Back in 2020, Sony CSL quietly announced an AI-powered music production plug-in that helps people generate new chords and melodies based on their personal style. But the tool, called Flow Machines or FM Machines, went mostly unnoticed. Now, Sony is launching Flow Machines as a free iPad app, greatly expanding its usability.
Flow Machines composes melodies, chords, and rhythms based on musical “palettes,” which are really just a set of parameters dictated by a song’s BPM, average note length, and other factors. You can choose from a ton of pre-set palettes and chord progressions within the Flow Machines app (which are categorized by genres like Jazz, Slow Pop, Anime, etc), or import music for analysis by the app’s AI.
Pressing a “compose” button within the app immediately refreshes whatever notes the AI has written, allowing you to quickly jump through inspirational ideas. Melodies, rhythms, and chords written within the app can be manipulated manually, and it’s very easy to jump between the virtual instruments and sequencers. Naturally, you can export any ideas generated in the app to DAWs like Ableton, Logic, or Garage Band (as MP3s or MIDI).
Having played with Flow Machines for about ten minutes, it seems like a very intuitive way to search for new musical ideas. It could also serve as a great starting point for musicians that are searching for a specific sound but can’t think of a satisfying chord progression. That said, Flow Machines is definitely more of a companion tool than an all-in-one music-making platform (and that’s fine).
You can download the Flow Machines mobile app on your iPad through the App Store (sorry, Android peeps). This app doesn’t work on M1 Macs, as Sony CSL wants people to use the dedicated Flow Machines plug-in on desktop and laptop computers. (The desktop plug-in isn’t available on Sony CSL’s website right now, for some reason.)