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Your Computer As Your Singing Coach

timothy posted about 6 years ago | from the but-my-computer-already-is-my-singing-coach dept.

Music 127

Roland Piquepaille writes "Israeli researchers have developed an electronic ear to coach vibrato technique. Until now, the quality of a vibrato — the pulsating change of pitch in a singer's voice — could only be judged by voice experts. Now, a Tel Aviv University research team 'has successfully managed to train a computer to rate vibrato quality, and has created an application based on biofeedback to help singers improve their technique.' Interestingly, this research could be used for other applications, such as improving automated help centers, where computers could be trained 'to recognize a range of different emotions, such as anger and nervousness.'"

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127 comments

yep (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24072483)

suck a dick and die

Re:yep (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24072539)

If you die from doing that, then why aren't you dead already, wanker? You do it all the time -- at least that's what your mom said to me last night!

Re:yep (1)

volpe (58112) | about 6 years ago | (#24074589)

If you die from doing that, then why aren't you dead already, wanker? You do it all the time -- at least that's what your mom said to me last night!

You forgot to say, "..., Trebek!"

Re:yep (1)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | about 6 years ago | (#24072619)

I what you'll be saying to talk to an agent faster, once they implement this on phone support lines.

Re:yep (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24073453)

>I what you'll be saying

This makes no sense.

Yet another high UID idiot on Slashdot.

remember the Red Violin? (1)

CDMA_Demo (841347) | about 6 years ago | (#24072507)

Other related references come to mind. AI being used to predict hit numbers, maybe this: http://www.freepatentsonline.com/3432617.html [freepatentsonline.com] and Wreck-A-Nice-Beach too....why is this story different?

Roland Piquepaille stories == Want money stories (0, Offtopic)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | about 6 years ago | (#24072955)

"... why is this story different?" Maybe it's not different.

Why is it that Roland Piquepaille stories always seem to include some place [convio.net] to send money? In this case the place is called the "American Friends of Tel Aviv University". Why only Americans? Why not Europeans, too, or anyone who has money?

Quote: "Your gift may help develop the computer science and engineering solutions that are the backbone of Israel's defense technology." As in 4 million Jews in Israel getting into gun battles with 1.3 billion Muslims?

If I think of ways that Jews can be peaceful, doesn't that make me more Jewish than those who think of ways to be violent? If I help Jews live in peace in the world, aren't I morally more a member of the Jewish tribe than those who think of ways for Jews to be adversarial? Even though I have no genetic, political, or religious connection to the Jewish culture, don't my caring ideas make me more truly Jewish than those who call themselves Jews, but whose minds are filled with violence?

Re:Roland Piquepaille stories == Want money storie (1)

Dog-Cow (21281) | about 6 years ago | (#24075447)

If I think of ways that Jews can be peaceful, doesn't that make me more Jewish than those who think of ways to be violent? If I help Jews live in peace in the world, aren't I morally more a member of the Jewish tribe than those who think of ways for Jews to be adversarial? Even though I have no genetic, political, or religious connection to the Jewish culture, don't my caring ideas make me more truly Jewish than those who call themselves Jews, but whose minds are filled with violence?

The Jewish religion isn't some quack like Christianity. Other than converts, you are either born Jewish or you aren't. There's no "feeling Jewish" or any crap like that. You can't just wake up one day, throw yourself into a pond and say "I believe in God, therefore I am Jewish". We leave such crap to religions that have to gain membership through murder and torture.

Automated help centers? (4, Insightful)

DigitAl56K (805623) | about 6 years ago | (#24072515)

Interestingly, this research could be used for other applications, such as improving automated help centers, where computers could be trained 'to recognize a range of different emotions, such as anger and nervousness.

This task should be quite easy. Frustration and anger are the only two emotions I tend to experience when I get through to an automated help center. It would be a better investment of time to evaluate how long I spend interfacing with the system, how many times I have to re-navigate the menu hierarchy, how many times I have to call back and start over, how many actual people I end up being directed to, how many times I have to restate the same information and how long I spend talking to someone before I solve my problem, if I ever do. .. but I'm not bitter..

Re:Automated help centers? (1)

Shadyman (939863) | about 6 years ago | (#24072537)

Exactly. Keep in mind, all you have to do in many automated help centers is swear, and you'll usually get "Transferring your call to the complaints department"

Even easier (2, Insightful)

Serenissima (1210562) | about 6 years ago | (#24072551)

They could also just listen for:
"Goddamnit!"
"You piece of shit!"
or the always indicative "FUCK!"

Just by checking for those 3 phrases, they should be able to ID an angry caller with at least a 99% positive rate.

Re:Even easier (1)

omeomi (675045) | about 6 years ago | (#24072593)

Heck, if that's all I've said, the call is going rather well, comparatively.

Re:Even easier (1)

Ai Olor-Wile (997427) | about 6 years ago | (#24072909)

I heard a wildly apocryphal story once that claimed at least one IT company had developed a phone tree system that automatically directed you to a real person if you swore. You may be very much on to something!

Re:Even easier (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24074971)

I used that technique once on Charter cable's phone tree; eventually it worked but it took a few tries.

Re:Automated help centers? (1)

mazarin5 (309432) | about 6 years ago | (#24072693)

To prevent a hostile workplace, you'll be kept on hold until you calm down, or possibly in a menu system that keeps you busy and distracted so you forget whatever it was that was bothering you.

