Vocaloid is a singing synthesizer. Its signal processing part developed through a joint research project between the Pompeu Fabra University in Spain and Japan's Yamaha Corporation, who backed the development financially—and later developed the software into the commercial product "Vocaloid".
The software enables users to synthesize singing by typing in lyrics and melody. It uses synthesizing technology with specially recorded vocals of voice actors or singers. To create a song, the user must input the melody and lyrics. A piano roll type interface is used to input the melody and the lyrics can be entered on each note.
The software can change the stress of the pronunciations, add effects such as vibrato, or change the dynamics and tone of the voice. Each Vocaloid is sold as "a singer in a box" designed to act as a replacement for an actual singer. The software was originally only available in English and Japanese, but as of Vocaloid 3, Spanish, Chinese and Korean will be added.
Yamaha started development of Vocaloid in March 2000 and announced it for the first time at the German fair Musikmesse on March 5–9, 2003. The first Vocaloids, Leon and Lola, were released by the studio Zero-G on March 3, 2004, both of which were sold as a "Virtual Soul Vocalist". Leon and Lola made their first appearance at the NAMM Show on January 15, 2004.
Leon and Lola were also demonstrated at the Zero-G Limited booth during Wired Nextfest and won the 2005 Electronic Musician Editor's Choice Award. Zero-G later released Miriam, with her voice provided by Miriam Stockley, in July 2004. Later that year, Crypton Future Media also released their first Vocaloid Meiko. In June 2005, Yamaha upgraded the engine version to 1.1.
A patch was later released to update all Vocaloid engines to Vocaloid 1.1.2, adding new features to the software, although there were differences between the output results of the engine. A total of five Vocaloid products were released from 2004 to 2006. Vocaloid had no previous rival technology to contend with at the time of its release, with the English version only having to face the later release of VirSyn's Cantor software during its original run. As of 2011, this version of the software is no longer supported by Yamaha and will no longer be updated.
Vocaloid 2 was announced in 2007. The synthesis engine and the user interface were completely revamped. New features such as note auditioning, transparent control track, toggling between playback and rendering, and expression control were implemented. One's breath noise and husky voice can be recorded into the library to make realistic sounds. This version is not backward compatible and its editor cannot load a library built for the previous version. Aside from the PC software. NetVocaloid services are offered.
Yamaha announced a version of the Vocaloid 2 software for the iPhone and iPad, which exhibited at the Y2 Autumn 2010 Digital Content Expo in Japan. Later, this version of the software was released using the voice of Yamaha's own Vocaloid called VY1.
As of 2011, there are seven studios involved with the production and distribution of Vocaloids with two involved solely in English, four solely in Japanese and one in both languages for which the software is developed.
Vocaloid 3 launched on October 21, 2011, along with several products in Japanese and a Korean product, the first of its kind. Several studios are providing updates to allow Vocaloid 2 vocal libraries to come over to Vocaloid 3.
It will also include the software "Vocalistener", which adjusts parameters iteratively from a user's singing to create natural synthesized singing. It will support additional languages including Chinese, Korean, and Spanish. It is also able to use plug-ins for the software itself and switch between normal and "classic" mode for less realistic vocal results. Unlike previous versions, the vocal libraries and main editing software are sold as two separate items.
The vocal libraries themselves only contain a "tiny" version of the Vocaloid 3 editing software. Yamaha will also be granting the licensing of plug-ins and use of the Vocaloid software for additional mediums such as video games.