HOW I DID IT

by Jim Allenspach

The following document is a step-by-step instruction manual that details how I created my singing dictionary tracks on my very own home computer. Hopefully these instructions will point you in the right direction on how to create your own. The instructions are as detailed as possible, but obviously you're going to have differences and difficulties of your own, when you try this. Consider this as part of the challenge of doing it yourself.

What you need:

  1. A computer. (Actually, that's not true; you could also use standalone digital sampling equipment to piece together a track. But if you have your own sampler, you probably don't need these instructions, so you can bail out now.)
  2. An idea on what song you want to do.
  3. Some sort of music editing program. I swear by the programs put out by Sonic Foundry (www.sonicfoundry.com), and they have a fully functional copy of their ACID music editing program that would work just fine for our purposes, but you should use whatever you feel comfortable using. Other popular choices include ProTools (free version at http://www.digidesign. com/ptfree/) and Syntrillium's Cool Edit (www.cooledit.com). The music editor should allow you to do multi-track recording (that is, something that will allow you to place samples and move them around).
  4. A source for the sound samples for words. The list of dictionary Websites that provide this resource is just two in number right now: Merriam-Webster, and MSN's Encarta.

How you do it:

  1. Get an instrumental version of the song you want to do.
    This should be pretty easy. Just go to your favorite search engine (google.com should work the best), and go looking for your song. You might want to include the search term "MIDI", to see if anyone's created a MIDI version of the song.
    Other possible sources of instrumental songs include: karaoke CDs; EPs released with instrumental versions of the song; and even creating your own background music, if you're confident in your musician skills.
  2. Transfer the song to your computer, in a format that your music editing program can handle.
    If you're looking for a version online, it will probably be in MIDI format. Some editing programs can handle MIDI files just fine, while others cannot. If you can't load MIDI into your program, the simplest thing to do would be to convert it into a WAV file.
    The way I convert MIDI into WAV files is to play the MIDI in a player program, such as WinAmp or RealPlayer, and run a sound recording program at the same time, to capture the sound as it's being played. You might also check online for software to convert MIDI to WAV files (such as WinGroove, Audio Compositor, or MIDInight Express).
  3. Download the samples for each of the words in the lyrics to the song.
    This is pretty much busywork. Just go to one of the dictionary sites and start looking up words. On each definition page, you'll see a link to click to download the audio. Save each item to disk. (It helps if you create a directory or folder somewhere to save all the files, so all the files are in one eay-to-find location. And don't forget to check the filename. Some sites have less-than-clear file names for the audio files that they generate! You should rename each of the files to the actual word, so that they'll be easier to work with.)
  4. Start up your editor, and load all the files into a new project.
  5. Put down the music track in your editor.
  6. Start listening to the music, and determine where the "singing" should begin.
  7. Using your software, start laying down words in their respective order.
    This is why you need software that allows multitracking. You may also place successive words on different tracks, so they overlap and are easier to fit together.
  8. Continue until you've laid down a few lines of "singing", and then play it back to hear how it sounds. Adjust the positions of the words, if necessary.
    If the tempo of the song is very fast or very slow, you might have to do a little creative adjusting of the words, to fit them to the tempo of the song. This is where you get to play around with your editor, see what works and what doesn't, and use your creativity to make a unique version of the song.
  9. Continue in this manner, until your song is complete.
  10. Once you've got your track done, tell somebody at dictionaraoke.org, and they'll put it up on the site!

Tips:

Hopefully the instructions in this document will encourage you to start playing with your own music software, and come up with a new version of an old favorite. Have fun!


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