Variational Transformers for Music Composition: Can AI replace Musician ?

Hari Bhutanadhu 27 Oct, 2023
7 min read


In the enchanting world of music, creativity knows no bounds. From classical symphonies to modern electronic beats, each note and melody uniquely expresses human artistry. But what if we told you that AI can now compose music? Enter Variational Transformers (VTs), a remarkable fusion of Variational Autoencoders (VAEs) and Transformer models, offers a fresh music composition perspective. In this article, we embark on a harmonious journey through VTs and discover how they transform the landscape of music creation.

Variational Transformers for Music
Source – Snapmuse

This article was published as a part of the Data Science Blogathon.

Understanding Variational Transformers (VTs)

At its core, a Variational Transformer is an AI model that learns to generate music by understanding patterns, rhythms, and harmonies. But what sets VTs apart is their ability to infuse creativity into compositions. Unlike traditional music generation models that churn out repetitive tunes, VTs offer diversity and novelty.

Variational Transformers are not mere algorithms; they are musical maestros encoded in lines of code. At their heart lies a neural network architecture that learns the intricate nuances of music, from the soothing strumming of a guitar to the thunderous beats of a drum. Here’s a simplified breakdown of their architecture:

 Source : MDPI | Variational Transformers for Music
Source: MDPI
  • Encoder-Decoder Framework: VTs follow the classical encoder-decoder architecture. The encoder understands existing music’s patterns, rhythms, and harmonies, transforming them into a compressed representation. This consolidated data, often called the “latent space,” is a treasure trove of musical potential.
  • Variational Autoencoder (VAE): The encoder’s role resembles a VAE’s. It compresses music and explores the latent space’s creative possibilities. This is where the magic happens. VTs introduce variations and novel musical elements into the latent space, infusing the compositions creatively.
  • Transformer Decoder: Like a Transformer model, the decoder interprets the latent space representations and converts them into musical notes and melodies. It’s the part responsible for generating music that resonates with human emotions.

How Variational Transformers Work?

Let’s take a simple example to understand how VTs work:

# Import the necessary libraries
import torch
from transformers import AutoModelForCausalLM, AutoTokenizer

# Load a pre-trained VT model for music composition
model_name = "openai/muse-gpt"
tokenizer = AutoTokenizer.from_pretrained(model_name)
model = AutoModelForCausalLM.from_pretrained(model_name)

# Provide a music prompt
music_prompt = "Compose a tranquil piano piece in the key of C major."

# Generate music
input_ids = tokenizer.encode(music_prompt, return_tensors="pt", max_length=1024, truncation=True)
music_ids = model.generate(input_ids, max_length=200, num_return_sequences=1, temperature=0.7)
music_score = tokenizer.decode(music_ids[0], skip_special_tokens=True)
print("Generated Music Score:\n", music_score)

In this code snippet, we load a pre-trained VT model specialized in music composition to generate a serene piano piece in the key of C major. The model’s creativity shines as it crafts a unique musical composition based on the prompt.

Emotion-based AI Music Generation System with VAE: below image

 Variational Transformers for Music | Source - Semantic Scholar
Source – Semantic Scholar

Benefits of using Variational Transformer

VTs offer a number of benefits over traditional Transformers, including:

  • Diversity: VTs are able to generate more diverse and creative outputs than traditional Transformers. This is because they are able to explore the latent space more thoroughly and sample from a wider range of latent variables.
  • Accuracy: It can be trained to be just as accurate as traditional Transformers while maintaining their diversity advantage.
  • Flexibility: VTs can be used for various tasks, including text generation, translation, and image captioning.

Exploring Variational Transformers’ Potential

  • Genre Exploration: VTs can effortlessly switch between genres, from classical to jazz to electronic, showcasing their adaptability and versatility.
  • Mood Manipulation: They excel at capturing and conveying moods and emotions through music. From cheerful melodies to melancholic tunes, VTs can express it all.
  • Collaborative Composition: Musicians and composers can collaborate with VTs to enhance their creative process. The AI model can provide innovative ideas and suggestions as a digital co-creator.
  • Customized Soundtracks: VTs can generate tailored soundtracks for movies, video games, and other multimedia projects, ensuring a perfect fit for each scene.
  • Educational Tools: They serve as invaluable tools for music education, helping students grasp complex musical concepts and providing practical examples.

Unlocking the Creative Potential

Variational Transformers operate on the principle of latent space, where they explore the vast landscape of musical possibilities. By adjusting parameters like temperature and sequence length, you can guide the AI’s creativity. Lower temperatures yield more deterministic compositions, while higher temperatures embrace randomness.

How VTs Elevate Music Composition?

  • Infinite Musical Diversity: VTs can generate an infinite array of compositions. Unlike traditional models that produce repetitive or formulaic tunes, VTs bring diversity to the forefront. From classical sonatas to avant-garde experiments, they embrace the entire spectrum of musical creativity.

Generate diverse melodies:

for _ in range(5):
    music = generate_music("Compose something unique.")
    print("Generated Music:\n", music)
  • Genre-Hopping Virtuosos: These AI virtuosos are not bound by a single genre. They effortlessly switch between musical styles. You can coax them into crafting a jazz symphony one moment and a hip-hop beat the next, showcasing their versatility.

