Gsoul82

Emotional Responses to Certain Musical Things?

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I was just thinking about the emotional responses that some of us get from hearing music, particularly singing, and I was wondering, what causes it? Like nails on a chalkboard will make the hair stand up on the backs of the necks of a lot of people. Other sounds will have a similar effect but in a more comforting manner. People often talk about something giving them "chills". What quality about certain sounds can end up resulting in that kind of effect?

And for anybody responding, what, as far as music goes, has given you an emotional response?

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I had a friend ask almost this exact question today. It's something I think a LOT about, and so this is going to be a bit long-winded.

My friend posted:

Quote

What, to you, is the difference between a piece of music or art that moves you, and a piece of music or art that kinda makes you go, "cool story bro", before you instantly forget about it forever? What's the marker between 'magical' and 'good, but forgettable'?

To which I replied:

Quote

I think on some levels, or perhaps at a certain level, an artist emoting truly from the heart is contagious - it shines through the art and connects with others on a deep level. I realize that in some or many cases this is because it resonates with our current circumstance, memorable associations, or even personal symbology and projection of meaning. But I truly believe that there's also a raw, primitive level where art can emotionally reach out and grab you by the heartstrings through a true connection with the original outpouring of emotion it had during its creation.

I would also like to add this here, since we're talking about singing technique as well:

One singing technique that can help you get in touch with the core emotions of what you're singing is vocal sob, or crying a bit through the vowels. Robert and I had a lot of long discussions about this while I was in Seattle last week. He helped me stop pushing as hard on my belts and rely on my vocal sob a bit more. I immediately was able to emote the song more. I often use a 3.5mm cocktail straw to help my students find this feeling and relax their singing voice in that particular way, Robert helped me take it away from the straw where I could very purposefully apply it anytime I wanted without having to use a help like the straw to train for it. Regardless of the technical help it provides though, it's a very emotive tool. It's incredibly intuitive and primitive, helps you truly feel the emotion of what you're singing because you're putting your body into the physical state that many of our emotions cause (similar to neuro-associative conditioning), and it's very easy for the listener to pick up on and connect to on a subconscious level. 

Apart from sob, I would also say that I firmly believe such an emotional connection is a skill that can be trained, albeit different than the muscle strength and coordination we usually focus on when singing.  I had an absolutely incredible mentor for it, who made it her goal to get me into such a state of mind and emotion. It took her nearly a year, and it took me feeling like I had let her down time and time again, until I finally touched on that connection she wanted me to achieve. I remember and tell that story in detail a lot. If I haven't already told it here, then there are definitely a few videos coming where I talk about it. Once I felt that contagious connection, not just with the music, but with everyone listening too, it quickly became one of the most important aspects of music for me. I learned to completely lose myself in the music and therein allow anyone listening to do the same.

This is one of the reasons I have such a difficult time allowing myself to sing cover songs. Most just don't feel emotionally authentic enough for me to lose myself in. And I personally feel like I've let down my listeners if I do that. I don't believe others let people down by it. It's just a thing I very highly value about my own performances. I'm also not claiming that everything I've released thus far achieves that goal. I certainly tried, but I don't think I always got there (although I know quite a few people who would argue that I have, I'm still not convinced and hope that I never think I've "arrived"). I had a long talk with my partner in The Silent Still about this recently, and we've been putting a lot more focus on it with our newer music.

 

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The tone of the song is primarily the reason a song moves me on an emotional level. Listen to some of Karen Carpenter's songs and you'll know what I'm talking about. She has some of the most emotional music around just by the way the songs are structured to her tone.

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32 minutes ago, The Future Vocalist said:

The tone of the song is primarily the reason a song moves me on an emotional level. Listen to some of Karen Carpenter's songs and you'll know what I'm talking about. She has some of the most emotional music around just by the way the songs are structured to her tone.

 

'I should have said, "You may post examples if you wish" :D

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Emotional response to sound is pretty much in us when we are born, or conditioned in the first few years. Good musicians, song writers, singers and composers know this and use it to their advantage. Tempo and tone set the stage.....

It is not just the singer who makes a song so powerful emotionally but the music behind him/her.

