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Craig York

Why Can't A Singer Sing A Cover? I'm Stumped!

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Hi,

I am working with a pretty talented young man that can sing reasonably well, I mean, he can sing his own songs well. 

We were in the studio over the weekend working on a song he did not write and it was one of the worst sessions I have ever had. His tempo was off, pitch was off, he was a totally different person than I worked with before. After several agonizing hours I decided to take a break. We was embarrassed and I was frustrated. I left the track playing in the back ground and he started singing one of his songs. It was perfect. Thinking he found his mojo I immediately jump back on the boards and told him to sing the verse to the other song ............ terrible! 

I know he wasn't faking it because there was too much money at stake. But he just couldn't get it. I have never seen anything like this before. I even had him try singing one sentence at a time hoping I could piece something together, and still nothing.

Has anyone ever experienced this? If so, How did you correct it?

At the end of the session I had him sing the song he wrote and it was incredible. The songs weren't that much different from each other. When he left I was stumped! 

Any suggestions? 

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Craig,

Welcome to the forum.  Kindly upload a picture to your profile. It really helps the forum and gives YOU identity !

Please click on the following link >>

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5shcSf9VXs

(I noticed that you just joined moments ago, so take your time, review the video, and take it from there. You can use a pic/avatar of your choice and of course, the video is very easy to understand)

https://youtu.be/o5shcSf9VXs

Thank you,

Adolph

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Practice. Give him a week and make him really study the melodY and sing it at home. Then come back to studio when ready.

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I don't think it takes much practice to upload an avatar, especially when it is part of the orientation.

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  If he is singing a song he has never heard before he IS NOT going to get it right off the bat. And IF he is supposed to just be  Demoing for other song writers at the drop of a hat....He needs to learn how to read the song as a story or commentary and be supplied with the intent behind the song.   It is easier to GET what the song is about when you write it. It is not Easy to understand another's intent when you are first reading something.

   Singing is like acting and you need to find a way to connect to your character and the character of the song

 

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I don't think it takes much practice to upload an avatar, especially when it is part of the orientation.

Lol. The avatar ipload policy is a bit nazi here on tmv xD

good thing i like to have an avatar

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did he have a reference track to learn the song he didn't write by ear? or did you try to write it out for him or explain it to him or sing it to him and he just didn't get it?

can he sing covers of songs he likes?

any other variables involved? for instance, was it actually difference of singing to a track vs. a capella or with and without headphones, and you just thought the change was due to the song?

maybe he practiced his own songs for months and he's trying to learn yours immediately?

could just be a real interesting fellow whose heart is just not set on singing for other people's music...

regardless, you really have to diagnose the issue completely in order to move forward. almost like being a doctor, not saying to be pushy with him or anything but you have to tell him the truth that he's not doing as well on your song and get him to tell you the truth regarding why he thinks he's not doing well, etc. otherwise the communication breaks down and you can't progress as a team

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    Another position on this.......I play guitar by ear.....Many times when singing for people they will request a song and I will tell them that I do not know how to play it or sing it......Thay will say something like "You certainly know the song ....It goes like this.....   They will not understand that it takes practice and time to learn a song......Even one you are overly familiar with....If you only give a person a few minutes....let alone giving them a day or two to learn the song ....They will not be able to sing it up to par for a recording.......

 

   Craig, Are you yourself a singer?  If so, you should understand this......If not....You need to understand that Good singing also comes from being "In Touch" with the song and have Something that you wish to express by it.

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There are several possibilities, not being used to a certain quality the song demand, pitch areas that are prohibitive in some way (just because the guy sings some higher passages on his songs, it does not mean that the areas bellow it are all perfect) not being used to sing to certain harmony progressions, not being used to intonate a given melodic scale, not being used to the rhythm division used, etc. It happens and it is quite common on smaller dosis during voice training, on some individuals, problems are just more evident and specific.

The solution is exposition and listening while paying attention.

Most singers do not get the licks on the end of Holy Diver from Dio right away, because there is a dorian mode in there. Most singers do not get the phrasing on Iris from Goo Goo Dolls right away, because its on 3/4. All it takes is to not being used to it, and of course there will be no magic, you wont be able to improvise on something that is alien to you. Or you may, but it will probably suck quite a bit :P .

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I don't think it takes much practice to upload an avatar, especially when it is part of the orientation.

