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Virtual band

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Virtual band

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Members of the virtual band Gorillaz Members of the virtual band Gorillaz

A virtual band (also known as a virtual group or cartoon band), in music, is any group whose members are not flesh-and-blood musicians, but animated characters. The music is recorded by human musicians in the studio, while any video clips, stage appearances, etc, are animated using the virtual line-up. Stage appearances are complex, because they not only require pre-animated sequences, ready to play, but also need the actual musicians behind the screen, performing in perfect sync. (This can be overcome by pre-recording the set in channels, and playing back live, but this can lose that 'live' experience.)

Characters in virtual bands can be hand-drawn (like in The Archies and Gorillaz) or computer animated (like JuJu Eyeballs).



In the studio

The recording of the music is done by the human musicians and artists, whom the virtual artists emulate. This is done using the normal in-studio recording process; see Sound recording for a detailed explanation.

In some instances, most notably The Chipmunks, and Gorillaz, manipulation of voices may be employed, either to achieve a desired vocal effect, or to make it dissimilar to the voice of the actual singer. The manipulation is done by either modifying the playback speed of the vocal track, for example speeding it up or slowing it down, or by putting it through a synthesiser.

Writing and production credits may be assigned to either the virtual band, or the human writers and artists involved.

On stage

One of two methods can be employed for live performances. The first involves animating the entire set, with little or no allowance for audience interaction, then 'performing' it as is. The major pitfall with this method is the lack of audience interaction, which can be vital during concerts. This is best suited to short performances, where audience response can be predicted.

The second, and more complex, method differs from the first in that allowance is made for a variety of responses and interaction. This means having a wide range of animated sequences ready to play, with matching spoken lines, in response to different reactions.

In both cases, extensive rehearsal is required to synchronize spoken lines and instrumentation with animated action. This can be eliminated by using pre-recorded music and speech, however doing so also weakens the actual 'live' experience.

(Some non-virtual artists and groups have employed a similar technique on some concert tours and performances. DJ Shadow, for example, on his In Tune and On Time tour, had pre-animated sequences, which were played on giant screens behind him while he performed the set. Again, a large amount of pre-tour planning and synchronisation rehearsal was require beforehand.)

An example

Perhaps the most complex live performance by a virtual band was Gorillaz' performances at the MTV Europe Music Awards in Lisbon and the 2006 Grammy Awards. The group used a combination of computer-generated 3D imagery with 19th-century Pepper's Ghost technology to create life-like holograms of the band members. There are also initial plans for a Gorillaz world tour using this technology.


Early history

Alvin and the Chipmunks (scene from The Alvin Show) Alvin and the Chipmunks (scene from The Alvin Show)

While the term had not officially been coined at the time, Alvin and the Chipmunks were the first virtual band to appear. Centered around the 'front-munk' Alvin, his two brothers Simon and Theodore, and their manager/father Dave Seville, their voices were created by Ross Bagdasarian, who accelerated the recording of his voice to create the distinctive sound; the process earned him two Grammys in 1959 for engineering.

The success of the Chipmunks spurred on another group, the Nutty Squirrels, to join the ranks. A scat-singing version of Bagdasarian's creation, they made the American Top 40 with their song Uh-Oh. Their success, however, was short-lived.

Virtual bands from television

The Archies The Archies

The Archies were the first virtual band to appear in worldwide pop charts. In 1969, The Monkees wrote Sugar Sugar, and performed it to their manager. Displeased about this (he had really hoped the group would only perform songs written by songwriters outside of the group), he took the song, and created a group who could be easily managed; basing it on the Archie comic that was popular at the time, he created the Archies. [1]

The popularity of the group opened the door for many other cartoon bands, especially Josie and the Pussycats, The Banana Splits and Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. The release of the bands' recordings played a part (to varying degrees for each group) in increasing the popularity of their parent show, and vice versa. However, because of this, their respective successes would be limited, as the shows were eventually cancelled.


The 1980's were largely free of virtual groups. It wouldn't be until the early 1990's, when the Chipmunks, updated to fit with the more contemporary setting, and now playing their own instruments, released a CD of covers to accompany the new show, that virtual bands would begin to make a comeback.

The first recorded use of the term virtual band came about in 1996, used to describe an American group called the Bot Brothers, who also used the internet as a distribution medium. [2] The group was largely unpopular, due to their limited fanbase and bad attitude. N1 This resulted in the group's splitting; they reformed a few years later with a larger band to make the Bots.

In 1999, the first Australian virtual band, JuJu Eyeballs, were unearthed. Their tenure as a band was to be brief: they had released two singles through Warner-Chappell Australia, one of which was only available through the site, before disappearing in 2001.[3]

The media were the first to bring the term into popularity, with the appearance of Britain's Gorillaz in 2000. Formed by Blur's Damon Albarn and Tank Girl's Jamie Hewlett, and produced by Deltron 3030's Dan the Automator, the group brought the virtual bands to the musical fore again, with their scoring numerous Top 20 positions around the world, and the World Record of being the Most Successful Virtual Band.[4]

New source mediums

The cover to Crazy Frog's first single, Axel F The cover to Crazy Frog's first single, Axel F

The cover of the Bratz Rock Angelz's debut album The cover of the Bratz Rock Angelz's debut album

In 2005, dance duo Bass Bumpers produced a song featuring the very popular ringtone Crazy Frog, called Axel F. Sampling the ringtone, along with the original 'Axel F' theme from Beverly Hills Cop, the song made Number 1 in both England and Australia, and top 10 in many other countries.

A few months after the Crazy Frog release, to coincide the release of the new line of dolls, Bratz Rock Angelz released their first single, So Good. The group followed in the line of many of their real-life pop counterparts stylistically.

Net-based virtual bands

The term is also now being used to describe groups of musicians who collaborate online through broadband by utilizing a content management system and local digital audio workstations. The work is sometimes released under a Creative Commons license, so musicians can share their 'samples' to create collaborative musical expressions for noncommercial purposes without ever meeting face to face.

Notable groups

Alvin and the Chipmunks
The Archies
The Banana Splits
Billy and the Boingers
The Bots
The California Raisins
Crazy Frog
The Crescendolls
Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem
Josie and the Pussycats
JuJu Eyeballs


Note N1: This comment about the Bot Brothers' attitude was made on The Bots Online website by Synthia, a member of the newly reformed Bots. It also states that "she's trying to take the group in a much more positive direction."


  1.   Netscape Music
  2.   The Bots Online
  3.   JuJu Eyeballs online
  4.   Guinness World Records

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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