Re:Automated help centers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24073757)

you'll be kept on hold until you calm down, or possibly in a menu system that keeps you busy and distracted so you forget whatever it was that was bothering you.

That kind of thinking is exactly why we have callers being bothered by long menu systems and becoming upset because of very long hold times.

May I suggest just having a person answer the phone instead? Assuming all callers wants to speak to a human being (and we do) in the end anyway, you're not really saving work hours by putting people on hold.

Re:Automated help centers? (1)

mazarin5 (309432) | about 6 years ago | (#24074681)

That kind of thinking is exactly why we have callers being bothered by long menu systems and becoming upset because of very long hold times.

Maybe we should play some soothing pop music as well then? I also think that we should have a little message that occasionally encourages the customer and reminds them that they are important.

Am I too subtle?

Re:Automated help centers? (1)

stephanruby (542433) | about 6 years ago | (#24072697)

Can anyone recommend some good software for giving you feedback when singing? I saw a television program on one, and it seemed pretty good -- I just don't remember its name.

Re:Automated help centers? (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | about 6 years ago | (#24073131)

This task should be quite easy. Frustration and anger are the only two emotions I tend to experience when I get through to an automated help center. It would be a better investment of time to evaluate how long I spend interfacing with the system, how many times I have to re-navigate the menu hierarchy, how many times I have to call back and start over, how many actual people I end up being directed to, how many times I have to restate the same information and how long I spend talking to someone before I solve my problem, if I ever do. .. but I'm not bitter..

How frustrated with this voicemail system are you on a scale of 0 to 9, where 0 is not at all frustrated and 9 is very frustrated. I'm sorry you pressed the pound key to return to the previous level. The pound key only works for non mandatory poll questions but this poll question is mandatory for users of the complaints line. Please press a number. You pressed 9. Is this correct. Press pound if you are happy with this answer or star to move on to the next question. You pressed star. How frustrated with this voicemail system are you on a scale of 0 to 9, where 0 is not at all angry and 9 is very frustrated.

Re:Automated help centers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24073191)

wait, you mean that the people who design and staff call centers are interested in resolutions? I thought they were interested in keeping costs low...

Machine vs. Human (1, Informative)

Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) | about 6 years ago | (#24072523)

This is all well and good, but when it comes right down to it, how pleasant someone's singing voice is, is a completely subjective thing that can only really be properly judged by other human beings. I say this as someone who has had formal vocal training, has performed publicly -- and as someone who is heading out the door in a few minutes to go to karaoke. ;-)

Re:Machine vs. Human (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 6 years ago | (#24072595)

By and large yes, but it's also dependent upon a few other things.

The quality of the equipment and the amount of time a person has spent learning to listen. When I moved up to my Senns, I noticed a real difference, and those aren't really even high end.

Things like those annoying stray frequencies that some people's voices have are not apparent if you're not using decent equipment. The ability of a person to stay at the right pitch, keep tempo and use a major versus minor cord all have huge impact on the quality of the singing.

A person can have an incredibly gravelly voice and still be a popular singer. Louis Armstrong isn't somebody that most people would identify as a great singer, and probably rightfully so, but he did manage to communicate the emotions he was trying for when singing.

Re:Machine vs. Human (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24072765)

Are you claiming that you have to use Sennheisers to hear the difference between a major and a minor third?

Re:Machine vs. Human (1)

omeomi (675045) | about 6 years ago | (#24072615)

how pleasant someone's singing voice is, is a completely subjective thing that can only really be properly judged by other human beings.

They said nothing about the pleasantness of the singing voice. The system judges the quality of the vibrato. Though that seems like it would be fairly easy to assess. Just measure the consistency of frequency range and the consistency of each pulse, and generate a score.

Re:Machine vs. Human (1)

Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) | about 6 years ago | (#24072663)

They said nothing about the pleasantness of the singing voice. OK Mr. Literal. But what they're working towards being able to quantify with a machine, is someone's singing voice.

Re:Machine vs. Human (2, Informative)

omeomi (675045) | about 6 years ago | (#24072695)

OK Mr. Literal. But what they're working towards being able to quantify with a machine, is someone's singing voice.

I'm not sure that's necessarily true. The summary says they're using "biofeedback to help singers improve their technique". Based on that, it would seem they're more interested in it as an educational tool rather than a tool for critics. There are a number of other technologies to help musicians improve their technique, so it's not like this is the first. For instance, many wind musicians will practice playing long tones with a digital tuner to improve their overall intonation. There are also systems that schools use that track the notes that you've played, compare them with the notes you were supposed to have played, and tell you what you've done wrong.

Re:Machine vs. Human (1)

Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) | about 6 years ago | (#24072865)

Sure, I use a digital tuner to tune my guitars, too. But have you ever noticed that when a band or an orchestra is tuning up, they tune to each other, even after using their tuners? If you've got a piano, for instance, you all tune to the piano (because you can't tune a piano on the fly). I'll grant you that some piece of software might help singers learn the technical skills of their art, but when it comes right down to it, machines don't listen to and show appreciation for music, or in this specific case, vocal performance; people do. Maybe it'll be a different story in a hundred years, but frankly I hope not. Singing is an extremely human art form, and I for one would like to see it stay that way.

