CHAPTER 3.2: MAKING USTS
I noticed there are very few tutorials on how to make your own UST, and some of them are quite outdated. So I decided to write my own tutorial to how to make your own USTs.
This is a VERY long tutorial, and it shows how I make my own USTs. I apologize if I sound incoherent at times.
Also this part is actually optional if you already have a UST downloaded. So if that's the case, you can skip this part :D
UST Making Essentials
Sometime we ask ourselves, "Does this song already have a UST or should I make one myself?". In my opinion, who cares if there's 3654264657 USTs of the same song! Some are easier to use, and some are pleasant to listen to, but sometimes you might want to make a UST from scratch just because you want to make your own version of it, and that's perfectly valid.
To make a UST, you will need the following:
- A DAW (FL Studio is great for this, but REAPER, LMMS, and other DAWs are good as well)
- The song you're covering (make sure it also has an instrumental/off vocal; if not, read down below for a mini tutorial on how to rip instrumentals from songs)
- A BPM detector (FL Studio has a built-in BPM detector)
For the majority of this tutorial, will be using 二輪の花 as the song I am making a UST for for demonstration purposes.
Getting What You Need
At this point, you have probably decided what song you're going to cover, as well as what UTAU you're going to use. Downloading the song and its instrumental is rather straightforward and simple, I probably don't need to elaborate on it.
But what if the song doesn't have an official instrumental?
I have across this issue multiple times in my experience of making USTs. If you can't seem to download or buy the instrumental, you might as well do the following:
- Make your own instrumental
- Rip the instrumental off from the song
二輪の花 lacks an official off vocal. What do I do?
A great tool for removing vocals off the instrumental is Splitter.ai. It leaves you a pretty clean instrumental to work with when you mix the song together. When you visit the site, just follow the instructions and you will have an unofficial but clean instrumental in no time.
MIDI'ing The Song
This might be the most difficult part of the tutorial, because this requires you to figure out the BPM of the song, and to get the notes on time.
I will be using FL Studio for making the MIDI, but any similar DAW works. A MIDI is an acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, and in layman's terms, is described as a file that holds musical notes for all devices to play. UST files are just MIDI files but fancier.
Detecting The BPM
The way I like to detect the BPM of the song I am making a UST of is to use a site. Nothing too fancy, no need to install anything. Here are a couple of good BPM detection sites:
TIP: Make sure to use the original song (NOT the instrumental) for more accurate results.
By using a BPM detector, I figured out that the BPM for 二輪の花 is 206 BPM. Sometimes you may need to double the BPM if necessary, but I think the BPM I have is so far so good. I'm perfectly okay with that. Onto the next part.
Setting Up Your MIDI
For this part, I'll open up FL Studio and save my current project as an FLP file.
In the UI, find the BPM field on the top left (beside the play controls) and make sure you set your BPM to the one according to your song, like this:
Next up, you should see in your UI that you have the Mixer window visible. If it's not, then go to View > Mixer to enable it.
The image above is how I usually set up my mixer. You may notice that some of the mixer tracks have names, such as MAIN or HARMONY. I usually name my mixer tracks so I know where I can link my vocal tracks to their appropriate mixer tracks.
Now, depending on how complex the song you are trying to make a UST of will be, you may need more than just the MAIN and HARMONY tracks, which is what the song I'm making a UST for requires.
We're going to import our song files to the Playlist window.
The Playlist window is where you insert the audio tracks in. It's sort of hard to describe what to do with it, but you can basically line up the vocal tracks and many other things. Hell, you can even put in a MIDI file in there. But we don't have a MIDI to start with, so we're still going to make one from scratch.
Drag and drop your audio tracks (instrumentals, song, etc.) to one of the tracks in the Playlist window.
When you drop the files in there, you should see the song's waveform in the track you dropped it in. But you may notice something on your Channel rack.
That's the song you imported. The number beside the song's name corresponds to the number of the mixing track in the Mixer window. Said number in the Channel rack may show up as [---], so change it to the one accord to the mixer tracks you have set up. Do this for all audio files to set them up.
Once you have set up your song, the next step is to set up our instruments. We'll be using these instruments to construct the notes in our MIDI.
Go to the Channel rack. Right click on any track, and it'll bring up a menu. From there, go to Insert > 3x Osc. 3x Osc is the instrument I usually use for MIDI'ing USTs, but you can choose other instruments that you might feel comfortable using. To make things a little more easier to organize, right click on 3x Osc, and go to Rename, color, and icon... to change the instrument name to the vocal tracks you are planning to MIDI, such as the main melody or harmonies. Finally, change the number beside the instrument name to the corresponding mixer track in the Mixer window. Repeat this process for how many vocal tracks you are planning to make until you are done.
MIDI'ing The Song
Now here comes the meat of the tutorial. For this part of the tutorial, you will obviously MIDI your vocal tracks to make your UST.
We'll have to make a pattern for all of the vocal tracks we are going to make a MIDI of. See this part of the UI (shown below)? The block below the song time is where we manage our patterns. Click on the + button to make a new pattern and name it according to the vocal tracks you are planning to MIDI. Repeat this process until you have created all of the needed patterns for your vocal tracks.
