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Don't You - Darren Criss

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aitcheson
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Normally I couldn't care less if people think I can sing or not because, screw them i'm working on it. But the other day someone said that I should be like Neil Young and work more on songwriting cause he 'can't hit a single note'. Now I know they didn't mean it as an insult really but I took it hard. I know i'm a far way from being great but I've been practicing every day for over six months (yes I know compared to a lot of people that's just starting off) and i'm really dedicated to this. Really I just want to know that im improving and moving towards something better.

Anyway any advice, critique, ect.

I really appreciate all of it and it helps!

Don't You by Darren Criss

http://www.box.com/s/38yxuyy02b0g3ofgl1da

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Ok, so the person giving that advice is likely not a singer, nor educated about singing, or how far you can go with training and determination. However, there is a kernel of truth there, even if it wasn't intended this way and I think you should take this to heart. There are a lot of really 'nice sounding pizazz' kinds of voices that don't really go anywhere. There are thousands of operatically trained singers that go nowhere commercially, even on American Idol a lot of the top 12 are quickly forgotten about with voices that are more skilled than Neil Young's, hell even some of the winners kind of skid out when it comes to the real world. Many technically skilled singers (most notes, fastest notes, thickest tones, whatever) are working day jobs, or working as singing coaches, or working part time, you haven't heard them.

So what is it about Neil Young? Why does he prosper, and these other people don't? Well, a big part of it's luck, but the other part is he has heart, a unique way of singing, and songwriting ability. He touches people in ways a lot of operatically trained singers don't and that's why he's special. Neil Young has something, be it a natural talent, or a determination to do things in an individualistic way that speaks to people. He's not a nanny boy obsessed with being 'proper,' singing or otherwise and people love this about him, he's a rebel and a maverick. These kinds of things can make you stand out from a crowd of 'me toos.'

That said, I always like to hear you here, because I can hear your progress. I can already hear your pitch improving, your tone relaxing, your emoting starting to fall more into place. You can and will continue to improve, but you may always retain something special or interesting. At the end of the day, a technique is a means of delivering a communication, any technique that can communicate a message well and healthily is a good technique. In that sense, I think Neil Young has better technique for his purposes than most singers I've heard, as it works better at delivering his message in a way people relate to. So the advice you received about Neil Young not being able to sing a note is probably coming from ignorance.

So with that out of the way, I give you hints cause I want to see you succeed. You have the passion and fortitude mentally to start late, and start from ground zero. You want this really bad, and no one ever 'gave' it to you as a child so you gotta step up.

Now that you're getting more comfortable, I'd recommend you adopt some sirens (lowest comfortable note, to highest comfortable note slides, and vice versa) into your practice routine. I'd also recommend you practice 'slowly' bending between notes and listening very carefully for the intonation as it shifts. This should familiarize yourself with your voice, giving you more fine control over it while working your ears. Something that can give a leg up to advanced singers, is the ability to 'move around the notes' in a smooth and free way, and not jump between them in a segmented way. It's kind of like the difference between a guitar and violin, so if you can work on this kind of fluidity control, along with the ears to really hear it, it should improve your intonation a lot.

Aside from that, generalized ear training will help you a bunch with music. Learning to recognize the distance between intervals. You can do this with your guitar by trying to sing the next note you 'will play' and predict it, but you can also try a computer program like this:

http://www.musictheory.net/exercises/ear-interval/9989yby

from this site http://www.musictheory.net/ (which is a very good site in general for musical related studies)

If you try that program, try to sing each note it plays, and learn to recognize the gaps between the notes. Name them correctly, but take mental note of the interval, how it feels, how it sounds to understand the relationship between notes. This will not only help your singing, but likely your musical composing too!

I really wish you well aitcheson. More than anyone else on this site, you remind me of myself. If you can, please get a real teacher when budget or circumstances will allow, it's not because I don't believe in your talent and skills, it's more just safety. I want you to succeed man and I don't want anything bad to happen to you like it happened to me.

