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#1 2012-01-02 17:52:10

ronws
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Perspective and criticism

Rather than derail the voice feminization thread, I think the side issue there deserves its own thread.

Several good points are raised.

As Killer pointed out, some of the best and even most commercially successful performances and recordings are not pitch perfect. A case that comes to mind is "Come on Feel the Noise" as covered by Quiet Riot. Kevin Dubrow absolutely hated Slade but the producer wanted a cover song to anchor as a "hit single" of none of the others could take off. Hedging his bet, as it were. So, they recorded the song in one take. The guitar play looped in a few solo bits. But what you hear on the record is one take, recorded "live" in the studio with Kevin trying sing sarcastic and crappy at the same time. And it put them on the map and the album produced a few more single hits and became a landmark, the first heavy metal album to reach the top 10 on it's debut. I guess the producer was right, much to the chagrin of Dubrow (RIP.)

When it comes to criticism, the more specific, the better for me. A few times in the past, when someone criticised something, I would ask for specifics, rather than just the general "pitchy" or lacking in support. Not one person, with an exceptional few, is pitchy all the way through out. As is often the case for many of us, we absolutely nail on it certain parts and are shaky on others. I've mentioned it before, so I will mention it again. One of the best criticisms was from jonpall. I think he got specific by accident. He said I was crashing my notes. I asked him what he meant. Rather than him becoming defensive from thinking I was defensive and getting all "tough love" on me, he simply stated that I was deflecting pitch downward at the end of phrases and words. Now, that was concrete and to the point. For the next week or so, I could not stop myself from noticing how I sang or spoke. And he was right. Changing perspective helped me. I imagined the note continuing after stopping the phonation. And that helped more than scales on specific vowels with no meter or melody or articulation. Nothing wrong with those. Use the right tool for the job, is more like it.

In recording "Heaven on their Minds," I improved some really high notes, as I was still on a Justin Hawkins bent. My brother said the notes were pitchy and unfocused. And he was right. And I tried, with humor, to be the prima donna he was talking about in the other thread. Well, that flew like a lead zeppelin. Well, he's the producer. The notes didn't really fit the song, on pitch or not. So, I said, take them out, if necessary. And it made for a better recording, altogether. A learning lesson for me, as well. It's about the song, not my upper range. And even with the advice of working on those notes better (they were not rehearsed, I literally did those on the fly), it is better for the song to just delete them. Either way, I made mistakes and my brother helped me. Not as a brother, but as a fellow musician.

It's also a learning experience for me, in how to approach recording. This is not live performance. Mistakes or off mixes here last forever, amen.

This is the modern vocalist forum, not just the heavy metal singer forum. That being said, R & B singers and country singers just don't get as much attention as the heavy metal efforts. I recorded a country song. I think I got one comment. I'm not complaining. Sometimes, no news is good news. And people here are just not into country, even the cross-over hit I recorded. So, I expected minimal to no response. That's just the way things are. And even my country song could have used some editing on my part. I held this really long note that I think ultimately could distract someone listening to the song, just because I was showing off. So, I critique myself on that. And my improvised solo at the end didn't really fit, either. A case of "less is more."

How brutal is brutal? So many times, people start out with a disingenuous statement. "Not to be mean or nothing" and then rip the person to shreds. Better to be blunt, which some may take as brutal. Such as jonpall's example of Lugo's advice to him. Lugo didn't start out with an equivalent of a parent saying "I do this because I love you." He just said, "do this (in so many words.)" It wasn't even so much a criticism as a direction to go in.

So, believe it or not, that is what I try to do. If a person did something right on one part of the song and weaker on another part, I point to the good part and say "do that some more." That lets them know to remember what it felt like when they did the good part. And no, it's not because I am afraid of being brutal or criticising. But, how can someone know how to improve if you don't tell them in specifics?

Any number of people have chimed and said how they did superb on scales and crash into the ditch when they go to sing a song.

More in a minute.


"T - N - T I'm dynamite - and I'll win the fight!" - Bon Scott

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#2 2012-01-02 18:13:00

ronws
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Re: Perspective and criticism

The other thing I have learned about criticism is to view the criticism as a description of the sounds I made, even if the other person felt they were being brutal. Certainly others have thought of me as thin-skinned. Though that is the pot calling the kettle black, to some extent. To some extent, we are all thin-skinned. Let me see if I can someone to disagree with me. Singers may be more thin-skinned than other musicians playing external instruments. A lot of one's sound with a guitar comes from the quality of the guitar, itself. The quality of strings. The amp, the effects unit, etc. But you have to have an ego to get up and play anything. And that includes singing. And our egos are never truly divorced from all reality.

Especially if we have worked on something. It's natural, it's human, no matter how many disclaimers in a critique that this is all meant in love. Even though I think everyone does mean well. That being said, it is still upon us to learn to separate a comment about a sound we made from what we are worth as individuals. If I recorded a note that was pitchy, someone pointing that out is not saying I am a bad person or a bad singer. They are saying that note was pitchy. So, tell me which one or at least the passage that it is in. I can fix that, even if I have to approach that phrase or section differently. Or simply hammer that note into submission.

