If you read my post about VOCALOID last week, you probably saw this coming. If you didn’t, I strongly recommend you take a quick look at that one in order to understand what I’m about to show you now. All caught up? Great, then let’s get started!
This may seem rather bizarre since my last Motivational Music post featured classical music, but I guess that just goes to show how diverse my musical taste really is, and more importantly, how many different styles can inspire my writing (and hopefully yours). Ready for a taste of music from Japan? Then allow me to dig just a little deeper into the aforementioned love of mine by sharing music that features the voices of my three favorite Vocaloids: Hatsune Miku, Megurine Luka and KAITO.
Hatsune Miku (V3)
Genre(s): Pop, Rock, Electronic
Origin: Tokyo, Japan (Fujita Saki, Miku’s voice provider)
Writing Inspiration: Humor, Drama, Romance
My Favorite Song(s): “World is Mine“, “Magnet” (duet with Megurine Luka), “Romeo and Cinderella“, “Rolling Girl“, “Tell Your World“, “Senbonzakura”
My Favorite Producer(s): ryo (Supercell), Hachi, kz (livetune), wowaka, Mitchie M
Popularly known as “everyone’s favorite digital diva”, Hatsune Miku has been a national celebrity in Japan for years and more recently seems to be making quite an impact in the Western world. She was designed to represent the future of music (reflected in her name, as “hatsu-ne-miku” means “first sound of the future”), and by now has likely been used to sing in every genre of music imaginable (and I mean every genre, from opera and Broadway to heavy metal and dubstep). I often think of Miku as the Jack-of-all-trades of the Vocaloids; she has a voice suited to all types of music, but she isn’t always the best choice of vocals for a given song (case in point, virtually every other popular Vocaloid has a cover song that’s arguably better than its corresponding Miku original: “A Single Red Leaf” as sung by Luka, “Electric Angel” as sung by Rin and Len, “Poetaster and Singing Dolls” as sung by Gakupo, “My True Self” as sung by Kaito and Meiko, etc.). That being said, the songs that are well-suited for her are awesome.
Because most of her popular songs are upbeat, I’ve found Miku to be great inspiration for cheerful themes and stories with happy endings. At the same time, she sings a variety of songs that make good inspiration for other types of writing, including romantic, melancholy, terrifying, and just plain bizarre. Even if all you need is motivation to create, Miku is very good at cheering her listeners on and making them feel special. The subject matter of her songs covers everything from the meaning of life to vegetable juice, so whatever you plan to write, chances are there’s a Hatsune Miku song out there that may inspire you!
For some awesome music featuring Miku’s vocals, I recommend looking up songs produced by ryo, Hachi, livetune, wowaka and Mitchie M. Of course, great Hatsune Miku songs are never in short supply, as evidenced by the fact that she dominates Nico Nico Douga’s Hall of Legend. What can I say? She’s clearly everyone’s favorite digital diva for a reason!
Genre(s): Ballad, Pop, Dance
Origin: Tokyo, Japan (Asakawa Yuu, Luka’s voice provider)
Writing Inspiration: Drama, Tragedy, Romance
My Favorite Song(s): “Witch Hunt“, “Toeto“, “Double Lariat“, “Circus Monster“, “Happy Synthesizer” (duet with GUMI)
My Favorite Producer(s): fatmanP, Yuyoyuppe, Suzuki-P, Circus-P
My other favorite female Vocaloid, Megurine Luka‘s most notable quality is her ability to sing in both Japanese and English (hence the name “meguri-ne”, which translates as “round sound”). Unlike Miku, Luka is best known within the VOCALOID fandom as a ballad singer for her low mature-sounding voice, and most producers famous for using her have her sing slow, sad songs. That isn’t to say she only excels in this genre, though; in fact, some of her biggest hits are the type of songs that make you want to get up and dance (would you believe me if I told you I know the whole choreography to this song?). Her soft soothing vocals also make her an excellent choice for songs with romantic themes, so she’s definitely a potential favorite of fans who enjoy those types of stories!
