Test Drive: 'The Voice' App (Video)
THR recruits a fourth grader to try out the StarMaker iOS product "On Stage," which aims to emulate the TV show experience.
In addition to blogging about American Idol for The Hollywood Reporter and deejaying at 94.3 The Point in New Jersey, I am also a mom to three children -- Amanda, 9, Joseph, 7 and Alyssa, 5 -- all of them experienced and well-versed in technology.
My 9-year-old is especially adept with the iPad, so when StarMaker Studios, through a partnership with Talpa Media Holdings, reached out and invited us to try out their new iOS app, The Voice: On Stage, we jumped at the chance. After all, what fourth-grader would pass up the opportunity to test drive a sing-along enabler for one of her favorite shows, The Voice?
In fact, it's keeping kids engaged in music -- and using their own voice -- that's precisely the aim of the On Stage app, according to creators Jeff Daniel and Nathan Sedlander. “Sometime after age 12 or 13, we start to become self-conscious,” says Sedlander. “People start to look at you funny if you don’t have a perfect voice. Unfortunately in our society most people stop engaging in music in a participatory way and they stop singing. They stop using the one instrument we are all born with.”
The Voice On Stage iOS app is a success on that level, and it has some neat features. It scores your singing ability (including those pitchy notes, dawg!) while offering an option to auto-tune your voice (if you try it with ear buds, you can hear your voice being manipulated in real time). However, you're still scored on your true voice.
The app also allows someone to become engaged in the game much like the actual competition on NBC -- if a “coach” likes what they hear, the chair will turn around, mimicking the blind audition phase. Daniel says that StarMaker’s aim was to creative an “authentic representation of the television show.”
Adds Sedlander: “If you’re watching The Voice on television, you're probably singing along thinking, 'I could do better.' ... The app engages users to do their own versions of these songs and see what it feels like to get in there. Then to come out with great recordings and share them. It allows the user to participate more than simply a vote."
With sharing in mind, extra care was given to securing the licenses for the app's music library, which includes such megahits as Rihanna's "We Found Love," OneRepublic's "Apologize" and Bruno Mars' "Lazy Song." For each song, The Voice: On Stage provides a backing track, lyrics, and a visual display of the song's melody. A recording of the user singing along to the track can then be transferred to the Starmaker Social component, allowing the singer to share his or her finished product.
There's another component that makes the app attractive to kids: a player can “battle” another singer, and then have a duet of their recording at their fingertips.
“You can play with a friend,” Daniel says. “We’ve mapped each song out into a back-and-forth breakdown of phrases -- player one sings the blue phrase while player two sings the green phrase. At the end of the recording, the results screen tells you who won the battle.”
So how did my talented little fourth-grader like it? “I think it’s pretty cool that they don’t just give you the words, they give you the note bars, so you know how high you can sing the notes, which really helps,” Amanda offers. “I like that you can put on the guide vocal so you can hear the singer, and you can also turn the guide vocal off.”
Below, check out a video of Amanda’s attempt to cover the one singer American Idol's Jimmy Iovine says nobody should ever try on a singing show: Adele.