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Highway to Hell

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ronws
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Believe it or not, apologies to jonpall, in advance, I don't plan to repost every song I have done with the new mic. But I did want to get a dirty, distorted sound with it and I think I accomplished that. This song has always had the production values of being recorded in a garage, part of it's allure. Not to mention the state of the art of equipment, back then. And Bon Scott overloaded the mic. Now, I have a decent mic and the distortion you hear is mine, not the mic. I sang this from about 2 feet away. Rudimentary eq that I have been reading about that echos what Mike was saying. So, I notched the eq on the backing track and humped the eq on the vocals. No reverb or echo. The original didn't have it nearly enough that I could tell. It was a minimalist approach, the opposite of overproduction. The antithesis of a Mutt Lange mix.

I still don't get quite the tone that Bon Scott had and that's okay. I do get some twangy rattle and some rasp, though. And I still hit the blistering high note, so I am happy with that.

So, even though I may have worn this song out, I have been working on the distortion and I know that jonpall was trying to teach me some of it. And I have done what I can do without hurting myself. Twangy rattle to me feels like getting the pharynx so narrow that I can actually get saliva bubbles going. It doesn't hurt but it is after the fact of phonation and I have to think of it in that order. And rasp. My nearest mental image is wasting just enough air to get a "rough" edge. As well as a honest to goodness growl, which is easier to manage, for me, in lower tones.

Anyway, I'll just post it.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/8750209/Highway%20To%20Hell%20-%204.mp3

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My, my - Ron, it's cool to hear you progress. You're getting better each time. There's an attitude here that I like. Kind of a f#%k you rock 'n' roll attitude. Good stuff :) Your tone is fuller, better placed, better twang, better pitch, etc. It's also cool that you use rasp SOMETIMES and not on each and every note. That's the best way for rock 'n' roll, IMO.

Your performance is still not at the level it could be for this song but it's miles above what it was when you first started out. I'm being brutally honest so that you'll not get torn into pieces or something in the "real" world, but trying not to be a dick like someone like Simon Cowell would be and do my best to have my critique constructive, knowing that you can improve - and thinking that you WILL improve, from what I've heard from your recordings and general good and positive attitude towards singing. A truly great asset to have.

My comment for improvement would be to pick several songs in the baritone range that are very, very easy to sing and try to sing them as well as you can, focusing on enunciation (singing each word very clearly), vowels (using the most resonant ones each time) and pitch. You need to have a more solid foundation in order to tackle a huge song like Highway to hell, which, by the way, is in my band's set list, but only when I feel that I'm in good vocal form (otherwise we don't play it that night and a few of the other most difficult songs). I suggest you pick songs from several different styles, record them, and post them here. I'm sure there are a few errors that you're doing over and over in regards to enunciation, vowels and pitch, that you and us will notice much better on easier to songs. Let's fix them together and turbocharge your voice even more, shall we?

It could also help you to experiment with mic placement. Even for screaming, I don't think it's good to have your mic that far away. Or is it maybe a condenser mic? You could reduce its gain and move closer. And experiment with adding a slight more reverb and eq the track slightly to get your vocals to mix better with the backing track. Even still, this one was mixed much better than some of your previous takes. Bravo.

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Hi, Geno. I have the headphones on to hear the music but I cup my hand to get some of my voice back to me. When I do playthrough, there is a delay that throws me off and I haven't figured out how to configure latency. And thanks for the cred on the G#5. A ton of support and a dropped jaw.

And thanks, jonpall. And, at first, here, I did post several songs, some with baritone range. Those didn't get comments, except, "With or Without You" by U2. so, I figured, at the time, those songs weren't all that welcome. As for this song, I know I can do it but I can't get the tone Scott had. Sometimes, I do try, other times, yes, the rock and roll attitude takes over and I don't care if I sound like him, or not. It's still my "Don't give a #$%* song.

And, ultimately, I may simply have the wrong voice to do this song in a way that acceptable or a tribute. Lunte expressed that in a thread a some pages back. Sometimes, there is a mismatch of voice and song, whether it be the range, the vowel placement in the lyrics, or the basic vocal tone of the singer. Simply put, sometimes a song is the wrong match for the voice. And it may be that way for me and this song. I know it is for "I Remember You" by Skid Row. Funny thing is, that song is not part of my regular set. I did it on a lark and got my butt kicked, mostly by my own damn self.

I don't think I'm going to ever get the tone of Scott or even of Johnson. One of the problems I noticed on this recording is that my tone sounded too open on the stanzas and sharply twanged on the choruses. That is something I need to work on, at least for this song. To try and get a consistent tone all the way through. And no, you haven't hurt my feelings. And I did botch a note, too. Nor do I expect this song to be my Moby Dick, either. It's a fun piece I will continue to polish, whether I "get there," or not.

And, jonpall, you are so right when it comes to well-rehearsed mistakes. Singing a song a certain way for a long time leads to ingrained habits for that song. And it pays to try it in different ways. I should try this song, ala Justin Hawkins, just to break out of the mold, whether I post it here, or not. Definitely won't sound like Scott but it would be fun.

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Don't worry about getting Bon's or Brian's tone, ron! Why would you even want that? What I've been trying to get you to do lately is to beef up your sound a bit (without straining your throat) and get a more rocker sound. It sounds like you're already there, man, or pretty darn close. Congratulations on a job well done! It's the enunciation, vowels and pitch part that I'm suggesting you work a bit on, to really turbocharge your voice. I'll see if I can find some of your old baritone songs to listen to but since you've progressed a lot since then, it would be more beneficial to hear what you sound on those songs now.

