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I’ve been playing around recently with a great online music application at UJAM.com. It allows you to sing or play a melody into your computer’s microphone, and within seconds will create a chord progression and a backing band to accompany it. It’s actually a ton of fun, and (thinking like a teacher) I began immediately to see the value to songwriters. (See me trying it out.) In particular, it’s a great online tool for practicing your ability to start the songwriting process with a melody rather than chords.
Registering on the UJAM site is free, so it’s worth the few seconds it takes to get set up. Within moments, you can be singing a melody into your microphone, and checking out what UJAM does. Select a performance style, and it plays your melody back to you with a performance that sounds like you’ve been in rehearsal all day.
It chooses the chords, but it also allows you to modify those chords, and that’s where UJAM becomes a great songwriters’ tool. By selecting various chord presets (happy, sad, etc.), it gives you a different take on how your melody could be harmonized. It also allows you to change each chord yourself, as you see me demonstrating on the video.
I also think it’s a great musical pastime if you’re suffering from writer’s block. Just sing in a short musical fragment, and your musical mind becomes stimulated by all the possible ways it can be played back to you.
There are online tutorials at the UJAM site (just click on the “More on YouTube” link after logging in), but if you’re at all like me, you’ll just dive in and have fun.
The performance presets are of surprisingly high quality, so if your intention is to create something listenable by others, try recording your melody first using good digital equipment, then uploading your melody to UJAM.
It’s a very easy application to use, and very easy to navigate your way around the intuitive interface. So jump in and have fun. And in the process, you’ll learn things about melodies and chords that can positively affect how you write songs.
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