On December 1, we released imitone's biggest and best update ever. Go get it!
imitone 0.9 is much better at following your song, thanks to a smarter note interpreter. It has also been re-designed, comes with a shiny new manual, and introduces three big features that have been a long time in the making:
Previous versions of imitone have always been eager to change notes, playing near your voice's pitch at all times. This can be a problem when trying to sing long, steady tones: if you lose control of your pitch for even a split second, it could play another note. It can also cause trouble when singing a low note, followed by a high note — often imitone would pick up on a quiet pitch slide that you weren't trying to make.
When your pitch is sliding, 0.9's Hold Mode will keep playing the original note until you settle on a new one. This produces a tidier score and is especially helpful for composing. We've kept Lock Mode around as an even more careful variation.
While I plan on fine-tuning it, this first take at hold mode works very well! I also had a few new insights into how to make the other slide modes smarter — you'll notice that even the old modes are less jittery than before.
If you're not a trained singer, odds are you drift out of key now and then. Until now, imitone would always try to choose the note closest to your real pitch. This caused a problem when singing out-of-tune, near the half-way points between notes — imitone would round some notes up and others down, making it feel random. I described this problem in detail earlier in the project.
The key is in the way people hear music: We have a much better sense for difference in pitch than for exact pitch. Most of us can't sing a perfect "C" without some help, but we can usually get the distance between C and G right. When we sing out of tune, Pitch Guide appears as a white fork, and adjusts imitone's "guess" until it matches up with the scale we've set. It carries over between notes, so that the movement (C-G) will be the same in our song. This way imitone can understand what we're trying to sing, even if it's out of tune.
Highly skilled singers may not need pitch guide, but most of us will want to leave it on at all times when making music. The effect is subtle, but important: It makes it less of a problem to drift out of tune, which can happen easily when we can't hear our own voice. It also makes imitone work automatically with unusual tunings.
As we add settings to imitone, it gets harder to understand what they all do. Presets help by providing suggested settings for controlling different groups of instruments.
Daah! A piano's energy comes from the beginning of the note, and we usually don't want these notes to slide around. The keys preset, also good for bells and xylophones, combines attack triggering with hold mode so that we can land notes one-by-one.
Haah! A violin, on the other hand, has continuous energy, and can lilt from note to note without a break in the sound — so we use sustain and portamento mode, with vibrato control switched on for good measure.
Biddly-diddly-doo! A saxophone can dance all over the scale, playing many brief notes in between longer ones. For this we use imitone's old defaults — sustain and sweep. This also works great for electric guitar.
We chose to give the presets vague names because they're just guidelines. Some saxophone performances might sound better under the "synth" preset, while some synthesizers might play better with "keys". "winds" and "strings" are pretty interchangeable. So use them as a compass for understanding imitone, and experiment freely!
The Other Stuff
Keys up top! Pretty rainbow lines! New manual! We've put some serious effort into making imitone look and feel nicer with this update. The internal technology has learned new tricks that make it resistant to room echoes, smarter about pitch and volume, and far more flexible with CPU power. "Quick-Bend" (hold the spacebar) lets you temporarily change the slide mode while performing. Blues scales are delightful! The change list goes on...
The one other addition that's worth special attention out is our new error reporting system. When imitone crashes, or has a problem, you'll see a window like this:
If you see one of these, please hit send! This way, we'll get a pile of technical information about the problem, along with an optional message from you. Thanks to this tool and the users who sent us reports, we able to fix five major bugs with three patches in the first week after release and a fourth on the way. (Developers: Our report uploader, Tattle, is open-source.)
In summary: it's a really good update.
People are starting to put imitone to more serious use for making music, because it's more expressive and reliable than ever before. It's starting to create the sense of proficiency I wrote about in 2014. Seeing users succeed with 0.9 has me feeling comfortable with the idea of bringing it to a wider audience. While it's likely there will be an 0.10 before release (good luck alphabetizing that), this is a big milestone in the journey toward our final product, and enabling more people to be musical.
The funny thing is, this update didn't really go according to plan. Contrary to what I said in July, I've done very little new research for 0.9. Instead, the process behind these improvements was a happy accident, born from a question that bothered me back then: How much potential does the current technology have?
I'll be telling that story in another post, along with our plans for the next stage of development — but for now, go give the new imitone a spin; I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Don't hesitate to share your thoughts or questions via the in-app feedback button.
Have fun, learn things, make music. :)