Vocaloid: Music of the Future
Holographic idols that never age, whose singing voices are stored in computer programs all over the world, whose music will never die – does all that sound straight out of a science fiction novel to you?
Well, it’s not.
Meet the Vocaloids, short for vocal android, voice banks you can download into your computer. Currently, there are more than 30 of them, though only a handful of them are well-known, and they account for about 30% of all the videos uploaded to Japan’s video sharing website, niconico.
Vocaloids come in a wide range of colors and voices: from bright blue to silver-gray, from high-pitched male voices to low and raspy female ones, the possibilities are endless. The speed they can sing at, and the highest and lowest notes they can hit also vary, just like humans, so there is probably a Vocaloid out there for everyone.
They are also available in other languages – Mandarin Chinese, Korean, English and Spanish, to name a few. However, they tend to be less well-known than their Japanese counterparts.
Vocaloids also cover an extremely wide range of music genres, depending on whatever the producer they are handled by is interested in. Hence, Vocaloids probably hold the record for most amount of songs and genres sung by the same artist – peppy pop, angry rock, sweet love songs, sad breakup songs, horror songs… You name it, they probably have it.
So, who are these producers of Vocaloid music? Well, they are anyone with a computer and a semblance of musical ability, so if you think you fit the bill, you could try buying a Vocaloid voice bank. The more popular producers often go by stage names, like Wowaka, PowaPowa-P or Hachioji-P. The P stands for Producer, and they often have their own distinct tuning and pitching styles, as well as signature Vocaloids they enjoy using.
Today, I will introduce you to two producers, Neru (Oshiire-P), and Dixie Flatline, who are both known for rather different genres of music – Neru does more rock, while Dixie Flatline is known for pop and love songs.
Neru’s producer name, Oshiire-P, translates to Closet Producer, because he started out making music in his closet. His most used Vocaloids are the Kagamine twins, Rin and Len, though he has used IA’s rock voice bank as well, and he tends to like to pitch them up, making them sound more inhuman.
He is famous for his series of loosely connected songs that the fans call Neruke, or Neru’s family. The songs take place in the same world, with the characters featured in them all being connected in one way or another, and his subject matter is nearly always a dark reflection of Japanese society.
The Lost One’s Weeping, for example, is about a schoolboy who throws away all his dreams to become a good student, going as far as to lose even himself and his entire personality. It is basically an angry rock song criticizing the Japanese school system, and it is one of the most popular Vocaloid songs, entering the Vocaloid Hall of Fame just days after its release.
Dixie Flatline is known for his human-like tuning and his mastery over pitching, making Vocaloids sound incredibly human. He commonly uses Hatsune Miku and Megurine Luka, and sometimes uses the rare and difficult-to-use Mew.
His songs are usually love songs in some form or another, be they breakup songs or sweet, fluffy ones, and his lifelike tuning makes his music an easy start for people unused to Vocaloid, as the difference is less jarring.
One of his most famous songs is Just Be Friends, by Megurine Luka, a sad breakup song that sounds much too happy for its lyrics. He often writes about that wistful, not-exactly love you feel toward your ex-partners, that strange state where you don’t love them anymore but you still care about them. Uploaded in July, 2009, the song has more than 3 million Niconico views alone.
Another plus point about Vocaloid is that their music videos usually have the lyrics in them, which will help you a lot with recognizing hiragana, katakana and kanji. So, if you’re looking for some music to listen to, why not give the Vocaloids a go? You’re bound to find something that you will like.