Wednesday, 30 April 2014

More Melodyne

I'm on the rickety train-line which ambles its way along the coast from Portsmouth to Brighton. I take these trains every day when I'm working with PK, from Fiona's house where I stay in Hove to where he lives West Worthing. Sometimes it stops at every station in the world; funny places with bizarre names which are really just caravan parks for old people. Sometimes you find yourself at your destination before you can blink. It's a lottery.

PK and I have spent the day moving our way through the second movement of the Pepys Motet at a monstrously slow pace.

The problem with using Melodyne is that it becomes almost impossible to stop once you've started.  Once you've decided you're not going to accept less than perfection, the process becomes meticulous in the extreme... And highly stressful! At one point the two of us went entirely cross-eyed, and were only revived by PK's glorious partner, Olivia cooking us some delicious pancakes, which genuinely tasted like nectar.

It transpires that Melodyne doesn't respond well to opera singers. The problem with opera singers is that they can cover a multitude of sins with enormous vibrato... And it turns out that enormous vibrato makes Melodyne go into major spasms because it can't detect the centre of the note which it's trying to tune.

Melodyne shows the wave-forms of all the individual lines it's processing in attractive little patterns which I find endlessly fascinating. You can tell a decent singer by the regularity of their wave forms. If the form is a near straight line, they are singing a note with absolute precision without any vibrato. If the singer sings with a pleasant-sounding vibrato, the wave-form oscillates around the centre of the note like a series of perfectly-rounded, equally-spaced mountains reflected in a still lake. A less successful vibrato will look like childish scribbles, spider legs or an earthquake registering on a Richter scale!

I actually think wave-forms (and Melodyne) would be a really useful tool for a singer wanting to develop his or her craft. There's probably money to be made by an industrious singing teacher who can use the programme to demonstrate whether his pupils have a tendency to sing sharp or flat.

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