Most stage fright comes from ego. We center on ourselves and how we feel and how we might fail. The proper perspective is think about the audience. Which means releasing the ego, somewhat. Not so much that we don't want to improve.

Who's a fair audience? Like my brother's wife, my wife is the litmus test. She don't know nothing about all this singing terminology. It doesn't matter what system you have used, how many scales you have sung, how long you have sung. It either sounds good or it does not. That fresh perspective does so much for me. If someone hits a bad note, even me, she has no problems pointing it. And has. Maybe her criticism is easier to process because it doesn't have technical info. Just, "that was a mistake." And if a singer is truly off, she is upfront about it. So, what's the big deal about that? She is the music buyer. Yes, we both buy music. But, to me, she represents the buying public.

Then again, she has music tastes similar to mine. So, most anything I want to sing is usually in the right genre for her. (She's a hard rock grandma, a heavy metal grandma. She has been sharing one of our favorite cd's with co-workers. Twisted Christmas by Twisted Sister. Her favorite is the "12 days of Christmas." "On the metal day of Christmas my true love gave to me a tattoo of Ozzy.")

Even if one stays within the limits of one's voice to achieve a stable sound, we will always want to practice and improve.

I am just as guilty of not commenting on every style. It may seem I comment on every song thread but no, there are some where I am really not into that style and just don't feel like commenting. If I go in and say, this is not really my style, then I ask myself, well, why are you commenting, then? If it doesn't move me or grab me, just let it be.


"T - N - T I'm dynamite - and I'll win the fight!" - Bon Scott

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#3 2012-01-02 18:28:49

ronws
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Re: Perspective and criticism

We are certainly going to invite some criticism when we reach outside our style to something that our voice is not suited for. To echo Snejk and even Killer, many by into the vision that this or that system will make their voice sound like this or that singer, even if the system does not actually say that. The magic pill. Here's another unpopular statement of mine, echoing many a pro singer. Not every voice can do every song. Especially mine. And it's not a matter how how I train or what system I use or whether or not I am doing enough with my voice. Which doesn't stop me from doing a song out of my voice type. I will never sound like Billy Gibbons. But that won't stop me from doing a ZZ Top song, if I so desire.

And sometimes, a song is problematic for a singer because of how the lyrics are constructed and what vowel tends to pop up. Add to that the possibilty that the original singer may not have been singing it incorrectly and got away with it for years until they wore out their voice. So, it is really important to choose a song that fits your voice. Or, if the song is not originally matched to your voice, change it to where it does, though this may also invite criticism because you did not do it the way the original is and some feel that if you can't do it that way, you should not do it at all.

Can anyone imagine Bon Scott, if were alive, trying to sing "Silent Lucidity" in the original range and style? What if he changed it to how he sings? Would that be okay? I totally got off on how Celine Dion Did "Shook Me All Night Long" and I am evidently the only one. And no, she did not try to sound like Brian Johnson.

I love how Sheryl Crow covered "Sweet Child of Mine."

Absolutely love how Dolly Parton covered "Heaven" by Collective Soul using bluegrass instruments, yet with the original arrangement of meter and melody.

Pretty much, the only people that don't get much criticism are those who write their own stuff. For they are already singing as their voice works, in songs written for their voice, usually by themselves. Or a songwriter that knows their voice. For example, if a singer is strong on the ee sound on high notes and sounds wobbly on a, as in cat, lyrics written in that range will be on the strong vowels. Even simple mechanical things like that can make a difference.


"T - N - T I'm dynamite - and I'll win the fight!" - Bon Scott

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#4 2012-01-02 18:37:42

KillerKu
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Re: Perspective and criticism

The idea on specifics is good advice, Ronsw. But I'm not sure how to give specific advice on pitch because advice depends on where the problem is occurring. If it's more people having trouble 'hearing' when something is going out of tune then they need to do exercises that involve ear training with voice to listen very carefully with precision?

If it's more of a problem with just physically having trouble singing the note on pitch (usually extreme high notes or low notes are harder and you try them often) the specific advice would be geared towards the physical challenges and how to navigate them. That's probably why people don't get too specific when they hear a note that goes off key, it's because they don't often know 'why' so advice can be generic or lame like mine was. 

I think I 'could' go through a track and document when it's in and out of key but that would make most people more uncomfortable having someone getting gritty analytical with their track to point out every little flaw in detail. Also, singing (to me) is about creating something that is 'just flawed enough' in the right way. I think people could potentially go too far with specifics and make people hypersensitive and obsessive with 'flaws' that don't need to be fixed per say. One singer that is too pitchy for others (Lou Reed) may be listenable and enjoyable for me. Pitch isn't about perfection (robot), it's just about finding the right spot that works artistically. 

If more specific is what you want I can try to offer it, but it's always been my experience if people can find a way to isolate whatever problem is there, and just hammer away at it with some kind of targeted practice (all vowels, all pitches, leaping notes, whatever), that's the only real way I know how to target a problem. You kind of have to know what a problem is and hammer on it.

