In a surprise announcement (well, surprising me, at least), the experimental MySong shown by Microsoft Research earlier this year will be available for sale. US$29.95 will buy you a downloadable auto-accompaniment tool. Windows-only, but it sounds as though a Mac release is in store (seriously). It’s a bit like Band-in-a-Box for singers: sing in a line, and the software will generate accompaniment to your singing with styles of your own choosing. There are thirty styles included, and apparently Microsoft focused on the content end in bringing this product to market: there’s a 1 GB space requirement and partnerships announced with PG Music and sample house Garritan.

I’m guessing PG Music, the makers of aforementioned Band in a Box, have helped smooth out the slightly unmusical arrangements generated by the first version. Now, okay, admittedly I was skeptical of the output I heard of the first version. Maybe I’m scarred because I had a high school jazz teacher who player trumpet, not piano, and therefore insisted on running Band-in-a-Box over top of me while I tried to comp on keys. But there are reasons this is cool:

  • Garritan’s sample content sounds great.
  • PG Music has made its auto-accompaniment a lot more musical over the years.
  • The thing could be a decent sketchpad for people who find this helps them imagine musical ideas – realizing there’s no substitute for the real thing.
  • Most importantly, bringing research to market is a great thing.

And let me emphasize that last point. I love that Microsoft has made this available. Too often, R&D achievements get one demo, a patent filing, and then languish in some dark closet, never to be seen again. Sure, some of them probably were never meant for the light of day, but very often people love the demo and want to give the thing a chance – and why not let you decide?

Songsmith at Microsoft Store, via istartedsomething

So a big congrats to the Microsoft R&D team. And here’s to more research seeing that light of day, whether through open source availability or commercial release (or, where appropriate, both).

So Songsmith will accompany your vocals, Apple will get Sting to teach you to play and explain how he wrote Roxanne – okay, as if this week, you really have no excuse not to graduate from Rock Band, ye casual musicians!

Updated: Oh, wait. (*&(*&$#&*. The promo video is … ?

(*&(*&$#&*. Can Microsoft just let Sparrow do all the promotion from now on, please?