Sign in to follow this  
Jarom

The Perfect Pitch Curse

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

Yeah, I loved Blackstar from the first listen. Sounded more ambitious than The Next Day which got me excited. Blackstar actually had a few pitchy sections as well contrasted with some soulful sections. It does have to happen in the right parts, but some people seem to naively just 'do this' more than others in my experience.

As for whether naive pitching qualifies as a vocal technique or singing technique. Depends on how you define a 'singing technique.' If define it as ability to sing 'within equal temperament' maybe they aren't good at reproducing that method.

If you define it as 'do they have a reproducible method/skill for creating pitches people listen to?' Well, 100 million albums and concert tours, is more than everyone here combined. I find it pretty hard to argue if someone can sell 100 million albums and fill concert halls their method is objectively faulty (assuming it isn't doctored).  It seems like a pretty good method for him to sing with.

Then there is the personal. Do we like the sound? I prefer Reed, though Dylan is quite interesting as well. Reed delves into harsher subjects. But it's just personal. If insert X has a method of producing a sung vocal that is successful and effective in their life, I consider it good singing technique. I'd have to define what singing was very specifically. To me it's just sustained expressive pitches with the voice. That's all it is.

People would have to define what singing is to exclude singing outside equal temperament, imo. If someone can repeat success a way that sells millions of albums and isn't a Milli Vanili situation, they are genuinely producing the voice. That's as close as objective as I can get. I subjectively dislike a lot of singers, but if the act of repeatedly singing is producing successful results, I can't really see it any other way of spinning it, that person must have a successful method of singing. I can subjectively like/dislike it, but if it is successful, that's about as close as I can get to an objectively efficient method for people to sustain pitches with your voice. I could create arbitrary things, like 'can they make really high notes? Or sing X or Y pitch within .0005 precision?.' but singing isn't either thing. It's just sustaining voice. If we started creating arbitrary rules for what is and isn't singing.

I've never really understood this. If people have a successful method of using their voice and can reproduce it. That's that. None of the definitions of singing involve equal temperament as a requirement.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singing

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/singing

TLDR = A method that works to produce a desirable goal = Good Technique.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Singing with good pitch is important.  But it doesn't have to be "perfectly on pitch".  Even the best singers rarely sing exactly on pitch.  

We really need a clarification. The above quote is true regarding the real world of professional musicians. Lou Reed, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, all have noticable pitchiness and huge careers. And while that is acceptable in the rest of world, it is not acceptable here, ever, among us other singers. It will always be pointed out, either as an aesthetic point or as something that needs to be fixed.

I said I would not bring up specific cases but now I will just to explain what I am talking about, not to complain.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ....

I did a live acoustic cover of "Stairway to Heaven." 1 mic, playing and singing at the same time, as I am used to doing, in general, as well as with that song. I probably even talked about it being the first and only take, done in one shot, as it were. I didn't even bother to overdub the solo from the album, which I have memorized. As for recording it so quickly, it is because I really know the song, having played and sang it for literally decades. I really am an old guy, whether that is convenient for anyone to believe or not.

With the exception of two people, everyone liked it, applauded it, even liked how I ended on an E5. In the original, Plant is 1/4" flat from the A4 he ended on. Of the two people, (both are in this thread) one never comments with applause on anything I do, ever. So, whatever, maybe he doesn't like me and cannot judge objectively and is wise enough to realize that or I may have said something that hurt his feelings and for me, ronws, there is no forgiveness. I am the unforgiven, on the highway to Hell. I leave worries about that aside.

The other person I even sent an email with the song attached. And his pronouncement was that I was off key or pitchy, but without any description as to where. And absolutely the only person to ever comment on it to say that I was pitchy. I could not hear it but maybe he was right.

And I cannot be excused from being pitchy because I am not already Mick Jagger, or Lou Reed. I could go out and do what they do but because I have not, then my pitch has to be better. Why? I don't know, seems like a rule, though I could be wrong. Maybe it makes me better to seek a jury of my peers and maybe I am a technically better singer than the others, which doesn't make me, the unforgiven, a less emotive singer, just less pitchy.