Re:Machine vs. Human (1)

omeomi (675045) | about 6 years ago | (#24074615)

Sure, I use a digital tuner to tune my guitars, too. But have you ever noticed that when a band or an orchestra is tuning up, they tune to each other, even after using their tuners?

I've played saxophone for 20 years, so yes, I know a bit about tuning. Tuning a guitar and tuning a wind instrument are two very different things. Once you've tuned your guitar, you basically forget about intonation until you need to tune it again. You're not constantly adjusting each note to the slight idiosyncrasies of your instrument. Even the best wind instruments will have some notes that are a bit sharp, and some notes that are a bit flat. Like I said, it's common for wind players to practice playing one long note at a time, all the way across the range of their instrument, while watching a tuner, until they can internalize the adjustments they have to make for each note. Tuning a guitar takes maybe a minute. What I'm talking about takes hours.

Re:Machine vs. Human (2, Interesting)

dodecalogue (1281666) | about 6 years ago | (#24073923)

I haven't RTFA (never do) but it would be interesting if the biofeedback somehow encouraged you in directions that you felt pleased with. That's the general kind of trajectory I think of when I think of "feedback", so it would make sense in that regards. I'm not sure how that would work, maybe encouraging you when you felt good about your results.

I just don't understand these singing competitions, their appraisals seem totally random. I've sang in a bunch of choirs and worked on the open vowels and proper articulation, but I prefer the Lou Reed/Leonard Cohen school of singing.

Re:Machine vs. Human (2, Informative)

OctavianMH (61823) | about 6 years ago | (#24072683)

how pleasant someone's singing voice is, is a completely subjective thing that can only really be properly judged by other human beings.

They said nothing about the pleasantness of the singing voice. The system judges the quality of the vibrato.

While I believe the above was referring to "quality" in a scientific sense rather than how "good" or "bad" it was, the whole hypothesis of one's "vibrato" having all that much to do with whether one is a good singer or not is hogwash. There are many uses of vibrato from virtually none (listen to a good singer perform Handel) to a ton (listen to a different good singer perform Wagner), where the amount of vibrato in a given style changes over the course of a phrase...etc.

In the end, all this algorithm can probably do is determine how well a singer can constrain their voice into a certain vibrating range, having much more to do with muscular control than technique.

Re:Machine vs. Human (1)

omeomi (675045) | about 6 years ago | (#24072703)

the whole hypothesis of one's "vibrato" having all that much to do with whether one is a good singer or not is hogwash. There are many uses of vibrato from virtually none (listen to a good singer perform Handel) to a ton (listen to a different good singer perform Wagner), where the amount of vibrato in a given style changes over the course of a phrase...etc.

Well, you're not really talking about quality there, you're talking about whether it exists at all, and how it's used. Assuming a vocalist is using vibrato, it is certainly possible to evaluate the quality of the vibrato. For instance, a good vibrato should bend the notes both up and down from a given pitch. If a singer is only bending down from the pitch, that could be considered bad vibrato.

Re:Machine vs. Human (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24072975)

I have to say, you're stepping into a high-expertise field armed with a perilous lack of technical knowledge.

There are already numerous types of acoustical analysis and biofeedback in use in many places for the training of elite vocalists - by that I mean high-level classical singers. These include spectography which can be used to examine tonal balance factors, legato, vowel differentiation and modification, and so on; the electro-glottal graph which is a device that measures vocal fold closure and displays the individual cycles which can be used to evaluate pressed vs. breathy phonation; a device which measures the relative expansion and contraction of the chest and abdomen during breathing and singing and graphs them.

Contrary to your assertion, vibrato is a very important pedagogical tool. Vibrato rates that are too rapid (above 7.5 cycles per second or so), too slow (below 4 cycles), or too wide all indicate specific types of technical deficiency.

Vibrato is an important element of vocal technique as well, because the achievement of consistently vibrant sound through the range, and through different vowels, is an important goal in the training of singers. Vibrato is generally not related to muscle control factors except largely to the extent that through muscle tension or 'holding' the presence of vibrato can be reduced or eliminated. This is called "straight toning."

A tool that can help to measure quantitative vibrato factors: rate, consistency, pitch excursion, changes in dynamic, etc., could be very helpful in the training of singers. These are all subject to acoustical analysis and there's no reason to think that this machine wouldn't be able to do it.

As a matter of style, for both historical reasons and modern aesthetic reasons, I believe Handel should be sung with a fully vibrant sound. The tenor for whom Handel wrote Messiah and many of his other works was a full dramatic tenor whose large voice bore little resemblance to the light, lyric tenors who generally perform that music today for reasons of "historical accuracy."

I also find it somewhat odd that Shakira is held up as a model for good vibrato. She has a bleating vibrato which varies not only in pitch but in dynamic as well, which in another singer would be considered a serious technical deficiency.

Re:Machine vs. Human (2, Funny)

atraintocry (1183485) | about 6 years ago | (#24073471)

I also find it somewhat odd that Shakira is held up as a model for good vibrato. She has a bleating vibrato which varies not only in pitch but in dynamic as well, which in another singer would be considered a serious technical deficiency.

It's not odd when you consider that most people can't tell when Auto-Tune has been used on a track.

Re:Machine vs. Human (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 6 years ago | (#24073989)

I also find it somewhat odd that Shakira is held up as a model for good vibrato.

