Professor Drexel’s app allows choir members to create music separately but together

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Drexel University professor and technologist Dr Youngmoo Kim sings in an a cappella band in her spare time and was looking for a way for her band members to sing along to continue making music together while practicing social distancing during the pandemic.

After browsing the Apple App Store, he found no solution. It gave him the motivation to create Virtual Chorister.

As a musician, Kim discovered unique challenges that affected the way choir members tried to create music when they were apart – differences in internet speeds could cause delays when recording the same. music, for example. Additionally, Kim discovered that many of the singers trying to record their choral parts were using two devices at the same time, and he found that a lot of people don’t have the resources to do so.

By trying to make the experience of recording choral parts easier, Kim was able to focus on how people create music first.

“It’s about singing,” said Kim, founding director of the interdepartmental EXCITE Center, which intersects art and science. “It’s not about being a technologist. A lot of things written by technologists are not for ordinary people. It was my way of making things easier. It’s a great way to keep singing during the pandemic. Nothing beats being on stage for a choir singer, but it’s a way to keep collaborating, expressing ourselves and doing things musically.

Through Virtual Chorister, a conductor or choirmaster can provide a reference video that choir members can sync with, and after recording their part, choir members can upload their video to the channel. ‘application. Once each member’s section is uploaded, a user can combine each section to create a complete record.

Kim has extensive experience in music software design, through a previous position with Digidesign where he designed plug-ins for Professional tools, a benchmark recording software that revolutionized the music industry. To code Virtual Chorister, he used XCode to write the app in Swift using the standard iOS SDK SDK.

For Kim, designing an app that could help vocal musicians sing from a distance was also a challenge to the fundamental laws of physics. Kim explained that electrical signals are less resistant as the distance between them increases, and therefore the best way to collaborate remotely is within 100 miles. Although Virtual Chorister did not exceed the 30 millisecond time limit, he wanted to create an application that could come as close as possible to it.

“We have been experimenting with systems that allow you to do things in real time on the Internet,” he said. “If you can get less than 30 milliseconds [of delay], it would almost work. This is the amount of time you would have on stage from start to finish. It’s tolerable, but even if you have a good internet connection, keeping it below 30 milliseconds is difficult.

Kim is a supporter of helping communities affected by the digital divide find solutions. Making the app available for free was an intentional move so that it could be accessible to school choirs and other groups that might lack funding.

“School choirs and youth choirs face a huge challenge this year,” he said. “This is a free app that will hopefully help more principals and music directors who want to overcome speed bumps and challenges. It’s very doable, it just takes a little know-how.

Virtual Chorister is currently only available on Apple iOS, but Kim is open to working with Android developers to create a version for Android devices.

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