New utility that breaks music down into its components

By Daniel Emery
Technology reporter, BBC News

  • Published

A music technology firm in south-east London has developed a system for breaking music into its component parts.

Hit 'n' Mix converts audio files into a proprietary .rip format.

Developers say it will enable users to create their own bedroom mash-ups, karaoke songs or modify their own music.

It is entering a crowded market, however, and some producers say they are reluctant to switch software.

Martin Dawe, a programmer based in south-east London, spent 10 years developing the system. He told BBC News he wanted to do more than current file formats would allow.

"I spent a lot of time looking into how audio could be split up and whether it was actually possible to do.

"Originally I thought it was impossible, but I appear to have proved myself wrong," he said.

The process for breaking down a track is fairly straightforward. An audio file is loaded up and then, after a rendering process, is displayed on screen into its component parts.

However Mr Dawe was tight-lipped about the actual mechanics involved in breaking apart Mp3 and wav music files, saying - for now - it is a commercial secret.

The developers say it takes about five minutes to ingest a three-minute piece of audio, although this will depend on how fast a PC you are using.

The screen displays the various components of a track, which can be manipulated with a click of a mouse; pitch, tone, duration, pretty much every element of a composition can be tampered with.

Mr Dawe demonstrated his software on the BBC News theme, breaking it down and reassembling it as a brand new musical track. The whole process took, he said, just over an hour.

It is thought Hit 'n' Mix is the first piece of software than can disassemble music prior to editing, although Ceremony's Melodyne Editor and Auto Tune let you adjust individual notes.

But the developers have something of an uphill task to win over established music producers, who have been using existing software for years.

Mark Vidler, who has been making remixes under the nom-de-plume of Go Home Productions - told BBC News that he had been using Sound Forge.

"It's very good for intricate editing and I've always used it since the first version," he said

"I then use Sony's ACID Pro as an arranger. I know people use Pro Tools, Logic, things like that, but I like the homely feel of Acid and I've been using it for 10 years, so I'll stick with the software I love," he added.

Mr Vidler also took the BBC News theme to pieces and reassembled it, although his version took about a day's work.

He had this piece of advice for anyone thinking about trying their hand at remixing music.

"This is all simple technology, you just need to discover it for yourself and get in there. Play with it, don't bother watching television, just get on your laptop and create things; there are endless possibilities."