Google is Using AI to Create Musical Instrument Sounds That No One Has Ever Heard Before

Back in the 70s, synthesizers caused a sensation when they arrived because they could be made to make sounds that no human ear had ever heard before. Not only were these sounds weirder than we imagined, they were weirder than we could imagine. Our sonic pallet has been increasing ever since with samplers, sequencers and ever-more powerful outboard effects.

So what’s left to do? Google thinks artificial intelligence is the way forward for new musical sounds. From Wired:

JESSE ENGEL IS playing an instrument that’s somewhere between a clavichord and a Hammond organ—18th-century classical crossed with 20th-century rhythm and blues. Then he drags a marker across his laptop screen. Suddenly, the instrument is somewhere else between a clavichord and a Hammond. Before, it was, say, 15 percent clavichord. Now it’s closer to 75 percent. Then he drags the marker back and forth as quickly as he can, careening though all the sounds between these two very different instruments.

“This is not like playing the two at the same time,” says one of Engel’s colleagues, Cinjon Resnick, from across the room. And that’s worth saying. The machine and its software aren’t layering the sounds of a clavichord atop those of a Hammond. They’re producing entirely new sounds using the mathematical characteristics of the notes that emerge from the two. And they can do this with about a thousand different instruments—from violins to balafons—creating countless new sounds from those we already have, thanks to artificial intelligence.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38513 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “Google is Using AI to Create Musical Instrument Sounds That No One Has Ever Heard Before

  • I laughed when I read the title, and I laughed harder after reading it.

    Google has created sounds that no one has ever heard before, which are all based on sounds which everyone has heard before. Surely they can spend some of their billions on giving back some of the money they rip off musicians every day instead of this crap.


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