In the Channel rack, click on the instrument (or vocal) you are going to use, and click on any track in the Playlist window to generate an empty MIDI track. Make sure this MIDI track corresponds to the vocal track you are MIDI'ing, otherwise you might as well go to the Playlist in the Playlist window (example shown below) and scroll until you get the correct part. Also make sure that the pattern also corresponds to the vocal track.
Now the next part is to stretch out the empty MIDI track to the length of the song you have chosen. This will give us enough room to work with when we MIDI our UST. Click on the empty track to select it, and click on the piano roll icon to open up the Piano roll window.
The piano roll is where we will make MIDIs of the vocal tracks. I like to have my Playlist window and Piano roll window side-by-side so I can make sure the MIDI is on time with the song.
To start making the MIDI, I usually listen for when the vocals come in. When I hear the vocals in a certain timestamp, I begin my MIDI process from there, by adding notes to the piano roll. It's a bit abstract, but I can show you one way that makes MIDI'ing so much easier.
Let's bring out Vocal Remover. I already mentioned its uses in an earlier part of this tutorial, but this tool also has the capability to extract vocals from a song, and you can download that as a separate file. You are left with an audio file with pretty clean vocals, and while it's not perfect, it's adequate enough to work with. I drop this file into the playlist window, and I can see that there's no instrumental present, as shown below:
We can also see how long the notes will drag out, which is great! I'm going use this as an audiovisual reference for making our MIDI. As long as you know which notes go where and how it sounds, it'll turn out fine.
Repeat the process until all the main tracks have been MIDI'd.
After MIDI'ing what I need, this is the result, You can kind of notice that the MIDI notes line up with the vocals itself, even if the extracted vocals aren't perfect.
TIP: It is recommended you make your MIDIs below C7 (usually I do mine within C4 to C5), but it really depends on the song you are making a UST of.
Making The Harmonies
You may have noticed that I don't usually make MIDIs of the harmonies. That's usually because the harmonies always correspond to the main melody in terms of timing. That being said, I usually make my harmonies in UTAU by making a copy of the main melody and using that to make the harmonies. But you can also do this within FL Studio.
There are two methods to make your own harmonies.
Method 1: Listening By Ear
You will need to use FL Studio for this.
Now depending on where you linked the song in the project (it can be found within the Mixer window), you may notice that beside the mixer tracks, there's an interface where you can use VSTs and plugins. Left-click on any slot, and find Fruity Stereo Shaper. The interface should look like this:
Play around with the settings until you can only hear the harmonies. Usually I end up with this:
Repeat the UST MIDI'ing process until you have MIDI'd the harmonies.
Method 2: Using HARMOLOID
I only use this method if there are no harmonies in the song I'm making a UST of. The instructions are straightforward.
Unfortunately, the site that hosts HARMOLOID is down at the moment, so you might have to ask someone who has the program to give it to you.
Importing The MIDI To UTAU
The next step to the UST making process is to export the MIDI itself. To prepare for MIDI export, go to Tools > Macros > Prepare for MIDI export. Confirm the changes but DO NOT save your project just yet.
Now go to File > Export > MIDI file to export your MIDI.
Again, confirm the settings and wait until the MIDI is done exporting. Once that's done, open up UTAU.
Go to File(F) > Import(I), and find the MIDI you exported. UTAU should bring up a pop-ip screen like this:
Pick the main track and proceed.
This UST now looks abnormal. For some reason, the BPM is set to 50000, which is an easy fix and can probably explain why the UST looks that way. Click on the BPM, change it to the BPM you set for the MIDI, amd it should go back to normal.
Save the file as a UST and repeat the process for the remaining tracks in the MIDI.
Inserting The Lyrics
Now that all tracks have been imported as USTs, the last thing that's left on the list is to insert the lyrics.
Make sure you have your lyrics in handy because this will be a pretty long process. I like having the romaji version of the lyrics around to input them into the notes. I recommended listening to the song as you insert the lyrics for better accuracy.
Copy the lyrics and paste them into the lyrics box like this.
Because UTAU inserts lyrics into notes according to spaces, we should space the lyrics in a CV format.
The next thing you want to do is to select the notes that correspond to the lyrics. Click on the insert lyrics button that is highlighted...
...And the lyrics should be inserted to the song like this.
Be wary of notes with two syllables that may sound like a singular note, but you can splice notes to get around that by adjusting the note length and so on. Drag the note length accordingly to make those changes. There's a bit of improvised English in my UST, which I tried to replicate using Japanese syllables.
Once you inserted the lyrics into the UST, let's connect the notes together to ensure the sound output doesn't sound choppy when rendered. Select all notes, right click on the piano roll (on the notes) and click on Pitch.... It should bring a small window.
Check the Portamento checkbox and click OK to confirm your changes. Your UST should look something like this:
Right click again and this time, go to Region Property.
These are the settings I apply to ensure nothing sounds too weird. Click OK to confirm your changes, then save your UST. Repeat the process for the remaining USTs such as the adlibs or harmonies.
Aaaand that's how to make your UST! It's pretty much barebones at the moment, but if you would like to spice up the UST a little, there will be a tutorial on tuning and the basics of how to do it.