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Voice Tutor puts vocal exercises in your pocket


Whether you fancy yourself the second coming of Pavarotti or just the best vocalist in your own shower, the truth isn't always pleasant to the ear: not everyone can sing. Everyone, however, can learn to sing better -- and that's the point of Voice Tutor, a sharp app from the experienced vocal coaches at IMPACK and Kimad Productions. For US$4.99, it lets your iPhone or iPod touch provide a full menu of workouts, fixes, and expert tools for polishing your voice and fixing the issues that may hamper your rock and roll nights.

There's one important point about this app that may not be immediately obvious, and it's the source of some sour notes in the App Store reviews: it does not record your singing performances or do any direct analysis. This misperception isn't helped by the microphone-themed graphics in the app, unfortunately.

The initial diagnostic pass on your personal vocal issues is done by manually comparing your sung scales by ear to four sample recordings from the app; it may help to have a trusted friend or straight-faced spouse listen to you and the samples to give an objective assessment. You self-assign a category of practice to your specific situation; whether you sing with tension, breathiness, cracking, or with a connected and smooth tone, there's a full set of exercises for you. A screencast of the app in action is watchable here.

I consider myself a reasonably solid amateur singer, with musical improv training and performance experience (not to mention plenty of karaoke), so I was pleased to come up as "connected" on the diagnostic pass in Voice Tutor -- I had my children help classify me. The training philosophy of the app centers around mastering the "break," the transition between chest voice and head voice that tends to divide vocalists into the traditional SATB parts. In Voice Tutor's world, you work toward a "connected" voice to maintain a smooth and relaxed vocal style regardless of whether you're singing from your chest or head voice.

Each vocal challenge area includes special workouts to help address the problems or issues you may have when singing, with almost 200 individual program segments in the Vocal Focus part of the tool. Once you graduate from your training session, you can head into the Give Me a Workout section anytime you need to warm up or "clear the pipes" before an audition or performance. The app's final section, Riff n' Run, is designed to give more experienced vocalists the tools they need to handle more complex phrasing and develop an individual style fingerprint.

Even in a relatively brief pass with Voice Tutor, I can already feel the exercises and instructional content gently nudging my voice in a better direction; the workouts made me stretch without straining, and I noticed some rough spots starting to come around. It's not pretending to be a substitute for a qualified vocal coach and a tireless accompanist, but consider how much musical instruction is squeezed into the app and how often you might need a warm-up or workout on the go -- at five bucks, you can have it for a song.

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