Monday, August 21, 2017

Emulating Growl in Vocaloid 3

Hey, everyone!

Have you heard the growl function in Vocaloid 4 and would like to use it--but you only have Vocaloid 3? Well, you can kind of emulate that by using VST plugins! Using an overdrive or tube amp simulation plugin can give vocals a bit of grit and gruffness to emulate singers with throaty vocals, like Joan Jett or Courtney Love.

I like to use Bitcrusher, which comes with Presonus Studio One Artist. There are many free "Bitcrusher" VST plugins around, but they all are a little different and sound a little different, so don't be afraid to test them out if you want to use a Bitcrusher type plugin.

The key is to apply just a light touch just to give the vocals some edge. You'll also notice that it makes the singer sound like she is singing into a live mic on stage.

Using the VST plugin in a DAW rather than in the Vocaloid editor gives the advantage of being able to use automation to control where, when, and how much of the effect to apply to the vocals.

Below is a video with an example of Gumi singing the opening verse from Hole's Celebrity Skin. What do you think? Do you think the growl function in Vocaloid 4 sounds better?



Monday, July 31, 2017

Vocaloid Song: Asian Parent Stories Part 1: Sellout!

Wow, it's been nearly a year since the last post. I can't believe so much time has gone by so fast.

It was last summer that Megumi decided to take up gardening. Just like that, she dropped playing the guitar. I looked at Yasuko and asked, "Is she kidding?" Yasuko reassured me that this was just a phase and that Megumi would pick up the guitar again very soon.

A couple of weeks went by, and after that, it turned into months. I pleaded with Yasuko to talk to Megumi, but she insisted that there was nothing she could do. "I can't force her to play the guitar!" she said.

That left me and Yasuko with not much to do. A drummer and a bass player without a guitar player...Oh, Yasuko can play some guitar and I can play some keyboard, and we tried tinkering around with writing, but without Megumi, we couldn't really put together anything. After a while, I was pretty much resigned to the idea that The 3Represents was over.

One day, I was watching YouTube videos when Megumi stopped by to visit Yasuko. She saw me laughing at my computer screen. "What's so funny?" she asked. I was watching that rather infamous video of Courtney Love and Hole performing Celebrity Skin. You know--the one with her isolated vocals and guitar.

I played the video for Megumi and she didn't have quite the reaction I expected. She didn't find it funny at all. Instead, she was absolutely transfixed by it. "She's so powerful!" she said. Then she told me to play other videos with Hole performing. After that, she got her mojo back.

When Megumi started writing again, she wanted to play around with different sounding chords. For this song, in the verse, she uses:


And then in the chorus, she moves up two frets to the 7th fret:


I don't even know if those are the proper names for those chord voicings. I just punched them into a chord naming I found on the Internet. Yasuko came up with most of the lyrics which was inspired from her perusal of the subreddit /r/asianparentstories. She has a lot more ideas from that so she and Megumi are working on new songs.

This song is also a lot faster than what Megumi normally writes at, clocking in at 142 BPM.

So, here's our new song Asian Parent Stories Part 1: Sellout!





Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Vocaloid Quick Tip: Creating Harmonies Using a VST Pitch Shift Plugin

Hey, everybody! I've got a quick tip for you today for creating harmonies in Vocaloid. For maximum control, you should manually create your harmonies as I've gone over in an earlier post and video. This way, you can make adjustments to the individual notes (pitch, length of note, volume, note choice) to make it seem like another singer is singing the harmony rather than it being just a duplicate of the melody track.

However, what if you wanted to make multiple harmony parts and you don't want to do each of them manually, or perhaps you just want to whip up a harmony real quick?

Well, there's a quick and easy way to do this, and this is to use a VST pitch shifting plugin. The one that I like to use is by Aegean Music and it is called PitchProof. It's totally free! Just make sure you download the correct version as it comes in both 32 bit and 64 bit versions. For Vocaloid 3, you need the 32 bit version. I'm not sure about Vocaloid 4, but I believe that is still 32 bits.

