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The Nine Most Important Things To Know About Bird Song

But more on those two when we speak next of tempo. Many birdsongs are sporadically sprinkled with a breathy silence that relaxes the human listener, and one would assume, even the bird.

Ludovico Einaudi - Birdsong (piano cover)

Sometimes paced around calls per minute, its song is like a melodic metronome. Its relentless and rushed beat reminded me of dance club music. Often between and beats per minute, club music is designed to be faster than a slightly elevated human heartbeat, making the listener feel anxious and ready to dance.

I only wonder how long it can go before it takes a breath. Its call was the only one of my small study that I had to record at a modified and slowed pace.

The World War II Tool That Changed How We Listen To Birdsong

The jagged rhythm of its staccato meaning, short and clipped song notes almost disappears when sung at full tempo. The quick speed of some birdsongs makes the task of learning to reproduce them seem daunting at times. Thank goodness for the magic of technology.

Get more bird ID tips with our handy swatch book

Left to my own devices, I morphed the birdsong into a tonal or rhythmic pattern that was already familiar to me from previous musical exposure. What kind of musician would I be if I had learned to play birdsongs as a child before ever attempting Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?

What might birdsong sound like in bird-time?

Vibrato — Or, no vibrato. The warble of many birdsongs does not come from a pulsating, bending pitch change. They just have an ability to switch quickly between different pitches. Vibrato on a fiddle does no justice to birdsong.

How and Why Birds Sing

Patterns — The patterns of birdsongs and their parts vary by species and within species. They are often not predictable, nor do they fall into patterns common in our own music. Out of habit, I found myself adding familiar grace notes or, short notes used to decorate a primary note to dress up a birdsong, only to find myself led away from the true song. Clearly, birds never took tips from Mozart but I bet that Mozart took tips from them.


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I am not the first to dissect the musicality of birdsong. Remembering that birds feel no pressure to sing to a certain standard, I wonder if their songs can change. Or, do they stick to a song once evolution deems it a success?

Got a tip?

For the automatic transcriptions, you set a minimum note length for FTS to search for and tweak various other parameters until it is finding as many of the notes as one can get it to find. If a note glissandos or has vibrato, FTS will find the average pitch, or a series of pitches for a long glissando if not too fast. It's done by counting note crossings.

This seems to be much more accurate than Fast Fourier Transforms when it is appropriate. Some birdsong is pretty close to sinewaves. For other ones, you can set a height of the secondary peaks to ignore in FTS.

This also works fine for recorder, and also for singing for some voice timbres can depend on which vowel sound you sing. Here are two midi clips transcribed from Veena Sahasrabuddhe's site - her voice works well.

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Adds extra notes at times - e. In a glissando, my program follows the gliss, and adds new notes every so often. Also works well for some soundcard voices, and is useful for checking the relative and absolute pitch accuracy of your soundcard pitch bends.