The Virtual Pop Diva

Chances are, you have seen a picture of a girl in mint green hair tied in a twin tail with a headset. No? Well, I will simply move on with the assumption that Hatsune Miku will ring a bell. (No, really, I have no idea what that means.)

Or you might have heard of the virtual pop singers who can sing in hundreds of different styles and genres at any places. No? Not really?

Oh, well…it seems as though you are not quite caught up with the weird phenomenon prevalent in some geek culture. This weird phenomenon is called Vocaloid, and it is actually not about geeks who are into Japanese culture. It could be a nerd thing.

So what on earth is a Vocaloid?

Vocaloid is a singing voice synthesizer software, which was developed by Kenmochi Hideki through a joint project in a university in Spain. At first, it was not a commercial product but was later backed by Yamaha into the software known today as Vocaloid.

Various voicebanks have been produced since, each being a different gender or type of

voice. Each voice is produced from a voice prototype, which is usually a voice actor’s recordings.  One of the most famous voices is Hatsune Miku, who gained popularity through her voice, character (persona), and the project diva, which is a rhythm game.

Users can input the lyrics and notes to the song, which translates the program to “sing”. Additionally, they can tune the voice in various ways, such as adding vibrato, volume, and even where they would breathe. This added to the realism of Vocaloids compared to their earlier efforts, so that many people would have a hard time distinguishing whether it is a real person singing or not.

So the bottom line is: Can computer programs replace real, live singers?

It really depends on your perspective. At least, I don’t think so until Vocaloids can sing operas. (Now, I have, heard at least one version where they sang Gospel music, but that is beside the point.)

That would be a feat worth taking into consideration…and one day, they just might overtake the concert halls. Or not.

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