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Cover of Jamie Cullum - Gran Torino

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anonimuzz
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Hi. I'm sharing with you a recording from December 2010. I didn't want to share back then because I really wasn't loving it at first, and I still don't now, but I am reconstructing my practice sessions and so, it is useful to have some external feedback that might pick up something I didn't notice that I need to focus on during my training. For that, I need my most recent recording and... this is the one. In the end, I was lost in the tempo and even tried to mask it by breathing heavily, but it didn't work that well. Other than that, I think you will be fine listening to this.

http://www.box.net/shared/odbxhplaeb

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Great song choice. I absolutely love this song. Loved the movie, as well.

You have some pitch and timing issues here, but your tone is great. Really nice. It has a warmth and richness that completely works for a song like this.

Work on it a bit more, and you will very likely have something amazing here.

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Thank you! The song and movie are some of my personal favorites as well. When I went to see the movie, I arrived late at the theater, it was all dark and I stepped on every single person in my row of chairs before I sat down, but by the end of it, who would still remember that?

I was afraid I was choosing a song that didn't fit me, but your comment about my tone was definitely reassuring. I have been working on my pitch problems, and I don't think they were significant here, but I still need a bit more consistency, yes. I guess it's more a matter of support than of pitch awareness, because while practising, I match pitches very easily. Then, when I try to sing, there's always something going off, mostly the support and the attack, I think. The timing, at least to me, is the biggest challenge of this song. I always feel lost somewhere.

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The first time I saw the movie, I was disappointed because I was expecting the big "Dirty Harry" finale where he would take out the entire gang.

The second time I saw it, it struck me a different way. It still sucked to see Clint go out the way he did, but knowing some good came out of it was nice. It may have also been Clint's way of saying goodbye to the "Dirty Harry" style films. Or I could just be over-analyzing. :P

But yes, your tone completely fits this song. I did sense the few points where you seemed to be lost. I would just listen to the song over and over until it's so deeply embedded in your mind that it will flow as effortlessly as singing the alphabet.

Definitely keep at it. This is such a melodically beautiful song.

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It was a great movie and that's the thing about Eastwood. Given a chance to direct, he really stretches. For example, "The Unforgiven." He specifically cast himself as an anti-hero.

Anyway, I like this torch song jazzy style. You were strong and centered on the higher notes, not as much on the lower notes and I think it was breath support. That is, you knew you needed breath support for the higher notes and brought and then slacked off in the low end. I bet if you put the same breath support in the lower notes, even though they may have felt quieter, the notes would stabilize. A really good effort, though, I think.

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I was also thinking he was going to take care of them all in his classic way. Then, I saw what he did, sacrificing himself and I was glad he did such an unexpected move. It made it all more... poetic, for lack of a better word. Thanks for your help. Thank you too, ronws. You're right about the support. It just confuses me the fact that I am supposed to support a near-whisper as much as I support a loud note. I also think I should use more twang in the highest notes of the second verse. I didn't feel any tension (or maybe I'm mistaking tension for the gentle effort of supporting), but I felt they could be more powerful.

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Twang would, to a degree, make the high notes brighter. And maybe the low notes would be helped by singer's formant. As Steven suggested, make a bee sound while plugging your nose and then yawn or do whatever you do to lower the larynx. Anyway, that config is wonderful for low notes. I know it means changing configurations, but you might have fun with it. And even if it sounded "funny," I would like to hear it. Often, what we think sounds funny to ourselves sounds fine to thers.

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Nice job on that one. That is a big song with a difficult melody and a lot of dynamics. Not an easy one for sure. Your tone is nice for this tune and your vibrato is just about perfect for it. Not heavy and it comes in at the right spots. There are a couple pitch problems here and there - If you usually hit the pitches with no problem, it may simply be a result of inadequate monitoring during the recording - not sure how you were monitoring?

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Thank you, guitartrek ;) Well... I just let the instrumental play and sang over it. The microphone captured everything at the same time and then I was done. The only input I had of my voice was from my own ears. I could do better with my recordings, but I still don't feel I am in a level of development that would justify investing in a good recording set, mixing software and such. But if that can actually hinder me, it's different.

