I get to review an app this edition. AN APP! You may not quite understand my excitement here, so let me explain: I am a VERY new smartphone user, as in the last month or so. The world of apps and the ability to sync various aspects of my life together throughout my devices is all fresh and exciting to me. As you can imagine, I had a lot of fun exploring Voice Tutor.
Voice Tutor is an amazing instructional tool for singers of all levels. It has obviously been developed with care by people who really understand the voice and who are dedicated to the crafts of singing, teaching, and vocal technique. It had a few quirks, but I can definitely see myself continuing to use it.
Diagnosis: As soon as you open the app you’re asked to diagnose your voice, which takes about 5 minutes. (If you are a beginner or novice, this could potentially be difficult to do, so I would recommend recording yourself on another device so that you can listen back and assess yourself.)
Give Me a Workout: This section simply contains some scales and no instruction, so it can be used as a quick warm-up tool before a gig, audition or before starting your more intense Voice Tutor workout. Always a good thing to have!
Riff ‘n’ Run: This is the section I excitedly jumped into first. It is for more advanced singers and focuses on developing vocal stylings or riffs, the kind that are very popular in American vocal music at the moment. It too runs for about an hour, and was a fun and sometimes challenging workout. More on this one in a bit!
Just Breathe: This section offers a great tool to work on breath control. If you do yoga, you’ll be familiar with this kind of exercise – it’s a great way to centre yourself, too! Welcome to the virtues of not using too much air when you sing!
When I got the ‘assignment’ to explore the Voice Tutor App, there were two sections that interested me in particular: Riff ‘n’ Run and the Pitch Detector tool. I felt that these were two components that made the app especially unique, and exploring them was my top priority.
There are four different general voice types to choose from: Tense, Breathy, Cracking, and Connected. Examples of each voice type are provided. Once you have diagnosed your voice, the app is broken down into several different sections as follows:
How to Sing: This section offers some reading on how to sing, as you’d expect! It is quite in depth and thorough in its explanations, which I think is imperative for a singing app that encourages users of all levels without a live teacher and essential for any novice.
Focus On My Voice: Here you will find instruction and a guided workout for your diagnosed voice type. Each lasts for about an hour – you probably wouldn’t do them in one sitting if you are anything like me! The interface makes it easy to jump around between exercises or skip the examples as you like, but I would love to see it broken into two sections so that if you didn’t commit to a long practice you wouldn’t have to remember where you left off when you start up again.
Riff ‘n’ Run
To be honest, I have never really been interested in learning how to ‘riff’, but I love learning new things, so the idea appealed to me. The exercises are really fun, and some of them quite challenging – in range, and in the exercise – and while I found myself wondering how and if they would work, I just let myself go with the flow and in the interest of seeing what would happen if I stuck with it. No expectations.
I had probably been working with the app a couple of weeks when someone asked me to sing something for them. Sure, why not! The song was one that I love, but one that I hadn’t sung in a long time, so I didn’t have any ‘set’ sort of way I’d been used to singing it. Can you imagine my shock when I was singing and these riffs just came out? I couldn’t believe it! After a really short amount of time I was ‘riffing’ without really even trying to. I guess the Riff ‘n’ Run section worked!
It is definitely fun to be able to add a new styling to your vocal vocabulary and I am inspired to use this new tool! However, there is one “note to self” if you will: “riffing” shall not become a habit! One of the best questions someone asked me when I first starting singing was, “Do you know that you have this little inflection that you always use in your styling?” I didn’t know, so since then I listen to my practice and making sure that the stylings I use are a choice and not a habit.
I definitely found the Riff ‘n’ Run section fun and effective. Apparently there are plans to expand upon this part of the app into different genres. Can’t wait for that!
The next thing I played with was the Pitch Detector tool. What a great idea! I love that it is included, however this part unfortunately falls a little short in my opinion.
Here’s the story: I don’t claim to have perfect pitch, but I was quite shocked at how ‘off pitch’ the app told me I was so I tried it a number of times. I am quite competitive with myself! When things didn’t improve, I tried it with headphones thinking that perhaps the app was picking up the sound of the piano track. That improved things a little, but the next time I stopped singing I watched the needle flit around all by itself and then tell me at the end that I had sung 216 of 234 notes OFF PITCH.
Thank goodness I fared better than the piano! But was the addition of the piano making my score bad? Good pitch is great to have, and we all should work on our ears, but I don’t think this part of the app does much to help with that. Being able to listen back to yourself when working on specific problem areas is extremely helpful, so it was frustrating to not be able to hear where my pitch was (apparently) off. I felt like if the app could ‘listen’ to my pitch, surely it could record and compare it also?
So, I think my biggest ‘want’ for the Voice Tutor App is a recorder that doesn’t involve me having to set up another device. After all, now that I have a smartphone I don’t want more things to have to use. The Voice Tutor App definitely does not claim to be a substitute for a professional vocal coach, however, I feel that being able to listen back and track your progress is a rather important feature that is missing. Will it keep me from using it? Nope. Would I recommend it to my friends and students? Yep, for sure!
Overall, I think Voice Tutor has a lot of great and helpful features to it, and I will definitely continue to use it. It is really useful and while it will never be a substitute for professional vocal lessons, it does offer really good training, development and voice-maintenance tools. So much has gone into its creation already and I hope it continues to be developed further!
Ok, off to practice my riffs ‘n’ runs!