Maitai11

Help Understanding One Of My All-Time Favorite Performances

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Hi Everyone,

Many thanks to the people who contribute to this forum.  Knowledge leads to understanding, and that knowledge must come from those who are experienced in the craft.  To those who are nice enough to share, thank you very much in advance.  

The Fifth Dimension's Marilyn McCoo stole my heart in the late 1990's with a rendition of "One Less Bell To Answer" on the Ed Sullivan Show, I believe in 1970 - this is one of those "TV Land" performances dug up from decades past.  You can find the specific performance I'm speaking of HERE.  

The rendition of this particular song has me coming back over and over to watch it while I try to dissect the absolutely masterful manner in which Marilyn sings her song.  I believe she was classically trained (for lack of a better term.)  I would like to understand the various singing techniques she is using throughout the performance - but I am not a singer, just an interested fan of her work.  At 1:06, there is a encircling of the arms, and it appears she pulls her facial muscles back to get the right pitch.  The encircling can be similarly seen at 1:21.  At 1:45, 1:53, and 2:06, she does a bit of a different "opening" of her thoracic body.  Finally, there is a marked "pulling down" of her facial muscles at 2:18 - I have seen this technique in classically-trained singers previously.  Marilyn was inspiring to me because of her confidence and the tenderness of her delivery - I mean, she genuinely appears to be mourning the loss of a mate.  This performance on Sullivan, in my estimation, is the bar by which all other soul/pop/harmony groups should strive to attain the professionalism - by all members - and Marilyn's flawless delivery of the piece.  

Thank you so much for your time and attention.

Regards,

Maitai

 

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13 hours ago, Maitai11 said:

Hi Everyone,

Many thanks to the people who contribute to this forum.  Knowledge leads to understanding, and that knowledge must come from those who are experienced in the craft.  To those who are nice enough to share, thank you very much in advance.  

The Fifth Dimension's Marilyn McCoo stole my heart in the late 1990's with a rendition of "One Less Bell To Answer" on the Ed Sullivan Show, I believe in 1970 - this is one of those "TV Land" performances dug up from decades past.  You can find the specific performance I'm speaking of HERE.  

The rendition of this particular song has me coming back over and over to watch it while I try to dissect the absolutely masterful manner in which Marilyn sings her song.  I believe she was classically trained (for lack of a better term.)  I would like to understand the various singing techniques she is using throughout the performance - but I am not a singer, just an interested fan of her work.  At 1:06, there is a encircling of the arms, and it appears she pulls her facial muscles back to get the right pitch.  The encircling can be similarly seen at 1:21.  At 1:45, 1:53, and 2:06, she does a bit of a different "opening" of her thoracic body.  Finally, there is a marked "pulling down" of her facial muscles at 2:18 - I have seen this technique in classically-trained singers previously.  Marilyn was inspiring to me because of her confidence and the tenderness of her delivery - I mean, she genuinely appears to be mourning the loss of a mate.  This performance on Sullivan, in my estimation, is the bar by which all other soul/pop/harmony groups should strive to attain the professionalism - by all members - and Marilyn's flawless delivery of the piece.  

Thank you so much for your time and attention.

Regards,

Maitai

 

I am sorry but I do not think that has anything to do with Vocal technique. It is called acting. These performances were lip synced for the cameras and the audience.  On the stage you do big movements for visual effect. There are not many performances that you have seen on TV that were actually LIVE performances. Too many things can go wrong and time is money.

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Hi MDEW,

This is a surprising and unfortunate circumstance.   I had not anticipated such a strongly-worded reply.   

Just to make a correction, this was not a lip-synced performance - it was live.  Listening to the original even once, you would be able to see that. 

Thank you for your response. 

Maitai

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1 hour ago, Maitai11 said:

Hi MDEW,

This is a surprising and unfortunate circumstance.   I had not anticipated such a strongly-worded reply.   