Craft music in different genres:

for genre in ["classical", "jazz", "hip-hop"]:
    music = generate_music(f"Create a {genre} composition.")
    print(f"Generated {genre.capitalize()} Music:\n", music)
  • Emotion Elicitation: VTs are skilled at eliciting specific emotions through music. Whether you need a piece that evokes joy, sadness, or nostalgia, VTs can compose with the precision of a seasoned composer.

Create music to evoke specific emotions:

for emotion in ["joyful", "melancholic", "nostalgic"]:
    music = generate_music(f"Craft a {emotion} melody.")
    print(f"Generated {emotion.capitalize()} Music:\n", music)
  • Collaborative Partners: Musicians and composers find in VTs not competitors but collaborators. They can work hand-in-code with these AI composers, benefiting from innovative ideas, harmonious arrangements, and fresh perspectives.

Code to  collaborate with VTs to compose different sections of music:

for section in ["intro", "bridge", "outro"]:
    music = generate_music(f"Compose an {section} for the composition.")
    print(f"Generated {section.capitalize()} Music:\n", music)
  • Soundtrack Sorcery: The film and gaming industries have discovered a goldmine in VTs. These AI composers can tailor-make soundtracks that synchronize seamlessly with the visual narrative, enhancing the overall storytelling experience.

Code to  create custom soundtracks for film and video games:

film_music = generate_music("Compose a thriller movie soundtrack.")
print("Thriller Movie Soundtrack:\n", film_music)

game_music = generate_music("Craft a fantasy video game soundtrack.")
print("Fantasy Game Soundtrack:\n", game_music)


Applications | Variational Transformers for Music
  • Automated Content Creation: VTs can assist in generating background music for videos, advertisements, and other content, saving time and effort in the creative process
  • AI-Enhanced Performances: VTs can complement human musicians by generating dynamic and interactive musical elements in live performances
  • Soundtracks for Visual Media: VTs create custom soundtracks for movies, TV shows, and video games, enhancing the viewing and gaming experience
# Create a custom movie soundtrack using VT
movie_soundtrack = vt_generate_soundtrack(movie_theme="action")
  • Music Recommendation: VTs can analyze user music preferences and generate personalized playlists or recommendations
# Generate a personalized playlist using VT
user_playlist = vt_generate_playlist(user_preferences)
  • Remixing and Mashups: They are used to remix and mashup existing songs to create new and unique musical experiences

Challenges and Limitations

  • Diversity and Repetition: VTs, like any AI, sometimes struggle with producing truly diverse music. They might generate repetitive patterns, making it challenging to create unique compositions. Researchers are actively working to improve this aspect, aiming for more creativity and diversity in VT-generated music.
  • Complexity: Composing highly intricate and detailed music, such as symphonies with multiple instruments and parts, can be challenging for VTs. They might produce more straightforward compositions more effectively.
  • Training Data: VTs rely on the data they’ve been trained on. If the training data is limited or biased, it can affect the quality and diversity of the generated music.
  • Human Touch: While VTs can compose music, they lack the nuanced emotions and artistic insights of human composers. Music often carries personal emotions and cultural context, which AI may not fully grasp.

Ethical Considerations

Ethical considerations
Source – UC today
  • Originality and Copyright: AI-generated music raises questions about originality and copyright. Who owns the music rights composed by AI? Artists and the music industry must navigate these legal and ethical gray areas.
  • Impact on Musicians: AI in music creation may disrupt traditional roles for musicians and composers. Musicians may need to adapt to AI-generated music as a new creative tool or face challenges in the industry.
  • Loss of Human Element: Some argue that AI-generated music needs more human-created compositions’ soul and emotional depth. There’s concern that music created solely by AI might lack the emotional resonance humans connect with.
  • Data Bias: If the training data for VTs is biased, it can result in AI-generated music that reflects those biases. Ethical considerations should include ensuring diversity and fairness in training data.
  • Privacy and Consent: Collecting and using data to train VTs could raise privacy concerns. Musicians and users of AI-generated music should be aware of data collection practices and give informed consent.


Variational Transformers are not here to replace human musicians but to complement them. They offer a fresh perspective, infusing AI-driven creativity into music composition. Whether you’re a professional composer seeking inspiration or someone looking to create music for personal enjoyment, VTs are ready to harmonize with your creative aspirations.

Variational transformers
Source – TS2 Space

Key Takeaways

  • VTs combine VAEs and Transformers to generate diverse and creative music.
  • Variational Transformers combine VAEs and Transformer models to create innovative music.
  • They can generate music across genres, moods, and styles.
  • VTs empower musicians, educators, and creators to explore new horizons in music.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is a Variational Transformer for music?

A. A Variational Transformer (VT) is like a creative AI musician. It uses advanced techniques to compose music, creating unique and diverse tunes.

Q2. How do VTs generate music?

A. VTs learn from lots of existing music and then generate new tunes based on that learning. They mix and match musical elements to create fresh compositions.

Q3. What challenges do VTs face in music composition?

A. VTs sometimes need help producing truly diverse music and creating detailed compositions. Researchers are working to improve these aspects.

Q4. Are VTs replacing human composers?

A. No, they’re more like partners than replacements. Musicians and VTs can work together to create beautiful music, combining human creativity with AI innovation.

Q5. How can I train a Variational Transformer?

There are a number of different ways to train a VT. One common approach is to use a variational inference algorithm. This approach involves optimizing the parameters of the VT to maximize the likelihood of the training data and minimize the divergence between the latent distribution and a prior distribution.

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Hari Bhutanadhu 27 Oct, 2023

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