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Sounding TOO Rock... Adding more Soul to your tone.

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Nathan
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Waddup guys.

So in one of our classes at school we had to sing Stevie Wonder's 'Signed, Sealed, Delivered'. I bloody love Stevie, so I gave this song my all.

After I was done, my teacher congratulated me on a great performance and eveything. But then she told me it sounded "Very Rock" and as did everything I had sung in front of her. She said it was a good thing for me as an artist at least, but of course, it's limiting.

I confessed to her that for a while I've been thinking that my overall tone just has too much of a rock edge to it, and would love to add a kind of soul quality to it. She told me that "Rock is basically at your core. It's clearly what you love and so you'll find it very hard to move away from that."

This bothers me. I want to do session work and such, but that will never happen if I always sound too rock. Besides, rock is great and all, but the sounds people (who aren't musicians) typically associate with good singing, is that kind of soulful sound.

So I guess this post is really about... How do I change the tone of my voice?

Don't get me wrong; I love rock. I'll always love rock. I love being able to sing rock.

But it is undeniably limiting.

Recently I've tried everything to add different qualities to my voice, but it all sounds too rock or just awful.

I tried recording myself singing 'Ordinary People' by John Legend. I was attempting to come as close to his easy soul sound as possible, but was just unable to make it happen. It's very frustrating.

I'm sure everyone has, at some point, wanted to improve their tone. But I have never seen any advice on how to go about it.

The only advice I ever hear is "Once your technique is solid, then your tone will be too." This is meant to be encouraging? To me this sounds like "Once you bust your ass on your tone... Then maybe you'll have a good sound. If you don't, then it means you were never supposed to do this and all your time has been wasted. Soz LOL!" - You see how I become uninspired by this? :P

You know? This advice just seems lazy!

So, does anyone have any thoughts on how to do this? I know I'm not the only one who wants a better tone... That's fundamentally the most important thing about singing. you can sing 4 octaves (and believe me, I do) but if you haven't got a good tone to sing it with... Well then, who cares?

So can anyone help me with this? An exercise or a tone changing tip or anything? I feel like nobody has an answer to this, which feels like the question that absolutely NEEDS to be answered.

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Stevie Wonder is curbing/cry/the hold. Most soul and R&B uses some of this sound but he has probably the greatest purity of this sound of any singer I know.

There are a few things that help with soul, one is to work on the fluidity of voice as it moves around the notes on a similar vowel.

Perhaps the best thing you can do is just listen to soul and 'feel' the way the melodies move. It has some of the most emotionally connected melodies of any genre I've heard, where the singers often seem to be singing the notes that match the feelings they are currently experiencing, improvising slightly in both melody and rhythm, while being less technical or intellectual than jazz. The use of melissma actually becomes a huge aid in improvisation because you can allow the melody to alter away from the syllables in the lyrics, shaping it to your current emotions.

Even with my voice being bad for so long, I'd feel much more prepared to sing it, just from absorbing it so much over the years. If my voice problem went away today, I'd be better at singing soul than ever, because I can feel the melodies and rhythm in my head. It's generally a more rhythmic genre, and if you play some kind of percussion that can help too. It's not all on the downbeats as much as most rock (and metal) and can be phrased frequently in triplets quite a bit too. It's almost a perfect cross between bluesy, yet melodic, even a tinge of jazz.

Anyone will be able to sing soul if they gain a passion for it I believe. You will too. No one is stuck in a particular genre, unless they don't feel the passion to sing another one. I'd imagine a rock singer that worked on the fluidity in their voice and focused more on a rhythmic delivery would likely bridge into this genre pretty easily.

One of the bests ways to learn proper, is to go right to the roots and sing the hell out of songs like these:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-K0ZnFl0q4&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBCpcSvxYeo&feature=related

I'd be willing to bet nearly every modern soul singer has a lot of respect for the classics and many grew up singing a great amount of them. A lot of people took the sound other places, but you can hear a little of the above guys in every soul singer of every type. Personally, it's probably my favorite style of singing!

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You've gotta add a looseness to the sound. Be cool with it, be easy.

Sing it from the heart. Feel the soul in the voice, maybe even a lil more sloppy with it. Let the sound just roll out.

Move away from the edge, cover the sound more.

I love soul and R&B. I'm mixed race, half white half black. My friends and family say I naturally have a "soul" edge to my voice, I just gotta work it a little more.

