MTV Music Generator 3 (PS2/Xbox)

MTV Music Generator 3
PS2/Xbox (2004)

There’s a weird genre out there for home consoles, programs that aren’t really games but actually programs that stretch the limits of what videogame consoles were originally designed to do. One such franchise is MTV’s Music Generator series, the latest of which (Version 3) is available for both the Xbox and PlayStation 2.

MTV’s Music Generator series debuted on the original PlayStation back in 1999, and suffered due to the console’s hardware limitations. Without much memory or storage space to work with, the original was more frustrating than fun. Version 2 (released in 2001 for the PS2) added tons of new samples and tools, but the program was too complex, convoluted and cumbersome to win gamers over. MTV Music Generator 3 is by far the best of the series – now that the novelty is over, developer Mix Max and publisher Codemasters have dumped all the fluff and created an honest-to-goodness music sequencer for current generation console owners. The interface is slick enough to have you rockin’ the block in no time.

MTV Music Generator is a sequencer, a program that allows you to create music by putting samples (digitized recordings of sounds) in order (or, sequence). Sequencers have multiple tracks, with each track able to hold one sample. These tracks are then all played at the same time. MTV Music Generator 3 supports 24 simultaneous tracks that appear in a large, easy-to-maneuver grid. The speed at which the song plays (known as Beats Per Minute, or BPM) is adjustable. To build your song, all you need to do is place a sample in a track and then click on the small boxes when you want your sample to play. These tracks are built one at a time and can then be played back, copied, stacked and looped.

Out of the box budding musicians get ten songs to remix and/or deconstruct. This is a good way to jump in and learn the basics of the program’s interface, however the sample choices here are limited and it’s pretty tough to actually make a bad-sounding song since all the samples are pre-snipped to the correct length. Plus, in remix mode you are limited to four channels. The true power of the program isn’t revealed until you dump the remixes and start creating your own tunes from scratch in studio mode.

MTV Music Generator 3 has literally thousand and thousands of samples to choose from already built into the program. Who knew there were a hundred different types of snare drums? If you want to tweak your sounds, there are several different effects such as delay, echo and reverb that can be added to each track as well. And if you still can’t find the perfect sound, you can sample in your own (up to 8 seconds in length). The Xbox version supports creating samples from any music already ripped and stored on your Xbox hard drive. The PS2 version allows you to record music samples directly from audio CDs. This obviously opens up an infinite world of samples to little song maestros, the only limit being one’s imagination.

Unfortunately, the program’s output options aren’t nearly as robust. All your creations have to be played back using the program itself; there’s no “export” feature to dump your creations to MP3 and no way to share them online with others. To get your audio creations pumping in your car, you’ll either have to hook your console’s audio cables up to your computer and record it that way, or simply seatbelt your console into the front seat of your ride and wire the whole thing into your bucket’s stereo. Pimp my ride, indeed. The program includes a visualization mode (think Windows Media Player) that will show cool visuals while blasting your beats at your next house party, although the words “cool” and “playing music you made on your Xbox at a party” should never be used in the same sentence.

It would be easy to dismiss a program like this by simply saying, “it’s not as robust as computer-based sequencers,” and that’s true. Programs like Fruity Loops and Sonic Foundry’s Acid do offer more features, but they also come with a higher price tag and a steeper learning curve. MTV’s Music Generator 3 gives fledgling beat makers a place to strut their stuff with its simple interface, huge sample library and sampling ability. Serious musicians may eventually outgrow the program’s limitations and be frustrated by having to constantly switch cables to record their creations to MP3/CD, but the program’s ability to allow users to create completely original music will give amateur composers hours of fun jamming time.

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