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This is one the hardest songs to sing and sound like the original. Kudos to you for going for it Ron! In all honesty I don't think I could have done it any better. Keep rocking buddy!

I have sang this a looooong time ago but for some reason it sounds like Rob Halford (on a BAD day) doing it! lol

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Well, Mike, that is because you can sound so much like Rob Halford.

And thanks for the encouragement, jonpall. I would like to try some of those again with the new mic, as it does get more of the overtones, especially in lower range.

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Thanks, jonpall. Again, I think I am still learning how to make a real mic work for me. Some of it, at least on this song, may be from singing too loud. The reason I say that is when I listen to Mike's vocals only tracks, he is not singing tremendously loud in singing volume. So, perhaps, that is still my albatross of control. Learning to sing quieter in order to have more control.

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And thanks, Chavie. I have been singing since about 1974, when I started playing guitar. And first recorded in my 5 inch reel-to-reel tape recorder. But I really started working on my voice in 1988, inspired by Axl Rose and the 1987 release of the Guns and Roses album Appetite for Destruction. For the longest time, it was the highest selling debut hard rock album. Anyway, I am still learning, every day. And this forum is a goldmine full of people who really want the best for each other. I am still learning about recording and what I don't know about recording could fill a book. Or two. Usually, lately, I have been having Mike (Snax) mix my recordings but I wanted to mix this one because I am the king of crappy mixes and the original had almost non-existent production values. As I mentioned before, it sound like it was recorded in a garage with no more than a 4-track analog machine.

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Thanks, jonpall. Again, I think I am still learning how to make a real mic work for me. Some of it, at least on this song, may be from singing too loud. The reason I say that is when I listen to Mike's vocals only tracks, he is not singing tremendously loud in singing volume. So, perhaps, that is still my albatross of control. Learning to sing quieter in order to have more control.

That was biggest hurdle when learning how to sing for recording vs live performing. I used to still try to bust a gut powering my voice which doesn't work in the recording environment very well.

Bear in mind though that whenever you've heard bare vocal tracks from me I still had lots of compression on them to bring the quiet parts up and maintain more consistent volume levels. This can give a false sense that my loud parts aren't that much louder than the soft parts when in actuality there is quite a lot of dynamic range there. The trick is in knowing how much to use and in setting your threshold and other parameters in order to get the most out a given performance.

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That was biggest hurdle when learning how to sing for recording vs live performing. I used to still try to bust a gut powering my voice which doesn't work in the recording environment very well.

Bear in mind though that whenever you've heard bare vocal tracks from me I still had lots of compression on them to bring the quiet parts up and maintain more consistent volume levels. This can give a false sense that my loud parts aren't that much louder than the soft parts when in actuality there is quite a lot of dynamic range there. The trick is in knowing how much to use and in setting your threshold and other parameters in order to get the most out a given performance.

See, those are just the sorts of things that sorely lack in. And I have read articles and essays on recording and it has been pointed out that singing for a recording is different than singing live. But I still end up singing like I'm trying to be heard over a Marshal stack.

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I think it was pretty good actually. The last scream was good! I like how you're trying to lean for the Bon Scott tone, but maybe you should try to twang more? I mean really twang... get it all sounding bright, resonant... and at the same time, get a little bit of rasp sneaking in... it would sound perfect then!

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Now, this one truly was for fun. As I have said, sometimes, the way to break habits in a song is to try it in another style of singing, whether that be Justin Hawkins of the Darkness, or even as Pat Boone did with his album, "In a Metal Mood." I have that album, oh yes, I do.

Anyway, I thought, what would it sound like if Ronnie James Dio sang this song? Granted, I don't sound like him but I can sing in his style, i.e., quasi-operatically. What would that be like? For Bon Scott was the antithesis of opera singing, or even clean notes. So, totally get away from that. I sang this version the same way I sang "Rainbow in the Dark." And, perhaps, you will notice the timing is a little different. I fully believe that is because of the way RJD phrases a vocal line. He sustains notes longer, clean or distorted. Dio had an effortless sustain and Scott didn't sustain. This also sounds like a layer cake. I have hammered the backing track by notching out the tenor range and upper baritone. With the vocal track, I rolled off at 150 Hz and again above 4 kHz and left the range of the vocals flatline at zero. And I used compressor, with a 2:1 ratio and about mid-level threshhold. I also hold that last high pitched "scream" longer than the original or even my earlier version, giving it more of an operatic feel because I can only do that high sustain with proper breath support and resonance.

Also, in doing this, I sound most like myself on this song. And, it was just plain fun. Criticisms are welcome but I thought you might get a kick out doing this song in a different way. I've also mentioned to others how I have done a country version, inspired somewhat by the bluegrass version done by Hayseed Dixie. For that, I would have to change to my own guitar because it requires a change in meter and arrangement.

I also like this version because I have a more consistent tonal quality. Dropped jaw, no clench in the throat trying to create a rattle, solidly in the soft palate, which resulted in it being less "nasal." For me, trying to do rattle in the throat ends up sound nasal where as singing aimed in the soft palate gets rid of the nasal quality. Counterintuitive, I know, but that's how it goes.

I also think I get a better and safer distortion in this version because I am not trying to change the throat. If anything, I think it is in the resonation being so tight that the soft palate vibrates. Like the distortion one gets from an overdriven amp, though I don't want it confused with the singing mode of overdrive, even though I think I am in that mode, here. Does that make sense? Or do my ears deceive me?

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/8750209/Highway%20To%20Hell%20-%202a%20-%20dio.mp3

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