In The Studio With Artificial Intelligence

Like any new technology, AI in music has the potential to be misused, but new technology also has the potential to make our lives better. What if, instead of making human creativity redundant, artificial intelligence could short-circuit some of the things that stand in the way of creativity — taking over the mundane and boring parts of audio engineering, and leaving us free to focus on the creative aspects?

That’s the key aim behind the plug-ins in Focusrite’s FAST suite, developed in conjunction with Sonible. You might be wondering what AI can do that existing plug-ins can’t, though. Aren’t all plug-ins designed to make our life easier?

Why AI is different

Let’s consider two ways of developing a plug-in that automates some part of the mixing process. One approach would be for a human programmer to study the decisions a human sound engineer makes, and try to turn those into a set of rules.

As Sonible’s Alexander Wankhammer explains, a plug-in like this is completely predictable in its behaviour, but it’s only as good as the rules we can devise. The big advantage of the AI approach is that it escapes this limiting factor. It isn’t using rules that we have fed it, it’s inventing its own rules. “When allowing a system to learn from data, the system is able to come up with an internal representation and interpretation of the data. The great thing about that is that you don’t have to fully understand why a system is doing something —it just does it, and it works.”

Is it still my music?

Of course, the worry is that an AI system trained on sounds from the past stifle innovation, and steer everything towards sounding like something that already exists. However, as Alexander points out, “Although AI tools typically learn from existing samples, that doesn’t mean that they are only able to exactly reproduce what they ‘saw’. The tools learn how to interpret or modify new data based on examples… but the creative part, the final style and character that makes it (a piece) unique, still lies in the hands of the user.”

A force for good

We think that the FAST plug-ins represent a genuine breakthrough. They won’t mix your track for you, but they will make it quicker and easier for you to arrive at the mix that you want. From the electric guitar to the MIDI sequencer, new tools haven’t stifled creativity. Instead, they’ve opened up new ways for us to express it — and AI is no different.

Learn more about FAST plug-ins and AI by clicking here