If you’ve been keeping up with social media and Japanese pop culture in the past few years, you may have heard terms such as vocaloid and buzz about music artist Hatsune Miku. However, you may be wondering, what exactly is vocaloid?
Originally invented in 2000, vocaloid is a singing voice synthesizer software that enables users to synthesize “singing” by typing in lyrics and a melody. It also allows the users to create speech by typing in a script, and the software can change the stress of the pronunciations, add effects such as vibrato, or change the dynamics and tone of voice. The software is intended for both professional musicians and casual computer users, and it uses specially recorded vocals of voice actors or singers, called voicebanks. Each voice bank is given an animated character to represent and perform the music, and these characters are called vocaloids or virtual idols. Currently, voicebanks are available in English, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Spanish, with Japanese being the most popular, and there are five total vocaloid software versions available, with the newest one being released in 2018.
The most famous vocaloid idol by far is Hatsune Miku, a 16-year-old Japanese girl notorious for her long, flowing turquoise hair. The name “Hatsune Miku” itself means “the first sound from the future,” which suggests that vocaloid music may eventually become mainstream and more popular than ever. Hatsune Miku’s voicebank was developed by Crypton Future Media and was voiced by Japanese voice actor Saki Fujita. Since her debut, Hatsune Miku has accounted for more than $120 million in revenue and over 100,000 songs worldwide. Of her hundreds of thousands of songs, her most popular ones are “The World is Mine,” “Ievan Polkka,” and “The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku.” If you are interested in anime, J-pop, or even K-pop, I would highly recommend giving vocaloid music a listen!