​Amen to that brother, especially when new registered members receive not one, but TWO emails with explicit request and and instructions to do so, to include the video below embedded into the message. Hate to sound like a nagging "ninny", but... sure would be nice given that it takes about 30 seconds to do so..

 

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  If he is singing a song he has never heard before he IS NOT going to get it right off the bat. And IF he is supposed to just be  Demoing for other song writers at the drop of a hat....He needs to learn how to read the song as a story or commentary and be supplied with the intent behind the song.   It is easier to GET what the song is about when you write it. It is not Easy to understand another's intent when you are first reading something.

   Singing is like acting and you need to find a way to connect to your character and the character of the song

 

​Well said... I feel sorry for any singer that may be put on the spot like this, if they are not prepared... or at least concerned for them. Too often, band mates and producers don't  understand how the voice works and its connection to the psyche, etc... on the other hand, it sounds like there is a job to do here... and you also need to be able to step up... but few singers are machines.

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I don't think it takes much practice to upload an avatar, especially when it is part of the orientation.

Lol. The avatar ipload policy is a bit nazi here on tmv xD

good thing i like to have an avatar

​LOL?! What?!!  C'mon... its just upload a pic ... and you have to admit, the forum look a Hell of a lot better with profile pics. I want a community here, not just a group of "faceless registrants"... the profile picture gives you a personality, it kinda makes you a real person in the virtual world... without one, who are we talking to? 

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did he have a reference track to learn the song he didn't write by ear? or did you try to write it out for him or explain it to him or sing it to him and he just didn't get it?

can he sing covers of songs he likes?

any other variables involved? for instance, was it actually difference of singing to a track vs. a capella or with and without headphones, and you just thought the change was due to the song?

maybe he practiced his own songs for months and he's trying to learn yours immediately?

could just be a real interesting fellow whose heart is just not set on singing for other people's music...

regardless, you really have to diagnose the issue completely in order to move forward. almost like being a doctor, not saying to be pushy with him or anything but you have to tell him the truth that he's not doing as well on your song and get him to tell you the truth regarding why he thinks he's not doing well, etc. otherwise the communication breaks down and you can't progress as a team

​I agree, there are a LOT of variables that could play into this... But... for me, that... if this singer was not familiar with this song, its a bit request to expect them to just step up and sing the thing and make it sound incredible, sight/ears unseen or heard?  

Is there any chance you could share with us a link of the song... with our without this artist hacking on it... I would be interested in hearing what exactly he was being asked to sing!  That is a very important question! Was this a country song that was all in the chest voice... or were you asking him to sing some progressive metal track with vocal requirements that very few people are going to be able to "stick it" without practicing... what was the song? Can you share that?  I think that is the first question. It is hard to asses the what an 'average"/good singer should be expected to do, if we can't hear what it was he was asked to sing?  Please share... 

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There are several possibilities, not being used to a certain quality the song demand, pitch areas that are prohibitive in some way (just because the guy sings some higher passages on his songs, it does not mean that the areas bellow it are all perfect) not being used to sing to certain harmony progressions, not being used to intonate a given melodic scale, not being used to the rhythm division used, etc. It happens and it is quite common on smaller dosis during voice training, on some individuals, problems are just more evident and specific.

The solution is exposition and listening while paying attention.

Most singers do not get the licks on the end of Holy Diver from Dio right away, because there is a dorian mode in there. Most singers do not get the phrasing on Iris from Goo Goo Dolls right away, because its on 3/4. All it takes is to not being used to it, and of course there will be no magic, you wont be able to improvise on something that is alien to you. Or you may, but it will probably suck quite a bit :P .

​Agreed... I think we are all in the same level of agreement... so Craig... 

This is a forum of experienced voice coaches and singers... and it was a good idea that you came here for your question.

Are you a producer/engineer type of fella... or are you a bandmate? What is your main skill set?

Share with us the song that was the challenge... that will shed a lot of like "Keeper of The Seven Keys" by Halloween or something, then I pity this guy... he was thrown to the wolves. 