Like me, I had a tone that I found very awful when I first started singing. No amount of singing with that tone was going to make me happy, so I practiced a lot at trying to create different tones, until I found the one that was 'the right' one. You know, the one that was comfortable, sounded good to me, and worked for my art. Just singing with the tone I didn't like didn't work. I kind of had to isolate a bit. Work on resonance, projection, vowels, and posturing, you see? That took me like a year of hard work before I could even get a tone that didn't make me shudder. 

All this aside, I do think it's useful, to be a bit more clear about what is subjective and what is objective and to measure negative subjectivity with restraint and to always be constructive as possible.

Last edited by KillerKu (2012-01-02 18:43:02)

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#5 2012-01-02 18:38:26

FelipeCarvalho
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Re: Perspective and criticism

Its not nice to receive negative feedback, I know first handed.

But its 100% better to receive a negative blunt and caustic feedback on a forum then just going straight into an audience and discovering that what you are doing is not half as good as you believe it was.

This is an invaluable tool for someone that is really into learning and improving. A simple "I like it, sounds good" or "I dont like it, sounds lame" is enough to point if the direction taken is good or not. And the later is even better to tame an inflated ego :P.

And at the same time, when the audience is hard, a simple "I like it" has much more weight behind it.

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#6 2012-01-02 18:39:58

ronws
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Re: Perspective and criticism

Now, to the other side of criticism.

Pitch issues aside, there is sometimes comment on tonality or choice of notes. This really speaks to the psychology of the commenter, something Killer was starting to allude to (sorry for the split infinitive.) Some critiques are based on aesthetic values. A person may not like any falsetto sound, at all, even if it helps the song. Because they have a viewpoint that falsetto should not be used. So, either they comment negatively on that, or not at all. Which is often the case when someone receives no comment on a piece. It's outside the aesthetics of most people hearing it. It might be a good recording, a good song, good singing. And just not interesting to them.

Or variations made with the melody, phrasing, etc. I can't help but imagine Jimmy Page giggling at all the young-n's who have memorized the solo in "Stairway to Heaven," note for note, like a machine. He has never played it the same way twice and doesn't care to do so. He prefers the work of art in time that it is each time he plays it. I am one of those young'n's. I used to play that solo, note for note. Then I saw him do it live, a few times, and realized it was more about feel and improv. And so was Robert Plant's singing. He doesn't sing a song the same way twice. In fact, he considered himself a jazz singer. More about open vowel scat singing than an aria written in stone. I fear, perhaps, that influence has infected me and I am damaged goods. Whenever I record a song and have to do more takes, it is never the same on each one. That habit is probably as strong as my potty training. Which is fine as long as I am doing jazzy blues style stuff, ala Led Zep. Not so much on operatically constructed stuff, even if I have been described at times as having an operatic voice.

So, we cannot get away from psychology, whether in receiving comments, or giving comments. A number of times I have stated up front that the singing was good but "I would have preferred" something different in the mix or the prominence of a part. And I state that up front. So that it as seen as a comment from my aesthetic perspective and not even a mechanical problem with note production.


"T - N - T I'm dynamite - and I'll win the fight!" - Bon Scott

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#7 2012-01-02 18:54:17

ronws
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Re: Perspective and criticism

How brutal is brutal? I don't mean to skid on the slippery slope of semantics. Is there a difference between blunt and brutal? Brutal implies force, lack of empathy, no soft edge, at least in my understanding of the description. Plus the word gets used in different contexts. I might say it's brutally cold outside. Which means that the temperature and the wind feel like an assault. So, if someone starts out with "I'm going to be brutal," do they mean what I think the term means? An unrelenting assault? Or is it code for being blunt? Better to say blunt? Or are such disclaimers meant to "soften" the blow to a fragile ego?

I grew up with corporal punishment, as well as many a brutal assault to my ego. A phrase from my friend Lee (RIP,) "I've been called worse by better than you." Translation -  I have received harsher criticism by people closer to me. That doesn't make things easier. However, most of my feelings have been burned out. Other feelings were surgically removed. :-)

So, as I have described for myself, maybe a blunt (which I take to mean not having a sharp edge. A bat is a blunt instrument.) description is better replaced by a specfic thing. The verses were great, the choruses were weak. Or, vice versa. The choruses are out of the park but the verses are not making it to the pitcher's mound, to borrow an analogy. Or,  specific section of verses. Timing off. In which case, is it really brutal?

A recording engineer might stop tape and say "the high part on that last chorus was strained and a bit flat. Go to the bathroom, drink some water, whatever, come back relaxed and we'll try it again." And you go through it again. And only one note is off, this time. The producer doesn't have time to give singing lessons. He has to whittle it down to brass tacks. A tack is sharp, the opposite of blunt. But I think we mean blunt to mean we are going to say what's wrong, without any compliments. Maybe I am wrong.

Anyway, the learning experience for me was to realize that the comment was about a sound I made. Or maybe more accurately, I am going to interpret the comment as being about a sound I made, even if someone either feared they were going to hurt my feelings or intentionally meant to hurt my feelings. Does that make sense? That is, ignore the psychology, investigate the comment about the sound, change the sound, if possible.


