Soundraw Review From a Video Editor’s Perspective
Review written by Wilson IP
There seems to have been a lot of confusion about what Soundraw provides, so I want to start by addressing that first:
Soundraw is a royalty free music library with an AI twist, and its licensing terms are completely consistent with other such libraries.
If you were disappointed with its licensing terms because you cannot use it to generate music as your own, you probably misunderstood it as an AI band-in-a-box type of deal, which it isn’t.
Soundraw is a royalty free music library that allows you to customize music using AI.
As a music library, Soundraw has a lot to offer to video content creators. My initial thoughts were very positive, but after digging deeper, some issues did surface.
Get The Right Music Fast
Soundraw makes finding the right piece of music for your project very fast.
You specify the type of music you want, the general length, and even the instruments you want to include, and it spits out a list of music according to your specifications!
That sounds very cool doesn’t it?
But in practice it isn’t too different from searching/filtering music on a usual royalty free music library. The difference here is that the music you get is seemingly unique.
And you can make music choices a lot faster because you know you have the ability to adjust the music later.
I am a musician who doesn’t know sh** about music!
Which brings me to the other cool part of this tool: the ability to deeply customize the music.
If having an AI generated piece isn’t enough for you, you can make further adjustments manually.
Adjust the length of the music, change the tempo, alter the emphasis of each instrument, select variations of instruments. This is bonkers. You can tinker until you get something you are happy with.
This is also useful if you need to create moments within the music (dramatic pauses for example) to fit your video project.
Normally, I edit video to fit the music; Soundraw flips this process around, so it does take some getting used to.
The added freedom CAN slow me down if I indulge too much in customization. There is so much you can do with it, you might find yourself playing around with it much longer than you should. At least I did.
Eventually I woke up from the dream and realized I am a videographer, not a musician. While Soundraw lets me roleplay as one, some real musical knowledge is required to make the most of the tool.
For example I naively thought I could just specify a certain length (like 38 seconds) and have the AI give me music of that length exactly.
The choices it gives are quite rigid. In retrospect that makes sense; adjusting the length adds another bar to the piece, and the length of 1 bar is going to depend on the BPM (beats per minute). It can’t be of just any length I want. Duh!
But since this is AI generated, I don’t see why I can’t just specify a length and let the AI figure out the proper BPM for me and give me exactly what I wanted to begin with. I hope this gets implemented someday.
Other stuff like changing the key, using variations of each instrument, are completely over my head. For music savvy people, they are going to have a lot more fun with this than I can.
I used an example above about adding “dramatic pauses”, but the reality is I don’t really know how to use instruments to create that effect myself! And what if I want to make a whimsical pause instead? Is there even a difference? I don’t know a thing about music!
And that’s without getting into clicking on the bars to alter the music. That’s another can of worms.
Where’s the Instruction manual?
Soundraw needs a better guide mode. It needs an instruction manual.
The current guide mode tells you very little about how everything works. All it does is a brief tour to show you where the buttons are. Not exactly helpful.
By playing around I found out that left clicking a bar cycles through 3 modes: light blue is On, grey is Off. But what the hell is dark blue? It sounds different but what the hell does it do? Don’t know.
If you right click on a bar, it adds a fade out to the bar. Cool. But how do I add a fade in? CAN I add a fade in? Don’t know.
Why are the fills 2 triangles instead of a bar? You can’t right click, but left clicking on the triangle cycles through 4 colors (modes)? What are they and how do I use them? Don’t know!
Come to think of it, how do the “Video Themes” choices differ from each other anyway? What’s the difference between a Vlog and a Talk BGM? Don’t know!
Do I just lack the musical knowledge to understand these features or is an instruction manual something we need? Don’t know! But I think it is the latter.
Bugs In Soundraw
We’re all brave until we realize the cockroach has wings!
I noticed some small bugs like missing graphics.
Tried this on 2 computers and got the same missing block. I didn’t know what that missing slot was until I tried the Premiere plugin, and it turns out that’s “CM”. Cool. But I still don’t know how the theme selection affects the output.
The updates tell me new sounds have been added to “Trap” but I have no idea WTF is Trap? It doesn’t appear in Genre, or Mood, Theme, Tempo or Instrument.
The updates also mentioned Tropical Samba and Tokyo Night Pop.
But as you can see, neither of those are listed anywhere as well. Either there are some bugs, or things are very well organized.
Soundraw and the Adobe Premiere Plugin
Soundraw has plugins for Premiere Pro and After Effects.
I only tried the Premiere plugin, and it is basically a shrunk down version of the webapp, everything works the same way. Except you can set an in-point on the Premiere timeline, and preview the music with the video playing, so you see how the music matches your project.
This playback feature is obviously great to have.
In practice though, they still have some kinks to work out.
I discovered that I could only play the music from start to finish.
I cannot, for example, start from the middle of the clip to see what it sounds like at that point in the timeline. It has to start from the beginning, which is very inconvenient.
I could be wrong, but all it seems to be doing right now is just pressing play on the music and the timeline at the same time. I think a deeper integration is needed for this plugin to truly be useful.
Also keep in mind, Premiere is slow as hell.
In my demo timeline I had only 1 proxy clip for an interview footage.
I didn’t have many layers or different footage on the timeline, so playback worked fine without any hiccups.
If you worked with Premiere before you know it will slow down and skip frames when you have a heavier timeline.
Be lazy and stick some mp4 files on the timeline and you might even get a slideshow. The current plugin solution is likely not ideal for a more complex setup.
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Use Case
I don’t like dealing with music licensing so I love music library LTDs. This is no different.
And for the price, this to me is a no-brainer.
Sure, I found a lot of rough edges. I found bugs that confused me. I couldn’t find the instruction manual. But all of that is predicated on my desire to customize the music…
So for a moment let us pretend Soundraw cannot do any of the above.
Let’s pretend those features were never included in the first place. Stripped down to its core, Soundraw is still a music library that generates seemingly unique pieces of music based on my specifications.
It works. And it is unique in what it does. This is what makes it such a cool tool.
For the price of admission, this should not be missed. I love what it does (and what it promises to do), warts and all.
With Soundraw, I can upsell video clients by offering them a unique background music according to their brand’s needs.
Even if they don’t get to keep or own the music, their video will benefit from a consistent piece of theme music (and variations of it) that is uniquely theirs, as long as they continue to make their videos with my service!
The only other way would be to hire a musician, and that is just not financially feasible for small businesses. Soundraw made this sort of personal touch a possibility.
Suggestion: The Jingle Function
Back to the Future
I am looking forward to the Jingle function.
I call them stingers but they are basically short 3-5 second music snippets. These work great for brief intros and transitions. In broadcast TV, we use them to transition from program to commercial breaks and vice versa.
I do want to suggest to their roadmap a way to “Jingle-ize” a piece of music.
As it is right now, the Jingle theme seems to be its own section. But what if I already made a piece of music I am using for a TV program as an intro theme and a BGM?
Now I want to use the same composition for the Jingle.
It doesn’t seem like we can do that with their current set up. And we absolutely need it. The jingle and the theme should match.
Soundraw Needs A Better UX
I’d also like to see a better UX in addition to better instructions and documentation.
Great tool, useful and fun, with a lot of potential.
Let’s hope they continue to make it better.
4 stars out of 5.
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