 

The overall vibe your getting here is... Singers need time, just like anyone to get to know a song... the groove, the melody, the feeling, the "characters"/interpretation.... and... something we are all familiar with that you probably are not... a singer needs to work a song into their voice physically... if a song requires a lot of singing above the Passaggio (head voice, which is the hard stuff...), then even the best skilled singers that can do this sort of singing... have to have some time to work the song into their voice... ore more accurately, work their voice into the song... Im referring to the musculature requirements, the "stretching" of the vocal folds that may be required to "hold on" to a phrase that sits in the head voice for 12 bars... they also need time to practice the singing vowels (formants) for the song. Acoustics are REALLY important to make the physiology of the voice work... if the singing vowels (formants) are not tuned right, the physiology will suffer for it... and understanding the acoustics of singing is something that very few people know anything about, including teachers. Fortunately... a lot of us, in this forum do... but Im sure they will all agree with me that learning how to train the articulators to shape the formants, to enable the song to be supported and sound good... takes time!!!!  It doesn't have to take forever, it could be just an hour or two for someone that is really skilled, on a really hard song... but regardless if its 2 hours or 2 weeks.... you can't just pitch a  hard song at a good singer and expect them to pull off a miracle... anymore then I can ask a great guitarist to IMMEDIATELY, on the spot play Van Halen's "Eruption"... they may be a world class guitarist, but even the top guys are going to have to sit down for an hour and figure it out.

 

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I don't think it takes much practice to upload an avatar, especially when it is part of the orientation.

Lol. The avatar ipload policy is a bit nazi here on tmv xD

good thing i like to have an avatar

​LOL?! What?!!  C'mon... its just upload a pic ... and you have to admit, the forum look a Hell of a lot better with profile pics. I want a community here, not just a group of "faceless registrants"... the profile picture gives you a personality, it kinda makes you a real person in the virtual world... without one, who are we talking to? 

​LOL i agree Rob!

But its funny for "locals" cuz you know when you see a "faceless" member that Adolph will come knocking for avatar ;P it kinda became an internal joke xD 

Plus its funny cuz of nazi and Adolph pun (no hate here just find it fun, so dont get your jimmies up) xD

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OMG Bro... don't even forget to upload your profile picture or "Chief" will be all over like flies... Chief used to work for the FBI... if you don't upload a profile pic... he will find you!

:borgsmile:

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       I thought lead guitar players were really amazing and could just play at the drop of a hat Until I found out that they spent months working out the notes to play and how to play them.....Then they drilled it like crazy......Spring something on them and they sometimes fall flat....UNLESS, you are willing to hear that which comes out instead of expecting to hear what your own mind hears.

     Also words and phrases have there own "Melody" and inflection  to them. If your lyrics are contrary to a natural "Melody" or stopping point  a singer needs to connect with the new phrasing.

   ex:    We all came out to Montreux....., On the lake Geneva shore line.     We all came out to Montreux on the .....Lake Geneva Shore line.   Subtle difference but sometimes to keep the continuity in Musical phrase we must make changes to how we stress different words phonetically or grammatically.  It takes time and practice.  There is no just listen to the melody on piano and read the words and know how to put it together.

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       I thought lead guitar players were really amazing and could just play at the drop of a hat Until I found out that they spent months working out the notes to play and how to play them.....Then they drilled it like crazy......Spring something on them and they sometimes fall flat....UNLESS, you are willing to hear that which comes out instead of expecting to hear what your own mind hears.

     Also words and phrases have there own "Melody" and inflection  to them. If your lyrics are contrary to a natural "Melody" or stopping point  a singer needs to connect with the new phrasing.

   ex:    We all came out to Montreux....., On the lake Geneva shore line.     We all came out to Montreux on the .....Lake Geneva Shore line.   Subtle difference but sometimes to keep the continuity in Musical phrase we must make changes to how we stress different words phonetically or grammatically.  It takes time and practice.  There is no just listen to the melody on piano and read the words and know how to put it together.

​MDEW you heard some bad lead guitarists then. i can probably figure out Malmteens solo by ear in the matter of half an hour. Those "drillis" actually create "note memory" so phrases become familiar over time. Blues i can almost instantly follow up cuz i really love that (Joe Bonamassa, Gary Moore BRUTAL players, love them)

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       I thought lead guitar players were really amazing and could just play at the drop of a hat Until I found out that they spent months working out the notes to play and how to play them.....Then they drilled it like crazy......Spring something on them and they sometimes fall flat....UNLESS, you are willing to hear that which comes out instead of expecting to hear what your own mind hears.

     Also words and phrases have there own "Melody" and inflection  to them. If your lyrics are contrary to a natural "Melody" or stopping point  a singer needs to connect with the new phrasing.

   ex:    We all came out to Montreux....., On the lake Geneva shore line.     We all came out to Montreux on the .....Lake Geneva Shore line.   Subtle difference but sometimes to keep the continuity in Musical phrase we must make changes to how we stress different words phonetically or grammatically.  It takes time and practice.  There is no just listen to the melody on piano and read the words and know how to put it together.

