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Yamaha Releases Singing Synthesis Software 344

loopdloop writes "The world's first singing synthesis software, Vocaloid, was released by Yamaha this month at the Los Angeles NAMM show. Simply type in the lyrics and notate the vocal expressions to create a completely computer-generated singer. There are also audio demos of the product available." Update: 01/26 21:14 GMT by S : An earlier NYT-authored preview of this software has also been covered on Slashdot.
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Yamaha Releases Singing Synthesis Software

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  • by weston ( 16146 ) <> on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:07PM (#8092421) Homepage
    "I was going to do that?"

    This was something I was really interested in when choosing a college major, and thought that I'd get into EE CS and do this. Somehow, I've found myself coding web applications instead.

    I'm glad to see somebody's doing it, but man, I think I took a wrong turn somewhere.
    • I also thought of doing this several years back. I realized the time had come, and this would be very feasible in the near future (now). What I did instead is work on other peoples cool projects for a living, and continue hobby programming in an area who's time hasn't come yet, but is just a couple more years off from now. Anyone know how to chase VC?

    • Talk is cheap, so if you can't implement your invention, punt! Explain it in detail in public, or among a relevant developer group. Then you at least have a chance of being in on the creation, along your lines of vision, and at least get your world bettered, even if you can't cash in by doing the hard part. The joy of coinvention sure beats the bitterness of "coulda, woulda, shoulda". Most of the open source process is based on that crosspollination and mutual assist. Hell, if we all did this better, maybe
    • Great. (Score:3, Funny)

      by 2names ( 531755 )
      It's bad enough we have Cher and Madonna doing the fake electronic yodel dance, now every dipthong with a little cash will be creating them.
  • Deja Vu (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RobPiano ( 471698 ) * on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:07PM (#8092423)
    Vocaloid has been covered on Slashdot before []. It is one of the many impressive projects to have at least in part come out of the Music Technology Group [] at Institut Universitari de L'Audiovisual [] in Barcelona.

    This is one of many impressive Music Technology groups in the world who is kind enough to provide us with open source software such as CLAM []. Similarly there [] are [] some [] groups [] out [] there [] doing [] interesting [] things []. Needless to say, I could link all day...

    I am a graduate student in this field
    • Re:Deja Vu (Score:3, Informative)

      by weston ( 16146 )
      Did you know about Ingo Titze and "Pavarobbotti"? []
    • Speaking of Deja Vu, how on earth is this the world's first singing software, when TEN YEARS AGO my SB16 did the same thing on my 486?
      • Re:Deja Vu (Score:3, Funny)

        by kiolbasa ( 122675 )
        The difference that the singing text-to-speech was just a silly hack of the speech-synthesis software. It wasn't designed for any serious musical use. And Dr. Sbaitso isn't a real psychiatrist.
        • He certainly helped me set me straight.

          I've been in love with computers ever since.

        • Re:Deja Vu (Score:2, Funny)

          by Drantin ( 569921 )
          But... but he helped me through so many of my problems with day to day life!

          Me: The kids at school are picking on me again.
          DS: Why are the kids at school picking on you again?
          Me: I dunno...
          DS: Why do you dunno?

          ...never mind...
        • And Dr. Sbaitso isn't a real psychiatrist.

          But both he an Eliza agreed I was a psychopath. Which I'm not. Anymore.

          So long as I keep taking my Paxcil.

      • Re:Deja Vu (Score:3, Funny)

        by Afrosheen ( 42464 )
        Ten years ago? BAH! Why 20 years ago my commodore 64 could do this with SID synthesis software.
        • Ditto. 'Cept you had to spell everything phonetically. Hearing it "mis-pronounce" english was pretty fun.
          • You still have to do that to a certain extent with modern synthesis software. I remember trying all kinds of combos before to get SID to say things right, still works on my wife's Talking Dict.

            Her Talking Dict is from Thailand, a handheld translator more or less, that pronounces words and defines them for you. Strangely enough it was engineered in Berkeley, CA and sounds alot like SID.
    • There's also ao computer music center at Brown.