She IS? Who holds Shakira up as a "model for good vibrato"? I get seasick when I hear her voice.

Re: Machine vs. Human (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24075701)

You can use a heavy, loud tenor with sparring vibrato, too. Singing Handel with modern orchestras should include more vibrato (though, perhaps with less wide vibrato on some notes for taste). Singing Handel with smaller or period orchestra should include more narrow vibrato and less frequent vibrato.

Looking back, vocal vibrato became wider and more frequent as instruments became louder (and ensembles became larger). Handel certainly did not use the Heldentenors of Wagner, but he did use male adult singers. In performances from period to modern, the adult roles have seemed full while the "frail" voices were usually the females in pants roles (or contratenors) used to mimic the boys (and, in a few roles, castrati) that were used in original performances (in addition to the lower male roles).

Looking at another chain of evidence, one sees that vibrato may have been less common before the 1900's (around 1920 if one follows Norrington's chain of evidence--not something without controversy). Primarily, this chain of evidence supports the use of vibrato on selected notes instead of every note. This style is retained in, for example, modern brass playing (though not British-style brass band playing).

Re:Machine vs. Human (2, Funny)

192939495969798999 (58312) | about 6 years ago | (#24075887)

Yeah, but Shakira makes up in lack of singing talent with huge... tracts of land.

Re:Machine vs. Human (1)

sowth (748135) | about 6 years ago | (#24073017)

Isn't good muscular control part of good technique? Maybe such a computer program couldn't train someone in all aspects of singing, but I would imagine it could help them improve some aspects of their technique...

Re:Machine vs. Human (1)

Legion_SB (1300215) | about 6 years ago | (#24072735)

This is all well and good, but when it comes right down to it, how pleasant someone's singing voice is, is a completely subjective thing that can only really be properly judged by other human beings.

So who was asleep on the job when they were supposed to be judging Wing [wingtunes.com] ?

Re:Machine vs. Human (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 6 years ago | (#24073991)

So who was asleep on the job when they were supposed to be judging Wing [wingtunes.com]?

Don't you talk bad about Wing.

Re:Machine vs. Human (1)

religious freak (1005821) | about 6 years ago | (#24073167)

For top level performers, yes. But for those of us who may want to learn to sing while not making asses of ourselves in front of human beings (and paying money in the process), this should work quite nicely.

I'm looking forward to it.

Re:Machine vs. Human (1)

Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) | about 6 years ago | (#24073225)

If you can't deal with singing in front of a coach or teacher, then you're never going to sing in front of ANYONE -- and if that's the case, then you need to find another hobby. If you're singing just for yourself, you're really wasting your time.

Re:Machine vs. Human (1)

hazem (472289) | about 6 years ago | (#24073481)

If you're singing just for yourself, you're really wasting your time.

I have to disagree with that... at least for me. When I'm suffering from a bout of depression, I can often pick myself up by singing. It works better for me than many other things (even other musical things like playing piano). I put on one of my favorite Jazz musicians (Kurt Elling) and sing along where I can (he has quite a range). 20 minutes of that does wonders for my mood.

A few of my close friends have heard me sing and say I have a nice voice, but I don't particularly like sing in front of other people. But singing for myself does make me feel better. So, it's not entirely a waste of time.

Maybe it's not the singing but just the increased oxygen from breathing more deeply. Maybe I'll try reading the dictionary loudly next time I'm feeling the need for a pick-me-up.

Re:Machine vs. Human (1)

Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) | about 6 years ago | (#24074511)

*shrug* OK, I'm with you on that; if you feel better for doing it, then I'm all for it. It's not like I make a living at it, I do it entirely for my own enjoyment. More power to you.

Re:Machine vs. Human (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 6 years ago | (#24074007)

If you can't deal with singing in front of a coach or teacher, then you're never going to sing in front of ANYONE -- and if that's the case, then you need to find another hobby. If you're singing just for yourself, you're really wasting your time.

You know, Duncan, up to now, you've been just on the border of being overbearing, pretentious and a horse's ass in this conversation.

Now you've just crossed over.

Re:Machine vs. Human (1)

jvkjvk (102057) | about 6 years ago | (#24074137)

If you can't deal with singing in front of a coach or teacher, then you're never going to sing in front of ANYONE -- and if that's the case, then you need to find another hobby. If you're singing just for yourself, you're really wasting your time.

Yeah, because obviously you should ultimately do your hobbies for other people's enjoyment or you're just wasting your time. Anyone spot a flaw in this line of reasoning? :)

Re:Machine vs. Human (1)

religious freak (1005821) | about 6 years ago | (#24076089)

Thanks for your opinion, but you're making a number of assumptions which are incorrect...

Re:Machine vs. Human (1)

dodecalogue (1281666) | about 6 years ago | (#24073911)

pheromonal synesthasia? sounds great!

Re:Machine vs. Human (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 6 years ago | (#24073971)

as someone who is heading out the door in a few minutes to go to karaoke

I wish you hadn't admitted that.

I was with you up to then.

Re:Machine vs. Human (1)

Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) | about 6 years ago | (#24074569)

I knew I was sticking my neck out by saying that, but I said it anyway. Not everybody is in a band, and outside of something like that, what do you do? Sing along with the radio? In the shower? Believe me, I have to endure quite a bit of bad at karaoke, but there are places where there are more good singers than bad, the sound system and mixing is decent, and the crowd and staff actually LIKE having it there -- and then it's not so bad.