​MDEW you heard some bad lead guitarists then. i can probably figure out Malmteens solo by ear in the matter of half an hour. Those "drillis" actually create "note memory" so phrases become familiar over time. Blues i can almost instantly follow up cuz i really love that (Joe Bonamassa, Gary Moore BRUTAL players, love them)

​   Figuring it out in minutes is all very well and good but try figuring it out in minutes and then play it out in front of people with the other forty songs or more and keeping it straight. Not going to happen if someone is thinking that you need to play it note for note.....If allowed to improvise then yes it can be done to familiarize with something and be passable at playing it out with the band.   That is what I was writing about...... How the lead player can keep all that stuff straight from song to song.  You do not learn something in a day and then play it that night after other songs and get it the way Fans want to hear it.

   I still get people telling me that I play the lead to Sweet Home Alabama wrong because I play the Steve Gaines lead instead of Ed Kings' lead.

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You're not going to be able to sing a new song as well as you can sing a song that you've become comfortable with.

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Here's my deal on the avatar. It's a little thing and if that is what the powers that be want as part of the membership, it is not any different than the other steps you must complete. And to refuse to do it or argue against is, in my opinion, the wrong hill to die on. So, what, a guy really puts the admin in its place by refusing to put up any kind of avatar? Ooh, tough guy.

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Thanks for all of the replies.

I have recorded a lot of artist and I have never seen anything like this before. I wish I could post the session - but due to legal reasons I cant. 

Not only was his timing off, he repeatedly added words that were not on the lyric sheet. It was like he had a stuttering problem. If any of you are golfers - it was like watching Charles Barkley's swing ...LOL

He had over 2 weeks to learn the verse/song so he had more than enough time to learn it. He had the track and scratch vocals. I ended up getting someone else to do the song. They came in, heard it one time and killed it! We were done in a whopping 30 minutes.

I spoke to the young man today and he was very apologetic. He said he was really nervous. He also said he has a problem singing other peoples songs (I wish he would have told me that before hand). I am still going to work with him because he has potential. 

Thanks again for all the replies. I have been reading through the forum and it looks like it has a lot of useful information.

And regarding the Avatar/Profile Pic - funny, very funny! 

Take care and thanks again. 

 

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Funny Robert that you highlighted Keeper Of The Seven Keys. It's one of my favourite songs, but damn it is really nasty to sing! That song never lets up :P

Apart from the more obvious issues of preparation aside, I think some singers have the problem of trying to sound too hard like the original singer when performing covers, or that they feel the pressure that they need to do the song justice in some way. That psychologically could just hinder their performance from the start. Receiving too much negative feedback in the past for being too different from the original singer might cause this, I think.

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Yes... SING LIKE YOU, AND STOP TRYING TO "SING LIKE SOMEONE ELSE"! EVEN IF YOUR SINGING SOMEONE ELSE'S SONG, MAKE IT YOUR OWN, RESPECTFULLY. 

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So, does the singer actually like the song you picked for him? And if he sounds better on his own songs, why is it so important to record someone else's? And does he crash on any other song in the world, like "Happy Birthday" or "Little Bunny Fu Fu, hopping through the forest. Picking up the field mice and bop 'em on the head."? He can't or won't sing traditional cultural songs, then I would suggest it is psychological and probably beyond your paygrade, certainly beyond mine. This sounds like one of those mathematical oddities, the perfect storm. The enigmatic conundrum. I don't have any advice. I just think it is interesting that he sounds okay only exactly on the songs he wants to sing at the moment and crap on anything else.

I also wonder, this other song you have decided he must sing, is it a lot more difficult than what he sings. Is it in a key he is not used to singing? That's the other side of this that is difficult to get my mind around. Because, just as odd as it would be for some kind of pscyhco-somantic symptom or even a subversion going on to reject whatever song you think he should be singing would also include songs that are just not in his wheelhouse no matter how much you think they should be.

Because, this gets back to psychology. Who chose these other sings for him to sing? Did he? Or, did you? And why? And why is it so important that he do this one song when he could maybe do another? If you are his manager, you should have already arranged to pay a yearly blanket fee to ASCAP. Then, he could record anything in their catalog.

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