What is Band in a Box? and Do I need it?
What is Band in a Box? and Do I need it? I hear you ask.
I first saw and used Band in a Box on an Atari ST computer in 1991. I'm not going to go into detailed history here because I want to tell you What Band in a Box is, and maybe save "What it was" for another post. However, it is handy to know a couple of background facts to help understand why Band in a Box looks and operates the way it does eg. Those familiar with band charts will feel right at home from the word go!
We've all heard of AI (artificial intelligence), and especially in the 21st Century application developers strive more and more for it. I was understandably blown away in 1991 when I witnessed what I call AMI (artificial musical intelligence) in the form of Band in a Box on an Atari computer (or PC). With this program you could simply type in a few chord symbols, choose from a generous menu of music styles, then hit enter. A second later there was a virtual midi band playing your song / chord progression. This was truely remarkable, and in my opinion, the work of a genius.
I consider myself privileged to have met and know the genius himself - Pete Gannon - of PG Music. Luckily for all of us Pete and his team have worked tirelessly since then to add more and more AMI to Band in a Box, and over the last 20 years in particular the "Band" in Band in a Box has become incredibly enhanced with real recorded parts played by really good musicians. Yes, now you can type in any simple or complex chord progression and hear real band of real musicians playing your music in seconds. Then, if you want to explore different music styles (and the list of styles is enormous) you can have your music played a totally different way - moments later. Essentially - this is what Band in a Box is. But wait..... there's more. Yes, much much more. Pete has been driven over the years by the needs and requests of the Band in a Box community of users and enthusiasts as well as his own creative genius. If you want to see the parts played on a virtual keyboard or guitar fretboard or drum set or musical notation, or perhaps get BiaB to work out the chords of an audio recording of a song, or perhaps make up a solo or melody, and so on the list goes. There is not enough scope in this post to cover all that Band in a Box can do, so we'll save some of it for later. There are many videos out there showing off Band in a Box features. My task, however, was to try and find one that gave the most concise answer to the question - What is Band in a Box? Here is my pick.
The educational value of Band in a Box should not be underestimated. Even though it was and is a miraculous way of generating tracks or band accompaniments for your solo and duo gigs, there is now incredible scope and a role for BiaB to play in self education, and also school education. There is a lot that you can learn about conventional musical arranging for bands simply by choosing the various Band in a Box Styles and then breaking them down and seeing and hearing what each player in the band is doing. (I refer to rock, country, folk, world music small ensembles here, as apposed to Brass Band or Military bands or orchestras).
On the subject of self education, Band in a Box is a valuable and very patient backing band that will tirelessly back you while you practise your part or instrument. eg. I'm a keyboard player but do like to dabble with guitar and bass. In particular, I love to grab my 5 string bass and fire up Band in a Box. I then recall or enter a chord progression, choose a music style, mute the bass part being generated (maybe listen to it first ;-) and then sit in with the band - to my hearts content. It is fantastic to be sitting amongst these fine musicians who will play for you. It's also fun and educational to load up different styles and watch on a virtual fretboard or keyboard or music notation, and see what is being played to create this style.
If you are a musician that could do with having a versatile backing band to create tracks for you or just help with some music practice, then Band in a Box is probably for you. If you've seen a much older version of Band in a Box and not seen the recent editions, then I think it's well worth taking another look. What was already a great value music application has come a long way, all the time steered by user requests and innovative genius.
Another big question I get a lot relates to the 4 or 5 different editions of the software which are available for different prices. If you're curious please check out my next blog post entitled "Which edition of Band in a Box do I need?" You may also wonder what you get for the extra cost. All will be revealed.
Have you ever seen or used Band in a Box?