"T - N - T I'm dynamite - and I'll win the fight!" - Bon Scott

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#8 2012-01-02 18:57:47

KillerKu
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Re: Perspective and criticism

I'd have to disagree that saying 'this sounds lame' would help anyone. If you can't offer any constructive feedback of how to help someone, especially when people are at all stages of learning to sing, you probably shouldn't say much. Keep in mind, some people are testing the waters online, and probably publicly singing for other people for the very first time in their lives.   

When you people were five years old, the very first time you sang in front of someone (probably family)? Did people say 'that is lame or 'I really don't like that' or did they encourage you to keep practicing or give you good advice without being judgmental about it?

Me, I was told by my brother that "I was a truly horrible singer, and that I should never sing" at a very early age. I internalized that, and believed that and pretty much only started singing in my 20s when I finally got over it. I 'still' felt shame even into adulthood. When I first heard myself and didn't like it, I just practiced until I sounded better. Changed the tone, the range, control, etc. I did what good parents encourage their children to do, keep practicing. 

Many 'beginners' or 'unpolished' singers are coming from the same standpoint. People need time to discover and explore their voices and if all they hear is negative crap about 'lame they sing' that will just discourage them just like it did me.

That's not what singing teachers tell students and considering this is a singing forum to help people learn to sing, rather than disparage people for singing in ways that you don't like, it seems out of place.

Last edited by KillerKu (2012-01-02 19:01:41)

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#9 2012-01-02 19:18:16

KillerKu
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Re: Perspective and criticism

Ronsw, to be fair a producer doesn't have time to give singing lessons, but that's why building singing technique happens before people hit a producer so they are ready. That's why a lot of it happens before people hit an audience, so they are ready too.

If you can't meet a producer's or audience's criteria, (pitch control, commercial tone, whatever) without a whole bunch of takes and are making a mess of things, you'll be considered unprofessional or worse, awful. People won't want to record you or go see you play live. 

The goal of generally practicing on technique isn't so you can get each part right with multiple takes, it's so you can get it right, first take, almost every time. Everyone makes little mistakes, but the big ones have got to go. Back when I would practice voice, I would sit down and record myself frequently and if I heard major flaws, I'd try to fix each flaw live, throw the take away, and then do a whole new with the flaws fixed. If I couldn't do a whole take, then I didn't consider the song 'learned.'

I learned this from the Beatles, in that they had to play a live track from start to finish without too many flaws and studio gimmickry. It was literally, start to finish, there you go every song. If you want the producer to fix everything, that's not going to work so well live either and it's short changing the audience. 

When my voice was healthy, that was my philosophy. "If I can't make it sound good in one take, I can't sing the song, as this song is outside my vocal abilities."

Once I developed the voice problem, I 'have' to use multiple takes because of the pain and spasm. But that approach I had back then helped so much to get out of the 'piece meal' fix it later attitudes and into the analytical 'ok how can I improve this until I can successfully execute this every time.'

In order to fix problems and pursue an artistic goal, people have to 'themselves' sit down and become analytical and retrain ways of doing it differently. You can't always rely on someone else to tell you what you need to improve upon to create the art you want to create. They don't know. If they knew, they'd be rich.

Last edited by KillerKu (2012-01-02 19:30:24)

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#10 2012-01-02 19:24:26

ronws
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Re: Perspective and criticism

Thanks,Killer, for mentioning your experience. Your brother was just being "blunt." "Brutal." How did that work out? Would it have helped you if he said something like "go a little lighter on the high notes and see how that feels"? That's the point I was trying to make. Leading someone to something. Granted, "lighter" sounds generic and not specific. And maybe there is no way to describe how to focus a note, other than in sensations or imagery.

But back to style of criticism. Which is better?

"You stink. You sound like a cat stuck in a clothes press."

or,

"Excellent effort. Now, could you try this part just a little nasal, like your nostril is vibrating? Yeah, it will feel funny, might even sound funny at first. So what? Try that and let's have fun."

Some cannot express in those terms. All they know how to do is say that it was wrong and are not capable of specifics.


"T - N - T I'm dynamite - and I'll win the fight!" - Bon Scott

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#11 2012-01-02 19:26:34

ronws
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Re: Perspective and criticism

Recording tech and procedure has changed since the Beatles recorded on a 4-track analog machine.

And almost all vocals are comp'd. I learned this from reading books on recording and mixing. From the producer's perspective. He doesn't care who you are. He is comp'ing the vocal.


"T - N - T I'm dynamite - and I'll win the fight!" - Bon Scott

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#12 2012-01-02 19:38:12

KillerKu
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Re: Perspective and criticism

Live performances aren't put together like that so you need to plan for that. If you can't get it right live, then you can't do music commercially like in public. People aren't going to wait while you redo parts.

