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mindset (with some trivia)

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Recently, we had a thread about Dio's voice. And a few other mentions, such as Gramm's performing style, stance, etc. And how much of an emotion or a person's core beliefs and feelings inform their performance.

We discuss technique all the time. And certainly these are tools to use, just as a carpenter uses different tools to shape the wood. Or a sculpture uses different tools to chip stone and "reveal" the form underneath it all.

Well, here's some trivia. That Metal Show, hosted by Eddie Trunk and actually, almost guest co-hosted by Rob Halford, who was on this episode, had a tribute to Ronnie James Dio. And it was more about the man behind the music, rather than specifically what technique he used. And you can see the heart of Dio in his performances. Such as a recently linked performance of "Neon Knights." Or the one I linked in memorable performances thread of his performance of "Rainbow in the Dark" at Wacken in 2004. I lose count of how many times he thanks the audience. And it is not disingenuous. It truly is the way that he feels. At one concert, he was leaving in the tour bus and they saw a young man seating on the curb of the entrance to the arena. Dio had the driver stop. He got off the bus and asked if the guy was okay. The guy's ride had left him and he had no money for a taxi. So he brought him on the bus. They went to the hotel and got him something to eat and cab fare home.

As I pointed out previously, Dio was making regular trips to a hospital in Houston, Texas for his cancer treatments. In that cancer ward was a young fan of Dio. And RJ spent more of his time packing gear and stuff for the patient than worrying about his own stuff.

And this reminds me of something that Tom Jackson, live show producer, said, when he coaches bands on how to provide the best live performances. It's not how much your audience loves you or even the albums you have. If they wanted to just hear the music perfectly, they cannot do better than staying at home and listening to the cd, which was painstakingly crafted in a studio. What makes the difference is how much you love the audience. When you love the audience, you don't care if your costume is right or if you have the right technique. What you care about is getting the song out that they enjoy. A concert is about moments. When the singer points to you and sings "you are my rainbow in the dark," you know that show was meant for you.

True, Dio had a unique voice and that goes quite a way. Billy Corgan also has a unique voice. And, aside from tonal differences, the attitudes of these two singers is worlds apart. Corgan is a bit self-centered and arrogant. Nothing wrong with that and I admire his performances and his song-writing is stellar. Dio lived for the audience, and still lives in the audience. Dio felt himself part of the audience. He lived and loved the music like any fan and that gave him strength.

On a slightly different tack is Bruce Dickinson. His aim was to make the performance as immediate to the very last guy in the very last seat in the nosebleed section, ducking local airplanes as it was for the head-banging maniac in the first row, center stage. His movements and even his style of singing is to broadcast that far. As he puts it, we should all feel like we are sweating in the same closet when it is done.

To David Lee Roth, a bass-baritone with dusty counter-tenor and harmonic howl. The audience has paid for a show and you are there for the audience.When he first met Eddie Van Halen and his band, they were performing for parties and frat houses as Mammoth. With extended instrumentals that really showcased and showed off sonically, Eddie's talents, as well as Michael Anthony's lyrical style of playing bass. Eddie often played with his back to the audience, not because he was shy, but because he didn't want anyone seeing his two-handed technique and being able to copy his work. First thing Roth did when he joined the band was helped them define a market that would get them a little more success than 50 dollars for playing to a bunch of drunk college boys. First off, get rid of any song to which you cannot dance. Guys don't spend the money, their wives and girlfriends do. And either the wives and girlfriends spend it, or they get their husbands or boyfriends to spend it. Or the guy spends it to impress his girlfriend or wife. Women like to dance, more than men do. So, keep the songs you can dance to. Has no one learned the lessons brought by Elvis or the Beatles? Girls like to dance, so give them something to dance to. The entire world has heard of Michael Jackson. But you have to be a heavy metal singer fan to have heard of Robert Fleischman.

Second, get rid of that name. It sounds like you are a wooly elephant. Not exactly a romantic or even macho image. My friend, Jeff, learned name image the hard way. His first band was called Trident, as in Neptune's 3-time fork. But he got tired of the chewing gum jokes and changed it to Magenta. Not exactly macho but it stopped the jokes. Roth convinced Mammoth to use their family name, which read better, looked better, had a ring to it. Hence, Van Halen.