Luka has been great inspiration for some of my more dramatic writing, such as romance and tragedy. Some of her best ballads are written by fatmanP and Yuyoyuppe, while Circus-P is famous for writing original songs for her in English. Luka is a popular choice among various producers, though, so your best bet to find great music featuring her voice is to check out her music page on the VOCALOID wiki. She may not be as famous as Miku, but you’ll find that she too has a wide variety of great songs to enjoy!
Genre(s): Folk, Electronic, Rock
Origin: Japan (Fuuga Naoto, Kaito’s voice provider)
Writing Inspiration: Romance, Humor, Poetry
My Favorite Song(s): “A Thousand-Year Solo“, “Tsugai Kogarashi” (duet with MEIKO), “Cantarella“, “What’s COLOR?“, “Crescent Moon”
My Favorite Producer(s): Shigotoshite-P, Shinjou-P, natsuP, Kurousa-P
Kaito (also known by his fan-given name Shion Kaito) is my favorite male Vocaloid. In a franchise that consists mostly of female voices, it’s refreshing to enjoy a lower register of vocals once in a while (plus a cute face to match, *wink*). Being one of only two Japanese voicebanks for the original VOCALOID engine (the other being Meiko), he is actually older than Miku and Luka (who were both released for VOCALOID2), but took considerably longer to become as popular. Due to his standing as a veteran Vocaloid, Kaito has a tendency to sound more “electronic” than his successors, but the best producers who use his voice know how to play this to their advantage. Because of this, many of Kaito’s best songs don’t try to hide the fact that he isn’t real, but instead use him to create a unique sound or theme that a human singer couldn’t pull off.
Most of the songs featuring Kaito at his best come in the form of traditional folk music or electronic tracks that showcase his original sound, though he’s also frequently used to sing rock (usually in the visual kei band VanaN’Ice with Kamui Gakupo and Kagamine Len). He’s also very good at singing duets with other Vocaloids; one of the biggest shipping wars I’ve ever come across in the fandom is about whether he makes a better couple with Miku (as in “Cendrillon“) or with Meiko (as in “A Pair of Wintry Winds“), and his cover of “Magnet” with Gakupo proves he has excellent chemistry with female and male Vocaloids alike. Since his V3 update, Kaito has become even more versatile, adding softer tones to his voice and even gaining the ability to sing in English, so good music sung by him isn’t likely to run out anytime soon!
Because of his range as a singer and a character, I find Kaito to be great inspiration for various types of writing, especially romance, humor and poetry. Most of my favorite songs featuring his voice were written by Shigotoshite-P (Japanese folk music), Shinjou-P (electronic) or natsuP (rock), so if you’re looking for some great Kaito songs, I highly recommend starting with music by any of these talented ladies. They really know how to make him shine!
Bonus: Want to hear a song performed by all three of these amazing Vocaloids? Try “ACUTE“; yes, it’s a tragic story about a love triangle, but the music is great!
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about my three favorite Vocaloids, and that you have fun listening to the music I’ve shared with you! Thanks for reading/listening!
VOCALOID is a product of Yamaha. Hatsune Miku, Megurine Luka and KAITO belong to Crypton Future Media. All official artwork is displayed for illustrative purposes only. I own nothing!
Those familiar with my blog know that Wednesdays are dedicated to topics regarding creative writing. Today, I’m going to step a little outside the box (not too far, don’t worry) to share a little more of my nerdy side and talk about my newest obsession: VOCALOID. There’s a lot I could tell you about this newfound love of mine (enough to fill another series of posts, in fact), but the point of bringing it up now is simply to focus on what I consider the most interesting aspect of the fandom: creativity through collaboration. So just sit back and listen while I take you on a brief journey through this incredible musical world. Enjoy!
What is VOCALOID?
Before I answer this question, let me ask you one: have you ever heard of a Japanese singer named Hatsune Miku? If not, take a minute to listen to one of her most popular songs: “World is Mine“.