And if you screw up constantly every take, it's unprofessional. Session musicians are paid to get it right every time as much as is possible. If they don't, they get fired, asap, and if a member of a band is a weak link, always screwing up every take holding the band back, he gets fired. Studio time costs a lot of money, and efficiency is valued.

People need to train themselves to do this and ultimately without a hands on direct teacher, we can only give advice in how to train yourself. Nobody else can make that decision to become reliable at whatever musical goal you are trying to achieve.

On the specifics, people who absolutely cannot be specific shouldn't be on a constructive criticism forum. It's like if you were to just say, 'you look weird,' rather than saying 'you have a spot on your face there, you could wipe that off like so.' But how specific, it depends on the subject. Someone might say 'turn right' at this intersection, another person could say unless you specified the degree of the turn it's not specific enough.

People need a bit more of an idea of what to do. Generalized negativity (you sound lame) is not useful. It makes people feel bad and discourages them in a directionless way.

PS:

As an aside, I'd love to kick a producer in the proverbial nuts and release a really raw track commercially nation wide. Bring in a new age of music as has been done so many times before. Do you think Johnny Rotten or the Ramones sat there like that 'perfecting' every note to a sheen like the disco queens? How the producers sat there perfecting every little horn section on 'disco duck.' Punk was a 'reaction.'

The way I look at it, music is kind of in that phase of "How much is that Doggie in the Window" right before Elvis came and kicked so much musical pussyfooting around, the entire world changed. I think we are ready again, so let the backlash against autotune and processed music begin!

Last edited by KillerKu (2012-01-02 20:06:02)

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#13 2012-01-02 21:05:07

jonpall
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Re: Perspective and criticism

Good posts here, guys! I'd just like to add that in the world of professional music, people are MUCH more critical about the tiniest detail than some forum members here seem to think. It's not enough to have 90% of the notes in tune on all takes, even when you're comping. If you want to be considered a really good singer and have a good working relationship with producers, you'll have to sing maybe 99.9% of your notes perfectly in tune. I don't think all singers realize just how perfectly in tune they must be, almost all of the time, in order to get really good gigs, both live and in the studio.

And when people are saying "hey! Bob Dylan and Neil Young sing out of tune and they're famous" - many people don't realize that they're only doing a FEW notes out of tune - or they simply "sing out of tune in a way that pleases some people". But to do so can be difficult. You can't JUST sing out of tune and expect Dylan lovers to like it. You have to really do it in style. There's a difference between "bad pitchy" and "good pitchy", the latter being done by f.ex. Bob Dylan.

Last edited by jonpall (2012-01-02 21:06:35)

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#14 2012-01-02 21:13:39

KillerKu
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Re: Perspective and criticism

I agree Jonpall, that the appeal of pitchiness appeal is a matter of extent and circumstance. Generally speaking, you can't just sing out of tune and appeal to most people and both Neil Young and Bob Dylan sing 'relatively' in tune. They are 'close enough.'

What I feel, is a certain amount of 'wobble' around the notes, is generally more appropriate and adds a lot of character than like actually just hitting the wrong note period.

If the note actively causes noticeable dissonance in the composition, then that note better well suit the composition and not 'just' be there as a bum note. Generally speaking, people like things to work in waveforms that stack harmonically. While how perfectly they like it to stack varies from person to person. I find 'perfect' stacks to get annoying and tiresome, but when a stack gets 'too imperfect' that can actually sound bad. It's somewhere between the two.

As far as how perfectly in tune you're supposed to sing, it depends on the genre and the current trends in music. With autotune, Kesha sells as good as anyone and can't seem to sing in tune (to my current knowledge) but times will be changing. Autotune won't be the trend forever.

Last edited by KillerKu (2012-01-02 21:22:47)

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#15 2012-01-02 22:47:38

Jeran
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Re: Perspective and criticism

There's a huge difference between singing out of tune and choosing blue notes for emotional impact.  No famous singers sing out of tune constantly, with the exception of people like Vince Neil.  They may choose a non-scale tone or make a mistake here and again, but you simply aren't going to get anywhere singing out of tune constantly.
That, and this is a forum set aside specifically for the evaluation of vocal technique.  Regardless of one's choice of tonal color or the emotional choice behind which notes are altered in the melody, at the source of it, it's either a healthy, technically proficient vocal, or not.  Personal opinion doesn't really play into if something is technically sung correctly or not.  Being consitently out of tune isn't an artistic choice, it's a technical foul. 
If I post a clip of my singing with the intention of having it critiqued technically, I'm obviously looking for tips on how to improve.  If I sing something that's 70% out of tune, most people on here would say "There are some pitch issues here and there, but otherwise, it's really fantastic!"  This wouldn't help me realize that the majority of the song is out of key.
All that being said, I would never say something along these lines: "Well, it's out of key, and I can't understand for the life of me why you can't hear that" or "I really hate the tone of your voice, and you can't sing."  My intention is never to hurt anyone's feelings; we're all here to learn, and as singers, we should all support each other.  But why post a clip if you're not going to accept someone's true and honest opinion?

