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Making a Vocal Synthesizer Sing Nonsense in a Video Game

Next time you choose to create a song for any piece of media, ask yourself what you can do differently that would go against what’s common.

December 4, 2023

3 Min Read

You’re probably wondering why I am using a vocal synthesizer at all in a video game, but let me explain. This year I was given the opportunity to start creating songs for a music-heavy game called Rockin’ Racket. One of the characters, Haley, is the vocalist for a pop punk band of the same name. I knew immediately that the songs from this band needed vocals that would represent Haley. How would I approach this? Well, I knew nothing about actual vocals so I opted for something that I am extremely comfortable with: vocal synthesizers. I have been working with vocal synths for around a decade, but never for anything outside of leisure. I thought I could challenge myself by using a vocal synth to help create the vocals that would express the unique singing style of Haley.

It started with some samples. I was unsure how familiar the other members were with the way vocal synths sound. This led me to create some short clips of the voice library singing melodies I wrote into the program. I chose to use the Synthesizer V Kasane Teto voice library provided by AH-Software Co. Ltd. with synthesized vocal samples of Oyamano Mayo. In these short clips, I adjusted various parameters that would change the voice’s timbre. After getting feedback from the group, I settled on a specific parameter set. Now that I had the sound where we wanted it, how was I going to create lyrics? This game plans on having beep speak. You know, like the beeps and squeaks that Nintendo’s Animal Crossing games have. That means that I did not want English lyrics or anything remotely discernable from the vocals. Let the gibberish madness begin.

I began with consonant-vowel (CV) strands like ba bi bu be bo that eventually evolved into consonant-vowel-consonant strands like bak tak nan tan. I wanted it to somehow say words similar or sounding like English, but ever so slightly off so that the listener could never actually tell. This was difficult at first because I am mainly used to creating songs with discernable lyrics in either English or Japanese (and even Spanish at times). Purposefully making a song with nonsense gibberish as the lyrics was harder than I thought. Then, the question became: what sounds cool? What sounds different from what I’m used to hearing? What are some interesting combinations that you don’t commonly hear in English or Japanese? This is what led to something hilariously chaotic.

Synthesizer V has a feature where you can put multiple syllables into one note and the vocal synth will mash those syllables into the length of it. This might sound confusing, but imagine fitting supercalifragilisticexpialidocious in a single quarter note at 120 beats per minute. The result is quite interesting. This created what sounds like a free verse rap section in a pop punk piece which I found to be perfect for something as oppositional and rebellious as the genre itself. I had to purposefully break a previously conditioned habit of keeping everything in a nice and even meter. Because of this, it took me a while to go, “Hey, what if I just didn’t follow common musical/lyrical ideas?” Thus, the basis for the nonsense lyrics of this game had been created. Next time you choose to create a song for any piece of media, ask yourself what you can do differently that would go against what’s common. You might just find something as interesting as I did!

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