Pretty neat, huh? Now what if I told you that the singer in the video doesn’t actually exist, and what you just heard was nothing more than a computer program synthesizing a human voice? Here’s another video of her singing the same song, but this time in front of a live audience:
Yes, that’s a full house cheering for a hologram! Seriously, how cool is that?
VOCALOID is a software from Yamaha designed to synthesize singing vocals, intended to serve as a substitute for real singers. Each package consists of a character name, a voicebank comprised of phonemes recorded by a real person, and (in most cases) a basic character design. Voice synthesizing is achieved by typing lyrics and melody into the program.
The Vocaloids started being released in 2004 with moderate commercial success, but the software exploded in popularity around 2007 when a Hatsune Miku cover of the Finnish folk song “Ievan Polkka” went viral on Nico Nico Douga (a Japanese video-sharing website similar to YouTube). Since then, VOCALOID has had a tremendous cultural impact, drawing fans from Japan and the Western world alike. To this day, Miku remains the most famous of the Vocaloids and NND plays an essential role in the collaborative creation and sharing of VOCALOID works.
Today, there are dozens of official Vocaloids available in at least six languages (mostly the original languages of Japanese and English), hundreds of fanmade voicebanks (known as UTAU), thousands of VOCALOID-related songs, and tons of derivative media ranging from video games to live concerts. There’s no doubt about it: VOCALOID is a global phenomenon.
Why is VOCALOID so popular?
Honestly, I’ve been asking myself the same question ever since I became a fan. I heard my first VOCALOID song (“World’s End Umbrella“) in 2010 through a reference from a friend, and YouTube must have remembered that because it gave me a recommendation for my second song (“Witch Hunt“) in mid-2013. The funny thing was, though I absolutely loved the latter, I had no clue yet what I was listening to. It was only in November 2013 that I really got into the fandom and started to learn more about the Vocaloids. Fast-forward half a year: I now have days’ worth of VOCALOID videos logged in my YouTube history and a playlist consisting of over 300 songs. Yeah.
The eight most popular (and my favorite) Japanese Vocaloids. In order from left to right: KAITO, MEIKO, Hatsune Miku, Megurine Luka, GUMI, Kamui Gakupo, Kagamine Len and Kagamine Rin
(Source unknown; image found on Zerochan)
So what is it about this fandom that’s kept me and countless others hooked for so long? Is it the endless assortment of awesome music? Is it the variety of characters with unique voices and personalities? Or is it the originality of the whole idea? If I had to bet on it, I’d say it’s a combination of all three, plus something extra special.
My theory is that what keeps VOCALOID going strong is the amount of creativity it takes to sustain the fandom. What starts out as a “singer in a box” becomes a character in stories told through music, a subject of visual art and a virtual presence on the stage of a sold-out concert. But what makes all this truly amazing is that the entire fanbase is built on a foundation of collaborative effort. In other words, to keep the Vocaloids “alive”, their fans usually work together.
Creativity, Collaboration, Empowerment
If there’s one song that sums up what the VOCALOID fandom is all about, it’s probably “Existence Imagination“. This is the product of the collaboration of 13 people using nine Vocaloids. The song showcases them at their best individually, in pairs and as a chorus, and the lyrics are essentially the characters happily saying they will always be there to give their voices to the creativity of their beloved songwriters. It’s all-around awesome. Hear for yourself:
The success of a VOCALOID producer is generally measured by the popularity of their uploaded works on NND, and this often relies on more than just good music. Because of this, many of the best VOCALOID videos are born from the combined effort of at least two people. One of my favorite teams of producers consists of three people: Hitoshizuku-P (music and lyrics), Yama△ (mixing) and Suzunosuke (illustration). Pretty much every project to which all three of them contribute is gold. Here’s a great example, the first video in a popular series of theirs using the famous “Vocaloid Eight”: Bad∞End∞Night.
The fun thing about VOCALOID is how interactive it is, in that it leaves about 99% to the imagination. Absolutely nothing is canon, right down to whether or not the Kagamine twins are actually related. All the developers provide is a voice and a basic character design; everything else (personalities, relationships, etc.) is left entirely up to the fans. And this opens the door to a flood of creative ideas.
