Queen, I swear on the corpse of Freddie Mercury that you will pay.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:08 AM on January 19, 2009


Agh. Where is this blood coming from?
posted by Plutor at 11:57 AM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty, I'm the one who gave him the Queen acapella. Are you also coming for me?

What if I told you I also gave him Let's Get It On, Super Freak and Creep...?
posted by sparkletone at 7:25 PM on January 19, 2009


all will suffer

(but mostly people who listen to Songsmith products, 'cause I mean good fucking god)
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:29 PM on January 19, 2009


One more: Happy Black Metal.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 11:25 PM on January 19, 2009


Ok, after looking at CrunchyFrog's link, I am convinced that someone needs to do this with multiple American Idol audition clips.
posted by owtytrof at 11:29 AM on January 21, 2009


Crazy Train!
posted by EarBucket at 6:39 PM on January 29, 2009


White Wedding. I kinda like it, actually.
posted by piratebowling at 9:13 AM on February 2, 2009


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