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Hello Fellow TMVW members!

Humbling though it may be, I thought I would share a track I'm working on, (Beatles - In My Life) and the vocal "sculpting" process I go through in an effort to record my best performance. (I'd never share unfinished tracks except to friends and in this forum . . . plain vanity)

I've had a lot of experience analyzing my vocals for recordings, I never quite knew how to articulate the process I was engaging in nearly as well as after having gone through The Four Pillars of Singing, learning the "talk track" I've heard Robert Lunte utilize across many hours of lecture videos!

Once one is familiar enough with these "mechanisms" for mending, strengthening, or otherwise fine tuning a vocal line, the mystery about what to do goes away!  Rob's techniques are structured in a simple, yet meticulous sequence that really does create the feeling of having a vocal sculpting tool box!

I'm posting this both as a subject of interest to others who may be starting out with this type of challenge, and as a means of accountability for me to complete the process, which has been brutal for me due to inexperience with the recording software. It's good for me though, as I intend to record several old hit favorite song interpretations in the coming months. I'll post my final "sculpture" here for this track when I finally complete it.

"Work to be done" on this vocal performance is: Pitchy lyrics / appaggio drop out, vowel mods for best resonance, better phrasing, embouchure brightening, slight lightening of mass throughout, . . . . I'm sure there's more, also, rhythm guitar mistakes, and guitar solo is not quite tight yet, not happy with the effects on my voice yet either. I'm contemplating leaving the last "in my life" line unresolved like it is now. I was trying to sing that last half of the last line and had to quit recording due to a leaf blower. I think i'll like it that way, maybe with a high harmony over the top. Lastly, I may end up using a different mic than I did for this take.

One thing that clearly gets hammered home in this process is that performing live is a far more forgiving environment than being under the microscope of a recording.

 

Peace,

k

 

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I listened thoroughly to all the flaws I was hearing in this take and then created my cue sheet in keeping with The Four Pillars of Singing methodology. 

I've attached the document I created. I will use this to change the way I'm singing the lines and hopefully therein improve the overall performance.

 

Vocal Cues IML jpeg.jpg

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   I like this. It has a soft lullaby feel to it. More reflective and nostalgic than the Beatles version. There are places in the song that you may be trying to get a little more intense to show the emotion....this is not easy to do when singing soft and trying to keep the quiet reflective feel. It turns out that these places have to do with the word Lose.

  Maybe if you let a little more air escape(More breathy) on the word Lose(at those times) you can keep the intensity and not have the OO sound get too sharp and loud.

Only a suggestion. I really do like what you did with this. I tend to go in the opposite direction with this song, more intense than the Beatles and a bit faster.

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14 hours ago, MDEW said:

   I like this. It has a soft lullaby feel to it. More reflective and nostalgic than the Beatles version. There are places in the song that you may be trying to get a little more intense to show the emotion....this is not easy to do when singing soft and trying to keep the quiet reflective feel. It turns out that these places have to do with the word Lose.

  Maybe if you let a little more air escape(More breathy) on the word Lose(at those times) you can keep the intensity and not have the OO sound get too sharp and loud.

Thanks MDEW!  I fully agree, when i made the comment in my original post about "lighten the mass throughout," I was leaning the same direction. 

I guess I do think of lightening the mass as somewhat distinct from increasing respiration / relaxing the glottis. This is good cuz it makes me think deeper about the physiology of the distinction. Correct me if I'm wrong, i'm thinking the difference between a breathy sound color, and a "lighter mass" phonation is, 1- closure (of course by definition of breathiness), 2- deep placement (maximizing passaggio notes as low as possible), strong appaggio. I consider a more connected passaggio note as a light mass non-breathy phonation. This is also why I had indicated the stencil font which calls for more diaphragatic support. I find that (for me), a more engaged diaphragm fixes pitchy notes more often than vowel modification.  If I can sing that "lose" lyric in a breathy emotion without it sounding like an anomaly in the overall vocal feel, I will.  We'll see how it goes!    Thanks for the comments, I appreciate them, it's not always easy to be objective about your own vocal takes.