      Would you mind enlightening me on your research/classwork? I'm interesting in chasing a master's in this field.
    • Re:Deja Vu (Score:4, Funny)

      by bunyip ( 17018 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:44PM (#8092877)
      Thanks for the info...

      Has Simon Cowell (American Idol) reviewed this software?

  • This is great, i'm a drummer who doesn't have a band. Now i can finally get a computer to sing and play the music while i do the beats.

    Geez, I hope they don't make a computer that can drum.

    • Now i can finally get a computer to sing and play the music while i do the beats.

      Wow, I didn't know Tony Verderosa [] posted to Slashdot!
    • by gmaestro ( 316742 ) <`jason.guidry' `at' `'> on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:26PM (#8092676)
      You clearly don't understand. This is the last piece in the puzzle of completely eliminating musicians. We have had a drum machine to replace you for a while, electronic instruments and MIDI.

      Now we can finally get rid of these whiny musicians, always complaining about "I need to feed my family" and "I'm a professional and should be paid like one." Now all of those unskilled morons can be sent to fill up the thousands of food preparation and customer service jobs that our public school system can't seem to find enough people for.

      Sorry about the offtopic (tongue firmly in cheek) rant. You're right. this does sound like a fun toy.

      • why eliminate musicians? is there no room in life for art anymore? also, if those "unskilled morons" flooded the job market, where would you go? musicians put hard work into their jobs too. although, pop idols today don't seem to. sorry, i had an offtopic rant as well. I'd be glad to see less petty musicians as well, but i don't see why all musician should be eliminated.
      • You clearly don't understand. This is the last piece in the puzzle of completely eliminating musicians. We have had a drum machine to replace you for a while, electronic instruments and MIDI.

        Now we can finally get rid of these whiny musicians, always complaining about "I need to feed my family" and "I'm a professional and should be paid like one."

        Close...this is just the piece of the puzzle that gets rid of those money-grubbing vocalists. Combine this latest development with a computer composition engin []
    • "Geez, I hope they don't make a computer that can drum."

      I'm a drummer too... and unfortunately, I think we were the first to get replaced. ;)

      Heck now it's got'n so cheep that Apple will let you bust out MIDI or WAV looped percussion for $50bucks :)

      • You know, I'm a drummer too. I really don't like how drummachines sound, though. Not in my genre... many drummers use triggers and even MIDI nowadays to make it sound just "perfect"... that is, as lifeless as a drummachine.

        Have a listen to my failings at our website [], though. No, really. I didn't reply just so that I could plug our worthless shit. As if.
        • I've been playing for about 15 some odd years. I have both an acoustic set and some Roland V drums. The V drums sound very very real if you have them connected to a good PA or nice a recording set up. If you don't have good equipment, and you don't sound check this shit out of them before you play, they sound kind'a fake.

          With V drums you can virtually alter drum woods, alter cymbal metals, alter instrument sizes, switch drum heads (pin strip, coated, etc), place tape or foam on your heads, use brushes, gr
    • No, that's alright. I'm in a band that used Fruityloops on a laptop to provide drums until we managed to find a human drummer, but it kept terrible time - it was always out of time with the rest of the band by the end of the song...
  • by emplynx ( 735511 ) <tdhopper AT gmail DOT com> on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:08PM (#8092431)
    That's quite amazing. Now we need a computer to write music and songs.
  • World's first? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by inaeldi ( 623679 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:09PM (#8092441)
    Shpongle (trance group) used Vocal Writer [] in their CD that was released in 1998.
  • So... (Score:3, Funny)

    by PakProtector ( 115173 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {vikvec}> on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:09PM (#8092444) Journal

    ...this is where Britney Spears' talent comes from!

    • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mcpkaaos ( 449561 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:25PM (#8092659)
      The irony behind your comment is that vocals from "artists" such as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilara (sp), etc, go through extreme re-engineering after recording (beyond the norm of compression, reverb, EQ, etc.) Once the audio is filtered through tools that re-pitch the parts that go off-key and time-stretch the bits that fall out of rhythm, you have an end result that really isn't all that far from a computer generated voice.
    • Sorry, but,... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by El ( 94934 )
      I'm sure Britney's "talent" has absolutely nothing to do with her ability to do vocals, and absolutely everything to do with her abilility to take off her clothes...
    • Re:So... (Score:2, Funny)

      by rylin ( 688457 )
      Britney Spears' *what*?
    • ... is because you used the word "talent" in referring to Britney.

