Category Archives: Koda’s Kolumn

Big Al’s Big Article

Big Al's Big Article

This article is the first in a series written to provide you, the reader, with all the information you need to know about each English VOCALOID voice. All the information in this article is either from the Internet or, as is more often the case, from the opinion of the author. If you find any incorrect information, please tell us by leaving a comment and we will correct it as soon as possible.

  • Who’s Big Al?
Big Al is the mascot character representing the second VOCALOID voicebank released by PowerFX Systems AB. It was designed to be used with VOCALOID2, but it is theoretically compatible with the VOCALOID3 engine as well. He is also the fourth English-language-only VOCALOID2 voicebank.
Big Al was originally designed for release in 2007 or early 2008, but after scheduling conflicts between original voice-provider Michael King and PowerFX, they was forced to re-record the bank with new voice-provider Frank Sanderson.
  • What makes Big Al different?

There are usually two things that a first-time listener to Big Al will notice immediately.

The first is his undeniably masculine voice. Prior to Big Al’s release there were only three male VOCALOID2 voices, two of which capitalized on their higher, more feminine vocals, while the third had been released less than two weeks prior. When compared to these other voices, Big Al’s voice comes more or less as a shock (though many had been prepared by earlier demos with his first voice-provider). It is both naturally deeper than his Japanese counterparts’, and in addition, harder and rougher. Overall, it has an immediate impression of masculinity.

The second thing one might notice about Big Al is his American accent. While most English VOCALOID voices have a neutral or British English accent, Big Al’s is the first to have phonemes recorded so as to sound American in origin (while this was by choice or happenstance is unclear). This accented bank is one of the things that makes Big Al’s voice very unique among the Engloids. While it can be counted as both a blessing and a curse, it is a major point of definition for Big Al in either case.

  • What kind of voice does Big Al have?

Big Al’s voice can be described as “bassy”, meaning it has a lot of bass-frequency sound to it. This means that he has a booming voice which is, more often than not, in need of equalization to make manageable. While these bass tones are what give him his masculine sound, they are sometimes also a contributing factor to his difficulty to understand when coupled with a backing track.

Despite the extra bass in his voice, Big Al’s most natural ranges are actually not that low. In fact, as his voice goes lower, it reaches a threshold where it begins to develop a raspy quality (around C2 for many phonemes). This rasp is, like his accent, either a blessing or a curse, depending on how you intend to use Big Al’s voice.

  • What makes Big Al difficult?

Because Big Al’s accent is, at the moment, unique, he has a few phonemes which are notorious for being difficult, or just different.
Continue reading “Big Al’s Big Article” »

Panning: The Difference Between Mess and Masterpiece

Hey there again! Have you ever wondered why your music doesn’t have that professional-sounding edge that other Producers seem to be enjoying? There are a number of ways to improve the production quality of your sound. Mixing your vocals properly can make the vocal line stand out more, but what can be said for the rest of the music? A professional studio will spend thousands of dollars, expertly crafting every line to make a single track sound the way it does, but you can make leaps and bounds in the same direction with only a little research and practice. One solution to help bridge that gap is to wrap your mind around the concept of panning.

In modern music file-formats, we use at least two channels to carry the sound waves; one for the left ear/speaker and one for the right. Panning makes the sound play more on one side than the other. This gives the sound the illusion of coming from slightly to the listener’s left or right. As simple as this concept is, its intelligent use can make the difference between a mess of instruments clamoring for your attention, and a masterpiece that sounds like you’re at a live performance. To put panning to work for you, it’s best to first learn a few things about how instruments are situated when performing.

Bring out the instruments!

Elementary Mixing Tips for VOCALOID Vocals

Time for another kolumn article. My boss (a certain lover of hentai) says I gotta write at least something about mixing down VOCALOID vocals. You know, so the average Western Joe has something to reference when trying to making their originals sound as professional as possible. I hope this quick and dirty crash-course will help inspire you to go out and make your VOCALOID music sound just as good as all those Japanese producers do, with all their audio-technological black magic and whatever they pull to get so good! ^^

Okay. The first step is to define “mixing”. The technical definition can get pretty intimidating, but we’re gonna make things easy for this guide by defining it as “making the vocals (VOCALOID) and the backing track (your off-vocal music) sound good, but distinguishable from one another”.

While it’s easily possible and many VOCALOID Producers have gotten multi-hundred-thousand-view songs despite doing it (see Yugami-P’s Alice Human Sacrifice), it’s not the best choice to slap on the vocals and crank up the volume. After VOCALOID spits out a WAV file for you, it’s your job to take care of a few things before you can call your song “well-mixed”:


Continued on to the Next Page »
Let’s begin with a quick definition and Compression!

Tips on Americanizing Sweet Ann

Hey guys. I thought I’d write an article for the kolumn with a couple tips for making Sweet Ann sound more intelligible.

Sweet Ann can have a pretty clear voice when she wants to, but her vowel phonemes sound a bit off. I’m honestly not sure if it’s any easier for a native British English listener to understand, but it’s quite certain that she can be improved for an American ear.

Getting it right comes down to trial and error, but most importantly, it’s about listening carefully to how she’s pronouncing things (the same goes for all Engloids, and VOCALOID in general).

There are no hard and fast rules about Americanizing Sweet Ann’s voice, but here’s a few beginner level phoneme-replacement suggestions:
Continue reading “Tips on Americanizing Sweet Ann” »

Koda’s thoughts on “The Sound of the Future” panel @ AX 2011

Heya! Went to Anime Expo 2011 at the beginning of this month. There were a lot of VOCALOID-related panels and things this year (more than last year’s whopping 1). Among them, the only one that really even mentioned Engloids was “Mirai no Neiro: The Sound of the Future”, and that one even started out as an embarrassment that I almost got up and left from. They had semi-pro Miku, Rin, and Len cosplayers show up and pretend to be “the real ones brought here from the digital world”; I would have been able to at least appreciate it if the “actors” had been tolerable, but they had obviously been thrown into a position they were not prepared for (not knowing when to talk, staring at their lines, speaking monotone, etc…).

Everything got better with time though (even the acting). The PVs they played this year were a great selection and virtually all were well-subtitled. The Producers who could make it on their own dollar (PENGUINS PROJECT, Sunzriver, and the three members of ZANEEDS) were great fun and they had all prepared original works they premiered at the panel (notably a love song by ZANEEDS called “The Socialist” about Rin being a radical socialist trying to see her paradise realized through any means neccessary).

My favorite part was when Kenmochi Hideki, head of the sound-synthesis division of YAMAHA, suddenly showed up and talked about VOCALOID as a program, not as a series of Crypton-created characters. He actually busted out the editor on the big screen and started sequencing Happy Birthday with Sweet Ann! You would think the audience had never heard an English VOCALOID sing before by their reaction! I think that guy just landed Engloids here pretty effectively if they weren’t known before.

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