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Thank you, guitartrek ;) Well... I just let the instrumental play and sang over it. The microphone captured everything at the same time and then I was done. The only input I had of my voice was from my own ears. I could do better with my recordings, but I still don't feel I am in a level of development that would justify investing in a good recording set, mixing software and such. But if that can actually hinder me, it's different.

Equipment does make difference. Just the mic alone, which is the single most important tool we have in recording and performance literally makes a world of difference. Do you like the stuff I have recorded since December? Well, the largest "improvement" wasn't my technique or singing ability. It was having an honest-to-goodness studio recording mic and a USB interface and the rest of the kit cost hardly anything. And it didn't cost me anything. It was a gift from a friend who believes in me.

I record with Audacity, which can sometimes be awkward to use but it's better than nothing. Let me put it this way. If you can spend money on a few books, you can afford a mic and an interface. And when it comes to stage mics and you want to start spending serious money, that's fine, there are still economic deals to be had. Keep in mind that Bruce Dickinson used an SM58 for half-past forever. Of the exceptional mics that can be afforded on a modest budget, the Rode M-1 comes highly recommended.

I will also put it to you this way. How can you really judge how your recorded voice sounds if the mic doesn't pick up all it needs to?

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Well, yes, I guess you're right. I did notice a big difference in the quality of your recordings. Before and after your new material, it sounded like two different singers. What kind of software and equipment would all of you recommend? A good microphone, good headphones, and...? I don't even know what a USB interface is for, haha. Now, combined with vocal technique, I'll have to learn a lot about recording and mixing. That might be fun, actually!

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Thank you, guitartrek ;) Well... I just let the instrumental play and sang over it. The microphone captured everything at the same time and then I was done. The only input I had of my voice was from my own ears. I could do better with my recordings, but I still don't feel I am in a level of development that would justify investing in a good recording set, mixing software and such. But if that can actually hinder me, it's different.

Ok - that makes sense. The piano part was very quiet in the recording compared to your voice. If that's the same balance your hearing during the recording it could explain the slight pitch issues. You may not be hearing the piano at times because your voice may be masking the piano. There are also some very complex chromatic / intervallic melodies which would be tough for any singer to sing perfectly. I don't mean to over-emphasize the pitch issues because for the most part you are right on.

On the equipment side, if you want to make recordings in the future, it may not be bad to invest a couple bucks. I do a lot of recording and have found it to really help my singing. I've used it as a development tool. It's always good to get know how you sound on the "outside". A teacher can provide that feedback, or you can too, through critical listening of your own recordings. However, for a long time I would record in a bad environment where the room and mic were giving me false readings - like a weird midrange quality to my voice. And for years I convinced myself that I just didn't have a "good" voice - it was depressing. Of course that was wrong and everyone has the ability to develop a great voice.

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It's not exactly the same balance, but yes, sometimes my voice covers the instrumental when I'm singing. In this recording, it only happened in the second chorus. Any other pitch mistakes out of that part are not because of that x) What software do you use, guitartrek? And how do you record your voice?

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anominuzz - I'm using Sonar X1 as my DAW software. For vocals I'm using a KSM24 mic with a pop filter. I've also got a reflexion filter which simulates a vocal booth without taking up so much space. The reflexion filter gets rid of the effect of the room. The natural sound of a room can be good or bad. But when you record the sound of the room along with your voice it is there forever - you can't get rid of it. I prefer to record my voice as dry as possible and then add different kinds of reverb to simulate different kinds of rooms depending on the song. I use a UX2 pre-amp that the mic goes into, and it connects to the computer through USB. The UX2 is nice because it has phantom power and headphone output. It alows me to monitor my voice with reverb while recording completely dry into Sonar. While my setup is fairly inexpensive compared to other people's, you can go much cheaper than mine and still acheive great results.

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I think I lucked out. The room I am in is one long shotgun space from basically a space in front of the sliding glass door to the back yard, the dining room area, and the big kitchen. And I am facing a wall.