14 hours ago, MDEW said:

 I tend to go in the opposite direction with this song, more intense than the Beatles and a bit faster.

yeah J, I could hear you singin' and pickin' an upbeat John Prine style interpretation!

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Just now, Kevin Ashe said:

yeah J, I could hear you singin' and pickin' an upbeat John Prine style interpretation!

Almost everything I do has a John Prine feel to it. "In My Life" has a walking bass line that I like. It almost has a swing feel to it when played by itself. As I would build the song around the bass line and rhythm guitar you are playing a chordal melody( Which sounds awesome by the way). Did you work out this arrangement on your own?

I do not even really hear a problem in the singing. Perhaps, you are just closing a bit too much on Lose because of the OO sound. The rest of the singing sounds  just shy of a whisper and the OO has a closed voice sound. Other than that it is pretty consistent. 

 

 

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6 hours ago, MDEW said:

Almost everything I do has a John Prine feel to it. "In My Life" has a walking bass line that I like. It almost has a swing feel to it when played by itself. As I would build the song around the bass line and rhythm guitar you are playing a chordal melody( Which sounds awesome by the way).

Thanks J, love that compliment!  I play in DADGAD or some variation of it almost anytime I pick up a guitar. I rarely play in standard tuning anymore, since maybe the 90"s... and yes, i'm playing boxy, mostly 3 finger chords, tosome of which I have improvised lines that help emphasize the picking through the chord transitions. I still strum on this plenty however.

Did you work out this arrangement on your own?

Yes, this is what I do when "covering" a song favorite. I begin experimenting which tuning accommodates how I envision the melody being supported. Sometimes the tune ends up sounding similar to the original, other times one might only recognize the lyrics.

I would build the song around the bass line and rhythm guitar 

You've got the perfect voice for the Prine style J!!  I guess I'd say Prine is a cup of folk, a tablespoon of country, a dash of blues, and a pinch of Appalachian hillbilly ! :D Love his tunes! The attitude is a major soul factor in his music! Everything from contrition to revenge! . . .  and good hooks and riffs of course!

I do not even really hear a problem in the singing.

very nice of you to say however, I hear everything wrong with the singing that I listed on that cue sheet (and more since, like poor lyric phrasing/meter). I'm not worried though, those cues are the key to fixing the flaws as I see them! I really despise flat or sharp notes (most of us do) especially when I thought I sang it well.  more just frustrated that I didn't get more of it nailed in this take.  One take never really happens, but I come close if i've taken the time to train and warm up through the week prior to recording!

Perhaps, you are just closing a bit too much on Lose because of the OO sound. The rest of the singing sounds  just shy of a whisper and the OO has a closed voice sound. Other than that it is pretty consistent. 

thanks again, I am attempting to keep the vocal in that soft modality so I think you're right about closure, I would add the diaphragmatic support because I find that it gives me more control over peaks in my volume (like how that "Loose" lyric blew up on me), the support acts like a sort of compressor for lyric lines that intensify via emotion/volume.

appreciate the insights J!

 

 

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15 hours ago, Kevin Ashe said:

very nice of you to say however, I hear everything wrong with the singing that I listed on that cue sheet (and more since, like poor lyric phrasing/meter). I'm not worried though, those cues are the key to fixing the flaws as I see them! I really despise flat or sharp notes (most of us do) especially when I thought I sang it well.  more just frustrated that I didn't get more of it nailed in this take.  One take never really happens, but I come close if i've taken the time to train and warm up through the week prior to recording!

I try not to mention pitch unless it is directly related to an obvious problem, Usually the person recording either knows about the pitch problem or does not believe he/she is off pitch( I found that out years ago from the review section in this forum).  I know what you are talking about when you mention believing you sang well and listening back to the recording and finding slight issues. I have been working on "Honesty" by Billy Joel. I have found that after multiple recording I am still off pitch on the same word over and over again even after working that same line by itself.  "Honesty, is SUCH a lonely word..." I believe that the added intensity is going to lead to the proper pitch but in this case it does not for me. If I purposely sing the higher pitch I will go sharp, sing in my normal fashion and I am flat......