 

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Cool post Geoff.

The first thing that comes to mind is the resolution of certain notes to others inside of a set key. This is critical in creating tension and release in music. 

Click HERE >>>

This is in every song.

Sound color plays an equally important role. For example, one reason vocal distortion pulls you in, is because it communicates at a primitive level, as does good sobbing in singing. These sound colors mean something to us as a species and have for thousands of years. When you sing these sounds, it grabs the listener and creator equally.

Yet still, some music gives us a memory or association to something we can connect to in the present or past. For this reason, I love 70s radio hits.

This tune takes me back to an earlier time in my life and at the same time, I can connect to its message in the present, thinking of someone I loved that I lost.

 

This list could become quite extensive... but this is my contribution.

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46 minutes ago, Robert Lunte said:

Sound color plays an equally important role. For example, one reason vocal distortion pulls you in, is because it communicates at a primitive level, as does good sobbing in singing. These sound colors mean something to us as a species and have for thousands of years. When you sing these sounds, it grabs the listener and creator equally.

It is funny, and kind of ironic or confusing that we use different words to say the same thing. Being from his background Robert would use the term "Sound color" and me being the hillbilly that I am would use the term "Inflection" or Emotional expression,  Martin may use the term "Prosody".

In "Blues for Baby and Me" by Elton John, Elton uses a lot of "Sob" quality. He sounds sad and almost apologetic for leaving and taking his girlfriend or wife away from her father. He has the music behind it to express the same feeling.  I choose to sing it from the perspective of saving the wife from an abusive father. Matter fact and defiant. I am also just using an acoustic guitar and I play it a bit faster.

 

Whether you use the term "Sound Color", "Prosody",  "Emotional intent" it is the same thing, Using a tone and phrasing that matches the emotion you wish to convey. When done correctly that same feeling should be carried to the audience......Have you heard the term "Phoning it in"? that pretty much means just singing without providing any emotional connection to the song.

Side note... I was working on a song that my brother wrote(he passed in 96).  They way he sang, it sounded upbeat and happy... whenever I sang the song it sounded sad even though we have a similar voice and style and using the same melody. It finally dawned on me that I was thinking about what I had lost while singing and my brother was thinking about the great time he spent with the girl when things were good. It made all the difference in the world just thinking from a different perspective while singing.

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this question is probably much deeper than we all realize. Maybe Draven has looked into some of these subjects in the past

 

some random thoughts:

 

 

one can choose what to believe on a personal basis...but the Bible says that God created the world by sound (words). The devil tempted Eve by sound (words). With the mouth we bless AND curse. David soothed Sauls evil spirit by playing on a harp. It goes on and on.

 

Your body is a vibrating machine with spinning parts (atoms) and a heart pumping fluid. Your body is also around 60% water (which is affected by vibrations)

What about the sounds of nature that, say, a farmer used to hear all day long....compared to the confused noise pollution of a city?

is it all random??  or not??

Cymatics

 

 

is the urban music of today soothing or does it lead to an agitated state? (pretty obvious answer). If millions of people listen to angry music, whats that do to a country? to that demographic?? mass hypnosis and thought control?

“Musical innovation is full of danger to the State, for when modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the State always change with them.”
Plato, The Republic

 

I graduated HS in 1985. The general feeling in the air was positive. Look at the popular music in the rock world. You had "80s rock". Poison, BonJovi, Warrant, Ratt, VanHalen. Lots of laughing, joking, partying. Singing about working all week and then hooking up with your GF etc.

Flash forward to the late 80s and into the early 90s. The powers that be (Geffen etc) dropped that style of rock like a hot potato. Even though Motley Crue and Skid Row and others were huge at the time, almost overnight the whole emphasis shifted to "grunge"

Now instead of good time party music we got music about heroin addiction and mental breakdowns. The fast, bright, almost happy-go-lucky music was replaced with a slower, downtuned, droney, doomy, dissonant vibe. (Im a pretty solid AIC and Soundgarden fan. Im not hating, just stating facts)  Where are the leaders of that movement?? Most are dead from suicide or overdose.

