Thursday, January 04, 2007

Band in a Box 2007

Band-in-a-Box (BIAB) is an "intelligent automatic accompaniment program" that I first heard about and bought in 2002. I bought it mainly as a tool to help me with songwriting, which I do mostly by creating chord progressions and making up melodies and lyrics to go with them. Usually I do this on a guitar, though I sometimes write with a keyboard, and occasionally with BIAB, especially when I'm traveling without a guitar. BIAB lets you to enter chords by name on a simple grid (A, Bb, F#m7b9, etc.), set a time signature and tempo, and choose a style. BIAB then automatically generates and plays multiple instrument parts (drums, bass, guitar, strings, etc.) using the PC's sound card (or an attached MIDI device). There are hundreds of styles in the "mega" version I have, and depending on the style chosen, it can generate some pretty cool sounding stuff, which can really help the writing process. Sometimes I've even used the BIAB tracks (exported as MIDI) as the basis of a recording. One example of this is my song "Dedicated & Sincere" which you can preview here (track 10, 2 minute preview). On this song, all the instruments are from BIAB except for the electric guitar lead (that's me).

PG Music updates BIAB every year, and I upgrade whenever they offer something that strikes my fancy. The 2007 version arrived yesterday, and the coolest thing for me is the new wizard that can determine the chords from any WAV or MP3 song file! Although I can do this by ear for simpler songs, this is quicker and easier. It also has something called "RealDrums" which uses sampled drum performances in place of MIDI-generated drums for playback. This is nice but less essential since I normally import the MIDI into SONAR 3 if I'm going to record with the track, and there I usually replace MIDI drums with sampled drums. But it's cool to have the track sound more realistic right in BIAB.

Now if I can just get myself back into writing some songs...

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