It’s easy to put words in a virtual singer’s mouth with the Kontakt instrument Realivox Blue.
Realivox Blue is a word- and phrase-based vocal sample library for Native Instruments Kontakt. It can deliver impressive female vocal performances with a cinematic quality. Imagine controlling Enya’s voice with MIDI and you’ll get the basic idea, but Blue can do more than lush vocal pads. Simply select your phonetic syllables in the Word/Phrase Builder page, play your keyboard, and voilà, you have a singing synth.
To Coin a Phrase
Packed with more than 12,000 individual samples, Blue lets you create female solo, duet, and three-part ensemble arrangements that contribute surprisingly realistic vocal parts to your compositions. The library supplies a comprehensive selection of starting consonants, vowels, and transition consonants that you select and connect to create words and phrases. It also offers some special premade words and phrases to give you instant results. It’s very easy to get up and running without reading the manual, as the folks at Realitone have done an admirable job of designing a user-friendly environment for an expressive software instrument.
To become familiar with Blue’s user interface and how to play the instrument, start off by entering any phrase phonetically. For example, I entered my name by selecting T as the Start Consonant, Ah as the Vowel, and M as the End Consonant, and clicking on the Next Syllable button. Then I selected S as the Start Consonant and Eh as the Vowel, and for the next syllable entered L, Uh, and R.
Sing a Simple Song
It took me only a few minutes to get going, but creating realistic phrases is only the beginning. You can build your own language of phrases to create theatrical vocals reminiscent of Gregorian chants, ethnic and scat singing, whimsical solo vocals, and so on—perfect for cinematic scoring, for example. It can hum, too. The first time I tried Blue, the Cocteau Twins came to mind, and I recognized new territory to explore for my productions.
Realivox Blue has three Legato modes. When you play overlapping notes, Vowel mode sustains the vowel sound, and Phrase mode plays through all the syllables. Poly mode triggers legato when you play new notes immediately after releasing previous notes. You can enhance realism by assigning keyswitch commands to switch between Vowel, Phrase, and Poly Legato modes. You can freely assign MIDI CC# to control the Legato modes, too. Legato also has multiple samples and special transition sounds that make for better articulation.
Practice Makes Perfect
Because it’s based on sampled audio, Blue presents some challenges and issues to consider when you’re building phrases and learning how best to perform and record them. For example, sometimes it takes a few moments for the phrases to load. If you’re trying to quantize them, you may need to either play ahead of the beat or move notes slightly ahead when you’re editing DAW tracks to get the perfect feel. It’s not a big problem, but you should be aware of it. As with any instrument, it will take some familiarity to get the hang of it. With a little practice and knowhow, though, you will be off to the races in no time.
Some words and phrases take extra massaging and trickery to get the most accurate results. In the Word/Phrase Builder, you can use an End Consonant as the Start Consonant of the next syllable or word. You can often achieve smoother transitions with the Legato modes. You can also trigger several alternate samples with Shift keyswitches that offer variants, so you don’t hear static vowels repeating. A few vowel sounds are not currently possible to achieve, so Realivox Blue isn’t going to replace a real human anytime soon. However, with a little effort, you can get surprisingly close results.
Get the Word Out
The Settings page offers you additional controls for realism and expressivity. The Attack and Release settings give you the ability to create swells. Vibrato settings let you use your pitch wheel to adjust vibrato on the fly. Furthermore, reverb, tuning, delay, pan, volume, and voice parameters offer more flexibility to make ensembles even more realistic.
The Voice sliders offer three distinct voices with 24 variants per voice. They give your ensemble the same range of character as different women’s voices rather than a single, static, sampled singer. Three different voices can quickly sound like a choir, saving you time and effort when you’re working on single track. Otherwise, additional voices could require more sampler instances and DAW tracks. You can also thicken a single singer’s vocal sound with fine adjustments to the individual voices. This flexibility is where Blue really shines.
I can imagine more than just soundtrack producers using Blue. If you want to add female backing vocals to your demos, you can create excellent guide tracks for teaching harmony parts to your singers. Blue can sing scat for jazzy and funky material, too. With more singers in your sample collection—like those in Realitone’s Realivox Ladies—you could find far more uses for various styles of music. When Blue is mixed in with other tracks and effects, you can easily mask any flaws in your words and phrases, and they almost disappear.
Me Sing Pretty One Day
After experiencing Realivox Blue, I thought about its potential. Imagine what may be possible someday with vocal sampling, using artificial intelligence to phonetically interpret words and phrases from text. Obviously, text-to-speech has been around for a long time as an accessibility feature for documents. As AI emerges in our daily workflows, maybe someday an instrument like Blue could read lyrics in a score and instantly sing them. I hope to hear Realivox tackle male vocals someday, as well.
The amount of work and attention to detail that Realivox took in creating Blue is remarkable, to say the least. To get a better idea of the endlessly creative ideas you can come up with, listen to the demos on Soundcloud that that various musicians have recorded with Blue. Realivox’s informative and entertaining tutorial videosare extremely helpful and well done, too.
Especially for its current sale price of $99.95, I think you’ll find Blue impressive and enticing. It’s refreshing that Realitone put so much effort into making a product fun, expressive, and easy to use while also making it affordable. If Blue is any indication of what Realitone has to offer, I’m going to check out their other sample libraries, and you should, too.
Supported sample player: Native Instruments Kontakt or Kontakt Player