Re:Machine vs. Human (1)

greyhueofdoubt (1159527) | about 6 years ago | (#24075909)

>>how pleasant someone's singing voice is, is a completely subjective thing

As someone who owns Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, and Neutral Milk Hotel albums, I can only agree.

Oh, and MC Chris.

-b

new? (2, Interesting)

JazzyMusicMan (1012801) | about 6 years ago | (#24072533)

How is this technology new? I remember hearing many many years ago that they had developed gadgets that you could attach to your phone that could more or less sense if a person was nervous or not and could even function as a lie detector. These devices were probably pretty primitive, and their claims of being able to be used to spot when someone was lying to you were probably a little over the top, however, this technology doesn't strike me as new.

Re:new? (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | about 6 years ago | (#24072609)

Indeed. It is old news.

Talking is as musical as singing. Listen to Stephen Hawking's robot voice or any other decent text-to-speech translator and note the syllables' changes in pitch.

Re:new? (1)

radicalskeptic (644346) | about 6 years ago | (#24072823)

Or listen to a tonal language, like Chinese. I remember seeing in an introduction to a Mandarin textbook the different tones plotted out on a treble staff.

Good (1)

eccenthink (1312043) | about 6 years ago | (#24072557)

So now instead of pressing zero until I get a real person I can just start yelling into the phone.

Re:Good (1)

st33med (1318589) | about 6 years ago | (#24072633)

Nah, you will just get their shelled, 'It's going to be OK, sir,' response. If you keep yelling, they will trace the call and get an ambulance to come and send you to a bedlam.

I would be happy to do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24072629)

I would be happy to judge a singer's vibrato technique for free, so long as she has never posted on Slashdot

cheaters! (2, Insightful)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | about 6 years ago | (#24072665)

I've said it once, I'll say it again...vibrato is just cheating when you can't sing the actual pitch. Seriously, just pick a note and sing it. What's so wrong about that?

Re:cheaters! (2, Interesting)

Tirno (923929) | about 6 years ago | (#24072743)

Well, as a cellist, I can say that vibrato definitely has pleasing effect on the ear, and allows for extra expressiveness (through varying types of vibrato, fast/slow, wide/narrow, etc.). And you can't fake intonation, vibrato or not. Of course, I'm no expert in vocal music, but I would think the idea is similar.

Re:cheaters! (1)

Danzigism (881294) | about 6 years ago | (#24074755)

you bring up a good point Tirno. vibrato is actually extremely important for people playing actual wind instruments as well.. interestingly enough, people without the vibrato sound like they haven't developed their skills yet and remind me of a junior high school band. so although I feel for singers vibrato is wonderful when used in proper moderation, control over such vibrato is a sign of their skill and practice.

Re:cheaters! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24072775)

Vibrato is not cheating. It is a technique used to make notes sound nicer by slightly modulating their frequency back and forth. This is independent of whether or not a person can play exactly the correct pitch. For example, if you have a musician friend (especially one who plays violin) you can try out this experiment: listen to a very high pitched note, played perfectly in tune (without vibrato), and then listen to that same note with vibrato. I guarantee you will see why people play notes with vibrato. You won't be able to tolerate the high note without vibrato, whereas the note with vibrato will very pleasing to your ears.

Re:cheaters! (2, Insightful)

st33med (1318589) | about 6 years ago | (#24072807)

Want bad vibrato and notes? Listen to any American Idol entry. Instant ear bleed. In a bad way.

Re:cheaters! (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | about 6 years ago | (#24072867)

Want something even worse? Try Jessica Simpson's version of "These Boots Were Made For Walking". Pure ear rape.

Re:cheaters! (2, Interesting)

mrbluze (1034940) | about 6 years ago | (#24072941)

Seriously, just pick a note and sing it. What's so wrong about that?

Many a good choir is ruined by people who sing vibrato. Once a singer learns it, their voice is rarely if ever 'natural' again and many great (usually early) choral works cannot be sung properly.

Re:cheaters! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24073037)

Many choir directors have a certain conception of good choral singing. This often includes straight toning (singing without vibrato), unnatural vowel modifications to reduce 'brightness', and a number of other things which are foreign to trained singers. More than anything else, these methods are designed to compensate for poor individual voices. If you listen to the early work of the Robert Shaw chorale, particularly his collaborations with Toscanini, it is clear that his choir consists of professional voices singing with a full and truly magnificent vibrant sound, and that the individual singers have vibrato. They also have full and balanced sounds unlike many choirs which by applying the aforementioned choral techniques have an imbalanced sound with insufficient higher-frequency harmonics (in the 2,800 - 4,500 Hz range).

Many choral directors and choristers in these sorts of choirs make the further mistake of believing that the singing technique that they are using for their choral singing is appropriate for good solo singing. Many young voices have been damaged by following through on this disastrous line of thinking.

I would also question your use of 'natural', as though this is the ideal. 'Naturally', most tenors for example cannot sing higher than about F#4 and the range between about C#4 and F#4 is marked by a 'shouty' quality that is wholly inconsistent with the rest of the voice. To sing the literature, which regularly goes above F#4, they generally have to resort to the 'unnatural' practice of training and proper vocal technique.

