“Cotton AI Joe”

Much has been said about ChatGPT’s ability to write songs. It’s a technical marvel, to be sure. But is it a threat to actual songwriters?

To bad songwriters, maybe.

Like any tool, it’s only as effective as the craftsman wielding it.

“The first draft is never good enough, and the art is in the edit.”

me, often

Trick being, at the time of this writing, ChatGPT lacks the self awareness to reject its own work.

ChatGPT writes mediocre songs, very quickly. Faster than any human.

That can’t be the goal, right?

Oddly enough… it is.

As a songwriter, you want to plow through those early drafts as quickly as possible.

…and it’s great for that.

What follows is a hobbyist demonstration. I’m not using my own songs, because copyright is important and AI brings ownership issues. But as a technical exercise… let’s dive into some process!

You probably remember “Cotton Eye Joe”, monster hit of the 1990s?

How could anyone forget?

This, of course, reworked a classic folk tune from a hundred years prior.

Not this recording, specifically.

I bring that up to demonstrate that, on top of my prior disclaimer, there’s nothing sacrilegious about reworking this song.

Are we good on that point?

Cool. ’cause it’s time to re-rework, it with the help of ChatGPT.

Note: ChatGPT read my last question above as rhetorical; it wasn’t.
I was actually curious what else they might come up with.

Thus concludes the cherry-picking part of our process. Now it’s time for a human to take over.

(It still needs another draft or two, but I don’t think more iterations through ChatGPT were going to get us there.)

That might look a little something like this:

It’s still not perfect, but I’d say it’s improved.

What’s our takeaway here?

  • ChatGPT can’t be trusted to write a whole song, but it can speed up a human songwriter, at the level of their own skill.
  • It can also write that second verse you’ve been stuck on.
  • …but I have to remind you, at the time of this writing, AI-generated work isn’t protected by copyright.
  • It’s a good exercise, regardless.

Let me know if you enjoyed this. It probably won’t be my last song rework on here.

“Cotton AI Joe”





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