Which makes me wonder? Should we listen to someone here who says we are pitchy? And how many people does it take to make a consensus? One? Two?

Again, I am not complaining about anyone here and I hope this doesn't devolve into macho posturing but the irony is kind of thick, just now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@killer yep, and the main theme of BlackStar is based on a minor second interval, for example. From the middle of the song onwards he uses some very curious choices, should be a great song to study, I am sure I would have to transpose the melody to another instrument in order to wrap my head around it.

 

Technique to sing allow you to use your voice as a instrument to produce music, and preserve vocal health. This goes beyond the scope of being good at one particular coordination or situation, selling millions or no copies, etc. In fact, this is a personal matter, it does not concern the audience.

I can give that virtuose can be part of the work of any artist, but think about what you are saying: Lou Reed, the guy that said that 3 chords on a song meant Jazz to him, to say that he was a technical singer or had good technique... it was probably the opposite of what he wanted to express...

So yeah, Lou Reed did what he wanted with his voice, and was very successful, congrats Lou, you are now awarded with the Felipe Carvalho´s Good Technique Medal (replace any of your names in here). What does that mean? What is the point?

 

You CAN have good pitch and produce stuff that is more loose as you meant, and its not that complicated, often its just a matter of speaking it instead of singing.

 

And even more important, good or poor technique does not mean you will deliver a interesting content. You will still have to create it somehow: music, music, music.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@killer yep, and the main theme of BlackStar is based on a minor second interval, for example. From the middle of the song onwards he uses some very curious choices, should be a great song to study, I am sure I would have to transpose the melody to another instrument in order to wrap my head around it.

 

Technique to sing allow you to use your voice as a instrument to produce music, and preserve vocal health. This goes beyond the scope of being good at one particular coordination or situation, selling millions or no copies, etc. In fact, this is a personal matter, it does not concern the audience.

I can give that virtuose can be part of the work of any artist, but think about what you are saying: Lou Reed, the guy that said that 3 chords on a song meant Jazz to him, to say that he was a technical singer or had good technique... it was probably the opposite of what he wanted to express...

So yeah, Lou Reed did what he wanted with his voice, and was very successful, congrats Lou, you are now awarded with the Felipe Carvalho´s Good Technique Medal (replace any of your names in here). What does that mean? What is the point?

 

You CAN have good pitch and produce stuff that is more loose as you meant, and its not that complicated, often its just a matter of speaking it instead of singing.

 

And even more important, good or poor technique does not mean you will deliver a interesting content. You will still have to create it somehow: music, music, music.

I was responding partially to Gno on Bob Dylan's technique not being good technique and forgot to separate the quotes. Sorry for making it appear directed at you Felipe.

Subjectively whatever goal we wish to achieve is a fair way to define a good technique. Objectively, we can only measure outwardly. Most people would probably be satisfied with selling 100 million albums using their voice, so barring some other information, it's the closest thing to objective I have on whether Dylan's technique was satisfactory.  

'Technical' and 'technique' are not the same. A technique is simply a method that someone can apply. The state of being 'technical' is analytical work about that technique.

A singer or anyone can learn and apply a technique without approaching the issue technically. It has no bearing on the quality of their technique. And as far as Reed, I have suspicions about him, as he appeared to sing more within equal temperament when he wanted to. I would doubt he would want to be known as someone with poor technique by an arbitrary standard. He was a stickler in his interviews and disliked being boxed in by pretty much any label. 

Here is a good example of him sustaining harmony:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And a LOT of very good songwriters are never listened to. Songwriting isn't a key to being heard. A good portion of American Songbook writers were not famous singers. The majority of writers in the industry right now are not famous singers. Most of the Motown writers were not hugely successful like their charter acts. 

