We conclude our review of PG Music’s unique music auto-generation package by exploring some of the more advanced ways you can shape its output.
Last month, we saw that Band In A Box 2017 is an intelligent automatic accompaniment program, a powerful music composition engine, and a source of educational and practical tools for keyboardists, guitarists, composers and music students. This month we’ll look in more detail at its composition/performance features and have a look at some of its educational devices.
In the first part of this review, we looked at how BIAB’s automatic composition features can quickly create and ‘perform’ a song. However, while these methods can produce some entertaining results, they generally won’t provide really polished songs without further work. There are many ways to gain more variety in music created with BIAB, both within the program itself, and by exporting MIDI and audio to your DAW.
Let’s start by exporting an unfinished song to a DAW. This approach is very flexible. You can create only the backing tracks in BIAB (these, as we saw last month, are tracks 1-5, nominally bass, drums, piano, guitar and strings) and send the results to your DAW to add your own melody, solos and vocals. Or you can use BIAB’s Melodist and Soloist to create a more complete song before exporting. A very useful extension of this approach is to fully regenerate a song several times in BIAB, export stems of each version to your DAW, and then compile a master version from your favourite parts. This approach provides a lot of flexibility, much like comping multiple takes from a recording session.
You can export BIAB material as audio, MIDI or both, and there are three methods to do this. A ‘WAV’ button in the File section above the Song Title window opens a menu named Render to Audio File. This will render and normalise sounds produced by all tracks if ‘Normalize individual tracks’ is ticked, and can also be accessed by clicking ‘Render MIDI to Stereo WAV file’ from the Audio menu.
Alternatively, there are also two ‘drag and drop’ methods that can accomplish the same results: the Drop Station and the DAW Plug-in. The top left of Screen 1 shows the Drop Station sitting below the Master track label. Dragging the Master track label to the ‘+’ box in the middle of the Drop Station opens a menu with options to export MIDI and/or audio, to send separate files for each track, and to normalise audio. Set these options appropriately and click OK to start rendering. It may take a minute or more to render a full set of tracks.
When rendering is finished, you need to right-click on the ‘+’ to see the menu shown below the Drop Station in Screen 1. There are several options, including ‘Choose Folder and copy files to chosen folder’, which can save your tracks, one file for each, to a location where they can be opened by any DAW. Easy peasy! In addition, you can drop any track onto one of the four quadrants (WAV, M4A, WMA or MID) around the ‘+’ to export the track(s) directly in one of those formats.
The DAW Plug-in works with any DAW that allows direct drag and drop. Clicking the ‘DAW Plug-in’ button opens a window to set Options for DAW Plug-ins and Start DAW Plug-in Mode. Set the options first, then start the plug-in. The BIAB window will shrink, allowing you to drag tracks to your DAW, which must be open at the same time. You can drag and drop individual tracks, or the Master track.
Band In A Box also features numerous ways to add expressiveness, dynamic variation and detail to auto-created songs. We’ve seen that styles guide a composition to play in a certain manner, and you can vary the style itself, change instruments on the fly, and enhance the performance throughout a song. The keys to this are chord articulations, tools accessed in the Chord Sheet, and functions in the Edit menu.
Before I explain how these work, note that the term ‘chorus’ is used in an unusual sense in BIAB. In the BIAB context the term refers to a full song, less the intro and outro. You can organise songs in a variety of ways, even beyond verse/chorus/bridge, but when using some functions in BIAB, you will find the term ‘chorus’ referring to a full pass through all sections of a song other than intro and outro. (And speaking of outro, BIAB uses the term ‘ending’!)
While styles set the overall form of a song, you can create variety within a song when entering or editing chords by adding marks for pushes, rests, shots and holds:...
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