I have to give SoundTech credit: The company’s new Vocal Trainer Kit has taken my singing to an entirely new level. What was previously limited to the shower is now good enough to let me sing at any karaoke bar without embarrassment. The package–the SingingCoach software, a hefty microphone with a tripod desk stand, and one of the company’s LightSnake Intelligent XLR cables to connect the mic to your PC–is designed to help singers of all skill levels improve their abilities. Despite the software’s simple animation and limited vocal instructions, it does a more than competent job.
To use the kit, you hook the LightSnake cable, which is a garden-hose-size USB cord, to your PC on one end and to the microphone on the other. This took some doing. The cable’s ends cleverly light up at the USB port and the microphone connector when sound is transmitted to let you know when the software is recording your voice. But, as I learned, the lights won’t work if you plug the cable into a USB hub; it must be connected directly into a PC port. Also, the nearly-one-pound mic was too heavy for the spindly tripod, which broke in half within minutes of assembly.
After firing up the software, you sing a sample scale of notes from low to high so the software can analyze your vocal range (how low and high you can sing: bass to soprano). The results are displayed graphically by the software; it shows you where your voice is compared with the actual notes. The user interface is easy to understand even for complete musical neophytes. From there, you’re guided through 20 tutorials that are designed to help you develop good tone, sing a range of pitches, and read music. You can go through all 20 lessons or pick and choose the ones you want.
Don’t have the patience for school? Vocal Trainer lets you skip ahead and begin singing actual songs, karaoke style. The app includes many public domain songs to get you going, or you can download hundreds of pop songs via a dedicated link. The first four downloads are free; after that they cost $3 to $4 each. Songs come in a proprietary format (no file sharing or conversion) that works only with the Vocal Trainer; they also come with the lyrics and digital “sheet music.” The application provides a mixing board you can use to adjust the volume of your vocals and accompanying tracks.
At the end of each song, you get a rating of 1 to 100, based mainly on the accuracy of your pitch throughout. My first attempt at “America the Beautiful” earned a 34; by the third try I was up to a 69–and that was just by following the color-coded scale and pitch boxes on the score.
The Vocal Trainer kit is available only at Circuit City for $90. Considering that the LightSnake cable costs $50 when purchased separately, the kit is a bargain with its included microphone and well-designed software. Now when I sing, I don’t land in hot water. Do Re Mi.
–Michael S. Lasky