Could Sony's AI music-maker beat drummers at their own game?

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Finding a drummer to join your garage band can be a real chore, but happily for budding musicians everywhere there's a new, and rather clever, beat-maker in town – and you won't have to pay them any royalties...

Sony has created an artificial intelligence system that's capable of creating kick-drum tracking, based on the other instruments used in a song. 

Researchers trained the AI system by 'feeding' it data from 665 different songs, covering a wide variety of musical genres. 

The result? Automatically generated drum patterns which Sony says sound "musically plausible" in the context of the existing song. 

A long way to go

Now, if you're a musician, the last thing you'd like to hear your music described as is "musically plausible" – and the beats created by the AI drummer – which can be heard on the Sony Computer Science laboratory website – lack the flair and spontaneity provided by a human drummer who's spent years perfecting their craft.

That's not to say there are no applications for this technology though; AI beat-making software could be an invaluable resource to anyone who uses a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) like Logic Pro X or Ableton, and finds it difficult to program their own beats. 

Drummers are also notoriously difficult to find if you're in a band – and if this technology could be made to work in real time, bands could potentially replace their human drummer with an artificially intelligent one.

That in turn, could lead to a whole new genre: AI-assisted music. It's already a growing field, with AI composers like Flow Machine creating music in the style of The Beatles with Daddy's Car.

There's even technology out there that can turn your beatboxing into a drum kit using artificial intelligence.

For the time being, the technology has a long way to go before it will be able to replace live musicians – but it certainly seems as though AI music is fast gaining traction. 

Olivia Tambini

Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.