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1 hour ago, MDEW said:

 "Honesty, is SUCH a lonely word..." I believe that the added intensity is going to lead to the proper pitch but in this case it does not for me. If I purposely sing the higher pitch I will go sharp, sing in my normal fashion and I am flat......

hmmmmm.  that sounds frustrating alright.   I was thinking about this challenge and here's the best I could come up with for an angle on the flat "such:"

I was singing this to get the feel and I gravitate to the "Ah-ishness" as opposed to "Uh-ishness" for the lyric "such."  There could be times when it distorts the word too much to do this (I guess) but not for the word "such."   To me, it feels like less coordination is required to nail the pitch with an "Ah" over an "Uh."  Might have something to do with the tendency to scoop up to the note with the "Uh" vowel, and the larynx dampening and covering effect of the "Uh."  (?)  Don't give up, there's just got to be a formant that you can eventually produce to plant that note dead on!   

Second thought as an alternative to sining "such" with a lower note is:  Sing the high note for "such" on the "Oh" of "lonely." Just a slight switch up of the melody that places the "challenging" note on a different vowel. (?)

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3 hours ago, Kevin Ashe said:

I was singing this to get the feel and I gravitate to the "Ah-ishness" as opposed to "Uh-ishness" for the lyric "such."

I think you nailed it. I am not even sure why I did not try that. I am already using it on "Hardly ever heard", H-ah-dly......

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It seems to me that more people would have replied to this thread. The subject of Vocal Sculpting itself  is rather interesting. 

It is one thing to sit and learn the melody of a song or figure out the basic chords and quite another to actually think about how you want it sound and then work on fitting the voice to the music or fitting the music to the voice.

I am the type who for the most part just sings and plays and whatever it sounds like is what it is. There are times that I hate the sound so much that I just move on to another song and then there are those times that it sounds as if there is something more there that can be brought forward if I just change the Inflection or sound color or maybe the mood of the song. 

How others make the choice and what their process is for changing a soundcolor or mood would be an interesting conversation.

Was there something special about "In My Life" that made you decide to go for a softer more personal delivery? 

As I have mentioned, the walking bass line is what I chose to follow and build apon for "In My Life".   When first learning a new song I will usually listen for the bass line to help me figure out the chord progression. Even though I had no idea what I was doing, I played bass for a working band before I finished grade school, so that is the first thing I hear when listening to or working on a song..

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5 hours ago, MDEW said:

It seems to me that more people would have replied to this thread. The subject of Vocal Sculpting itself  is rather interesting. 

It fascinates me J!  The most fun I've ever had in the studio was composing the vocal lines to force me to utilize my maximum range and coordination.

Often, I would just be looped in a section singing the line a slightly different way each time until one of them was weird and intense enough to keep.

The take might be cool and unique, still, usually not quite a keeper, it now needed to be sung with my best "sculpting" efforts applied. Doing hours of this is as voice building as vocalise!

It is one thing to sit and learn the melody of a song or figure out the basic chords and quite another to actually think about how you want it sound and then work on fitting the voice to the music or fitting the music to the voice.

Right, you've got instrumental textures and colors also, and those tend to influence how I end up sculpting the vocal lines.

I am the type who for the most part just sings and plays and whatever it sounds like is what it is. There are times that I hate the sound so much that I just move on to another song and then there are those times that it sounds as if there is something more there that can be brought forward if I just change the Inflection or sound color or maybe the mood of the song. 

How others make the choice and what their process is for changing a sound color or mood would be an interesting conversation.

agreed.

Was there something special about "In My Life" that made you decide to go for a softer more personal delivery? 

Typically, I compose from noodling around. I first learned that main guitar hook riff, and then began picking through the chord progression, . . .that seemed to set the lullaby mood i guess. The message of this song has meant more to me at 55, gaining an appreciation for how valuable friends and lovers are! so, makes sense I guess that my sentimental pathos rests comfortably in a "lullaby" style.  . . .  I bounced an mp3 of the guitar tracks to attach, it may provide some more clarity on the guitar arrangement. I have to redo them as I had left the output button on through the recording and it's got a weird phase on it as a result.

As I have mentioned, the walking bass line is what I chose to follow and build apon for "In My Life".   When first learning a new song I will usually listen for the bass line to help me figure out the chord progression. Even though I had no idea what I was doing, I played bass for a working band before I finished grade school, so that is the first thing I hear when listening to or working on a song..