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#16 2012-01-02 23:05:48

VIDEOHERE
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Re: Perspective and criticism

folks, a lot of singing issues need to be corrected (pitch, timing, etc.) but when you obsess on them, you are headed for trouble in my opinion. you have to utilize the mind when it comes to these issues. the brain (mental visualization) is a major component of singing in pitch.

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#17 2012-01-02 23:11:03

KillerKu
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Re: Perspective and criticism

Something to think about, vibrato is actually the act of singing out of tune to some extent. A lot of people say pronounced vibrato is good singing (I kind of disagree), but in actually it's 'waving around' the pitch rather than actually hitting the pitch. It's the act of repeatedly missing the pitch just the right amount off in each direction that it sounds like 'an average' note. People who sing with vibrato can't really nail a pitch with a tuner like a straight tone singer but they might be able to hide pitchiness better. 

The one time I went to a voice teacher, she told me I sang very in tune, possibly too much because I favored straight tone and would 'stick right in the note' rather than wave it. She suggested I try to use more vibrato and I did to show her some. She said to 'do what comes naturally and comfortably then.' that's probably the same advice John Lennon got, and it's good advice. 

I'm not sure anyone here sings 70 percent out of tune, but I'm not sure the percentage is that important. Being able to sing 'well enough' into tune should be everyone's goal. You don't need to be perfect, just good enough for your genre, your audience, your art.

Yes, Bob has good ideas too. If you can get a visualization of the note in your head, and listen carefully, matching it, that's good too. You want the note 'in your head' first, then split second out of your mouth to match it. Also getting people obsessed about it, could turn them robotic or be counterproductive. Nothing can replace diligent practice though. People have to train their minds and their ears and their voices. They all have to be in sync.

My friend is struggling with pitch too being a first time singer maybe a month ago, but she's but actually struggling with 'hearing' all of the pitch changes and connecting this to her voice, gaining 'pitch memory.' So we are working on that together. I'll slow down pitches in sequence for her and teach her to 'mentally digest' every pitch before singing it. You want pitch memory, and pitch awareness mentally so you aren't flailing your voice around wildly. This takes a lot of practice.

Last edited by KillerKu (2012-01-02 23:22:32)

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#18 2012-01-02 23:48:54

slstone
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Re: Perspective and criticism

Time for my 3 cents.

Back to our American Idol analogies. When he was there, Simon Cowell was loved by some and hated by most. Now there is a man who is always blunt and honest. There are those who would say to him, "what makes you a judge of singing, you don't sing". And they are right, Simon doesn't sing. But he is an A&R executive. The label pays him millions of dollars to "find" singers, not to be one.
If I were to offer critiques here, like others, I don't think negative feedback is very productive. We all want to sing whether we can or not. And like most anything else, there is a learning process, and as others have mentioned, we are all at different and various stages in our learning.
Here's the problem. Take your average beginner. He puts something out. Someone tells him, "hey try doing this or that when you sing it." Obviously a positive piece of feedback. But those who take it personally will think, "what is he saying? is he saying I suck. I don't want to do it that way. I can't do it that way, aww what does he know, if he knew what he was talking about, he would be out there doing it instead of lurking here at the forum."
So what you have is a helpful piece of advice that someone takes as a personal assault. So then the question pops up: why don't I want to do it that why, why can't I? Perhaps they dont have the skill or technique to sing it that way and thats their reason for not wanting to take advice.

Refer to my posting in the vocal health and preservation section entitled, "Vocal Stamina and Voice Prep for Recording and Recording Prep Tips".
There I discuss technique and why I think it is important. When someone gives advice, the person receiving it needs to remember that these other people are offering their time and opinion to help make you a better musician and performer. If you only wanted nicey nice critique, go talk to your friends and family members. They walways think you are awesome. But if you want honest opinions, then you come here. And like any other advice you get. You have two choices.
You can either heed someone's advice, perhaps increase your own skill and abilities, or you can ignore the advice and do your own thing anyway. Either way, its nothing personal.
Ron finally figured this out after I assisted him with "Heaven On Their Minds." The advice I gave him was not meant to hurt his feelings, or to tell him he was doing a crappy job. It was meant to obtain the best performance from him as we can get. Yes I handled my part as a fellow musician instead of brother. Again the Idol analogy. He doesn't need me to tell him if it was a good or bad performance. He needed me to help make a good recording. Eventually, he discovered that I was not insulting him, but offering a means to make it even better. And all the feedback from other posters here gave him lots of kudos for a great recording.

So if someone is telling to take a little extra time, record an extra track etc, to make a great recording, take the advice for what it is.
On the regular part of the website here, I have received quite a few accolades etc. from my cover of Hunting High & Low. If you listen
to it and say, "man, he makes it look and sound easy." Consider this. Before getting the the final keeper vocal track, I probably recorded each
track about 30 times before getting it right. I don't spend 5 minutes in the studio for a 5 minute song.
Remember, even the big stars dont record an hours worth of music in an hour. Remember Metallica's video, "A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica", it was when they recorded the black Album. Obviously from the title, we know how long they spent recording it. Bob Rock produced it.
And if you watch it at all, Bob Rock didn't care about the band's feelings or how insulted they felt when he would tell them a part sucked.
What he did do is bring out the best that they had to offer. I like to think we are all adults here. We wear our big boy or big girl pants, whichever gender we are.
Now for those that offer advice, keep it positive. I agree with the other posters, offer something helpful. If you really want to help someone, be blunt.

