This Monday (29th July) is the last rehearsal of term for West Bridgford Liberty Singers. We then scatter for the summer, resuming for our new term in September.
For those unable to face the thought of a song-less summer, I’ll ask again, do you Smule?
For those who haven’t come across this social singing app, let me explain. Smule is a karaoke app (originally released under the name, Sing! Karaoke). Available for iOS and Android, the app enables users to choose a song and either sing along to it as a solo, duet, or group performance. Users can enable video recording mode if they want to record both video and audio.
It’s free (although you can upgrade to premium, to unlock the full soloist experience), and users either record themselves singing solo or, more commonly, as a duet and invite other Smule users to join them.
Performances are uploaded to Smule’s database, at which point, anyone can listen to them. You can also flag your performance as private, if you don’t want to allow others to listen to your recording.
I started Smuling a year ago, after someone in the Liberty Singers Facebook group recommended it and the, sometimes frankly bizarre, world of karaoke Twitter is a whole lot of fun and an excellent way to practice between rehearsals.
In my Smule back catalogue are various versions of choir classics (I learnt the harmony line to chasing cars by smuling along with other singers who held the main tune), my tryouts of harmonies for Magnificent 7 songs and anything I have ever attempted as a solo, at least half a dozen times.
Those of you who have worked with Kari individually, or in a small group setting, will know the dubious pleasure of listening to yourself as Kari records a rehearsal. This I, like many of you, found excruciating. The advantage of doing the same thing in Smule is that there are a range of filters you can apply, to give your voice some studio polish. I found I had to work up to hearing my voice in its naked state (which I can just about bear, but I prefer a Super Studio setting to knock off my raw edges).
Like any good social media platform, we live or die by our likes, shares and follows. Once you have found a decent duetting partner, follow them and their invites will appear in your Smule newsfeed. I have my favourites (Basscrooner, for Jazz, _AnnaK_ for showtunes and pianogurl for piano versions of 80s rock – I never knew I had a need!) There are semi-professionals on here, who use Smule as pre-audition practice, plus hundreds of thousands of us, world wide, just doing this for fun.
You also have a chance to sing along with some big names. Just like Twitter, the famous, or the prolific, are verified (although it’s purple ticks on Smule) and many big music producers make their content available for a singalong. The Disney channel is especially popular and I am one of 1000s who declared “This is Me!” alongside Kaela Settle. (I decided not to join Ed Sheeran in his Castle on the Hill, but 5 million others did!)
The vocal quality varies enormously, but the buzz of connecting with someone, anywhere in the world, to make music, is always satisfying. One of my favourite recordings is a version of “On Top of the World” with a gentleman from Stockholm, whose enthusiasm was palpable, though his tuning less so. As I was attempting to improvise a harmony line, my contribution to the resultant cacophony was also occasionally off-pitch, but the noise we made together was joyful!
So, if you are suffering from singing withdrawal symptoms over the summer, grab your phone and your headphones and take your pick from a world of musical collaborations waiting to happen…