For more control, I recommend that you duplicate your track in Vocaloid so that you can have one track that is devoted to the harmony part. In other words, keep the melody track and harmony tracks separate. What you'll need to do for that is to set the blend to 100% wet for the harmony track. That way, it's just the harmony part on that track.

If you do it this way, you can adjust the panning and volume for each track to your liking. You can also then apply different effects to each track.

Check out the video for a demonstration! Hopes this helps, and keep on rocking!


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Yasuko Reminisces #3: Saving Private Ryan's Donuts (on Omaha Beach)

Ever since Satoshi saw Harry Potter, he's been obsessed with John Williams's musical works. He started a campaign to watch everything that John Williams has ever scored. Of course, this included his well known scores for Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Superman, but also his really old stuff like Fitzwilly.

It wasn't too long after that that he began collecting all of John Williams's works, including his television works such as the theme from Lost in Space. If we were in the car together, he would drive me nuts by rolling down the windows and cranking out the soundtrack from The Cowboys or some other movie.

He continued his obsession when we moved to Japan, and it wasn't too long before Megumi became annoyed by having to constantly listen to the music from Jaws or something. If she asked Satoshi if he could listen to it using headphones, he'd launch into this big speech about how she should expand her musical horizons and that it was good for her "to learn something." It was his way of teasing her.

Megumi, of course, was never one to back down, and she figured if he was going to mess with her, she was going to mess with him twice as hard.

Well, Megumi started to sing along anytime Satoshi played anything from John Williams. And I don't mean songs from the Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack or anything, but just any piece of music--Megumi would just start making up words to it. Have you ever seen that old Saturday Night Live skit with Bill Murray as Nick the Lounge Singer singing along to the Star Wars theme? It was like that--only worse, because she wasn't trying to be goofy or funny, but she was being ultra serious about it!

Satoshi just laughed it off at first, but Megumi wouldn't stop. Even when Satoshi gave up and stopped playing the soundtracks out loud, Megumi would continue to break out in song at any given time or place when we were all together, and the song that irritated Satoshi the most was when Megumi would sing to the Omaha Beach music from Saving Private RyanSaving Private Ryan is Satoshi's all time favorite work of John Williams. He regards it with such reverence.

Megumi would tell him that these were the long lost lyrics that John Williams actually wrote for it. She would just sing it over and over and over again. Poor Satoshi! He should have never tried to mess with her! She even went so far as to record her song, and if we out in public and Satoshi was talking to someone or asking a question at a store or something, she would hang back a little ways out of sight and start playing it on her phone.

I can't remember when she stopped doing it, but it took a long, long time. I'll say one thing about Megumi for sure, it's not over until she says it's over.

I know it really annoyed Satoshi after a while, but a while back during a family holiday get together, I happened to catch Satoshi listening to that song on his phone. I didn't realize he kept a copy of it. I didn't let him know I saw him listening to it. I figure that's between him and Megumi.

Saving Private Ryan's Donuts (on Omaha Beach)
Lyrics by Megumi Matsumae
Music by John Williams (our apologies to Mr. Williams)

I love donuts
I could eat them all day
I ate a dozen today
They're so light and fluffy
Who could resist
those treats?


Friday, July 15, 2016

Sleep - July's Track!

Hey everybody! For this month's track, we did a short little number--I guess you could call it a lullabye!

I've been trying to work on my keyboard skills at Megumi's insistence, and I was fooling around with an arpeggio based on the E7 major chord. Now, on the guitar for this chord, if you play the F# on the high E string, it doesn't sound like such a big deal to me. But, if you play the F# on the D string (fourth fret), it becomes magic! In fact, this particular F# seems to make magic with a lot of chords. Add it to a G major chord to make it a G major 13th chord and see for yourself (I guess in this case you really should call it a Gb).

So I'm playing this arpeggio, and Megumi hears me and starts humming this melody, but the problem is, it just doesn't fit. Because the arpeggio I came up with has 13 notes, so it's in 13/4 time, which is not common at all. It actually sounds good by itself, but Megumi just couldn't sing along to it.

