Software Separates Notes in a Chord – A German guitar-maker turned programmer has come up with an application those in the computer music business had thought impossible. Direct Note Access allows computers to analyze digitized chords made by an instrument, or even a multi-instrument ensemble, and then extract and modify the individual notes in it. The manipulation of sound recordings by computer has given audio engineers control over the pitch, tempo, or just where notes fall in the timeline, but working with individual notes recorded simultaneously, as in a six-string guitar chord, has never before been practical. Adjusting anything on one note of a chord affects all the other notes at the same time. This software allows studio engineers to salvage classic recordings by great artists which have been unreleased due to out of tune instruments or musicians making clams in the notes. A heavy rhythm-guitar part could be taken apart and those notes not quite in tune can be made so.
The inventor, Peter Neubäcker, has no formal training in physics, math or programming, and is modest about his achievement. He says it’s not a sophisticated approach, but “more like diligently looking to see what is in there.” The various notes of a chord appear on the screen graphically, looking like blobs of ink on a timeline. Each one can moved up or down to change pitch, or back and forth to change timing. A chord can be changed from major to minor or visa versa. But it still has a problem if the same note is played by two instruments simultaneously – it cannot tell them apart. Direct Note Access will be released commercially this fall. There is concern in some circles that it could further accelerate the homogenization of pop music, which already often has cleaned-up, perfectly in tune vocal tracks due to processing.