As for the other thoughts. Yes we all have different ideas on what we think needs improvement in someone's work, as does the poster of the music.
However, as I said before, chances are high that the first person who will buy someones brand new CD will also be the one who offered helpful ideas.
Mightn't we here, if we were all putting out CD's, be buying each others CDs?
I am sure I will have more to offer as this thread continues, as their is much ground to cover.


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#19 2012-01-03 00:21:05

slstone
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Re: Perspective and criticism

p.s. Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Not good singers. Reason people loved them? songwriting. They could tell one helluva story or make a poignant point. They started when 'protest' music was a big thing and thats how they basically got their start. Thats why alot of other professionals will also tell you, that not matter how good a musician you are, it doesnt really matter, if you do sucky songs. I think alot of people should focus on their writing as much as they do on their technique.
I will be releasing my CD soon. And I can definitely tell you that each song on my CD, all written by me, went through many and various changes and rewrites before becoming what they are now.


Official Press Release - 'Book of Shadows' CD for sale now!
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/slstone
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/book- … d611487291
http://www.slstonemusic.com
Need music with which to sing along? 50% off All Services November Sale. Sign up now! http://stonecraftmusicstudio.com

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#20 2012-01-03 04:56:24

KillerKu
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Re: Perspective and criticism

Can't agree enough with songwriting slstone. There isn't room for every technically advanced singer out there in similar styles. There are a lot of people who will likely have to offer 'something else' to have a shot at anything.

I'd disagree that Neil Young and Bob Dylan are bad singers though. They've sold a whole lot of albums and communicated with huge audiences and it's not 'just' songwriting, it's both. They are unconventional singers and not everyone approves of their voices, sure, but that's part of why they succeeded. They offer unique identities that some people fall in love with because they can't get it anywhere else. Same with Mick Jagger, Michael Stipe, Johnny Cash, Cobain, the vast majority of people in rock who have had a lot of long term longevity with fans, it's more about identity than technique. Some have better technique than others, but good technique is rarely the reason why people like this succeed. Like when you hear their song, you know it's them, because they sound unique.

When people sound 'too much like' another person, audiences will see you as just another face in the crowd. They might get a kick out of an impersonation of someone similar who is more successful and famous, or a competition of the most notes between similar competitors, but how someone stands out as a singer/songwriter with an 'identity' can be a make it or break it deal. You could be 2/3rds as good as Adam Lambert at singing technically, and honestly that's pretty damned good. But why would anyone listen to 2/3rds of Lambert when they could listen to the real thing instead?

You might get lucky hopping on a trend (emo, autotune pop, whatever), and being forgotten years later as a clinger on, but honestly I don't feel most people's best bet is to try to compete with Lambert at his own game, anymore than Diana Ross' best bet was to compete with Aretha Franklin at hers. "Identity + good songs + competent singing" has competed with technical showcases so many times throughout history. And unless you are 'the' best, being the 100th best technically just isn't much of a draw, even though it's really really good.

Otherwise, they are better off having whoever sounds similar and is technically better at singing to do their songs and hang up the mic to become a songwriter. The unique identity is actually key. People need to remember 'you,' not remember 'that guy that sounded like someone else.'

Last edited by KillerKu (2012-01-03 05:18:57)

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#21 2012-01-03 05:55:58

KillerKu
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Re: Perspective and criticism

And hey, Jonpall says James Lugo says people need to wake up. Well, I feel the same way:







These people all are so much more successful than we are. They don't have day jobs, they aren't teachers or critics, they are artists. It's because people recognize and identify with unique and cohesive artistic identities. The songs, the voices, the perfections and imperfections, it's all part of the package and equally important.

No most of these singers wouldn't make it on cover songs that remind people of how much they fail to imitate other singers, but that's not because they are bad singers, it's because they are artistic singers who have unique and interesting styles that best represent their artform. It's actually strength, not weakness.

Identity, is possibly 'the' most important thing after some semblance of competence (pitch, rhythm, etc).  If people feel you are memorable, or artistically valuable in some way, like you are irreplaceable and not some cheap knockoff, that's how people get really, really attached. It's not about being perfect, all of these singers could have taken opera lessons from childhood onward and gotten more perfect, but rather it's about being 'just wrong enough' that people love it.

That's why I am careful with criticism. People can get trapped into an obsession on technical perfection, when what they really need is competence and an identity. They are very different things and I honestly believe people have to 'feel their' way through this to some extent. We can't tell people who they are, but we can encourage them to keep searching and trying to find and improve upon their crafts.

Last edited by KillerKu (2012-01-03 06:05:10)

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#22 2012-01-03 09:03:28

jonpall
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Re: Perspective and criticism

KillerKu wrote:

People who sing with vibrato can't really nail a pitch with a tuner like a straight tone singer but they might be able to hide pitchiness better.