I need to be able to get though my passaggio, which is hella hard. Soon as I've got that I'm set.

I'm drifting I know... hold up.

The thing is, I see your British. I am too. It's hard to get that "sound". Americans, IMO, have a natural "sound". So from my point of view I have to modify the way I sound and sing.

Upload a sample of you singing some J.Legend or Stevie, It'd be a lil easier, www.box.net

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Two things to start out with:

1. Pull back ever so slightly on the rasp and intensity, compared to rock singing. In terms of rasp, f.ex., it's a good idea to have the rasp barely audible and certainly not sounding like you're squeezing your throat (even though this is my personal preference for rock also). Sometimes in rock, you can get away with excess like that. And you don't want your sound to be as hard as f.ex. Jorn Lande's for soul.

2. Pracise singing melodies that are NOT 100% in rythm with the rest of the music, but slightly slower or even slightly faster. Don't do that with all the lines - just some of them.

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I think you have to like it first. Develop an appreciation. And listen for the nuances that define it. That may be the held out notes with vibrato, the lighter style, the little licks that are used. I love singing Stevie wonder stuff but I will always put a rock edge on it. I think you can and should always approach a song with the style you have developed so I wouldn't try to change too much. Just be influenced but it.

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I can't stop the smart-aleck in myself. Definitely shouldn't post in my sarcastic mode. Can't ... stop ... I ... can't ....

Where does anyone think "rock" came from? Anyone .....anyone?

Nathan, your teacher is an idiot or full of his/her own psychological baggage. Go ahead and tell that person that ronws from the vocalist forum said that. I can take the heat.

"Too much rock"? Does she/he have any idea of the roots of music? Oh, jeez. So, was MJ's "Dirty Diana" rock or r&b, or soul. Nevermind the fuzzy guitar solo, an accent. Normally, I would say, pay attention to whom you are paying for lessons. But, caveat emptor. That is also the danger. For each person has their own particular psychology, their own aesthetic. What they consider rock, r&b, soul, etc.

As for Stevie, I dare you to listen to say, "Superstition" and tell me he's NOT twanging like crazy. Go ahead, tell me that.

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Good points from Geno and Ron. You must not forget who you are and you have to be careful not to try to please other people too much. You have to please YOURSELF, first and foremost! So just keep that in mind. You can add in some soul but don't forget who you are.

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I was inspired by a David Ruffin clip and startedd thinking a bit about the tone that many black soul singer had, f.ex. David Ruffen, James Brown and Wilson Pickett. At the moment I think that many of them are simply doing overdrive with very slight distortion (i.e. overdrive), i.e. a barely audible distortion done by overtwanging, but with a fairly dark sound colour on top of that ton of twang. They mix this up with lots of other techniques and vocal modes, but I think that that is a big part of it.

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^ You know what this means, Jonpall. You've gotta get a David Ruffin cover on here. I would love the **** out of that and you have a great rasp already.

Keep in mind, he was the lead singer of the Temptations in the Classic Five Era, so if you don't want to get the whole band going, a backing track might not be hard to find. I've always wondered how he kept that darker sound color, while seemingly twanging so much. Definitely a shouter though, so overdrive seems like a good fit.

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Pretty much baritone:

Here he is taking a young Michael Jackson tune and blowing the roof off the place:

Seriously, his voice is probably my greatest singing mystery. How the hell did he hit bass notes in some songs with a baritone speaking voice, and reach those ridiculous highs past most tenors?

I dunno, if you get to the bottom of it let me know. This guy has been a thrill to listen to for years of my life. I've never found a singer that can sound so anguished yet absolutely 'stoked' through his songs. It's like a damned explosion. :D

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I'm not 100% sure if I can find the exact rasp effect he's doing. It could be the false folds or the true folds, it could be done via overtwanging or by singing "in between vocal modes", but one key I can immedially spot is that he's almost never SQUEEZING his throat to do this rasp.

Another very important factor is that he simply CARESSES each and every word, like he simply means them MORE than the average human being :) . Again, obviously a one of a kind singer, that far too few people know about, obviously.

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You wanna know the closest thing to God I've found yet:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5498Mq0DrjI

I'm glad you can feel him too. You're like me. Seriously. So much passion, it's like he pours every last bit of his being into his voice, the pain, the pleasure, the best of times, the worst times, everything.