  • man, at least Milli Vanilli had singers.
  • It had multiple voices... and was fun. MC Hawking style.... "mmmmmmmMMMMMMMMM ya"
  • by c0dedude ( 587568 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:10PM (#8092461)
    Wow, this must make the RIAA's day. An artist who needs absolutly no pay and who really is property...
  • by why-is-it ( 318134 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:12PM (#8092485) Homepage Journal
    "The world's first singing synthesis software, Vocaloid, was released by Yamaha this month at the Los Angeles NAMM show.

    Feh! They might be able to program something that sings better than Britney, but until they integrate it with something like this [], Ms Spears' talents will continue to be in demand...
  • I guess Britney is going to be out of a job now. We all know that any computer can sing better than her, and since neither of them play an instrument, I guess she's screwed.

    Not to mention that the computer is far sexier.
  • So will we finally get to replace the prime-time T.V. show American Idol??
    • A combination of battlebots and american idol.
      Where engineers compete to build the best computer synthesised pop singer.
      • Where does the battle come into it? I think the engineers should have them do kung fu or another form of destruction to determine the winner. That way you have 2 types of drama. Who is the best singer? And is it strong enough to win the fight? Yes indeed, it'll be on the air in Japan within the week if they get wind of it.

        Idoru Battle Zero!
  • they can retire Britney Spears and just replace her with a touring Vocaloid. (And maybe some strippers.)
  • But can it rap? []

    I might actually hear some talent at my job for once :P
  • by DarkSkiesAhead ( 562955 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:16PM (#8092553)
    Steven Hawking is trying to start up a band.
  • by mc6809e ( 214243 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:16PM (#8092557)
    Just listened to these.

    While their "Volcaloid" tech is nice, their "Lyricoid" tech needs work.

  • It's all neat and stuff that they've done this, but "the world's first singing synthesis software"? Not by a long shot.

    Perhaps next month we will get to see an article by Slashdot on the subject of Mitsubishi releasing the world's first car.
  • Actually... (Score:5, Informative)

    by mOoZik ( 698544 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:19PM (#8092589) Homepage
    I had the chance to try it out at NAMM and it is VERY difficult to get it to "sing." It can probably be used adequately for backup vocals, but again, it takes a lot of work to get it to sound human. Nevertheless, a step in the right direction.

  • by LamerX ( 164968 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:20PM (#8092599) Journal
    I think my Sound Blaster Pro came with this software. It fit on a floppy disk, and you could make the computer sing whatever you typed in. In fact it also came with a psychiatrist named Dr Sbaitso. Just don't cus at him, he gets offended very easily.

    Seriously, I'm sure that this new software is much better. At least I sure hope so...
  • Simone (Score:3, Informative)

    by Lord_Dweomer ( 648696 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:20PM (#8092602) Homepage
    I think they should have called it SimOne v1.0

    Interestingly enough, this made me think of something I read in William Gibsons blog a long time ago. I don't know where it is now though. It was about how in the future, people will be able to take a movie or something on their computer, and tell the computer to replace all the actors heads with dog heads for example, and change what they do and say with simple commands. Perhaps this software is the lower level beginning of making that happen, we'd just need some higher-level controls to make it easy for everybody to use.

  • by Snork Asaurus ( 595692 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:21PM (#8092614) Journal
    "Don't quit your day job, Mr. Hawking."

    (No disrespect intended).