Hatsune Miku has played every role from a self-aware artificial being to a shy girl in love to a powerful demigoddess. Megurine Luka is well known for singing in both Japanese and English, in tones ranging from low and soft to high and cute. Kagamine Rin and Len play siblings in some of their videos and lovers in others. Vocaloids sing solo, in duets, in trios and in groups. They’ve covered every genre and style of music: adorable, comedy, tragedy, horror, etc. In the spirit of creativity, producers even release off-vocal versions of their music to make it possible for others to cover the same songs using different Vocaloids (or their own voices). Their program has been around for ten years now. And the music just keeps coming.
So many possibilities have been constructed around the Vocaloids that it’s easy to forget they’re each nothing more than a voice and a drawing. Fans collectively build their personalities through music and visual art to create the characters we know and love, and I believe there’s a sense of empowerment to be found in that. The developers may have created the Vocaloids, but the fanbase brought them to life. I imagine that the real fun of attending a VOCALOID concert is knowing in the back of your mind that the lovable turquoise-haired girl smiling and waving from the stage only exists because you and everyone else around you helped make her real, and for those couple of hours, you feel special in the belief that she is singing to you. So in a way, even the fans who simply enjoy the music created by others are working together to keep the domain thriving.
Obviously, VOCALOID isn’t for everyone. Most people understandably prefer the voice of a real person to that of a machine, and many just don’t get the novelty of virtual singers. But where VOCALOID lacks in the reality department, it certainly makes up for in originality, creativity and inspiration. Sure, several fans of the Vocaloids claim to wish they were real, but honestly, I’m sure deep down we all love them for exactly what they are, and even more for what they give us. Producers and fans alike, everyone in the fandom is united by a mutual love of VOCALOID. And doesn’t that make it just as special as any other form of art?
Thank you for following me on this tour! I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the Vocaloids and the power they have to inspire creative collaboration. As always, thanks for reading, and if you really enjoyed the music featured in this post, welcome to the wonderful world of VOCALOID!
VOCALOID, VOCALOID2 and VOCALOID3 engines belong to Yamaha Corporation. Hatsune Miku, Kagamine Rin/Len, Megurine Luka, KAITO and MEIKO belong to Crypton Future Media. Kamui Gakupo and GUMI belong to Internet Co., Ltd. All videos and artwork belong to their respective creators and are displayed for illustrative purposes only. I own nothing!
(What If? Exercise: Read the description here.)
In my backpack is a fifth-generation iPod Nano. Its casing is a shiny cobalt blue, and its design is thin and sleek. The glass screen is partially cracked, and its click wheel is slightly worn from hours of flipping through its hundreds of songs. On the back is a personalized engraving, etched in by laser over the Apple logo and the camera lens: “Don’t ever stop singing.”
The iPod was a Christmas present from my boyfriend and best friend in the world. He and I met through our common interest in creative writing, but one of the passions we share is our love of music. Interestingly, we both generally dislike the modern mainstream pop that constantly blares on the TV and radio stations, but he was the one who introduced me to the Indie genres. The sweet sound of music layered with true emotion opened me up to an artistic world that I didn’t even realize existed. For the past few years, my boyfriend has been sharing so much new music with me, and I can never get enough. He even shares some of his own compositions with me, songs that really showcase his musical potential. In turn, he can never seem to get enough of my voice, ever since I first sang for him. He and I agree that music is a gift, a passion best experienced with someone you love.
The Christmas before we became a couple, my friend sent me a present through the mail. I was shocked to discover an Apple iPod Nano inside the box, intended as a replacement for my four-year-old iPod Mini, which was on its last legs. I couldn’t thank him enough. Now I would once again be able to enjoy hours of music at a time, the music he loved to send me. He had asked me to open the box in front of him over Skype, so that after he saw my reaction, he could tell me to turn the iPod over. It was then that I saw the engraving. I was so moved; it was such a personal and thoughtful gift.