And that was 20 years ago. Now kids get 2 choices: hip hop or hard country. thats it. Its a lot easier to control the masses when you only have to control 2 styles.

So where is our society now? appears to be well into hardcore breakdown headed toward civil war.

 

“Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul.”
Plato, The Republic

 

“Music doesn’t lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.” – Jimi Hendrix

 

"Atmospheres are going to come through music because music is in a spiritual thing of its own. It's like the waves of the ocean. You can't just cut out the perfect wave and take it home with you. It's constantly moving all the time. It is the biggest thing electrifying the earth. Music and motion are all part of the race of man."

"I don't think what I say is abstract. It's reality. What's unreal is all those people living in cement beehives with no color and making themselves look like their gig and slaving themselves for that one last dollar and crying with millions in their pockets and constantly playing war games and making bets. They're losing themselves in big ego scenes and being above another man in some kind of form. Look at the pimps and the congressmen. But I can explain everything better through music. You hypnotize people to where they go right back to their natural state which is pure positive^×like in childhood when you got natural highs. And when you get poeple at their weakest point, you can preach into the subconscious what we want to say. That's why the name "electric church" flashes in and out."

Jimi Hendrix, Life Magazine Oct 3, 1969

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as far as sounds, probably something like this is deeply imbedded in me. Appealing to the left brain but also allowing one to drift off into fantasy. Being a kid id often think of Europe and castles and knights etc. Its kind of soothing and reassuring...like MAYBE there is some logic in the world lol.

 

So naturally a ballad like this, based loosely on Baroque progressions has a very strong pull on me. You combine the logical chord progression with the emotional pull of the lyrics and subject matter and then combine it with a rock backbeat and its pretty much a fully encompassing deal

 

-----------------------------

 

We had this album in the house when I was a young kid. finally my mom literally destroyed it because I would get too depressed listening to it lol. This song just has one of the strongest emotional vibes to it.Eric Clapton is in the studio. He is madly in love with Patti Boyd Harrison.....who just happens to be married to his best friend, George Harrison. So he is in the throes of that situation (finally stealing her from George) and they are all coked out of their minds and doing 48 hour sessions and pouring it all out in the music. THEN in the midst of the sessions, Eric's other great friend Jimi Hendrix dies at the age of 27. So Eric did this Jimi song as a tribute and it is just one of the most emotion drenched things ever laid down. That musical peak at 4:48 just kills

 

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Good points Jon about the Cymatics. Ever walk into a room and have a bad feeling come over you, you find out later that there are people there who have had an argument a few minutes before you walked in? How about getting a good feeling when walking in? We give off Vibes that others pick up on.....we feel them ourselves from others. It is sort of like a sixth sense. Music is the same way.   Most people do not pay attention to the music playing in the background during a movie or TV show.    Pay attention and you will see the patterns of when there is danger, or sadness, or excitement....... The pattern is there and it is easy to recognize. Pay attention to the types of instruments and the basic patterns during different shows of emotion.....Use those themes when you are making a composition. They work for a reason.

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Listen closely to the music......It sounds like something you would hear in a James Bond movie when the chase is on. The subtle changes in pitch moving up one step at a time building tension and then the downward spiral to release the tension and then building again.

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20 minutes ago, MDEW said:

Listen closely to the music......It sounds like something you would hear in a James Bond movie when the chase is on. The subtle changes in pitch moving up one step at a time building tension and then the downward spiral to release the tension and then building again.

well that against the monotonous hypnotizing drums. You keep sort of waiting for a change in the drums but it doesnt really come and you start to lose track of time a bit

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a more recent one. really strong imagery. A slow build up to a peak at 2:08ish and then the really dreamy western cowboy movie sounding vocals

what does it evoke? hard to say. maybe mildly depressing but mostly you just get deep in thought.