Anyway, Anonimuzz, a USB interface for musical instruments has a cable that plugs into a free USB port on your computer. The other end plugs in your interface. Mine is a Guitarface II with two ports or channels. Each port is controlled independently with its own output level knob and its own input selector. Line, Instrument, and +48 V(olts). You need the +48 V for condenser mics because they need what is called "phantom power" to operate the condenser membrane. The mic I have is a Fame CM-1 studio mic. You could use it for live events but it's not really built with a casing for that kind of swinging around, etc. Which is fine with me, for now. And now that I have a job and two raises under the belt, I could eventually afford a decent, yet economical live mic. This mic has sold me on condenser mics so I would be tempted to get the Rode M-1. Most any headphones will work.

For recording/mixing software I have Audacity, which is a free download, and I really do mean free. You have to get another free LAME mp3 encoder plug-in downloaded to export your stuff to mp3. Not a big problem. The only problem is that the effects processing are not real time and they are not dynamic. What that means is that you cannot adjust an effect, such as echo or eq while the track is playing. You have to set the parameters you want beforehand. Then listen. If it stinks, then you have to go to edit and click on "undo" whatever function you did. And it's not dynamic which means that whatever effect you choose is for the whole track. Let's say you wanted echo only on the chorus. In fancier softwares, you can do that. In Audacity, as far as I have learned, the effect is for the whole track. The only way around that is to record only the stanzas on one track. Then, go back and start another track for just the choruses and put whatever effects you want on the choruses on that track.

The nice thing is that it exports down to two channels. And it's easy to create a whole track out of pieces. If you didn't like the second half of the vocal track, highlight and delete that second half. Go back, highlight the cursor on the end of where you deleted from and it will record another track from there. If your vocals took up a few tracks, collapse the backing track, export the vocals to one mp3 file. Then, open up the backing track and import your "comp'd" vocal track.

I don't have all the neat stuff that Geno has and certainly not any of his recording and mixing talent. So, I, like you, am a bit under the salt when it comes to recording and mixing skill.

As for the difference that a real mic makes, it so happened I was working on "Rainbow in the Dark" at the time. Mike (Snax) had just mixed for me a version with my old cheapie desk mic. And then, a week later, a version with the new mic. He could absolutely tell the difference. The new mic gets all the tones and overtones of the voice so much better that he could provide a better mix.

Granted, I have improved some technique while being here, but I think the mic has made a big difference, too. I tend to sing loud so I have also learned how to lean to and away from the mic. Though I can still overload the mic from 2 feet away.

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Ok, thank you both for your tips. Your recordings sound professional, guitartrek; I wonder how much time you dedicated to learn how to achieve the best quality possible.

I am familiar with Audacity, although I never used it much. If I start recording my voice separated from the instrumental track and then use Audacity to combine both, it'll already be a good step towards improving my recordings, even with bad equipment. I'll have to take some time to learn those things and save money to get some new stuff. I'm not in a rush, though, but I'll definitely do it. Thanks for explaining the USB interface thing, ronws. Now that you told me how it works, I feel stupid because it was pretty obvious, lol.

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I just thought I would mention that there is a program called Reaper that I've heard a lot of good comments about. It sounds up to par, depth of function wise, with programs like Cubase, Sonar, and other more established recording software. I haven't checked their website in a long time, but it used to be $50 and the free trial period was a fully functional version but had no time limit. It was an honor system. I would imagine it could do things like real time effects and such.

Also if you buy and Audio Interface, many times they come with a "lite" version of one of the big name programs. When I bought my Firebox AI, I also got Cubase LE4. Pretty much does everything I want or need.

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Reaper is well respected among professionals. Another new, inexpensive and well respected one is Studio1. Good point Quincy about the bundled software that comes with some of these devices. That's another inexpensive way to do it.

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Be wary about software with devices. My interface came with amplitude but I couldn't get it activated and two queries to the customer support got me a snotty reply about not sending repeated requests. I like the mic and the interface but I'd just as soon like to find the guy that sent that email and punch him in the mouth.

Audacity has a function called "mix and render." It will mix the tracks for levels. Then you export, as usually, and the whole thing gets mixed down to two channels.

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