In this guest post by A. Eric Heukeshoven, find out how to make Sibelius 6 sing lyrics during playback using the latest version EastWest Quantum Leap Symphonic Choirs.
Eric is a member of the music faculty at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, where he teaches composition, arranging, ear training, low brass, organ, and jazz piano. Eric is also an accomplished composer, with recent commissions including new works for choir – including a forthcoming premiere in Rome, Italy – and band. You can take a look at some of Eric’s works on SibeliusMusic.com.
In 1962, John L. Kelly and his associates at Bell Labs recreated the song Daisy Bell (aka A Bicycle Built for Two) using an IBM 704 computer with accompaniment by another pioneer in music technology – Max Matthews.
Visiting the lab that day was Arthur C. Clarke who, a few years later would write 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the climactic scene, astronaut Dave Bowman frantically attempts to shutdown the HAL9000 computer. HAL asks Dave if he would like to hear him sing a song. The song, of course, was Daisy.
I have been using Sibelius since 1998 and have witnessed the evolution of sampled playback going from basic, with standard General MIDI sounds:[audio:https://www.scoringnotes.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/general_midi.mp3|titles=general_midi]
to better, through sampled sounds like Sibelius Sounds Choral:[audio:https://www.scoringnotes.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/sibelius_sounds.mp3|titles=sibelius_sounds]
But until recently, vocal playback was limited to basic sounds such as “Ah”, “Oo”, and “Ee”. That all changed when East West Quantum Leap (EWQL) introduced their Symphonic Choirs virtual instrument.
EWQL Symphonic Choirs was the first virtual instrument able to “sing” text based on phonetic input. But the original implementation of the software required two separate programs – Word Builder to interpret the phonemes, and Play to output the sampled sounds. Connecting these two programs to Sibelius was possible, but cumbersome and, to say the least, not at all user-friendly.
With the release of Play version 2.1.1, EWQL has finally incorporated their Word Builder and Play software into a single interface. The result is a VST that integrates quite nicely with Sibelius 6. The following step-by-step guide will demonstrate how to make your copy of Sibelius sing!
For this example, I’ll use an SATB setting of, what else, Daisy. If you have an existing SATB score, open it in Sibelius. If not, go create a new one.
Setting up Word Builder
First, choose Play > Playback Devices, and create a new playback configuration, in which you should activate four instances of the Play VST or Audio Unit:
In the Mixer, assign each instance of Play to your four SATB staves:
Open the Play interface by clicking the little cog icon just to the left of Ch. 1 in your SOPRANO Mixer settings:
Click on the Word Builder button, and then on the Insert menu item when it appears. Next, click on the Browser button to load a set of samples for the soprano voices.
In order for Word Builder to function correctly you must load one of the “Multis” – a set of samples containing all the necessary phonemes for playback. I’ll use the WB (Word Builder) NV (non-vibrato) sample set for this example to keep my CPU and RAM demands under control. Double-click on the Multi of your choice in the rightmost column to load the samples.
Note: Extensive details about the different samples can be found in the The Symphonic Choirs Users’ Manual.
Now it’s time to enter our text into Word Builder. When the multi is loaded, click on the Player button to exit the Browser, and then click on the Word Builder button. You’ll see the Word Builder interface:
Due to the fact that Sibelius keyboard commands are recognized when entering text into Word Builder’s editor, I recommend editing your text in an external program. Since I’m using a Mac, I find TextEdit to be a simple and effective program for this task. Enter your text in the editor of your choice, then select all and copy.
Note: You can type English text and Word Builder will translate into its native “VOTOX” phonetic language.
Return to the text editor in Word Builder, click inside the edit box and paste your text:
Resetting Word Builder to the first word
Word Builder essentially loops the text you’ve entered. In order to match your playback position in Sibelius with the beginning of your text, you need to insert a single MIDI command before the first note in each of your 4 voices. To do this, I suggest adding a short measure at the beginning of your music:
Using either Expression or Technique text, enter the MIDI message ~C20,127 on each staff (see 4.17 MIDI messages in Help > Documentation > Sibelius 6 Reference for more details).
Have I mentioned saving your document? As always, when dealing with new technology you can never save often enough! By saving your playback configuration, Sibelius will load the correct instances of Play whenever you activate that particular configuration. However, I have also found that exporting your VST data will save you time and trouble since the .FXP file retains not only your selected Multis but your Word Builder text as well. To export your VST data, click on the right “FXP” icon at the top of the Play window:
Ready to sing!
It is not necessary to include the lyric text in your Sibelius file, but it’s fun so I’ve included it in my finished example:
We have indeed come a long way since a computer first sang this tune nearly 50 years ago. Thanks to Sibelius 6’s ability to host VST plug-ins, and the recent release of Play 2.1.1, it is finally possible to realize what has been a dream of mine for many years – making Sibelius sing!
I hope this tutorial will help others as well. Special thanks to Peter Roos at Summer of Love Music in San Francisco for steering me in the right direction when I was starting to wrap my brain around this technology.
Thanks to Eric for contributing this tutorial. If you’d like to submit a tutorial for inclusion on this blog, please get in touch.