And I am getting to a point, here. David Lee Roth had to wear braces on his legs until the age of eleven. Then, they were removed and he immediately got into Kenpo Karate and later, modern dance. But even as an adult, he lives with pain. Not only the pain of scars and associated trauma from the childhood malady, but the trauma any dancer faces after a career of leaps and bounds. Many is the night on tour, where he had to lean on a tech, once he was off stage, in order to get him to the bus or dressing room. But you, the audience, never once saw that. The lesson, the audience is there for a party and a show and that is what you are going to give them. Which requires that you care more about the audience than your own personal concerns. Also, Roth lives the singer's creed, as does any singer who lasts longer than a few years. Everyone parties except the singer. The singer's body is the instrument and it has to be cared for as a guitarist cares for his guitar. Why? To give the audience what they expect, night after night. A guitar can have a new set of strings every night. I've seen Buddy Guy and Robert Cray and they have more than one guitar. And switch off while a tech re-strings, if necessary, and re-tunes, usually necessary. But you can't just walk off during intermission and get your throat and folds swapped out. So, care for yourself, as you care for your audience. Some of the biggest conflicts in Van Halen were between David and Eddie. Eddie could be just as happy sitting in a room making recordings for himself and forget the whole world. Where as David lives in the world and sees to you it that you, the audience, get everything you came to see. As Tom Jackson has also said, if it was just listening to music, no one would go to shows, as the audio quality of recordings totally leaves live venues in the dust. The audiences come to see a performance. And you owe it to them, with out condescension or arrogance.

As shown by Freddie Mercury. He continued to perform while he was quite literally dying. At the stage of disease that he had, most people were in hospices and writing wills and mustering the strength to make it to the bathroom. Freddie was at Wembley Stadium, on stage. He lived for the audience. He gave absolutely every last ounce of energy he had to share with the fans his love and their love of music. He did the things you wanted to do for yourself with the confidence you dreamed of. He kept his personal life a secret and it was not because he was ashamed. He did so because he worried that the band could suffer fan and market loss and he feared the audience might feel "betrayed" but nothing was further from the truth. It is my hope that, in death, as he floats above, he can see that we loved him as much as he loved us. And that gave the base to his superhuman endurance. His life is in the Queen hit, "The Show Must Go On." Indeed.

All of these things must certainly affect the style and performance as much as any technique. In fact, I think the technique should be in support of the heart of the singer. Use what works for you to get across what it is that you intend.

It comes through in some of my performances. Such as "Gethsemane." Steven spotted, dead-on. The sub-text of my take on the character of Christ and what His destiny meant to Him. To even what "Highway to Hell" means to me. HTH is not a song of perfection. It is a song of decadence, in some parts, resignation to destiny in other parts, seasoned with a "devil may care" attitude, if you'll pardon the pun. So, I won't ever get it technically perfect and for me, maybe it should never be perfect.

Therein lies a balance. Sing what the song means to you, as a fan. For it will ring true with those who hear you. Bad notes, good notes, sing what the song means. If you are "hot-blooded", then mean it when you sing it. Wether you sound like a lyrical operatic tenor, or Louis Armstrong in a smoky bar. I saw an episode of "Diva" where Celine Dion sang "You shook me all night long," by AC/DC. She will never sound like Scott or Johnson. But I think she did great because she sang the song the way it felt to her and the audience responded to that, not whether or not she could imitate Scott's rattle.

As Brett Michael would say, "own it."

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Excellent post ronws! I definitely agree with this. Jaime Vendera has a thing called 'Vocal Mindset', that "conditions" singers to think like this-about owning the stage and singing your heart out, and it helps!

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Song technique alone will never make you an artist, all you living in countries with Idol gets proof of that every year. Noone cares about last years winner because, although they were good at making covers, their own music sucked big time.(The record company is to blame here aswell, having prepared lyrics that can fit anyone will never make anything intricate.)

You talked about the song HTH and about how you might never get it "perfect". The thing about doing covers is this is inevitable, one will be compared to the original artist wether one likes it or not. :) I recommend people to write their own stuff if they want to get critiqued without being compared to the original artist.

I'm abit split about how to give tips on how to improve in the review section unless someone clearly says "I want to learn how to sing more like Stevie wonder, give me tips on how to sound like him etc". Because when someone puts up a clip of themselves singing followed by a "Tell me how to sing better" they are asking for me to force my sound ideal and tone preference on them.

Often when I hear people's covers I tell myself "Ah this would sound so much better if they used another mode during the chorus/verse etc" but then it's about artistic choice, it's not about what's healthy or efficient, because why should I make everyone try to please me with a tone I like? So I end up writing very few comments in the review section. :)

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Well, Snorth, you could listen to the mode of the original singer in the song and then give tips on how to obtain the same modes and sounds. :) And remember, at first, it's GOOD for singers to discover their own voice by imitating their favorite singers but then they eventually need to find their own voice and style. Usually, what people are asking for is how they can get more power for high notes. IMO, they should also be concerned about how they can get a clearer, more stable tone and sing with more feeling.