Re:cheaters! (1)

greyhueofdoubt (1159527) | about 6 years ago | (#24075973)

That's interesting. I was sort of under the impression that 'real' vibrato isn't caused by br-ea-th-in-g in a weird way but the interactions of harmonics in the singer's voice. I'm thinking of something like tuvan throat singing.

I've built audio contraptions that played a straight, unvarying tone in or out of phase with itself or a nearby frequency (each on its own speaker) that provided a passable imitation of vibrato.

Or are we talking about different things?

The only time my voice got vibrato is when the handles of a pair of rivet squeezers snapped shut on my right testicle.

-b

Not new... (1)

moose_hp (179683) | about 6 years ago | (#24072677)

where computers could be trained 'to recognize a range of different emotions, such as anger and nervousness

Nothing new to see here, we been doing this on software for call centers for managers to help agents if people in the other side of the line starts to get angry or something.

Dunno why this is labeled as "new".

So what? (1)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#24072751)

1. Gather a bunch of recordings of good and bad vibatos
2. Analyse their characteristics with a spectrograph to find what makes the good ones.
3. Make a simple program that analyses such characteristics using fairly basic techniques such as FM demodulation.
4. Wait for Roland to praise your work in his blog and cross your fingers that Slashdot will relay the 'news'.
5.
6. Profit?

No really, someone explain to me what's the big deal, that's something simple that could probably be done in analog electronics. Or is the 'OMG AWSM' part the fact that 'OMG it replaces human beings!!1'?

Truly impressive (4, Interesting)

javaman235 (461502) | about 6 years ago | (#24072859)

...every programmer should work with something like this at least once. I did some audio programming work in college, and its a totally different world than the regular web dev stuff I have done, because you're working with the convergence of acoustics and physics with programming. In true signal processing apps, what you are doing has to happen FAST as well, which makes the guys who work in it true wizards, and that's without even considering the subjective recognition stuff that these researchers had to do. Kudos to them.

Re:Truly impressive (2, Interesting)

jonaskoelker (922170) | about 6 years ago | (#24074475)

every programmer should work with something like this at least once

Agreed. My pet project of this sort is a wiimote hack, whereby you can play music with the wiimote. And no, it isn't just playing loops, it's indicating a tone with the angle of the wiimote (and nunchuck).

So, it's really simple, right?
- You steal the code that gives you the vertical angle of the wiimote from wmgui,
- quantize it to [-12, 12],
- raises the twelfth root of two to that power (or do a lookup into a temperament table),
- multiply it onto the base frequency (say, 441 Hz),
- generate a wave of that frequency,
- copy it to the sound card (or the wiimote speaker, if your library supports it).

Right.

+ Now add two more tones generated similarly; how do you mix them without sounding like shit?
+ Also, when making a wave, you want to start at the last seen elongation to avoid clicky noises.
+ When stopping a wave, you want to cheat and continue the wave with constant frequency until the elongation hits zero, again to avoid clicky noises.
+ And this is assuming that the transfer delay from the wiimote to your code (and from there to the sound card) is essentially zero. Now make some good use of the timestamp value on wiimote events; say, having a fixed small delay on everything.
+ Oh, and minimize battery usage please ;)

It's an interesting project, to say the least. So far I've learned that I know and remember the necessary bits of physics and music theory; I haven't the faintest clue about the psychology of auditory perception and what would be a reasonable delay, but I can use myself as a test subject.

I'd recommend doing something like this to everyone who has a wiimote and a bluetooth interface on their box. And if you don't have a wii, buy a wiimote anyways: it's great fun playing tetris, kobo deluxe, mu-cade and other arcade'ish games with a game controller. Especially on the university's big projector screens. Instead of studying.

Better Synthesized Voice? (1)

davidpfarrell (562876) | about 6 years ago | (#24072861)

Could this technology, or a derivative, be used to help computer-generated speech technology?

I'm thinking something along the lines of a genetic algorithm that tweaks text-to-speech parameters and uses a technology like the one in the FA to determine the best output.

Singing Couch (2, Funny)

slashhax0r (579213) | about 6 years ago | (#24072879)

Yep. It's time for bed. I read "Your computer as your singing couch"

good night folks.

Re:Singing Couch (2, Funny)

FooAtWFU (699187) | about 6 years ago | (#24075309)

I'm sorry you have to sleep on the couch! Especially if it sings. Though maybe if it's a lullaby it's not so bad....

Mrs Miller or Florence Foster Jenkins needed this! (1)

borbetomagus (852370) | about 6 years ago | (#24073039)

Though a Peterson strobe tuner might have helped too. Certainly for anyone who is tone deaf.

Oh, please (1)

gardyloo (512791) | about 6 years ago | (#24073055)

This reminds me of the time (perhaps six years ago) that my friend got a great deal on airline tickets to Italy, so he and his wife and another friend decided to go on relatively short notice. My friend got a "Learn Italian in 10 days" cd, and would practice in his office.
      The lady on the CD would say a phrase, and you were supposed to repeat it back, into the microphone, and it would grade you. My friend got phenomenal scores.
      One day, I listened to what he was doing. The lady said, "La vostra madre è un criceto" (understand that I'm making this part up), and, in his best sing-song Italian stereotype voice, my friend said something outrageous like, "A bug just hit my windshield." All he would do is ape the intonation, and he'd get fabulous grades on it.

