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Archive for May, 2008

Debuting Kyttyee#2!!! I couldn’t resist the charm of this song, not only are the lyrics really cute, but the song itself has a charmingly simple and almost childlike melody, with sparse but effective harmonies. Of course this also makes it a good song to attempt self-harmonization on, since it’s fairly easy, with just separation by thirds, diverging scales, etc. I think the harmonization turned out pretty good for the most part ^.^

Morning Musume’s “Namida ga Tomaranai Houkago”:

Hope you like it!

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This is another Kawaiirhea recommendation that had not originally occurred to me to cover ^.^ Plus, I felt it was about time I covered a Morning Musume song, because I like them a lot. There is again some amount of high range that does not come out as well with my current recording setup, and of course I can’t possibly hope to even sound like Takitty, but I can try, right? So here’s Morning Musume’s “Hare Ame Nochi Suki”:

Enjoy!

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This was actually a recommendation by Kawaiirhea ^.^ And I really think this song is absolutely beautiful, and kind of melancholic, exactly my favorite type of song. Plus the instrumental track is one of the most wonderful I’ve ever heard. Not to mention there’s no complex harmonization between different members going on, despite it being an 8-member song. The lyrics also bring back memories from my own past…

So here’s my cover of Berryz Koubou’s “Kokuhaku no Funsui Hiroba”:

I hope you like it!

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With her big voice and prodigious vocal control, Airi Suzuki ranks among my favorite singers in all of Hello! Project. She is able to handle all different styles of singing, from the jazzy flavor of “Boogie Train” to the cute overload in “Ookina Ai de Motenashite” to the mature pop style of “FIRST KISS”, and she has a fantastically clear and bell-like high range (makes her fellow soprano green with envy). Her range does not extend very far into alto domain on the lower end, but what she has of those low notes is generally in a rounded and velvety tone. While the low and high extremes of Airi’s vocal range seem to have maintained a fairly stable quality over the years, her mid-range has definitely gone through a sort of evolution since 2003.

What first caught my attention was actually the juxtaposition of two different performances of “FIRST KISS”. The first was her original role as part of Aa! in 2003. The second was a solo concert version performed in 2007 as part of the °C-ute Autumn Live Tour. Maybe part of it was the lower quality of Youtube audio, but I don’t think that changes vocal timbre to this large of an extent. The opening line of the song sounded rather different to my ears in the two versions, and the difference was only further emphasized in the rest of the song. Whereas Airi’s voice in the original version slightly childish but overall what I would consider round and resonant, the solo version seemed to have a brighter but also more pinched sound.

Of course, this contrast then made me wonder if her voice was just tired from singing through a long concert, or if it was indicative of some actual trend in Airi’s vocal development. And being the speech processing nerd that I am, along with some inspiration from Kawaiirhea, I decided it would be interesting to run some voice analysis software to find out what scientific basis was underlying the changes I perceived.

Because my computer’s power supply decided to go kaput recently, I’ve been using a different computer with inadequate RAM to really run big programs, so I selected four songs I felt were representative of Airi’s singing between 2003 and 2008:

* FIRST KISS/Aa!

* Suki ni Naccha Ikenai Hito/H!P All-Stars

* Sakura Chirari/C-ute

* LALALA Shiawase no Uta/C-ute

I then selected segments (or a conglomeration of shorter segments) lasting between 0.5 and 1.0 seconds total. I tried to make my segment choices as uniform as possible by selecting sections where she is singing in about the same range, and holding a note constant rather than going through lots of pitch changes.

Because formants play a large role in determining the perceived timbre of a speaking voice, I figured they would probably also be influential for a singing voice as well. Generally, fundamental frequency and intensity are also important for speaking voice timbers, but fundamental frequency/pitch tracking was not going to be particularly enlightening since the point singing is in fact to modulate and change pitches, and intensity too is variable in a musical manner and not necessarily a property of the voice itself in singing. Thus, I plotted spectrograms for my musical selections, with the formant tracks drawn on them:

FIRST KISS:

Suki ni Naccha Ikenai Hito:

Sakura Chirari:

LALALA Shiawase no Uta:

And to summarize, since it is difficult to glean much information from the spectrograms without closer zoom, I list the average frequency of the first four formants for each song in chronological order (F1 is the lowest, F5 is the highest in the spectrograms):

F1 F2 F3 F4
FIRST KISS 929.77 1864.04 2810.03 3994.20
Suki ni Naccha Ikenai Hito 1050.59 1904.04 3140.82 3961.91
Sakura Chirari 979.70 2046.94 2780.12 3918.58
LALALA Shiawase no Uta 760.45 1695.28 2915.59 4077.39

Ignoring all scientific analysis, my ear tells me in listening to these four songs that there seems to have been three different stages in Airi’s vocal development in the last five years: the early stage, happening between 2003 and 2004 with the first two song selections, a middle stage around 2006-2007, and the current stage. The sound of the early stage, is childish but has a nice resonance to it, with a hint of breathiness. The middle stage seems to be characterized by a more focused but also more pinched sort of sound. I was relieved though that the sound of the current stage seems to have dropped the pinchedness/brightness while maintaining a good focused core.