  • by Petronius ( 515525 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:22PM (#8092623)
    Fitter, happier, more productive
    Not drinking too much
    Regular exercise at the gym
    (3 days a week)
    Getting on better with your associate employee contemporaries
    At ease
    Eating well
    (No more microwave dinners and saturated fats)
    A patient better driver
    A safer car
    (Baby smiling in back seat)
    Sleeping well
    (No bad dreams)
    No paranoia
    Careful to all animals
    (Never washing spiders down the plughole)
    Keep in contact with old friends
    (Enjoy a drink now and then)
    Will frequently check credit at (moral) bank (hole in the wall)
    Favours for favours
    Fond but not in love
    Charity standing orders
    On Sundays ring road supermarket
    (No killing moths or putting boiling water on the ants)
    Car wash
    (Also on Sundays)
    No longer afraid of the dark or midday shadows
    Nothing so ridiculously teenage and desperate
    Nothing so childish - at a better pace
    Slower and more calculated
    No chance of escape
    Now self-employed
    Concerned (but powerless)
    An empowered and informed member of society
    (Pragmatism not idealism)
    Will not cry in public
    Less chance of illness
    Tires that grip in the wet
    (Shot of baby strapped in back seat)
    A good memory
    Still cries at a good film
    Still kisses with saliva
    No longer empty and frantic like a cat tied to a stick
    That's driven into frozen winter shit
    (The ability to laugh at weakness)
    Healthier and more productive
    A pig in a cage on antibiotics
  • by ThePretender ( 180143 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:22PM (#8092628) Homepage
    I can't be the only one that thinks the background vocals sound like Electric Light Orchestra??
  • Really Bad Synths (Score:5, Informative)

    by Entropy248 ( 588290 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:24PM (#8092655) Journal
    Just like many Yamaha firsts, this one may have been overhyped a bit. This sounds like a real person singing in the way that a synth brass pad sounds like a trumpet. There is no way in hell you would ever even consider that these noises were made by a human being. Yes, I understand that most of the samples are in Japanese and might not sound normal to me anyway. But, even if you listen to the ONE in English alone, it sounds like the Bell Labs female voice, but screechy and obnoxious instead of like a drugged out cigarette smoker after a trachyotemy (sp?).

    • After letter it cycle a few times, I'm preferring these singers to actual voices. It's like getting the Moog element for free. There's quite a few songs I'd like redone with this tools.

      It's got a long way to go, but it's an interesting stage of output.
    • It sounds like they've made generic, bland singing their highest goal. I'm sure there's probably money in that, since most people can really get into elevator music, but it strikes me as a complete waste.

      I can't think of any legendary singer who had a generic color to his or her voice. Janis Joplin certainly wasn't famous for the nondescript tone of her voice, neither Dylan, Robert Plant, Bob Marley, Bono, or any other singer that (in my opinion) deserves a penny for his or her work.

      I'm sure it has some

      • by King_TJ ( 85913 )
        Your argument is no more credible than the curmudgeons who said that an electric piano sounds so unlike a real piano that it's a total waste, and nobody would ever perform a legitimate creative work using one.

        Think "new tools at an artist's disposal", and "dawn of a new type of digital instrument" instead. If you want this software to sound good in your music mix, you're going to have to invest a considerable amount of time and effort setting it up properly and recording it properly. Therefore, it takes
  • How about an app that finds the tablature and lyrics to a song, marks that data up in the Yamaha format, and sends the arrangement to the singthesizer? It's like PostScript for singing. Where's my Perl module?
  • cool as this may be, it's definitely not the first singing synthesis software. CNMAT [] at berkeley had a neural-net based additive synthesis engine in the mid 90's that did a pretty good human voice (it could even reproduce the voices of specific individuals, as I recall), and did other instruments as well (a mean viola).

    I can't find a link to an actual demo of it simulating a human voice, but here's a page [] that documents its use to reproduce the sound of a suling (javanese wooden flute). Does a good job

  • Virtual Singer [] has been a favorite of mine for playing around.

    The software is of (lesser) but similar quality to the demos I just checked out for this new engine.

    But, it also begs the question: what *really* is the purpose of software designed to replace humans going to be used for besides... replacing humans?

    The appeal seems to be to small-time musicians/hobbyists (no money to pay people) and big-time corporations (wanna keep more money for themselves). 8/
    • what *really* is the purpose of software designed to replace humans going to be used for besides... replacing humans?

