slice-of-thai.com Thai Language Voice Viewer

Voice Viewer

Voice Viewer is a free software tool for Windows 98/XP/Vista, available on this page, that lets you visualize your own voice in a way that can help you learn the terrible tones of Thai, certain consonants and vowels, and also have a lot of fun!

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Table of Contents

What Does it Do?

As you talk into a regular microphone (or Skype headset) attached to your computer, Voice Viewer generates a colorful chart called a spectrogram on your screen that shows you what you just said and how you said it:

Voice Viewer Running

That's all it does! Voice Viewer is a very simple program with absolutely no knobs or buttons or anything. It just keeps making a spectrogram for as long as you run it (well, you can hit the spacebar to pause and unpause).

What's a Spectrogram?

To understand how a spectrogram works, first click the little play button below (the triangle at the left end of this player bar) to hear a silly sound:

If you have a slow internet connection, you may have to wait a little bit before the sound plays.

If the player is playing (the seconds are counting up and the little notch is making its way to the right) but you still don't hear any sound, you need to adjust the volume on your computer. You might also need to turn up the volume on the right end of the player bar above. Or, reach under the desk and see that your headphones are actually unplugged :)

A spectrogram plots that silly sound over time like this:

Example Spectrogram

Click the play button of the player below the spectrogram and you will hear the silly sound again. Notice how the vertical position of the colorful curve in the plot follows the pitch of the silly sound. Sounds that are lower in pitch are near the bottom of the chart, and sounds that are higher in pitch are near the top of the chart.

Notice the blue fuzz at the bottom: that is the very low-pitched, wind-like blowing sound you can also hear along with the whistling.

The color of the spectrogram at a given point indicates how much sound with that pitch you were making at that time. The color scale works like this:

So the red parts of the spectrogram represent the most noticeable pitches.

Anal note: "pitch" and "volume" are technically incorrect. The proper terms are "frequency" and "amplitude." Yeah ok.

How Can It Help Me?

One of the hardest parts of learning Thai is speaking and recognizing the five tones:

Spectrogram of the five tones of Thai

Voice Viewer lets you see the way tones are supposed to be pronounced, and then try it yourself and compare the results!

There's a whole page about the five tones here:

The Five Tones of Thai
Voice Viewer can also help you to learn other sounds of Thai, including certain vowel and consonant sounds. Sonograms are used on our consonants page here:

The Consonant Sounds of Thai
Also, Voice Viewer is fun toy to play with.

How Do I Use It?

Step 1: (One-time) Plug a Microphone into Your Computer

Nearly every computer these days comes with a place to plug in a microphone or a "Skype" headset, and you can use either. You can get a mic or headset for a few bucks from your local computer shop. Some laptops even have mics built in.

Step 2: (One-time) Get the Program Right Here

Voice Viewer consists of just one 170kb file. To download Voice Viewer, right-click on the following link:

Download voice-viewer.exe
and then choose "Save File As...," "Save Link As...," or "Save Target As..." on the menu that pops up. Your browser will ask you where you'd like to save it. You can put Voice Viewer anywhere you want (your Desktop, for example). If you want to delete Voice Viewer, just delete the file! Voice Viewer is polite software that does not create any other files or registry entries on your computer.

Once you have downloaded Voice Viewer to your computer, but before you run it for the first time, I would recommend that you follow the same procedure you (should) do for any program you get from the intenet: use your virus scanner to make sure it hasn't picked up anything untoward on its way from slice-of-thai.com to your computer. The risk of this is minimal but it doesn't hurt to scan.

Step 3: Run Voice Viewer!

Finally, go to the place where you downloaded Voice Viewer and double-click to run it.

What Should I Expect to See?

Voice Viewer pops up and runs in its own window. It has no buttons or dials or sliders at all. It just immediately begins listening to your microphone and showing you a spectrogram of what you say. As you speak into the microphone, you'll see contours like these appear on the screen:

Voice Viewer Running

It's normal that you will see multiple, stacked copies of the contours as in the example above. These are called harmonics and they are are a normal part of the human voice. The shape of the lowest harmonic (called the fundamental) determines what we perceive as "pitch," so that's the one you should pay attention to when practicing your tones. The presence or absence of the upper harmonics is what gives the sound its "timbre," for example what makes an "aah" sound different from an "ii" or an "ooh" at the same pitch.

You can hit the spacebar to pause and unpause Voice Viewer.

Troubleshooting Voice Viewer

If you have problems with Voice Viewer, here's some things to check out...

If Voice Viewer's Window Is Stopped

If Voice Viewer stops scrolling, the first thing to check is whether it might be paused. Every time you hit the spacebar, Voice Viewer pauses or continues. When Voice Viewer is paused, the word "(paused)" appears in the lower-left corner.

If Voice Viewer's Window Is All Black

If Voice Viewer starts up but the window stays all black even when you yell into the microphone, it means that Voice Viewer found your microphone jack (or some audio input jack!) but it's not hearing anything from that jack.

That could be because:

If Voice Viewer's Window Is Almost All Black

If Voice Viewer starts up, but the window just gets a few puffs of blue even if you shout at the top of your lungs, that means you need to increase your mic level, which we'll explain below.

If Voice Viewer's Window Is Almost All Red

If Voice Viewer's window is mostly red, or there's a huge cloud of red noise that keeps obscuring the contours of your own voice, or everything you say comes out in hugely thick red stripes,

How to Change the Mic Level On Your Computer

Nearly all the problems you might have with Voice Viewer relate to choosing the microphone and setting the proper microphone input level in Windows.

To gain more insight on this, click on Voice Viewer and hit the 'L' key (L stands for level). Voice Viewer will pop up a level meter with a little diamond that measures the amount of sound it is hearing (left is no sound, right is lots of sound):

Here's how to do all of those things in Windows. Do this while Voice Viewer is running:

If all of that still doesn't work, you may have to first quit Voice Viewer, then make the settings above, then reboot, then try to run Voice Viewer again.

If Voice Viewer Doesn't Run At All

If, when you double-click on Voice Viewer, you experience any of these problems:

then that means there is a bug or something about your computer that Voice Viewer wasn't designed to handle; we may be able to fix the problem if you can send us an email telling us:

Thanks!

Support
This Site
If you have enjoyed this site, here are a few ways that you can help me get time to expand it further:
donate now   Donate Now
Use your credit card or PayPal to donate in support of the site.

get the best thai-english phrasebook app
Experience Thailand richly with my Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook app.
get the best thai-english dictionary app
Learn Thai with my Talking Thai-English-Thai Dictionary app for iOS, Android, Windows.
get a cool thai-english paper dictionary
Don't leave home without the Thai-English English-Thai Compact Dictionary I co-authored.
get thailand fever
I co-authored this bilingual cultural guidebook to Thai-Western romantic relationships.
get the best chinese phrasebook app
Visit China easily with my Talking Chinese-English-Chinese Phrasebook app.
get books or almost anything
Pick a Thai learning book from my list or buy anything at all from Amazon.
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