These intuitions appear to be supported by my formant analyses as well. The “acuteness” of a timbre, meaning perceived brightness and tenseness, is generally correlated with the frequency of the second formant. A low second formant results in a non-acute sound, whereas a high second formant results in an acute sound. If we track the progression of average F2 frequencies chronologically, they begin at around 1900 Hz with the first two songs, increase and peak at 2046.94 in “Sakura Chirari” (early 2007). They then exhibit an amazing drop down to 1695.28 in “LALALA Shiawase no Uta” (2008), hence the three stages I had perceived.

There could be several factors in this development pattern, not the least of which is puberty. The rising acuteness between 2004 and 2006 I suspect is most likely attributed to voice training. If we observe the distinctiveness of the formant lines in “FIRST KISS”, there seems to be a tendency for the second formant to alternately blend with F1 and F3, which I think corresponds to a less focused, more breathy and fuzzy kind of sound. While that can still be a pretty sound, it also means project requires more volume and thus effort, and in general I think a clearer sound is preferred for the style of the H!P Kids groups. The best way to create a focused sound is in fact to make it a brighter tone color, which when taken too far results in some pinchedness in the sound. This probably why the F2 frequency exhibits an increasing trend. As she got more experienced with creating a focused but still open sound, the F2 frequency naturally lowers again. I think the drasticness of the drop is probably due to the her learning how to create an open sound coinciding with puberty causing her voice to fill out and mature.

With the current timbre she is getting, I’m very optimistic about Airi’s future vocal development. She has a beautiful voice and she definitely seems to be getting the hang of how to use it. She’ll have to make adjustments as it continues to mature, obviously, but she seems to be on a good track thus far. Ganbare Airi!

Disclaimer: I don’t claim to be an expert in singing voice analysis, and all of this may just be a coincidence… But the observed patterns seem to make sense as far as I can tell based on my experience with speaking voice analysis.

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FIRST KISS

For a complete change of mood from cute to… something… I decided to create a cover of Aa!’s “FIRST KISS”. I think the challenge of matching Airi’s soprano acrobatics was also alluring. Since I take pride in being a soprano when singing classical music, I decided that maybe trying it on pop music would be fun… It’s a lot harder…

This was actually a really difficult song to do, because of the syncopated rhythm and the large range required (compare Airi’s wooow…yeahh…. with Reina’s ending wooow). It worked out well overall. I tried to learn the rhythms originally used by Aa! but eventually decided to take some liberties and just sing it the way I was feeling it today.

I also had some technical difficulties… my microphone is attached to my headset, and I think the high parts are actually maxing out it’s frequency range at such close vicinity to my mouth… Oh well…

Enjoy!!

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Once you start, you can’t stop! The Koha-love is overwhelming! I had so much fun with “Chance!” that I simply could not help stop myself from recording Balalaika as well. Not only is the music video awesomely trippy, with a life-size toybox come to life sort of feel (giant teddy bears, anybody?) but the song itself just makes me want to get up and dance. I also find the contrast between the male “Russian” voices and Koharu’s cute little-kid voice absolutely hilarious. Of course, I’m not nearly as much hyper as she is, nor is my tongue as limber, so please excuse the less-than-enunciated balalalalalalalala….laikas:

BARARAIKA!

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I decided that it would be nice to have a change of pace from the slow ballads to something hyper and super-happy!!! And I think Koha is absolutely adorable and a great singer. Her voice is very unique, and I can understand how some people find it annoying (and other synonyms) but that doesn’t change the fact that she knows how to use it, and it’s definitely used in a fitting style in her solo work.

My voice sounds nothing like hers, which may be a good thing, but also makes it less suitable for the “I’m really happy and high on life!!!!!” sort of songs, but I figured it’s good to expand my repertoire, right? So here’s me singing a cute, hyper, happy song (and I certainly haven’t sung in a cute style since I was… 10???). I tried to incorporate some of the vocal quirks she makes extensive use of, some more successfully than others:

Whee!!

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