Re:Oh, please (1)

jessedorland (1320611) | about 6 years ago | (#24075259)

:) I have this nice french learning software for windows 98. It is pretty good for its time -- infact even works now. Not sure what your had but it seems like a 20 dollar cheap buggy software. Always buy brand name software -- specially when it comes to education. Or stick to Linux :)

Strange (1)

gregbot9000 (1293772) | about 6 years ago | (#24073063)

I think this qualifies for the strangest headline on /. yet.

Be careful. (1)

santaliqueur (893476) | about 6 years ago | (#24073129)

If it's trying to show me how well it can sing "Daisy", then I'm all set.

Other uses (1)

slashflood (697891) | about 6 years ago | (#24073229)

I guess this will be used at the airports for anti-terror purposes. Ask the traveler some questions and measure the tremolo in the voice to figure out if he's nervous.

Training vibrato (1)

ElMiguel (117685) | about 6 years ago | (#24073233)

I've never been able to sing with any vibrato myself. Is it something that everybody can do with proper coaching, or does it require some innate ability that only certain individuals possess? Any links to relevant on-line information would be appreciated.

Re:Training vibrato (1)

Praxx (918463) | about 6 years ago | (#24073321)

I've never been able to sing with any vibrato myself. Is it something that everybody can do with proper coaching, or does it require some innate ability that only certain individuals possess? Any links to relevant on-line information would be appreciated.

I don't have any links for you, but I can say from experience that it's definitely a learned skill. You can certainly learn it on your own, but it'll be far easier with formal voice training. I suppose it's a skill much like whistling; it's hard to describe exactly how to do, but if you keep trying, eventually you'll just start to do it.

My computer as my singing coach? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24073339)

My dialup modem taught me to sing.

Football opera? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24073403)

I'm going to need you all to GIIIIIVVVEE meeee... GIIIIIVVVEEE meee... one hundred and ten perCENNNNNTTTT!!!

Vocal vibrato? Where's my earplugs? (2, Insightful)

Geak (790376) | about 6 years ago | (#24073487)

It should be programmed to give a poor score for using a vibrato. I don't know about you but I can't stand it when I go to a ball game and have to tolerate a 40 minute version of the national anthem because the singer vibratos every line of the song for a full minute.

eg: "The land of the FRE-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E............."

Personally I consider it a mockery of the anthem.

Re:Vocal vibrato? Where's my earplugs? (1)

Eudial (590661) | about 6 years ago | (#24073831)

It should be programmed to give a poor score for using a vibrato. I don't know about you but I can't stand it when I go to a ball game and have to tolerate a 40 minute version of the national anthem because the singer vibratos every line of the song for a full minute.

eg: "The land of the FRE-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E............."

Personally I consider it a mockery of the anthem.

I agree. I think vibrato is like the special effects of singing. It can be impressive if used in moderation, but it should not be overused. And much like action movies, nowadays it's all car chases and explosions, instead of any real contents.

Re:Vocal vibrato? Where's my earplugs? (2, Informative)

kohai_ut (1137695) | about 6 years ago | (#24074431)

Actually, singing without vibrato is a singing style just as much as singing with vibrato. "Mixed" singing uses both, classical uses all vibrato, and a Capella uses almost none. Your statement indicates you prefer "mix" as a singing style.

Re:Vocal vibrato? Where's my earplugs? (1)

greyhueofdoubt (1159527) | about 6 years ago | (#24076041)

I agree. And let's not forget the rock renditions/guitar solos of the anthem. Ugh, what a mess. Hendrix, Van Halen, I love you guys, but seriously I hate your little versions of the anthem. And you know what? Maybe part of it is that I just don't really care for the anthem's tune to begin with. Maybe the anthem isn't the best freakin' choice for solo riffing. You know?

See how your audience likes your 5-minute guitar solo version of the T-Mobile jingle. Lame, right? So stop it.

Imagine the looks you would get if you turned timeless church hymns into a 10-minute-long self-indulgent vibrato goat bleating extravaganza.

That's what it amounts to, I think. "Looka me I make wobbly voice with mah face!!1! I do tricks fer you!!"

OK I'm done.

-b

If you can't (1)

Korbeau (913903) | about 6 years ago | (#24073593)

break glass, that ain't a real vibrato

Re:If you can't (1)

mux2000 (832684) | about 6 years ago | (#24073847)

Actually, it would be a lot easier to break the glass without vibrato, assuming you hit the critical note dead on. If you have trouble keeping in tune, a vibrato might help as then you'd still hit resonance once in a while. but I'd imagine it would be much harder.

Clippy to the rescue (1)

DaveRexel (887813) | about 6 years ago | (#24073743)

Hello,

I see that your customers are so disgusted with your new shiny version of your software that they are jumping ship and choosing competing products by the droves...

Would you like some help with:

1- Making changes to your software the users will hate?
2- Earning severe redirection by most web-masters?
3- Attracting the evil eye of BOFHs worldwide?

two words (1)

Larryish (1215510) | about 6 years ago | (#24074069)

holodeck opera

Great! (1)

dimension6 (558538) | about 6 years ago | (#24074121)

Now if only singers used software to improve their intonation as well...