I'm a fan of all kinds of singing, it takes all kinds to make singing the valuable artform it is, but this guy is like the voice of God ringing in my ears. Everyone could use a bit of Ruffin, if not in rasp and tone, at least in the passionate delivery.

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Rasp tip of the day: When you want to go from a clean tone to a raspy one, increase the INTENSITY, more so than the volume, to bring out that rasp. Keep the throat relaxed. Rasp usually sounds best when it's very slight, although in certain contexts, going full out is very cool. And usually, adding intensity means adding twang (with a dark or a light sound colour) plus more support. Second tip, reduce the amount of air to the point of almost singing while holding your breath. Good luck!

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Stevie Wonder is curbing/cry/the hold.

Killku, I've got to be honest, I don't know what any of these mean. Are they CVT techniques? I never read that... Can you explain?

There are a few things that help with soul, one is to work on the fluidity of voice as it moves around the notes on a similar vowel.

How do you mean? Singing one note on a vowel and switching between different vowels whilst maintaining the same pitch?

You've gotta add a looseness to the sound. Be cool with it, be easy.

D.Starr, easier said than done dude :) My sound is never 'loose' in that way. That's not to say that I'm tense (which is how that sounds I know). It's more that I don't have that loose sound. I can trying having a 'looser' rhythm, but that doesn't change my tone.

My friends and family say I naturally have a "soul" edge to my voice

It seems like a natural thing, I'm wondering whether or not it's even possible to add. If not, then that sucks for all of us without it :/

The thing is, I see your British. I am too. It's hard to get that "sound". Americans, IMO, have a natural "sound". So from my point of view I have to modify the way I sound

I dunno, there are a lot of Brit's with soulful voices. I think Americans naturally have an easier time with singing because the way they shape their vowels when speaking is closer to singing than the way us British people talk. It's pretty interesting. Just another reason it sucks being English :)

Upload a sample of you singing some J.Legend or Stevie, It'd be a lil easier, www.box.net

Keep an eye out for it in a couple of days guys ;)

1. Pull back ever so slightly on the rasp and intensity, compared to rock singing. In terms of rasp, f.ex., it's a good idea to have the rasp barely audible and certainly not sounding like you're squeezing your throat (even though this is my personal preference for rock also). Sometimes in rock, you can get away with excess like that. And you don't want your sound to be as hard as f.ex. Jorn Lande's for soul.

I seem to have a natural rasp that I cannot shake. It's great for rock, but not for much else. I wish I was putting it on, but it's just the way my voice is. Maybe I can remove it somehow?

2. Pracise singing melodies that are NOT 100% in rythm with the rest of the music, but slightly slower or even slightly faster. Don't do that with all the lines - just some of them.

I'll do that. Been messing around with some Bobby McFerrin improvs. which is similar, but I'll try this too.

Guitartek and Ronws, I understand the whole 'stay true to yourself and what you love' thing. Really I do, and I have been. But honestly, I want a bit of this sound as well as rock (I'm greedy maybe :P). Yeah, I agree... This stuff CAN be sung in a rock manner and plus sure, many soul singers can be considered to have rock voices... But there's certainly a defining sound of rock and a defining sound of soul. If Stevie is somewhere between, then I'm fully in the rock category. I'd just like a bit of that warmer sound, you know?

Guys, this David Ruffin guy is soooo good!! That warm quality his voice has on the MJ cover... I want that :D

Thanks for introducing me to his music.

Starting to think it may be a lost cause trying to change the tone. Thing's change it slighlty, but nothing to the point that it sounds THAT much better. Perhaps I'm expecting too much, I dunno.

I appreciate all of the help. You guys have given me some really fantastic advice :)

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"The cry" is a kind of singing that a lot of pop, Rock, and R&B singers use a lot. Perhaps a better description for it is the sound you'd make when you would 'moan.' Try making a sound like you'd make if your stomach aches and you'll probably find it.

Singers like Stevie Wonder sing on this kind of voice, and it gives them a larger range, a bridged passaggio, and 'thicker' head voice. Speech Level Singing uses it for the 'mix voice' (but in my opinion they suck at teaching it!). Curbing is the CVT equivalent for the term, sorry for the confusion.