Standing out from a crowd like Dylan and differentiating yourself is not a bad technique at all. And it can generate 'interest' where as if you don't stand out. You can have great songs, but if you sound 'forgettable' then it will likely be someone else, and not you selling 100 million albums with your songs on them.

When people like Dylan sing, they attract attention. Good and bad. When a lot of people sing, they might sound pleasant, but they won't demand someone's attention like that. He could have made it more pleasant, but if he made it pleasant enough, there's a good chance people would hear him and think, 'oh well that's nice' and never think twice about it.'

Ruffling a few feathers is even a technique people can imitate.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Singers with huge careers and huge audiences is a totally different subject than singers that have developed "good technique".  It has been proven over and over that you don't have to have good technique to be successful or deliver an emotional performance.  Success doesn't mean the same thing as good technique.  And technique doesn't guarantee success - in fact it may indeed stand in the way of success.  

And - everyone is entitled to their own definition of what good technique means - to them.  To me it's pretty simple - good technique allows you to sing with the least amount of tension... the "biggest bang for the buck" so to speak.  And of course good vowels, breath support, balancing sub-glottal and supra-glottal pressures, etc., all support this definition of good technique.

And good pitch is the result of "good technique" (my definition).  It's simply easier to achieve good pitch if you remove excessive tension.

However, you can define technique however you want.  If you want to say that "singing well in a certain genre is good technique" thats fine.  Or that "singing with good phrasing and style" is good technique thats fine too.   To me style and phrasing and genre are different subjects than technique.  And again, good technique (my definition) also supports good phrasing and style and allows you to sing in a certain genre easier, because you aren't fighting with your own voice.... 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think some definitions will allow for both:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/technique

: a way of doing something by using special knowledge or skill  

: the way that a person performs basic physical movements or skills

Full Definition of TECHNIQUE

1
:  the manner in which technical details are treated (as by a writer) or basic physical movements are used (as by a dancer); also :  ability to treat such details or use such movements <good piano technique>
2
a :  a body of technical methods (as in a craft or in scientific research)
 

b :  a method of accomplishing a desired aim

Every successful singer has a special skill (to succeed), every singer has a method of performing basic physical movements and their skill. Every singer has a method of accomplishing a desirable aim. But they may not possess a body of technical methods and it's actually hard to tell how much a singer the craft of singing, someone. Someone like Bob may have studied the 'craft' of singing' a lot, it's already been mentioned he studied Woodie Guthry, if not the biology. Although you might be able to create technical method by studying a singer's craft or biology and paying attention to things like the process in which are doing the craft.

Technique doesn't seem to imply anything about the about 'the method being easy, or healthy or anything.' And I've never tried to use a personal definition for the word. I wasn't trying to use a personal definition. If you clarify a personal definition, I can understand it, but I've always been baffled when people dog on X or Y for having 'bad technique' when it seems efficient method for the purpose of their craft.

With a personal definition I can try to understand and relate to each one. I was trying to get a clear, technical definition of what a singing technique was. That's all I could come up with, without getting arbitrary and creating stipulations. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Back at Felipe, I agree, music music music, is what singers and songwriters should be doing. But for me personally, I feel like I'm in the special Olympics of singing and songwriting these days.

Yeah, technically I can record my voice when the nerve pain is dialed down, on meds. But I can't push a technique to the limit for three hours like I used to be able to. I can't reliably perform. I can still feel the melodies, the harmonies. But when it comes to writing lyrics, and trying to make a meaningful song that feels sincere, is to write that hundreds times.

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm depressed. Strummer, Reed, Dylan, Bowie, Stevie Wonder, none of those were or are in the special Olympics of singing. They didn't write songs like that. They didn't perform songs like that.

There's no singing technique that removes nerve pain. So I have bad technique, of what I do because it doesn't work for the intended purpose. All of these guys had enormously good technique, in my opinion. It worked for their art. They weren't always writing about being in the special Olympics.

I can tell when I listen to their songs, they cover a huge range of topics and emotions. They don't sound like they are limited or frustrated by their voices. I can see them when perform hours at a time.