Dude is a crazy good singer but I dont understand how he hasnt blown out his voice yet with the crazy high belting. He goes to the ragged edge

 

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My contribution to this topic. I believe that a song reaching deep into our own inner being, our personal journey through life evokes the emotional responses that we feel.  Music is the vehicle to communicate in ways that simple words cannot. Songs like Gone Too Soon (MJ), Always On My Mind (The King), Bridge Over Troubled Water (S & G)  I feel that it would be hard not to be moved by. I guess music is a mirror of our spirits on this earth. Sorry rather deep but my sincere thoughts. Of course technically a song in a minor key would evoke a darker response than a major key but like the grating chalk some songs (for me electro musak) I'd prefer deafening silence whatever key it happens to be in. Here are some of the songs which evoke my emotional responses and I would love your thoughts on these guys on how they make you feel.. Good, bad or indifferent. Thank you and great topic!!

 

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On 12/9/2017 at 12:38 AM, Draven Grey said:

I had a friend ask almost this exact question today. It's something I think a LOT about, and so this is going to be a bit long-winded.

My friend posted:

To which I replied:

I would also like to add this here, since we're talking about singing technique as well:

One singing technique that can help you get in touch with the core emotions of what you're singing is vocal sob, or crying a bit through the vowels. Robert and I had a lot of long discussions about this while I was in Seattle last week. He helped me stop pushing as hard on my belts and rely on my vocal sob a bit more. I immediately was able to emote the song more. I often use a 3.5mm cocktail straw to help my students find this feeling and relax their singing voice in that particular way, Robert helped me take it away from the straw where I could very purposefully apply it anytime I wanted without having to use a help like the straw to train for it. Regardless of the technical help it provides though, it's a very emotive tool. It's incredibly intuitive and primitive, helps you truly feel the emotion of what you're singing because you're putting your body into the physical state that many of our emotions cause (similar to neuro-associative conditioning), and it's very easy for the listener to pick up on and connect to on a subconscious level. 

Apart from sob, I would also say that I firmly believe such an emotional connection is a skill that can be trained, albeit different than the muscle strength and coordination we usually focus on when singing.  I had an absolutely incredible mentor for it, who made it her goal to get me into such a state of mind and emotion. It took her nearly a year, and it took me feeling like I had let her down time and time again, until I finally touched on that connection she wanted me to achieve. I remember and tell that story in detail a lot. If I haven't already told it here, then there are definitely a few videos coming where I talk about it. Once I felt that contagious connection, not just with the music, but with everyone listening too, it quickly became one of the most important aspects of music for me. I learned to completely lose myself in the music and therein allow anyone listening to do the same.

This is one of the reasons I have such a difficult time allowing myself to sing cover songs. Most just don't feel emotionally authentic enough for me to lose myself in. And I personally feel like I've let down my listeners if I do that. I don't believe others let people down by it. It's just a thing I very highly value about my own performances. I'm also not claiming that everything I've released thus far achieves that goal. I certainly tried, but I don't think I always got there (although I know quite a few people who would argue that I have, I'm still not convinced and hope that I never think I've "arrived"). I had a long talk with my partner in The Silent Still about this recently, and we've been putting a lot more focus on it with our newer music.

 

 

Do you think developing the connection to songs for yourself would be more difficult than doing something to make somebody else feel what you're singing?

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On 12/9/2017 at 5:33 PM, The Future Vocalist said:

I agree!

Totally. For every great, legendary singer , there was a kick ass band behind them. 

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1 hour ago, Gsoul82 said:

Do you think developing the connection to songs for yourself would be more difficult than doing something to make somebody else feel what you're singing?

Do you have a song in mind that you may be having trouble with?    I usually choose songs that I already have a connection with, or at least a situation similar to the song.

"Gimme three steps" by Skynyrd comes to mind.....been there ...."And I'm tellin' you son, it ain't no fun, staring straight down a forty four"......but I digress.....

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Have you ever seen someone on the TV shedding tears when singing a super sad song, with sad lyrics, and sad melodies, and sad backings, all so sad. With a sad lighting perhaps? A live catharsis.

Did you buy into it? Would you care watching the guy crying his ass for a few hours in a show? Or did it look pretentious and over the top?

I like to think of movies. Compare a good horror movie, something like the first Alien movie or The Shinning with some random trash horror title, where people are all around screaming about how scared they are and you can see these carefully crafted monsters in all their rubberish splendor?