To this day, I cherish my iPod. I carry it with me whenever I go out, and I listen to it every time I take the bus to college. I was disappointed in myself for letting its screen break when I dropped it once. Still, I take care never to misplace it, for if I ever lost it, it would be like losing a special connection to my best friend.
Between his home in the United States and mine in Brazil, my boyfriend and I currently live over 6000 miles apart. But as long as we have music, we’ll always be close. All I have to do is turn on my iPod, and wherever I go, he’s right there with me.
This piece is based on What If? Exercise 73: “Things You Carry”. The exercise is to choose an object you carry in your pocket or your bag that’s special to you, describe it in detail using less than 100 words, and then tell the story behind it in at least 200 words. The objective is to demonstrate how much emotional attachment and significance can be connected to everyday objects. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!
Back to the story
After recently spending hours listening to music on YouTube, I was inspired to write another Motivational Music post. Following the debut post about ambient/post-rock music, the genre featured in today’s topic is one that I’ve enjoyed since I can remember: classical. This type of music has been great inspiration for some of my writing in the past, especially poetry (since I like to think of classical music as poetry created with sound). I don’t want to go into “pretentious mode” and pretend to have a Music-major’s extensive knowledge of the genre, though, so for my first post on the subject, I’ll just scratch the surface with a few well-known Classical-era composers: Mozart, Beethoven and Bach.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Origin: Salzburg, Austria
Writing Inspiration: Poetry, humor
My Favorite Song(s): “Rondo Alla Turca” (Piano Sonata No. 11), “Symphony No. 40”
When thinking of classical music, one of the first names that comes to mind is Mozart, and with good reason. From piano sonatas to orchestra symphonies to operas, his music is wonderfully melodic and an absolute delight to listen to. Though I do enjoy the grander compositions like his 40th symphony, my favorite pieces of his are the lighter sonatas and arias, such as “Rondo Alla Turca” (the last movement of his 11th piano sonata, also known as the Turkish March) and the Queen of the Night aria (from the opera The Magic Flute).
What I find so enjoyable about Mozart’s music is the way it bounces, like the notes are floating on a breeze. Back when I took vocal lessons, I had to learn his piece “Das Veilchen” (“The Violet”), and though it was difficult to sing in German, I still enjoyed it for the bright melody. That’s why I find Mozart inspirational not just for poetry, but for humorous writing. Even when I’m not writing, I like to listen to his compositions just because they put me in a good mood. Whether it’s a grand symphony or a simple piano solo, there’s something about Mozart’s music that always brings a smile to my face.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Genre(s): Classical (Romantic era)
Origin: Bonn, Germany
Writing Inspiration: Poetry, drama, romance
My Favorite Song(s): “Symphony No. 5“, “Für Elise” (Bagatelle No. 25)
Yes, Beethoven is one of those composers whose music I could listen to all day. While I appreciate Mozart for his upbeat pieces, I enjoy Beethoven for his bold and powerful symphonies, which make excellent inspiration for dramatic writing. I sometimes listen to his fifth symphony when trying to get into a mindset for heavier scenes full of action or strong emotion (as demonstrated beautifully in this segment from Disney’s Fantasia 2000). Of course, the composer wasn’t limited to intense symphonies; one of his most famous pieces is the lovely piano bagatelle “Für Elise”, which contrasts with his more elaborate compositions for its soft and romantic melody.
Beethoven was an important figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras of music, so it stands to reason that his pieces comprise a diversity of sources for writing inspiration, from poetry to drama to romance. Honestly, I find his music so inspiring that I’d recommend it not just to writers, but to artists of any type. If you appreciate music at all, you should have at least one composition by Beethoven in your music player. It’s definitely worth it.
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Origin: Eisenach, Germany
Writing Inspiration: Poetry, drama
My Favorite Song(s): “Little Fugue (in G minor)“, Cello Suites
While Bach is admittedly not my favorite classical composer as far as concertos, I do enjoy his more subtle music. His cello suites are very beautiful and soothing (especially as performed by Yo-Yo Ma), and I find the slow melodies inspiring for writing drama and romance. My favorite piece, however, is definitely his “Little Fugue (in G minor)”; the music builds up as the different parts blend into each other to create a beautiful harmony, which I enjoy listening to while writing poetry or drama. Fun fact: this piece was adapted for the Dreamworks movie Shrek Forever After, where it plays as a club track (“Rumpel’s Party Palace“) in Rumpelstiltskin’s castle!