If you want to succeed as a singer songwriter, it is music music music. It doesn't matter if I sing as conservatively as possible and try to sing as healthily and on pitch as possible. And it doesn't mater if I pull chest, go flat, and wail. There's no method for me to use to sing anymore to express what I want to express reliably, and that 'is' bad technique. That's why I'm extra baffled when people look at 80 year old people who did what they wanted with their voice and sometimes succeeded beyond comprehension and say they have bad technique.

It seems to me like singing and songwriting is for people with good technique. Let's write a song about happiness and pleasure, when I sing it with nerve pain. Let's write a song about defiance and endurance, when I can't it through reliably. It all feels fake. Those guys had the good technique. All of them. It worked. It feels fake when i don't have the same way to consistently achieve my goals.

Singing and songwriting is a hobby for people with bad technique to play with. That's how I do it. It's a life long pursuit of endurance perseverance for those with good technique. It works reliably for whatever they wanted to achieve. I appreciate what I can, but as a serious lifelong pursuit, I think it's for someone else. I try to appreciate when they do things I can relate to or understand. But trying to be the next Bowie is for someone who can have a good singing technique. I don't even feel like that's my world to compete with these musical olympians who put 100 percent into their craft. Believe me, I wanted to, and I did try.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ronws, the simple version: If someone can sing their entire life and feel like they expressed what they wanted to with singing, songwriting, can sing for hours at a time, and fulfill concert obligations. Their method of using their voice is more functional than mine and they have a much more reliable technique for achieving their goals than I do. 

My old method of singing was, 'sing what seems to work for me and if I don't have any problems don't worry about it.' Then i became convinced by others I had 'very bad technique' and I need to 'fix it.' Shortly after I got nerve damage. It could be random but most likely it's related. 

Now I don't have 'any technique' at all to perform like I wanted to. My current method of singing is 'try not to aggravate it and hope it doesn't hurt like hell.' Trying to consciously sing healthy or unhealthy, doesn't change anything. 

When I see a geriatric guy like Dylan, still doing it to this day. He probably did whatever worked for him. And if he tried to fix all that, he might have fixed something that helped him achieve his goals, or may have been unhealthy.

It either worked for his intended goals or it didn't. The methods he chose worked, mine didn't, I give him props for it. And it sucks if your method didn't work. But I'm not going to be jealous and try to hold things over other singers. Like, I have greater pitch accuracy than singer X, or I can sing higher and more precise, and bigger, or whatever. I can do X or Y sound so I have a better method of using my voice than some other guy.

No, his method of singing is just better than mine. Your mileage might vary. But it worked out better for him and he's happier with the results. If it works out better and you're happier with the results it's a better technique, imo. Just better period. I'm not better than Pavarotti and I'm not better than Joe Strummer. Both utilized methods that achieve more desirable results for them. None of this other stuff matters to me, plain and simple: it's just a method and results.

I didn't want nerve pain, so my methods and results sucked. They sucked bad enough, that there is no method. No technique. That's not the case for any of these guys we were discussing. They were going til the end of their lives doing their thing, whether we like the sound, have more accurate pitching or not.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

     The information for the masses is a little better now a days. I remember reading books that recommended holding your tongue and doing stretching exercises, another one suggested using some type of object to press against the hyoid so you could strengthen the "Singers grip" ( a certain way to configure the bottom of chin and larynx area). The idea was to have something to resist the movement of the hyoid NOT to press against the hyoid. Nerve damage and broken hyoid bones ended up being the result. There were cautions of course but any beginner would not know how hard to press or pull until it was too late.

    40 years of singing like myself did nothing for improvement. Exercises that were "Safe" as far as effort was concerned made no improvement. Finding information about the structure and musculature made no improvement. Resonance tracking on its own made no improvement. Relaxing and making no extra effort made no improvement.