Not too unlike my method of unearthing a picking pattern from a chord progression.  I'm focused on those bass/root notes, while I experiment and find little "tributary" picking melodies to pull out of those chords. 

 

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Thanks for the guitar track. I never tried to use alternate tunings. I may dedicate one of my yardsale guitars to DADGAD tuning to play around with. If I can think of it as a separate instrument it may make it easier for me to learn. I have played Mandolin, banjo and Dobro before.  Dobro is like a slide guitar or simplified steel guitar.  I think the Dobro was tuned to open E or open G. 

As for voice sculpting ... I was also a product of the 60's and 70's mid east coast USA,  cartoons were my babysitter. When singing I was told to not imitate others...do not strain and to sound like other people was "Forced" and bad. Having said that,Several elements are mentioned in Vocal pedagogy: sub-glottal and supra-glottal pressure, TA engagement, CT engagement, support, Thin fold, Thick fold, Fold Compression, Breath compression, False folds, Epiglottis(epiglottic sphincter ,  tilt...) Thyroid tilt, Cricoid Tilt, arytenoids, Larynx(lowering,raising,dampening), and last but not least Formant tuning... .

What does this have to do with anything?  Although most singing teachers/coaches would tell you NOT to manipulate the voice, when you are doing nothing more than singing a pitch without the worry of sound-color or emotional content or formant tuning and such, IF you are having trouble or things do not sound pleasant, they will tell you to Raise or drop the larynx, add or subdue twang(Epiglottic sphincter, throat narrowing and opening) , or add a "Cry" to the voice, or Add TA or CT, or raise your soft palate......on and on. 

How is any of this this NOT manipulating? Also, Any of these things will "Change" the over all sound of the voice.

I will preface this next part with this statement......A dedicated singer speaking about imitating cartoon voices is almost as taboo as an airline pilot speaking about when he piloted a martian spacecraft........ Ok. A while back I recorded a song for the review section.....I was told I was too nasally(Even though the Pinched nose test revealed no changes in sound) , I sounded strained like I was reaching for notes, I lacked support and over all had a bad sound.  Everything seemed free and easy to me...I kept my ribs expanded like I was told to do for support, I was singing in the "Mask" like suggested(at least as far as I understood it)......So what to do? I decided to rerecord with the most choked up no soundcolor, most aweful sound I could think of for singing....A cross between, Bullwinkle Moose and Granpa Simpson......Wheezy,hard to control and like singing through a nearly closed throat. no twang, no mask resonance and pretty much no high overtones at all. The result? according to the reviews it was the best I had ever sounded and whatever I was doing keep doing it. My conclusion......If you do not like the sound of your voice use someone else's.

Think about some of your favorite singers.... Dio, Freddy Mercury, Axl Rose, Bon Jovi, Elton John, Adele, Bruce Dickinson  Elvis, Michael Bolton, Michael Jackson.......Do they really sound the same when they are speaking as they do when singing?. Maybe when trying to speak to 1000 screaming fans at a concert or while on stage but not when speaking "Normal". Their singing voices are "Sculpted". They have gone through a process of finding a sound that fits their style and the music that they use to back them.

What does this have to do with Cartoon Voices? Cartoon voices sound the way they do from exaggerations of one or more of the elements I mentioned before plus a specific dialect or accent. Because of not being able to feel  or see the muscles and ligaments that make the voice work it is not easy to isolate the different elements and use them or work on them. , Drop the regional dialect or accent and you have a way to access those elements and work on them.

For instance, the Bullwinkle sound is a matter of vocal fold compression, larynx dampening and a little air bleed-through. The Grandpa Simpson thing is Over compressing to the point of closing the throat completely. From all the talk and books on singing that emphasized "Open Throat" and "Feel Nothing in the throat" I lacked compression and that also leads to lack of "Support".  Even though people would tell me I lacked support or compression, I had no idea HOW to access them especially when told to FEEL NOTHING in the throat. A voice like Bugs Bunny would be an example of "Twang" or a "Narrowing of the epiglottic sphincter" or the Bright Bratty sound that youtube teachers keep mentioning but never tell you that it is just to help keep the vocal folds or TA muscles engaged, not a "Sing like this" kind of thing.

