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Videogames: Virtual Music Notes

Since Neanderthal man realized that the beat of his club against the skull of his enemies and potential mates not only sounded dope but also got him laid (note: This may still work today but we don’t advise it. Jail sucks.), humans have constantly been on the lookout for new ways to move asses.

Mammoth-bone cudgels have since given way to expensive programs like ProTools and Logic, changing the face of music production and making the act of creating an entire hit record on a laptop commonplace. But up-and-coming musicians who can’t afford pricey software or a home-studio setup have, in recent years, been able to find inspiration from an unsuspecting source: videogames.

Prominent artists from grime and dancehall such as Lady Sovereign, South Rakkas Crew, Skepta, and Plastician perfected their chops on affordable software like Fruity Loops for the PC and Music 2000 (a.k.a. Music Generator in the US), which became available during the tail end of the original PlayStation’s lifecycle in 1999. Giving anyone with an average PC setup or PlayStation (of which there were over a hundred million of us) the opportunity to create and record beats without fancy equipment, this software offered guys like Dizzee Rascal (who recorded his first single “I Luv U” at home in under 30 minutes and went on to win the UK’s coveted Mercury Prize in 2003) to hone their craft. Even now, many producers and MCs still swear by these programs as invaluable tools for laying down ideas despite updated programs for newer systems and portable versions that later became available.

Portability, and the idea of being able to carry around a virtual musical notepad, seems to be what many are looking towards, if new titles for Sony’s PSP, Nintendo’s DS, and even T-Mobile’s SideKick are any indication.

Traxxpad (Eidos), developed for the PlayStation Portable with the help of hyphy production icon Traxxamillion, is already earning support from MCs like Lyrics Born as a virtual pocket studio featuring a full range of over 1000 sounds that can be sequenced, along with a drum machine and keyboard emulators to create patterns and samples in real time.

Similarly, New York-based Larva Labs offers several T-Mobile SideKick applications for producers on the go, including MIDI synths, a full array of drum-kit sounds, and even virtual turntables allowing you to cut and mix MP3s from your phone, which can then be recorded and sent to your whole crew.

Even traditional analog-guitar sounds are seeing love in the form of Jam Sessions (Ubisoft) for the super-popular Nintendo DS. The title not only offers what equates to free guitar lessons but also gives would-be troubadours the chance to create, record, and play back chord-perfect hits while hitting the road.

With even more music-creation titles on the way, like Rockstar’s upcoming Beaterator (being co-produced with Timbaland–but what isn’t?) and the continued success of rhythm-based games like Guitar Hero, could a hit record that began as a Red Bull-and-Doritos-fueled Halo marathon be far behind?

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