One presents a situation, a (*auto edit*) up situation, but its still just a situation without making a point of TELLING you to be scared of it. Its a setting where you can easily picture yourself in the place of one those people, and then you will not just feel scared, but also curious, etc.

The other... The other is all about telling you how scary the movie is, weird monsters everywhere, bad actors dying all the time, just an overwhelming display of things that should be scary, but that leave no room for YOU to fit in, so it becomes a mockery.

I am not saying it is simple or to "not feel it", but I think we need to draw a line specially when attempting to make others "feel what you feel". This just won't happen, you won't transmit your emotions through the mic cable. People can UNDERSTAND that you are feeling something, sure, but this isn't much. How many people complain about their life in a rather emotional way and are just annoying instead of entertaining?

Instead I believe that using the music well, with a nice interpretation line, and not overdoing on stating the same thing repetitively, could make even indiference be part of a good experience: the listener just does not need to share your feelings. Example: If you are the bad guy on a musical, and you are dying in agony, it can very well be a satisfacting moment. And if you try to hint that, it can very well spoil it.

One of the tools, probably the most powerful one, is using Tension and Release as Rob mentioned. You create patterns, which will become expectations, which then you can either fulfill (release) or surprise (tension). This can happen on the context of the harmony, rhythm, melody, phrasing style, dynamics, vowels used and even the emotions you want to show. Without this movement, even the most emotional performance will probably just sound cheesy.

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18 hours ago, Gsoul82 said:

 

Do you think developing the connection to songs for yourself would be more difficult than doing something to make somebody else feel what you're singing?

I think emotion is contagious. Personally, I have a hard time singing a song that's not my own because I have less of a connection to it, but that doesn't mean someone else won't have a stronger connection to it as the listener rather than performer. 

What Felipe is talking about is pretentious to me as well, or overacting. It's one thing to lose yourself in the music/song, giving permission for others to do the same, but something entirely different to try to amplify that emotion through actions and emphasis. I think that desire for emotional amplification is where the rest of the band, other performers, wardrobe, staging, lights, and other visuals come into play. But even then, not to pretentiously amplify, rather to support it and assist.

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I kind of agree with Felipe but almost from the opposite angle. What makes an emotion seem so contrived is the absolute monotony of it. Like if someone makes a an 'angry' song, so every word should sound, angry, every guitar part should be played 'angrily.' It sounds fake to me.

Where the sincerity comes through is emotions are not one dimensional. Even if a tonal center of a song might be anger there is room for mockery, sarcasm, bitterness, disaffection, flippancy, disillusion, frigidness, a loss of empathy, deadpanning, scheming, seething, and hundreds of other ways for anger to manifest. It's not a single timbre, it is thousands.  

Someone trying to dial in some kind 'consistency' in their emoting, for me just sounds fake. It's like if someone got into a heated argument with me but was trying to maintain an 'angry timbre' for every syllable of each word word just to make sure I knew they were 'properly emoting.' I'd laugh.  

But it's the same with sadness or any other emotion. Emotions are unstable and multifaceted. Spontaneous and in the moment. When emoting comes across as one dimensional it comes across as 'acting,' manipulative, and insincere. When the emotion is allowed to grow and change organically to encompass the singer's present emotional state, in the moment, it comes across as more sincere.

Ray Charles articulated it better than most:

But now if I can wrap myself up in that song, and when that song gets to be a part of me, and affects me emotionally, then the emotions that I go through, chances are I’ll be able to communicate to you. Make the people out there become a part of the life of this song that you’re singing about. That’s soul when you can do that.[1]

You take a song like Georgia, I’ve sung it thousands of times. But what happens is when I sing something, I never ever sing it the same way twice. And that’s not because I’m trying to be different, but it’s because I sing according to what I feel that night. Every day of our lives we feel different. You don’t feel the same way today as you felt yesterday - you may come close, but there is a little difference, and what difference there is, makes the difference.

Now there are a lot of manufactured songs and you don't need much emotional sincerity to sell or market a product. You can have a near naked woman lip syncing the same pre recorded audio thousands of times, it sells fine. But the prosody thing is real. It's a different kind of listener looking for it and a different kind of artistry.

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