I never remember what embarrassing facts I have revealed about myself to GearDiary readers. At my home blog, thedryspot.net, pretty much nothing is off limits. But if you don’t want to read about how last night’s spicy Mexican dinner affected my nether regions, I’d advise you stay away.
But here in the technoverse, I’ve held my cards a little closer to the vest. So I’ll let one of those details slip.
I used to be in a rock band. Wait, scratch that. We weren’t exactly a rock band. We were known to follow a Black Crowes song with a George Jones song and then some James Brown. Basically we were a jukebox that drank beer.
So when the opportunity to review the, I guess I was the natural choice to make a fool of myself.
The software package come bundled with a decent cardioid microphone similar to the ones we used to go through on a monthly basis back in my rocker days. No matter who was responsible for the last-minute “idiot check” before we finished loading out after gigs, invariably we left a microphone or guitar cable or mike stand or girlfriend behind in the bar after the lights came up. Of course we wouldn’t notice until the next time we went to look for whatever we’d lost, and more than once I found myself running to Wal-Mart or Radio Shack to buy a crucial piece of gear that we would then return the next day after we had washed the bar grunge off of it. This is all to say that even though the microphone that comes with the SoundTech Vocal Trainer was inexpensive, it was completely serviceable.
Along with the mike and the software, there was also a tripod desk stand and an interesting microphone cable. The LightSnake Intelligent XLR cable is probably the most innovative part of the entire package. With its “Live when Lit” technology, it provided a fairly easy to use USB setup.
Not unlike those tacky fiber lights that I still haven’t taken down since Christmas, the cable ends of the LightSnake glow and flash when sound is being transmitted. I can imagine how impressive that would have been back when we were playing at Bob’s Country Bunker. Windows Vista detected the LightSnake immediately and completed the setup within seconds.
Just the mike, the stand and the cable alone would be all you would need to turn your laptop into a PodCasting machine. As a matter of fact, Soundtech sells them bundled with another software package for just that purpose.
But I wasn’t in this to record and share my political views or make recordings of my dog howling along to “Jingle Bells.” I was looking to become a star!
So that’s where the SingingCoach software came in. After loading the application from the CD, the software played a short tutorial on how everything works. You are guided by your instructor, an animated microphone named (groan) Mike and his star pupil Carrie A. Tune. While the jokes are a little corny, the interface is clever and simple, with excellent help files always a click away.
The first step is to determine your vocal range. Mike leads you through an exercise to sing from your lowest note to the highest note that you can reach without bleeding from the ears. Then the software automatically moves all the exercises and practice songs into your range. This is a brilliant idea, because in their traditional keys, some songs are danged near impossible to sing. If you don’t believe me, watch an amateur sing the National Anthem or have five people sing Happy Birthday and listen to the variety of keys they start out in. I can never stay out of the falsetto if a girl starts that song…
Once you have your range locked in you can start the lessons. Your instructors take you through a series of 20 multi-part tutorials teaching you everything from warming up to singing a single tone on pitch to actually singing a few songs. It can get a bit tedious since you have to perform each exercise three times correctly to advance to the next lesson, but nobody said it was easy to go from Sanjaya to Daughtry.
SingingCoach uses a proprietary vocal analyzer and graphic display to show you whether you are maintaining proper pitch or not. The crux of most of these lessons is to train you to keep a steady tone and shrink the range of variability from the actual note. Even if you think you’re singing the same note for five seconds, when you watch it on screen it may look more like a seismograph.
You can also practice along with some songs outside of the normal tutorial mode, but the songs are such public domain chestnuts as “When the Saints Go Marching In,” “America the Beautiful,” and that huge karaoke favorite “Hot Cross Buns.” Luckily for a small additional cost you can go online and download over 500 slightly hipper songs to sing along with. The downloadable versions are fairly simple MIDI arrangements, but the star is supposed to be you anyway.
So how was I as a vocalist after ten years out of the game? Not bad if I do say so myself. I almost always scored 90+ out of a 100 point scale on the exercises. It was very interesting to see a graphic representation of my voice and it confirmed that I do have a pretty good ear. I had always thought that I had a tendency to sing a little flat when I heard my harmonies on tape, but apparently that was the beer listening.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go use my LightSnake to rock like WhiteSnake. Hello, Cleveland!
SoundTech SingingCoach Vocal trainer Software with LightSnake XLR Microphone System
What I liked: Fun and easy to use. Good value for the equipment bundle. Innovative real-time pitch analysis.
What Needs Improvement: Practice songs are extremely dated. Lessons can take a little too long to hold interest.
Where to Purchase: Available exclusively at Circuit City. For more info, visit www.SoundTech.com
Product photos courtesy of SoundTech