Sorry, but that's not true. Neither group of singers has better pitch than the other. If anything, a singer that can control when he/she uses a classically executed diaphragm vibrato and when to sing a straight tone has a better pitch than a singer that can only use a straight tone. The reason is that you need to have good breath support to have a controlled, effortless vibrato. Also, a very common vibrato among good singers is not going slightly up and down in pitch, but going slightly louder and softer, alternatively. That means that the vibrato is on a single pitch. Btw. this is the vibrato that I use, and I try to use it tastefully, i.e. don't do it on all notes and when I do it I often put it on the tail end of a long note or put in on a single note here and there. I've found that some metal singers really overdo their vibrato - and some of them also do that "oscillate in pitch" vibrato, which I've never liked that much.

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#23 2012-01-03 09:20:04

jonpall
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Re: Perspective and criticism

Killer, I suspect that you might misunderstood the intention of many people here, similar to what Ronws was thinking once. Many of us here DON'T want to "sound exactly like some other singer". In fact, we WANT a unique sound.

What is our goal then (for many of us here)?

It's very simple, probably the most difficult thing to learn in singing from a technical perspective, is to learn how to put some power in your high notes and have them connected seamlessly to your low notes. This can be done with cry, twang, rasp, improved breath support, f.ex.

Many of our singing heroes can do this, so a good test of how well we're doing is to do a cover of a fairly difficult song. The intention is NOT to be some "X percents of singer Y's skills" in some particular song. I agree, if you want to hear a good impersination of some famous singer - just go listen to that famous singer! :)

All these things you're writing about are actually great reminders for us all - i.e. to remember to enjoy the ride, enjoy what we've accomplished so far, don't forget to try out some songwriting, find our own sound, focus on tone and how we communicate a song to the audience, etc. But you have to understand our viewpoint as well. And after all, this is a forum about singing technique, so there will be a natural tendency to focus more on the technical aspect of singing over the emotional one. But again, these are good reminders from you.

Cheers.

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#24 2012-01-03 11:08:04

KillerKu
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Re: Perspective and criticism

Jonpall, everyone should work on technique in one way or another, what I'm not convinced is everyone needs the 'same' technical skills. If they can get their own voice comfortably in tune and in rhythm with a usable pitch range and with a unique flair in a healthy way that's actually what you need. Anything beyond that is artistic preference.

On vibrato, if you watch electronically where your pitch is on a computer, one example is a game like Rock Band, most singers have to consciously turn off 'classical' vibrato to get higher scores. Any pitch oscillation is steering out of tune and away from the fundamental so yes when you are using pitch vibrato it's often more poorly pitched to the fundamental. It just sounds good if done right.

Electronically, in order to aututone a voice you remove the distance from the fundamental, pushing the voice in and in, until it reaches the fundamental. That pulls away vibrato and reveals a pure note, it's closer to a humm or spoken word than a 'pitch shakey' note. 

I've always considered pitch fluctuation vibrato, but I suppose you can consider volume fluctuate to be such too.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vibrato

This is a good example of someone that would be singing an extremely in tune (if ugly) sound when he does the fifties sci fi robot.



It sounds robotic, like autotune. When I refer to straight tone singing that I preferred it's something closer to this:



When I refer to more extreme Vibrato:



He's the one that taught me how it's more about the song, the artist, the feeling, rather than a 'correct' technique. Both are fine even if the pitch vibrato can wobble around the pitch.

Last edited by KillerKu (2012-01-03 11:54:01)

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#25 2012-01-03 12:22:20

FelipeCarvalho
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Re: Perspective and criticism

Singing on pitch is not a feature, its part of the job...

Sure, its possible to produce comercial products using auto-tune, etc. But that is a different area, a different job. Its necessary to know how to produce your own voice, sure, but pitch problems can be solved easily through trainning, I dont see how this can be acceptable under a technical perspective. I think there is a confusion in here between what a popstar is and what a professional singer is. The first, I couldnt care less, the later, is a professional on singing. Just that.

And about vibrato being out of tune. First lets define what vibrato we are talking about. The one you describe that happens on you friend (yawn related) is probably closer to what is described in the classical technique and that is used as a reference to know if the voice is working properly or if there is strain happening. There is no way around it, support+covering+forward placement will result in vibrato, unless you forcefully remove it, tampering with the the resonances. Still, it must be in tune, even being pitch variation the central pitch must be right or it will sound really weird. I will totally agree that is easier to sing with vibrato, and is easier to sing on pitch with it, not because of the vibrato, but because of what you must do to produce it.

Still. There are other ways to produce it. And there is a HUGE difference between having it naturally on the voice and just using it on every opportunity to sound "technical". As everything in this life, its good if used well, and boring if overused.

Overall: There is much more to singing than being on pitch, autotune is always on pitch and its my personal opinion that it sux to a considerable degree. But being on pitch is not such a hard thing to accomplish, a few notes here and there off by a little bit, fine. Everything off by 1/2 a semitone, not acceptable...

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