Thursday, May 19, 2016

Yasuko Reminisces #2: Band Practice!

During our time in Tokyo, Satoshi and I spent many evenings with Megumi for band practice--although when I say practice, I say that in the loosest of terms. It really was a cliché out of an anime where all we did was hang out, talk, and eat snacks. The number of times when we actually took our instruments out of their cases...

I didn't mind. Being in a band was just a fun diversion. Our year in Japan after we graduated was an accord with our parents to reconnect with our Japanese heritage, but Satoshi and I--well, we just wanted to chill out for a year before entering the real world, along with all of its adult responsibilities.

Most of the time we would hang out at our apartment for practice. When we actually did break out our instruments, we would never plug them in of course, and Satoshi just banged his sticks on a couple of books. When we were actually serious about practicing--usually once a month or so, we'd rent a practice room. Our favorite place was Yawetag Studio in Shibuya. It was pretty cheap--you could rent it for about 2000 yen for a couple of hours.

It was during one of those sessions when Megumi issued one of her many band directives.

"You need to play the piano!" she declared upon arrival.

I was just finishing up restringing my bass. I looked over at Satoshi, and we both had an expression on our faces that basically said, "Is she talking to you?"

"We need to expand our sound!" said Megumi. "I don't care which one of you plays."

Again, Satoshi and I looked at each other when Satoshi blurted out, "I'll do it!"

"How long do you think it will take for you to learn?" asked Megumi.

Satoshi kind of just shrugged his shoulders. "Well, I don't know. I mean, I have that 32 key midi controller that I use to mess around with sounds, but I never actually played the thing. How long could it take?" He looked at me as if I had the answer. I didn't.

"Two weeks," said Megumi. "I want you to be able play something in two weeks!"

"Uh, Megumi," I said, "is there a reason for this?"

Megumi broke out in a huge smile. "We have a paid job!"

Satoshi's face turned ashen. It suddenly hit him that somebody was expecting him to be able to play the piano and he didn't know how to play.

"What's wrong?" said Megumi, looking at both of us. "Isn't this great?"

As it turned out, Megumi's mother had a friend who did photography as a side business, and now her friend wanted to pursue it more seriously, so he wanted to create a website and a promotional video--and he needed some theme music. And of course, Megumi's mother enlisted Megumi, and Megumi in turn enlisted us.

For the next two weeks, we met every night, bouncing musical ideas off of each other. And Satoshi did manage to learn (kind of) how to play rudimentary piano in that time--just banging out chords. I can't even remember what we came up with, but it wasn't very good. Megumi's mother's friend seem to be pleased with it though, although it's hard to tell if he was just being polite. In any case, I do remember us getting the 5000 yen for it! We celebrated by going out for yakitori!

I remember Megumi was so happy. I think she knew that her being able to make a living by playing in a band would be a rough path--but this, composing music--it was a viable path out of manning that newspaper kiosk for the rest of her life. That yakitori we had that night was the best we ever had.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Vocaloid Quick Tip: Don't Accept The Default Phoneme If You Don't Like It!

I've mentioned before that, although Megumi is a native Japanese speaker, her English is pretty good. But, there are several cases where her pronunciation just sounds off.

Remember, don't just accept the default phoneme if it doesn't sound right to you. Take for example the word world. To my ears, it sounds like Gumi is singing word, not world.

The default phoneme for world is:

{w @r l d}

Looking at it, it should be okay. The @r sound is like maker. You would think that this would work, but to me, it sounds too much like word. The d sound at the end is not strong enough. It doesn't sound like it ever closes out.

I've played around with it--separating world into two phonemes:

{w @r l} and then tacking on {dh V} at the end for a pronounce duh sound. But I can't get it to be smooth and seamless.

So I then played around with different vowel sounds:

{w U@ l d} as in poor

{w O@ l d} as in pour

{w O: r l d} as in taught

{w U r l d} as in put

You can here an example of these sounds with Gumi singing My World, beginning with the default phoneme of world.

What do you think sounds the best? Do you think the default sounds the best? None of them sounds perfect to me, but I think {w U@ l d} sounds the closest to how I think the word should be pronounced.

Since I will be using this phoneme is the future, I went to the toolbar, Lyrics | User Word Dictionary | English, and created my own dictionary and added the word world to it with my new custom phoneme. That way, whenever I type in the word world, my new phoneme will be used instead of the default phoneme.

Do you think other words don't work well with the default phoneme? Don't hesitate to make your own and add it to your custom dictionary!

Hope this helps! Keep rocking!