Whatever you do, pace yourself and take care. If you can polish a nice singing voice and write a great song, I would likely consider you one of my favorite singers here. Singing is an artform man, not a competition, anyone that uses their voice that expresses something to me is a great singer! So try to take the good and leave the bad in any advice you hear. People will try to cut you down. I remember being heard in the early days and someone said 'man that is embarassing.' That stung. Because I had no confidence and it was embarrassing. But I'd be willing to bet if he heard me two years later, he'd wouldn't have thought much of it, other than maybe 'that dude can sing.' That's the reality. It's both a process and an artform, neither are understood that well by the general public. You need to find 'your' voice, whatever it is. When you get there, I bet you will find people who like it.

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Thank you so much!

I will make sure to try everything you listed but in the 'bend' do I just slowly go from one note to another or is there some trick to it?

I just actually started focusing on ear training this week, I have been using a simple computer program that plays a note and you are to find the name of said note. Is it better to focus on single note identification, interval training, or both?

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The bend exercise is to try to get your ears to hear the sweet spot where a microtone shift becomes a note and give your voice the ability to execute this. What might help is to use a drone note at first, like play a constant note in the background and bend up to it, and down from it to start with, listening to the way the harmonics shift. Your ears should get more memory for where the sweet spot on the notes are. It's kind of like tuning your guitar, or doing a bend on your guitar. Once you get better, try to just use a reference note.

My vote goes to emphasizing interval training over name the note training. Believe it or not, there is still not evidence that absolute pitch is possible to train later in life. It's something that generally people gain in earlier childhood when the brain is still developing. I'm not going to say it's impossible, because I don't know if it is, but most people won't get as much progress from trying to do this later in life as they will with intervals. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absolute_pitch

Even a lifelong a musician, Steve Vai, claims he tried as hard as he could, and at best potentially memorized just a concert A note by playing the A note every night when he slept for like a year. He uses relative pitch for all of the other notes.

When you get good at hearing the relationships between the notes, everything becomes 'relative' and in composition knowing the relationship between notes, both how they sound and how they feel emotionally when they 'move' can actually be more important than knowing the names of the notes. It's not merely being an A note that moves people, it's being an A note in relation to other notes in melodic movement and harmony that moves people.

Still, many who start early get this advantage, and late starters have to work a lot harder on their ear training in general. Many successful musicians do not have perfect pitch though, in fact most probably do not so it's not something that will hold you back too much if you work as hard as you can on your relative pitch.

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Nice discussion, Killer! So true that the absolute pitch isn't part of the song, though it probably might be in an old stone church where some pitches take a life of their own -- haunting, even.

Let's keep in mind that HearFones are a great tool for "ear" training, too. With HearFones, you can actually hear (sense, detect) the entire set of sounds as you're producing them. That benefits by giving us 'real-time' control over what we're singing, and intuitively gives us immediate opportunity to subconsciously change . . . thereby building good habits and abandoning unwanted ones. Galwey's books on "The Inner Game of" emphasize the importance of just playing around with your musculature and building a repertoire of muscle memories you can draw on later, but of course you need to see where the ball went in order to hone these skills. In singing, we can't watch the ball arc towards the goal, and with our ears behind our mouth we can't hear our voice the way the audience (or -- yuchh -- the microphone) does.

And that's the voice we want to work on.

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Most humans do not have perfect pitch. But nearly everyone has relative pitch.

Anyway, I didn't really hear any pitch problems. I am not familiar with the song so I don't know if it was originally written to be breathy. And that would be my only advice. Commit to the note. Whoever said you could not hit a note was wrong. But you can brighten a note.

But Killer's advice was the best. What's important about someone like Neil Young who does have a unique voice is that, more than the unique voice, he has a unique feel. And, he writes his own stuff, which means that what he sings is suited to his particular voice. And so you must do the same. Do songs that fit your voice well. Do songs that don't fit your voice but alter them to fit your voice, just to gain the breadth of style and expression.

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