MERT: Acoustic Music Understanding Model with Large-Scale Self-supervised Training


Self-supervised learning (SSL) has recently emerged as a promising paradigm for training generalisable models on large-scale data in the fields of vision, text, and speech. Although SSL has been proven effective in speech and audio, its application to music audio has yet to be thoroughly explored. This is primarily due to the distinctive challenges associated with modelling musical knowledge, particularly its tonal and pitched characteristics of music. To address this research gap, we propose an acoustic Music undERstanding model with large-scale self-supervised Training (MERT), which incorporates teacher models to provide pseudo labels in the masked language modelling (MLM) style acoustic pre-training. In our exploration, we identified a superior combination of teacher models, which outperforms conventional speech and audio approaches in terms of performance. This combination includes an acoustic teacher based on Residual Vector Quantization - Variational AutoEncoder (RVQ-VAE) and a musical teacher based on the Constant-Q Transform (CQT). These teachers effectively guide our student model, a BERT-style transformer encoder, to better model music audio. In addition, we introduce an in-batch noise mixture augmentation to enhance the representation robustness. Furthermore, we explore a wide range of settings to overcome the instability in acoustic language model pre-training, which allows our designed paradigm to scale from 95M to 330M parameters. Experimental results indicate that our model can generalise and perform well on 14 music understanding tasks and attains state-of-the-art (SOTA) overall scores.