February 14, 2012 at 10:50 am

AutoMello Turns Random Audio Files into a Musical Instrument


Every sound you hear, from chirping birds to that horrible jackhammer, has a pitch. Wouldn’t it be great if someone made software that could take all that stuff and let you play it like an instrument?

AutoMello, created by Zeke Runyon and Colin Raffel at Music Hack Day San Francisco, analyzes the acoustics of a audio samples to categorize them by pitch, after which you can load them into your synthesizer of choice and play them in digital compositions.

For anyone who makes or dabbles in sample-based music, this should be quite interesting indeed.

To pull off this neat trick, AutoMello examines a set of audio files with the Remix API from The Echo Nest, a sponsor of the Music Hack Day series (and publisher of Evolver.fm), to isolate the most tonal segments of the track using that API’s “noisiness” feature. Segments, notes, and beats are then ordered by chromatic pitch, and the whole shebang is made available as a VST software instrument that you can play with any MIDI-capable digital audio workstation, such as Ableton Live, pictured here running the AutoMello plug-in.

AutoMello takes on the difficult task of teasing out single notes from polyphonic chords, because many sounds contain more than one pitch. And to deal with non-harmonic events, like drum hits, it calculates the individual instance’s “harmonic monophonicity” (more information here).

Using AutoMello is not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s freely available on github for anyone to download and install.

  • Jason Donnelly

    would love to hear some audio examples before trying