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Right on, Snorth. And jonpall, too.

Per Snorth, I too, critique only in matters of a technical point or a sub-text to the song. One young lady on the main website has a version of "Barracuda" by Heart. Her singing was technically flawless. I felt the mix was a bit muted. And I felt the performance lacked the sub-text of which the song was written. The song was written by Anne Wilson in angry response to a record company guy that made lewd sexual comments about her and her sister, Nancy. She was disgusted by his peversion. So, the song should be sung in the context of singing out against those who would devalue you based on their own private failings.

But if someone wanted to do HTH in a voice similar to Dennis DeYoung of Styx, by all means, do it. Or even if they wanted to do it ala Rob Halford. That's fine, too. What I would look for is the sub-text of the song. Did you sing what it meant to you, regardless of technical perfection?

Per jonpall, yes, we start out inspired and sometimes trying to imitate other singers. I am personally inspired by Axl Rose and he is the reason I started working on my voice in 1988. "Sweet Child of Mine" is a benchmark for me. Not in tone, but in ability. I don't sound like him and don't normally try to sound like him. But I can sing almost anything he does. I don't think I can quite reach the bass notes he hits in "Shackler's Revenge" but I am okay with that.

But yes, there is the tendency to compare with the original and one can certainly diminish that effect in the listener by writing one's own stuff. I firmly believe that singers sound best on songs written for themselves, sometimes, by themselves. No question. And perhaps, that can link into the this thread, though I don't care if it meanders, as it is about the heart of what we do here. When we write a song, we must care about it and the listener will, too. And, to that extent, the most powerful song will speak to similar things. I am mindful of this in another discussion on, of all places, a dog board, in the current state of neurology and it's roll in communication and therefore, cognition. Long story. Anyway, singing is a communication that came before spoken language. Adn the sounds of emotions, from fear to anger, are manifest more easily in singing, because the sound is how we started out, as a creature. Therefore, a powerful song will evoke those emotions, which actually have biological, neurological, and chemical markers. Emotions are as real as the sunrise.

You know what Sir Paul McCartney said? Everything he writes is a love song. It is so basic to the human, or mammalian condition. Sometimes directly. "She loves you." To feelings brought about by it. "Norwegian Wood." to the sublime wit of Bon Scott. "She had a body like Venus ... with arms."

There is emotion in a genre. Much anger and "strength" or machismo in heavy metal. Much romantic love in R & B, of which I feel that hip-hop is a sub-genre. Common folk experiences and feelings in country and western. And archetypical themes of humanity in opera.

And the audience really wants something familiar, just dressed in different clothes. If they really wanted something unfamiliar, ZZ Top would never had sold another album after Eliminator. They are champions of the 12-bar blues. Hit songs based on two chords and half the blues scale.

I heard a grunge song once and surmised that if you cleaned the guitar up just a smidge by backing off the flanger effect and could convince the singer to not sound like he was gargling pea gravel, it would have been a Queensryche song. The chord changes and melody were quite similar. So, all the "protesting" youth were actually listening to pacific northwest rock opera with a "dirty" sound while wearing flannel and doc marten's.

And I hope that gets back to the emotion that informs the music. Nirvana was so important because they expressed what the audience felt because they were just like the audience. There are finer singers than Kurt Cobain. Songwriters who are just as eloquent. He connected on the same emotional level that Dio did. That our very own Mike does. What makes Mike's recordings so stellar is not just his technical expertise (formidable, indeed) or his skills at mixing (worthy of it's own career). What it is that makes his performance, or any of ours that is well liked, is what the song means to us, to him. Sorry to make an example of you, Mike. You are as much a fan of the music you sing as we are of it. You get it, you understand what it is we like to hear, because you like it, too. Same with Thanos. I will put his performance of "The Church of St. Anne" by Mercyful Fate any day of the week. And it's not because he can achieve such astounding distortion, which is, indeed, a valuable skill in that song. It's because it is from his heart.

When I see Robert Lunte do "Gethsemane," I feel the pain, doubt, and ire of the Christ. Is it a technically astounding performance? Of course, and I think Lunte deserves the title, maestro. But the performance is more than technical skill or perfect pitch, or the right vowel shading. It is the communication of what the song means to you, and therefore, your audience.

Bob does a version of "Blackhole Sun" that gives me chills. Because he "gets it," and we get it with him.

Per jonpall, again, technique should serve the meaning. We want to give the song more edge, so we have to learn the skills to create that edge sound. So that we can later dab it like a painter's brush on the canvas,adding just the right accent of light or dark that makes the painting pop from the page, greater than just the layers and shades of paint upon it.

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