Sing-O-Meter

I was introduced to this App and I find it very interesting, in particular because it is very sensitive. There are so many intangibles in singing that whatever clarity we can find we should pursue it. I will investigate the Pro version and try to understand the coding parameters behind Sing-O-Meter but at first look, it is impressive. It is not a “singing” app in the advanced sense of the word. However it addresses the most fundamental skill in singing, which I call “ear-to-throat coordination.” Intonation in actual singing is fundamentally a perception issue and perception means context. In operatic singing, the desired chiaroscuro balance plays also into perceptions of intonation. 1) First of all, what are operatic vocal norms? Sadly today we don’t have any. Mass media plays a big part. Whatever we are told is viable is what we accept. Singers who are inaudible live can sound like they possess giant voices when they are amplified. 2) The audience is very forgiving. What we deem to be acceptable intonation has as much to do with what we accept as the singer’s timbre. That however can change with the singer’s personal tone expectations. In a way, consistency within the acceptable pitch margin of error can define the listener’s tolerance to a great extent. For example, is the singer flat or does s/he have a darker voice? As listeners we are also very forgiving relative to our timbre preferences. Furthermore, in a post-truth world, the singing business apparatus sees us as sheep who will accept whatever we have been programmed to accept. The human brain prefers what it is used to. That is why nearly 90% of pop songs in the last 20 years was written by two song writers, one American and one Swedish. It would not be a stretch to understand why Sweden is the most important nation relative to Eurovision, one of the entities that controls what we define as modern pop stars. What is the connection beyond Eurovision? How is this all related to the music we consume on our little personal computers?–This goes deep and dark!

That is why the fundamentals of Sing-O-Meter impress me. The level of sensitivity is very high therefore lowering the margin of error. This app leaves little to timbre preferences. I tried to modify how I sang into the app, but purposefully dark or purposefully bright, the app responded to fundamental frequency not perceivably to variations in the overtones. I could sing darker or brighter and still control my fundamental frequency relative to the app’s very limiting margin of error. An app like this can restore some objectivity to what we define as standards!

The truth is that the business, the schools and even private teachers lower the bar in the name of making more money. In the last 30 years it became more profitable to be mediocre than excellent. There aren’t so many people who have the staying power to become great singers in any discipline if great singing is defined by vocal control within more narrowly defined parameters. Someone can be a great musical artist and be a very poor vocalist. I love the voices of Edith Piaf and the lead singer of the Flamenco-Latin fusion group The Gypsy Kings but I’m clear that neither produces the voice in a way that is healthy and that both produced their voices in ways that are “harmful longterm.”

Longterm harm is a powerful combination of words! In a world obsessed with immediate gratification, almost no-one cares about longterm consequences–Not the music business driven by short-term profits, not the schools driven by student enrollment for their short-term bottom-lines, not the singers who get to scrape a living and perhaps not the teachers who also need to put food on their family’s tables and certainly all the bottom feeders who are sticking to aspiring singers like barnacles to a sinking ship.

In the last generation, we have seen the dumping of pretty much every value that made singing something special. Similar trends can be followed in every facet of life. Being an “artist” has essentially lost all of its luster in the name of money. The Internet was not conceived for what it has made the world. It is only a tool that has magnified the effects of the unbridled greed that can followed through every part of human history. And even at the edge of environmental catastrophe and even human extinction, it would seem that our human greed overpowers even our survival instinct.

There’s nothing I can write on this blog that will provide any effective counter to the momentum of a runaway greed train. However, this app gives me a little ray of hope that standards might be brought back. That in some corner of a post-decency world, Excellence might have worth. Quality might matter. Patience might be a virtue again. More than ever we need Art for Art’s sake.

App Logo

The app is available on Apple and Google Play platforms.

© 14 January 2020

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