Re:Great! (1)

Danzigism (881294) | about 6 years ago | (#24074729)

they do! it's called Auto-tune and it is incredibly overrated and cheesey sounding. it is actually a studio standard for just about every pop artist that exists.

Practicing violin with aptuner (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24074205)

When practicing violin (just started two years ago) I use aptuner (www.aptuner.com) on a pc connected to a microphone to check on my intonation. Helps for vibrato to stay in place.

Another clueless enterprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24074349)

The only thing you need to get into a biofeedback loop is an immediate playback device that just spews back your singing phrase at you when you are finished.

Only when the solutions making use of the artist's ear as a detection device have been exhausted might it make sense to introduce an electronic referee.

Very few singers routinely work with record/playback devices. Which is just stupid.

Automated Help (1)

dcollins (135727) | about 6 years ago | (#24074409)

"Interestingly, this research could be used for other applications, such as improving automated help centers, where computers could be trained 'to recognize a range of different emotions, such as anger and nervousness.'"

STFU with this bullshit. Just get someone to actually solve my problem. Don't spend cycles getting a robot to figure out my emotional state that you can't do anything about anyway.

As a professional tenor (3, Informative)

Pheidias (141114) | about 6 years ago | (#24074939)

Here's what I know, and forgive me if any of this seems rudimentary, but I think vibrato (like singing generally) is not well understood by most people:

Vibrato is a cyclic departure from and return to a pitch. When a cellist holds a note and wobbles her left hand without starting a new note, or when B.B. King does the same, that is vibrato. It is heard as a "throb" in the voice, especially in those voices where it coincides with a cycling of intensity as well. This pulsing quality is something that musical instruments can rarely capture.

Some things vibrato is not:
-Tremolo: the repetition of a note, usually rapid, despite the misuse of the term in electric guitar circles to mean pitch-bending equipment.
-Glissando: a change in pitch moving in one direction, like a slide whistle or a pianist running a finger across the keys.
-Trill: the rapid alternation of two distinct notes, though in some voices this can sound a lot like vibrato
-Melisma: in vocal music, the inclusion of many notes on one vowel -- think Mariah Carey

In singing, most or all of the excursion of a person's vibrato is below the note being held. The graph of a person's vibrato would rarely look like a perfect sine wave, but usually would have an element of saw wave mixed in. That is, during the 1/6th of a second of an average vibrato cycle, the pitch might drop fairly quickly to the bottom of the range of excursion (let's say 1/3 of a whole tone) and take the rest of that time to climb back to the "correct" pitch, and perhaps go sharp by a few cents briefly.

The rate, shape, dynamics and excursion of a singer's vibrato is something that a well-trained singer can tell with some accuracy after a few seconds of listening. "Eight beats per second, rather smooth, consistent dynamic, and shallow," for example. It is a an objective evaluation, and I'm not surprised a machine can do it too.

But it is terribly difficult to change one's natural vibrato. It takes months of practice and guidance for the typical voice student with a poor vibrato to improve it. Knowing that the end result (the voice) comes from a combination of physiology, psychology, and technique that involves muscles from the face to the feet, I don't see how this type of feedback will help them fix it.

Assuming, of course, that it needs fixing. The ideal of a moderate and inoffensive vibrato, while present in many successful singers' voices and most opera singers' voices, is also conspicuously absent from the voices of many well-loved singers and entertainers.

It's not new (1)

jessedorland (1320611) | about 6 years ago | (#24075221)

It is was first developed by Soviets -- Israeli just stole it. Even this took two decade to build a semi "functional prototype".

Baf X Taught Me (1)

toddhisattva (127032) | about 6 years ago | (#24075497)

Baf X of Hidden Agenda infamy taught me how to coach vibrato to female rock singers: punch them in the gut until they stop it.

Fortunately band politics removed the threat before I could test this method.

Tartini (1)

bcrowell (177657) | about 6 years ago | (#24076035)

Tartini [otago.ac.nz] is OSS that has some similar functionality. I'd love to get it running, but when I tried, I failed. If anyone can give instructions that work for compiling it on Ubuntu Hardy Heron, I'd be very grateful. I emailed the author, and he tried to help me, but I was out of my depth with Qt, and gave up for lack of time. Below is what he told me about the problems I was experiencing.

> apt-get install libqwt-dev libqt4-dev fftw3-dev
> $ qmake pitch.pro
> WARNING: Failure to find: rtAudio/rtAudio.cpp
The file is rtAudio/RtAudio.cpp. Note the different case.
So either rename that file to lowercase, or change the line in thepitch.proto upper case.
>
> $ make
> /usr/share/qt3/bin/uic dialogs/settingsdialog.ui -o
> dialogs/settingsdialog.h
> uic: File generated with too recent version of Qt Designer (4.0 vs. 3.3.7)
> make: *** [dialogs/settingsdialog.h] Error 1
Looks like it still using Qt3.
You will have to set you Qt environment variables to use Qt4.
ie QTDIR to the Qt4 base path. and QMAKESPEC = ${QTDIR}/mkspecs/linux-g++
(And possibly QTINC and QTLIB)
An if it isn't already, you will have to compile Qt4.

Video version of voice coach (1)

noidentity (188756) | about 6 years ago | (#24076477)

There's also a video version of the coach [youtube.com] that can be used on any machine.
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