I am not sure how to wrap this up now.....I started this at 10 this morning and have been doing "Drive by" typing while taking care of other projects......I hope it is useful to someone out there........

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gotta say MDEW, that was a fountain of perspective that exceeded even my peripheral vision! It was like a 3D animation voice lessen that made my head explode! :D

I hung in there and one thing I pulled out as feedback was;

- it's all about the manipulation! I believe Seth MacFarlane exemplifies this point fairly well. 

- I would identify one important distinction about "manipulation" . . . that is, (unless you are more concerned with image marketing) keep the manipulation skills as a subtle instrument of embellishment, and retain the authenticity of that element of your voice that is truly uniquely you! (btw, that may just happen to sound like someone else also, just know who "you" . . . . is, an you'll be good! 

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9 hours ago, Kevin Ashe said:

gotta say MDEW, that was a fountain of perspective that exceeded even my peripheral vision! It was like a 3D animation voice lessen that made my head explode! :D

I hung in there and one thing I pulled out as feedback was;

- it's all about the manipulation! I believe Seth MacFarlane exemplifies this point fairly well. 

- I would identify one important distinction about "manipulation" . . . that is, (unless you are more concerned with image marketing) keep the manipulation skills as a subtle instrument of embellishment, and retain the authenticity of that element of your voice that is truly uniquely you! (btw, that may just happen to sound like someone else also, just know who "you" . . . . is, an you'll be good! 

. I did not mean to make your head explode. Sorry about that......

The cartoon voice thing is merely a way to find the effects and coordinations. A little like Robert saying to use the Vinnie Belt of the "Four Pillars" or Daniel mentioning "The Pusher Voice". I had no idea that performing the action required to make the Bullwinkle sound would lead to a natural vibrato for me and a smoother more appealing singing voice.

.When making these sounds there is a change in the voice box/vocal tract that you can feel. It is just a way to relate a muscular action of what you cannot see to a sound that you can hear and Identify AND to keep engaged. The cartoon voice, because it is so exaggerated, will make the movement and different pressures be more easily felt. Used subtly in application, yes.  

Of course none of it would make any sense if you did not know which voice goes with which coordination.  But playing around with different "Voices" can help you identify which sounds/actions of the vocal tract help different textures/colors/pitches...

How can you learn a subtle engagement if you do not know how to access the movement in the first place? Or when you are told to move nothing and "Let it happen?

None of this has to change the essence of "You" the singer, perhaps maybe finding the singer in you? 

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23 minutes ago, MDEW said:

. I did not mean to make your head explode. Sorry about that......

no, it was just a way of saying my add will at times make reading technical info a challenge in concentration and retention. it was all good content!

The cartoon voice thing is merely a way to find the effects and coordinations. A little like Robert saying to use the Vinnie Belt of the "Four Pillars" or Daniel mentioning "The Pusher Voice". I had no idea that performing the action required to make the Bullwinkle sound would lead to a natural vibrato for me and a smoother more appealing singing voice.

.When making these sounds there is a change in the voice box/vocal tract that you can feel. It is just a way to relate a muscular action of what you cannot see to a sound that you can hear and Identify AND to keep engaged. The cartoon voice, because it is so exaggerated, will make the movement and different pressures be more easily felt. Used subtly in application, yes.  

yes, those techniques are effective

Of course none of it would make any sense if you did not know which voice goes with which coordination.  But playing around with different "Voices" can help you identify which sounds/actions of the vocal tract help different textures/colors/pitches...

How can you learn a subtle engagement if you do not know how to access the movement in the first place? Or when you are told to move nothing and "Let it happen?

None of this has to change the essence of "You" the singer, perhaps maybe finding the singer in you? 

I agree, I was addressing the fact that sometimes a singer will opt to "effect" their voice in a manner that graduates the "manipulation" from vocal effect, to more of a characterization of the voice. It's highly debatable just where the line is drawn between vocal effect and vocal character. I might sight an example of my opinion as vocal effect singer - Bryan Adams    vocal character singer - Danny Elfman   

:cool:

 

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