I ended up adjusting it by add a few more notes so that it became 16/4, which is in essence 4/4 time.



Sleep by Megumi Matsumae

Sleep now
don't you cry
I'll be here
by your side

Dream now
peaceful sleep
when you wake
you'll be at ease

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Vocaloid Song: Making Takonashiyaki With Toyosaki Aki

Hey everybody, Satoshi Sato here with the Vocaloid song for the month of June! It's called Making Takonashiyaki with Toyosaki Aki.

The idea for the song came about because K-On! is Megumi's favorite anime, and in one of the episodes, Nodoka recalls a school assignment when they were in primary school. Yui was tasked to bring octopus because they were going to make takoyaki. But Yui being Yui, she completely forgot. So they ended up making "non-octopus balls," or takonashiyaki.

Check out our YouTube Video!



We have now made the full commitment to Presonus Studio One Artist as our DAW. I tried out their free version, Studio One Prime, and I liked it so much, I convinced Megumi and Yasuko that we should switch from Cakewalk Sonar to Studio One. Megumi didn't care one way or the other, but Yasuko and I have recorded with Cakewalk ever since we picked up our instruments, so it took a little bit of convincing since she felt really invested in Sonar.

Oh, here's a little something extra you can play around with...here are the backing tracks to the song.


To make sure you download the files, just right click on the link and select Save As...(if it's just displaying in your browser).

I wanted to provide the base tracks so you can play around with it, especially if you are just beginning to learn how to create songs in Vocaloid. You can see how I like to tune the Vocaloid file. Note that the tempo (BPM) is 126. You'll need to make sure you set that in your DAW.

You can use this to practice mixing tracks together. Sometimes it's helpful to step away from your own work and work with other people's stuff. Your thinking on how to do things--believe me, it changes when you aren't working with your own stuff. That's why collaborations are a good way to break out of a music rut. Experiment with different effects! Add your own additional tracks! Or, how about this? Try writing a completely different melody/lyrics to the music! It's in the key of C major.

Of course, if you don't have DAW software, I recommend you download the free Presonus Studio One Prime (www.presonus.com). And the backing tracks are mp3 files, so you will need to convert them to wav files. I posted mp3s just because they're a smaller file size. There are many freeware programs out there you can use to convert the mp3 to wav (such as Audacity).

One last thing--the breaks end in 6/4 measures. You will see this in the vsqx file, but you'll have to manually adjust the specific measures yourself in your DAW.

Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have! Keep rocking!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Vocaloid Quick Tip: Lengthening Vowel Sounds in Short Words

Hey everyone, Satoshi here with a quick tip! Have you noticed that words less than a quarter note in length that end in a hard consonant such as D or T will abruptly end the vowel sound sooner than you want it to?

There are a couple of ways to get around that problem. One, you can make sure that the next word is immediately connected to the first word-- with no gap at all. That helps the Vocaloid continue the two sounds. However, there are many cases where you want a slight pause between the two words.

For a word such as and, this is a problem. I keep telling Megumi not to cut off the note, but she just shrugs her shoulders at me and says, "That's the way I am!"

Even if it is longer than a quarter note, if it is standing by itself, the vowel sound is abruptly shortened. And again, in many cases, you want there to be a slight pause before the next word.

So what to do? Break the word into two pieces. Normally, you would enter and as one word, and it will have this phoneme:

{ n d

But, if you break the word into two parts with the first part just being the a vowel sound:

{

followed by

- { n d

In the second part, you can see the word AND is
broken into two separate parts and joined together
you will have a smooth vowel sound for the entire length of the word, even if it is shorter than a quarter note. Don't forget the hyphen in front to tell Vocaloid that you are connecting the two vowel sounds.

Here is what it sounds like. The first part is just the single word and. The second part is the word broken into two pieces, but joined together. Both are the same length. Both have the same gap space before the next word I. Can you hear the difference?

Hope this tip helps. Keep rocking!