Just to make a correction, this was not a lip-synced performance - it was live.  Listening to the original even once, you would be able to see that. 

Thank you for your response. 

Maitai

This was not performed live. There is no way for microphones to pick up the voices with such clarity. Yes it is a different performance than the original it was a common practice to make a special recording for the televised event..

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2 hours ago, Maitai11 said:

Hi MDEW,

This is a surprising and unfortunate circumstance.   I had not anticipated such a strongly-worded reply.   

Just to make a correction, this was not a lip-synced performance - it was live.  Listening to the original even once, you would be able to see that. 

Thank you for your response. 

Maitai

Every vocal group "live performance" televised during that time period was pre-recorded and then lip-synced when they didn't have close mics, and even many times when they did. It was common practice, especially the shows the 5th Dimension were on, like Soul Train. It may not be the original/album performance. Most record-label artists record multiple versions of each song to use for different purposes.

That said, if she were singing live, which she's not in that video, the mouth position you're seeing is called embouchure. Horizontal embouchure helps lift the voice to the soft palate better. Vertical embouchure can be narrowed for holding more curbing resonance and expanded for more edging resonance and/or projection (e.g. creating a megaphone like  projection effect with the mouth shape). 

In this video, she over-exaggerates her vertical embouchure. Since it's not creating the horrible super-edging acoustics, splatted vowels, and/or extreme pushing and tension that doing such a thing creates when singing with her particular resonant placement, that alone is enough for me to believe it's not live. Being a recording and sound engineer for decades, and knowing exactly how they filmed "live performances" like this one in the mid 70's, gives me plenty of other reasons too.

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Draven,

Thank you for that thorough, well-thought-out, and courteous post - I appreciate you taking the time to explain the various techniques, and also providing the reasons you give via your background in recording.  I was most interested in the mechanics of how Marilyn was producing the sounds (over-exaggerated and prerecorded as they may be) because her singing voice is, to me, incredible.  There may be others who disagree, but in my mind, there's no accounting for taste, and in any event, I appreciate your patience and explanation regarding your position.  

Many thanks,

Maitai

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Maitai, First off, Welcome to the forum. I did not mean to seem so blunt. But I did want you to understand that what you are seeing is not necessarily the way a good tone is produced. Facial posture and body posture does have an effect but watching someone else sing, even if it is live does not necessarily give you clues to how your own voice works. Things are taking place inside that you cannot see.

Years ago I tried to learn songs on guitar by watching performances on the tv and video recordings of tv performances. I was shocked to find out that many times the guitar players were not even holding the guitar correctly, let alone playing the correct notes.  It was one of the first lessons that I learned about the Magic of TV. No matter how good things look What you see may not be reality.

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MDEW,

Thank you; I appreciate the note back.  I have only had limited contact with those who have perfected the art of singing (one was an opera singer,) and it's been an interest of mine to learn about the mechanics for some time.  Since I have not been blessed with any kind of singing voice that anyone would want to hear (!), I suppose it was somewhat of a magic power I was seeing - and I am sometimes in awe of that fact.  

That part about performers holding the guitar wrong is pretty hilarious...

Thanks again for getting back to me.  

Regards,

Maitai

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I am not fooling myself, I am not that great of a singer. I have not taken the advice I am about to give you..... The road to proficiency in any act is to do that act regardless of how good you are or how good others think you are. Then get ok or average in that act and learn steps to make yourself  better no matter how good you are or how good others think you are. 

There are a lot of good sources for learning the mechanics. Robert Lunte, the owner of this forum has a program and book that covers almost everything you could want know. Having said that, knowing the mechanics and having your own voice respond is two different things. It takes time, dedication and effort on your part. Most people who really sound good and professional practice on a professional level and have or had some form of personal training. It is not just a pastime.  To sing OK or even above average is not that difficult but to have the sound and feel of someone like Marilyn McCoo takes time on your part doing the thing not just learning the mechanics of it.

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