   Not until I read about Estil mapping emotional responces did any of it start to make any kind of sence to me. A little improvement there. CVT and the idea of modes let me realise that The amount of effort and the position of muscles made a difference to the sound.

   The "Technique" of following your emotional reaction/expression can lead to accepted sounds and a relatively safe way of singing, provided you pay attention to what your body is actually doing when you "Naturally" make those sounds.

   If you do not think that the body and certain muscles are  tensing to produce those sounds you have not experienced a good Belly Laugh, a Real emotion Cry, A real terrified reaction of screaming, or an uncontrollable sob. They do not call a good Belly laugh "Side Splitting" for nothing. After a good laugh my sides hurt, my neck is sore and my whole face tingles. Muscles are involved. ........ Same with the other emotional outbursts.

   The damage and other problems come when trying to get the sound of one emotion with the physical setup for a different emotion. Without mapping it yourself you need someone who has to guide you.

  I would suspect that those Natural singers are basing their technique on the Emotions that they have most experienced.

  I like to use Paul McCartney and John Lennon as examples. Paul had joy in his childhood. Laughing and celebrating, Joyful expressions. John had Pain and angst, Shouting at his dad, fighting, being pissed off at this or that and expressing that anger. You can hear it in almost everything they sing. It is easier to learn how to sing A4 - C5 if you had spent your childhood yelling in that area out of necessity or playfulness.

   Dylan addressed Political subjects and performed at protests, Rallies and Folk conventions. To be heard over the croud you needed to yell at least a little. Again one of the "Techniques" need for power in the Upper notes.

   You do not need someone to teach you how to yell when you are in the situation daily that demands it. You find ways that work for you and rearange as necessary.

 

   Edit: Vast improvement happed after recieving "The Four Pillars of Singing". Learning the proper positions and THEN using correct amount of pressure. NOT trying to pressure through without having the proper setup.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With a personal definition I can try to understand and relate to each one. I was trying to get a clear, technical definition of what a singing technique was. That's all I could come up with, without getting arbitrary and creating stipulations. 

Yep - A definition of technique could be pretty arbitrary.  My definition is from my experience with taking piano lessons, voice lessons, golf lessons, learning guitar and other physical art or sports.  I have found a common thread in all:  And that is training the muscles to use the least amount effort to accomplish the desired result.  Take golf, for example - people that are either beginners, or who have been at it for a while and still suck, try to hit the crap out of the ball and it doesn't go straight and it doesn't go far.  The golfer that uses good technique has a really smooth swing that makes it look "easy".  That's because it is easy for him.  He is not expending much effort - only what he needs.

The same goes for martial arts.  Same for any musical instrument.  And same for voice.  Anyway, that is what I have found and how I think about it.

But just like the definition of "head voice", technique is wide open for interpretation. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Luke
On 11/17/2015 at 12:58 AM, MDEW said:

Absolute perfect pitch is static and boring. It is just about the worse thing that has happened to music .......... Pitch correction on recorded music. Even Caruso when put to the "Perfect Pich" test was off by a few cents here and there. Sometimes on purpose.

   A slightely higher pitch can give a sense of urgency and a slightly lower pitch can give a sense of Melancholy ........... Tools to enhance emotion and energy. Vibrato takes you in and out of pitch .......... For effect.

You say that they are out of pitch because they sing with pitch that isn't equally tempered like a piano. Notes on the piano are slightly out of tune relative to each key for a piano so that all of the keys sound very good, instead of one key with perfect intonation and the rest sounding horrid. Pitch correction can be equal tempered or it can be true tempered. That's what they mean by "out of tune". Being the right pitch is as easy as punching a number into a computer program. Sorry, but your voice is never going to be more in tune than a machine made for tuning.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Guest Luke said:

Sorry, but your voice is never going to be more in tune than a machine made for tuning.

That was the point. A machine is too perfect. Music is enhanced by fluctuations, not static tone and pitch. Dynamics is the rising and falling of Pitch, Tempo, volume etc. Emotion is created, influenced and projected by the changes in the normal environment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this