I'm not the best person to learn from because 'anything' I do with my voice is painful, regardless of technique, but I made a clip maybe a year ago fighting through pain using a slight cry sound which might help:

http://soundcloud.com/killerku/sinceilostmybaby

I was singing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqQc7j_Vs-M (David Ruffin! I believe he was using it too in this song)

Oh, and what I mean by melisma, is extending the syllables of a word to add melody. Either the same vowel, or a different vowel (usually the same). Like in this song, he says, "everything is all Wro-uh-ong." This is a big difference between more 'soulful' vocals and more just straight rock vocals. You can go really overboard (Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilara) with 20 syllable words that are borderline comical, but just a bit here and there can add a bunch of flavor and room to improvise in a song. By the way, I'm a huge Stevie wonder fan too, as I have many of his albums and believe he is one of the best song writers who ever lived.

Here's a really great example if you want to study Stevie using his very strong cry sound and a very tasteful Melisma:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nevuWdIIOU

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Heheh, for a good demonstration of what people have done with this kind soul kind of singing, this here is someone taking a lot of Stevie Wonder's style of technique, only multiplying his melisma by 10 times the amount of notes:

Yes! Believe it or not, I do like this song (great melody, cool chords, nice swing, etc), but it's the upper limits of acceptability by any reasonable standard and pretty kitschy. I'm not really a Mariah fan in general, but I was nice so I picked a guilty pleasure instead of making fun!

Bottom line, Mariah Carey did this already, so you probably don't have to give every word 500 syllables (I think you shouldn't), but soul, right from it's beginning was an extension of gospel music, and used this kind of technique right from the start. She kind of made it a caricature, but in the beginning it was very subtle and tasteful.

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okey folks, i wish to reply on several issues if i may...

killer, oh man "my whole world ended" is on my "to learn" list when i resume singing in late december. i love david ruffin, and all those motown guys....in my opinion ruffin is physically, physiologically, endowed with that rasp and grit, which came from the core emotions which drive it...passion, anguish, failure, insecurity, guilt, sadness, these are the makings of soul in the voice. now i know it sounds simple, like "no shit bob" but that's just what it is. to me, it's created in the mind.

when you sing like that you risk, (including vocal damage) and you bleed (you are in an emotional place that fuels the voice).

nathan, see above. you want to change the tone of you voice? from what to what?

it's all about how much commitment, how much focus, and pasion you want to put into it. listen to this queen accapella video.

in every single utterance, every syllable, every note, there is an intense passion in the voice. at some spots he's even gasping, like he's out in another place. this to me is the greatness of the singer, this "whole body involvement."

listen to these times:

1:29 to 2:01, he is really pouring out some serious energy...even gasping for breath, you can actually hear the whole friggin' body is involved. amazing stuff.

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True, Bob. But what makes it POSSIBLE for those singers to sing with that kind of emotion and rasp on the higher notes is stuff like an open throat, focus in the soft palate and almost no air going out of the mount, just to name few of the most important factors. Have those basics down (which are tough) and then you can more easily put all types of emotions on top of that, rasp being one of them.

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Sometimes I read posts and can't figure out what to say well this is my bag 100%

I've seen a couple of clips on youtube and I agree, you got soul, buddy. Rockin' Soul. Is that you man?

http://www.youtube.com/user/danformica

From what I hear, Chris Cornell was as influenced by soul singers as he was rock singers. It shows.

If my voice was healthy, I'd check you out man. Since it's not, I'll just throw a curve ball to everyone who thinks they got soul figured out if they can grit everything up and explode with a 4 octave range like David Ruffin:

Nope, tip of the iceberg people! Soul singing is way more than that! Sometimes it's as delicate as a feather, and just as good! I guess it is kind of hard to nail down.

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True, Bob. But what makes it POSSIBLE for those singers to sing with that kind of emotion and rasp on the higher notes is stuff like an open throat, focus in the soft palate and almost no air going out of the mount, just to name few of the most important factors. Have those basics down (which are tough) and then you can more easily put all types of emotions on top of that, rasp being one of them.

i agree, no question, but i think the component "whole body, whole being, serious injection of emotion and passion" (perhaps more than some us are capable of) fuels that soul or blues sound. just my opinion. soul is felt deep down, so deep down that it may be unreachable for some.

i'd be inclined to say more percentage wise than technique. when i get back to singing i will post something.

another of my all-time favorites...that sucker is bleeding!!!

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