Part A: Overview

These tutorials are meant to be self-contained, but if you have any problems using Singer's Mate, you might also check the "Random Notes Page" on our website.

Singer's Mate is a pitch training tool. It assists the voice student in singing on key by displaying a trace of the pitch they are singing. The pitch trace is superimposed over the notes of a song as they are animated across the screen, providing visual feedback. Figure 1 shows a typical practice session. The pitch trace can be seen as a bright red line through the center of the notes.

In figure 1. you can also see a vertical solid line near the center of the screen. During practice, when notes are animating across the screen, the center line represents the current point in time. Notes start playing when they reach the center line and continue playing until they cross it. In figure 1 the note that is slightly darker than the rest is the note that is playing. The pitch trace starts at the center line and trails off to the left as the notes move across the screen. That is, the pitch you are singing is displayed in real time at the center line.

Figure 1

Since the iPhone's built-in microphone and speaker are in close proximity, if you play a song with Singer's Mate without the headset plugged in, the pitch detector ends up detecting the pitch of Singer's Mate's own accompaniment. This is one way to check that the pitch detector actually works, but to practice with Singer's Mate, you will have to wear a headset with microphone. This way, you can hear the accompaniment, but the pitch detector can hear your voice. It is best to practice in a reasonably quiet room. Also, even when using a headset, if the playback level is too loud, the microphone on iDevices is so sensitive that it will pickup the sound of the accompaniment coming from the headphones and interfere with pitch detection. If you notice that the red pitch line is being drawn over notes, even without singing or that the pitch detector is detecting noise, use the volume buttons on your iDevice to turn the playback volume down as low as possible. If the system volume dialog does not appear when you change the volume with the buttons on your iDevice, open and close the tray at the bottom of the screen. That usually fixes it.

The notes you see on the screen are displayed from a digital score in MusicXml format. Just like notes from any music score, they belong to a certain key and octave. It is common for tenors to sing from scores written for sopranos just by transposing down one octave. However, this will not work with Singer's Mate. In order to superimpose the pitch over the notes, the "paper pitch", that is, the pitch in the MusicXml file must be in the same octave as the singing pitch. To make this possible, Singer's Mate contains an auto-transposition tool, which is explained below.

Also, as you will notice in figure 1, the horizontal lines drawn through the center of notes, seem to correspond to the staff lines of a standard music score but they are not spaced evenly. To distinguish between standard music scores and the format used by Singer's Mate, these lines are called "pitch lines" as opposed to "staff lines." The vertical distance between pitch lines corresponds to the difference in frequency between adjacent notes. For example, the vertical distance between D and E (a whole step) is twice the distance between E and F (a half step). This format is necessary to provide the visual feedback described above.

First Practice Session:

To practice singing, you need music scores. Singer's Mate is installed with several example scores from the public domain. However, you will most likely want to acquire scores for pieces that you are interested in. Singer's Mate provides several methods to acquire new scores, which are described in Part C, but for now, let's get started with one of the example songs.

Return to the Home Page by pressing the Done Button on Singer's Mates' Info Page and press the Songs Button to open the Songs Dialog as shown in figure 2. You will notice that there is a button titled "Exercises" in the upper right-hand corner of the Select Song Dialog. This button will allow you to flip between the song list and exercise list. We will not use the exercises in this tutorial.

Select one of the example songs and tap Done to exit the dialog box. Notes and lyrics from the song you selected will be displayed on the screen. You can scroll through the song by flicking the screen left or right, or by using the Verse Selector.

The Verse Selector appears in figure 1 as a thick line just below the song title and is divided into red and grey segments. These segments represent sections of the song where measure numbers are continuous. The color of the bar changes each time a jump is made back to a previous measure due to a repeat, Dal Segno or Da Capo, providing a kind of score map. Touching the Verse Selector for about a half second will cause a dark glow to appear around your finger tip and the display will jump to the selected position. Rough navigation of a piece is achieved by touching the Verse Selector and fine navigation is performed by flicking or swiping the screen left or right. The small white square on the Verse Selector is the current location indicator and animates as the screen scrolls.

Figure 2

After selecting a song, the next step is to make sure that the song is in your vocal range. Tap the Settings Button to open the Edit Settings Dialog. This dialog contains parameters for customizing your practice session. As you can see in figure 3, the top three parameters are listed in red, indicating that they belong to the current song. Each song has its own transposition value, tempo and note width. If you change these values, when you exit the Edit Settings Dialog, they will be stored in a database and reinstated each time the same song is selected. The parameters listed in black are common for all songs, but they are also stored in a database and will be reinstated each time Singer's Mate is opened.

Figure 3

Tap on "Transposition Tool" at the top of the Settings Dialog. This will open the dialog box shown in figure 4. The two horizontal lines in the pink bar represent the highest and lowest note in the selected song. To use the Transposition Tool, you will need a microphone. Usually a microphone is either built into your iOS device or is included in your headset. If this is not the case, you'll have to acquire a headset with microphone. After opening the Transposition Tool, try singing a few notes. The pitch you are singing will be indicated by the pitch bar extending like a thermometer upward in the pink area. The color of the pitch bar will turn from red to blue when you are singing above or below the range of the selected piece. If you can comfortably sing in these ranges, the piece is already within your vocal range and you can dismiss the Transposition Tool. If not, you need to transpose the piece.

There are two ways to transpose a piece. You can tap on one of the buttons titled "Octave Up" or "Octave Down", or you can transpose in half steps by moving the picker wheel. In either case, the key you have transposed to and the number of half steps by which the song has been transposed are displayed in red. Continue to sing as you move the horizontal lines up or down. When you find your range, return to the home page by tapping the Done Button in the Transposition Tool and again tapping the Done Button in the Edit Setting Dialog.

Figure 4

You are now ready to practice. Tap the Play Button and the song's intro will begin. The intro consists of playing the notes in the first measure with the metronome turned on to give you a feel for the beat and starting pitch. The screen does not move during the intro, but starts animating on the first note following the intro. You can stop the practice session at any time by touching the screen. At the end of a practice session, you can review the session by scrolling. The pitch trace will remain displayed until you start a new practice session by tapping the Play or Cont(inue) buttons.

The pitch detector needs a periodic signal to lock onto. You must be phonating clearly for the pitch detector to work. Of course, you have to stop phonating to take an occasional breath and when you pronounce certain consonants, so there will always be breaks in the pitch trace, but in general a smooth continuous pitch trace is an indication that you are phonating clearly. You can test this by ignoring the lyrics and just singing vowels.

Well, this is the end of Part A of this tutorial and you now know enough about Singer's Mate for your first practice session. After giving it a try, please come back for Part B.


Tutorial Links:

  • Part A: Getting Started - just enough info for your first practice
  • Part B: Customizing Your Practice Experience
  • Part C: Installing New Songs On Singer's Mate