Sony CSL launches Flow Machines, an AI-assisted music production plugin

Sony CSL Flow Machines
(Image credit: Sony CSL)

The big guns are firing in the race to create a credible AI-assisted composing platform. First we had Amazon AWS’s DeepComposer, a machine learning-enabled system that combines software and a dedicated MIDI keyboard, and now Sony Computer Science Laboratories has officially launched Flow Machines, an AI-assisted music production project.

Sony CSL has apparently been conducting music research since 1996, launching Flow Machines as a research and development project in 2012. It’s based on an AI-assisted plugin known as Flow Machines Professional (FM Pro), which: “combines music rules generated by analyzing a variety of music with advanced software technology to help creators to freely create various styles of melodies based on their own concepts”.

The thinking behind FM Pro is that it combines human creativity with AI-based music. Using what’s known as the Style Palette, you can instruct it to come up with melodies, chords and bass parts to suit the genre of music you want to make. Press the Compose button and you’re presented with multiple options (four bars x four patterns or eight bars x two patterns of melodies with accompanying chords and bass) according to the selected chord progression.

You can press the Compose button as many times as you like until FM Pro comes up with something you’re happy with, and you can combine bars from multiple patterns one by one. You can drag ‘n’ drop patterns you’re happy with directly into your DAW as MIDI data, meaning that it can easily be edited.

The thinking here is not that you’ll use FM Pro to write a complete song, but that it’ll provide you with ideas that you can build on. 

You can check out what FM Pro is capable of in the livestreaming YouTube channel below, known as Tokyo LosT Tracks. Whether Flow Machines becomes commercially available remains to be seen, but you can find out more on the Sony CSL website.

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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