      That's exactly what it is supposed to do. You see, they found that singing was the one job performed by a human that was not well suited to outsourcing to India. Think Apu sings The Doors.
  • Creative's TextOLE had "singing text" back in 1996 - I had demos on my PC that came with my SoundBlaster 16! You marked-up text with notes and expressions for each phonym and the text-to-speach synth could sing.

    It did a great rendition of "Itsy Bitsy Spider". * grin *
  • Wow... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CptChipJew ( 301983 ) <michaelmiller@gmail. c o m> on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:31PM (#8092732) Homepage Journal
    The one thing I expected they wouldn't get right, was what they did the best.

    When people hold notes, there are natural fluctuations in the tone, nobody can hold a perfect tone without some audible wax or wane.

    But you can hear this simulated amazingly if you listen to that one japanese song with the single male "vocalist".
  • The world's first singing synthesis software,Vocaloid, was released by Yamaha [...]

    What about VocalWriter [] for the Mac. Allegedly, "the world's first music synthesizer that can actually sing your lyrics", it's been around at least 5 years now ...

  • Yeah, right. Singing synthesis is about as old as speech synthesis itself. Here's an example from 1958 [] (item 11 on the linked page). By 1961 singing synthesis had become fairly mainstream -- witness the singing HAL in "2001".
  • I'm glad someone is releasing this kind of thing - many people gave worked with voice algoritms for years doing vocal synthesis.
    • Tellus cassette recording FALSE PHONEMES came out in 1988 or so, from Harvestworks []
    • plenty of good resynthesis is out there, using various vocal synth technologies like LPC.
    • MBROLA sings pretty well if you feel like coding up the data
    • FLINGER is open source. It uses the lyric tags in a MIDI stream to drive the synthesis algorithm.
    • Perry Cook's excellent physical modeler Si
  • asx and webpage html (Score:3, Informative)

    by technix4beos ( 471838 ) <> on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:52PM (#8092972) Homepage Journal
    The "webmaster" who wrote the linked page of demos is linking to ASX files, which in turn link straight to the self-named mp3 files on the server.

    In case the direct "save/play" links do not work with your browser and OS, just replace the asx with mp3, and enjoy.
  • How can a large music company like Yamaha come up with cool new music software, and not even provide Mac users with a demo. Or at the very least, how 'bout some audio samples that aren't in a codec that OS X's Windows Media 9 player can't even read :(

    I know we're a small percentage of the population... but not in the music industry. Windows and linux studio machines are like big foot to me. I see evidence that they exists, and every once and a while I catch a glimpse of what appears to be one. But, for the
  • by biz0r ( 656300 )
    Now I can finally make some real sounding prank calls for once! Oh the joy!

    Although...most idiots out there fall for the midi based voices anyhow...
  • Spinrad mined media hype and manipulation to fine effect in his early novel, Bug Jack Barron. Now 18 years later, he has another go with this near future story of the conglomerate MUZIK's desire to substitute APs (artificial personalities) for its troublesome rock stars. Voxbox artist Sally Genaro and graphics whiz Bobby Rubin create a sensation called Red Jack, thanks to prodding from Glorianna O'Toole, "The Crazy Old Lady of Rock and Roll" and to the stimulation of the zap, a small electric device that mi
  • by PsyQ ( 87838 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @06:04PM (#8093127) Homepage
    Something similar was done by Alexei Shulgin in 1998, on a 386. Sure, he did it by writing the phonetic instructions for the speech synthesis engine by hand, but Yamaha's solution is just a much more sophisticated (and better funded) version of that.

    Check out 386DX [], his band project. Which includes the 386. That only has 4 MB of RAM and also has to do visualizations and MIDI sound at the same time.

    I've had the fortune of seeing him perform live in Linz as well as chatting with him a little, and he came to our school for a lecture. He has a few brilliant projects, maybe you might like WIMP [] which he developed with a friend.
  • Groupies (Score:2, Funny)

    by wpiman ( 739077 )
    This just brings us another day closer to when engineers start having groupies.......
  • been there... done that... in 1994 :P

    here [] is a more recent version of the concept from 2001 :) (not the books/movie!)

Nothing is finished until the paperwork is done.