Though most of my favorite classical pieces are by Mozart and Beethoven, I find some of Bach’s music just as inspirational for certain forms of emotional writing. At the very least, I’d recommend his cello suites as background music for relaxing, as that can really help make the creative process easier!
Classical music is wonderful to listen to, as much for entertainment as for writing inspiration. Whether you write poetry or prose, comedies or tragedies, you can probably find inspiration in a good classical piece. I hope you enjoy the music I’ve shared with you today, and that you find in it the inspiration you need for your own art! Thanks for reading/listening!
OK, so I had another idea for an Inspiration subtopic for my blog. Aside from good books and talented authors, I’ve found that another major source of inspiration for my writing is music. Based on that thought, I decided to start a Motivational Music segment on my blog, and since there’s so much great music that I enjoy, each new post will feature a few related artists/songs at a time.
To start off this segment, here are a few of my favorite artists in the ambient and post-rock genres. Enjoy, and be sure to check out their music if you can!
Genre(s): Ambient, Post-Rock
Origin: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Writing Inspiration: Fantasy, romance, tragedy
My Favorite Song(s): “We Are But Ghosts“, “Everything”
How could I start my Motivational Music posts with anyone else? This young man is someone very special to me, and his gift (and taste) in music has been inspiring me ever since we became friends. In fact, most of the artists to be featured on this blog were recommended to me by him, so if you discover new music here that you enjoy, you probably have him to thank for it.
Most of Brent’s music consists of what he calls “sad sounds”, strung together in beautiful melodies with a melancholy tone. His songs are usually played with an electric guitar and loop pedals to create echoing ambient sounds, though he’s also created some very cool rock and post-rock pieces (a few of which were written just for me!). The ethereal feel of his songs has helped me imagine some wonderful fantasy scenes for my writing, and his so-called “sad sounds” have sparked ideas for more tragic scenes in my romantic stories.
To hear Brent’s music, check out his YouTube channel and SoundCloud page. I recommend starting with “We Are But Ghosts“. Enjoy!
Explosions in the Sky
The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place (2003)
Genre(s): Post-Rock, Instrumental
Origin: Austin, TX, USA
Writing Inspiration: Romance, tragedy, poetry
My Favorite Song(s): “Your Hand in Mine” (The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place, 2003)
If I remember correctly, Explosions in the Sky is the first post-rock band I ever listened to in my life. They’re also the first band I ever saw live in concert, and what an amazing experience it was! This band is popular for creating some very beautiful and emotional music, almost all of which is instrumental (guitars and drums). Because their songs are so moving and don’t usually have lyrics, I like to listen to them when trying to find inspiration for purely emotional writing, such as poetry and certain scenes involving characters of a more artistic nature. They’re also great to listen to just for relaxing and getting lost in thought once in a while.
Departure Songs (2012)
Genre(s): Ambient, Post-Rock
Origin: Nashville, TN, USA
Writing Inspiration: Fantasy, romance, tragedy
My Favorite Song(s): “Ten Thousand Years Won’t Save Your Life” (Departure Songs, 2012)
Hammock is probably one of my favorite bands in the ambient/post-rock genres. Like Explosions in the Sky, their music is comprised largely of instrumental sounds, mostly guitar combined with electronic beats. I tend to find inspiration in their music for poetic and fantasy pieces, as their unique sound often has a soft echoing style to it. I especially love the album Departure Songs (2012), which focuses on themes of loss and consists of beautiful songs with an ethereal vibe, making it great inspiration for writing of a more melancholy type.
These are just a few of the ambient/post-rock artists that have inspired me with their music. There will be more featured on my blog in the future, so if you enjoy finding inspiration in this art as much as I do, look forward to more posts in my Motivational Music segment! Thanks for reading/listening!