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Virtual Singer
General points
Quick creation
Shaped notes
Jazz Scat
Midi & ABC
Rules for writing
Technical  background
General points
Voice synthesis
SAMPA notation
Summary of commands
Real Singer
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Virtual Singer

Voice technical background Generalities

The human voice is amazingly complex, and the Virtual Singer software does not pretend to replace it, but only to approximate it as closely as possible. We will describe here the basic concepts required to better understand how Virtual Singer works.

A human voice can be characterized as follows:

  • The timbre (the voice "fingerprint"), which differentiates one person from another because it depends on each person's vocal tract.
  • The effects, related to the singing technique.
These settings can be adjusted to approximate a given voice as closely as possible.

Singing follows the same rules as speaking. The same fundamental principles can be applied to both of them.

The lungs generate an air stream, which goes through the vocal chords.
Vocal chords are twin infoldings of mucous membrane, positioned at the base of the larynx, which act as a vibrator or "reed".
The vibration frequency is controlled by the singer in order to produce the required note pitch.
This original sound is then shaped by a set of cavities which form the vocal tract (mouth, nasal fossae...).
The singer controls the opening and capacity of these cavities to produce resonances, and in doing so, modifies the sound emitted by the vocal folds.

Speech and Language

Speech is an acoustic way of communication. It is a convention shared by people speaking the same language.
Each language has its own characteristics, and uses a limited number of sounds (about thirty) called "phonemes". These phonemes are then grouped to become a syllable, a word, a sentence...
Some phonemes are common to several languages, because most spoken languages come from the same origin. In addition, the range of possible phonemes is also limited by physical constraints of the vocal tract.


    We won't be using the standard acoustic classification of phonemes used by phoneticians.  For a more in-depth discussion, see one of the various specialized texts on the subject.

    Here are the basic groups of phonemes as used in Virtual Singer:

    • vowels use the vocal chords, are weakly sounded, and can be stretched ad lib. They are the essential component of the sung voice.
    • Some languages (like English) use vowel groups called diphthongs, which "slide" from one vowel sound to another (like in "pie", "though"...).
    • voiced consonants are consonants which use the vocal chords. They are stretchable (Z => Zzzzz). These consonants also use the resonances of nasal cavities (M, N...) or a sound generated by the air stream (Z, J, V...).
    •  unvoiced consonants are stretchable and use only turbulence generated by the air stream, but not the vocal chords. These consonants have no pitch (CH, F, S...).
    • plosive consonants are brief, unstretchable sounds, voiced (G, D, B..) or not (K, T, P...).

    Phoneme pronunciation

    Question: What is the difference between singing and speaking?
    While speaking, the frequency (note pitch) produced by the vocal chords only varies a little. It allows the speaker to provide the intonation (prosody) of the sentence. In singing, the frequency produced by the vocal chords follows a melody and is no longer related to the intonation.

    The main characteristic of the sung voice is the stretching of some phonemes over time. Since some syllables must be extended more than others, the singer stretches the more easily and artistically stretchable phonemes, i.e. the vowels, whose sound is closest to that of a musical instrument.

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