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Technical approach in interpretative lines

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Felipe Carvalho

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Id like to address this important subject that I seldom see around here.

Before I enter the details, I would like to know a few things from you guys.

We all read over and over that the human voice is a singular instrument and how its capable of delivering a multitude of colors and qualities that no other instrument can.

So, what do you guys understand of this in a direct and objective description? What are those things that we can use, musicaly speaking?

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Its a wonderful question. For me, it comes down to the tremendous variety of sounds, voiced and unvoiced, that are used in our languages, and provoked during times of high emotion and expression of all kinds. Both are expressive of ourselves individually, as we are not only the PLAYERS of the instrument, but we ARE the instrument.

Looking forward to the other comments to this thread!

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There are so many variables involved in sound production of the human voice it is a wonder that any of us are able to control it at all. Tongue position, lip position, larynx(high,low,tilted...), vocal folds themselves(thick ,thin, stretched,closed,partially closed...), Breath pressure,Resonance chambers of varying sizes and varying density.

With other instruments there are at least 2 elements that are fixed unwavering resonance chamber size and material. You cannot see what needs to be manipulated in order to make a certain sound or pitch with the human voice. In most cases you cannot even feel what needs to be manipulated. Not only that but we hear our own voice through a filter that changes our perception of our voice.

Somehow we can and do use all of those variables to produce sound that can be put together in such a fashion that some people would find it musical.

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well, one i'd like to mention i'll call "playing your breath." i never realized till i got more developed in the lower core how much we can vary our tone and our intensity through the manipulation of the breath. the sounds we can make, the dynamics we can produce....

is this on the right track?

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You can use high and low pitch variation on a phrase like a drum beat. Change dynamics in a song by singing softer or louder during the chorus to express emotional feel.Also distorsion or lack of distorsion to promote emotion.

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I think the voice is capable of so much more Than we can imagine, sure there's dynamics, diffrent styles, effects, melismas funny rythms and all that jazz. I think the things that are considered "bad" or just not beautiful to one era completly change in the other.

We haveseent from à classical soundcolor being the "only color" in one era, to nowdays guttural growl inwich words cannot be heard to be popular, im just Exited on whats the next stage :)

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Mdew nice! The intervals content, combined with the rythmic content form the melodic line. Its the most apparent part of the interpretation line on solo singing. So far we have 3 vectors to use.




Still there are 2 very important pieces missing.

Jens thats right! And you are almost touching the last part of it, still I fear its not such a innovative concept what Im after, but you are right, the options are endless.

So what is the most basic content that we train uppon? The results of the different formant configurations? The things that we actually sing with?

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I'm not sure if I understand the question fully, but I'll try to give my thoughts based on what I've been reading in this thread I only hope I am interpreting correctly. If it has to do with interpreting the lines in a song or the musical lines and using techniques to express this then I view it as this based on what I attempt to do. I say attempt because these are goals and it is a constant battle to try and create the picture of sound I have in my mind through technique not yet mastered.

I hear music as a story and within that story is emotion. As a singer my job would be to convey that emotion, or my interpretation of it to the listener. Some of these emotions may be joy, sadness, pain, hurt, loss, melancholy,

humor and other familiar feelings. But they should be things common to the listener so they can relate. However, how do you make them relate or you relate to them? By varying the emotion through sound.

Now, you can sing a song by melody straight through and it can sound nice but nice may not be as good as making the listener feel happy or sad or even cry. So you can sing a line like "Baby, when I watched you walk out that door," and it can be very melodic and "nice" or you can (what I try to do ... emphasis on try) is get the tone to resonate a bit more in my nasal area on "baby," which requires a bit more support, while raising my cheeks a little in order to bring a bit of hurt to my tone. Almost like I'm crying a little. But it's bring the resonance into my nose that helps this. At the same time I want to have a little low resonance mixed with the higher nasalness to keep it a bit weighty. I want the ay in baby to be pronounced and also have a little bit of "n" in there sort of like "baynby. So here I am playing with coloring of the words. Playing with how I pronounce them to add emotion. But my support has to be good because I have to phrase it to glide by the next word when in prep for an emphasis on "watched," then finishing the phrase with walk out that door. But it takes learning the techniques to get the sound up into the pharyngeal (is that a word?) area and to get the support to bring out a certain emotion.

Then there may be a line that is sad but loving. Something that may be emoting a memory. This leads me to want to be soft and sort of throaty in chest voice. But you don't want to run out of air! You may have to explode on the next line. I am trying here to learn control of my air so I don't sound too airy but just soft and a bit gritty....loving. Then there is the gritttyness to show emotion and sometimes anger or begging and longing. Support again but also the technique of grit or gravel which I can't explain how to do. :D I just do it.

To me all these things are textures and layers and colors. Ways to interpret the song and add interest. But, and for me it's a big but. How you phrase the lines and words can also make or break it.

I'm not saying this is all working for me :D Nor am I saying these are valid techniques. But it is how I am working at trying to get somewhere and what I am doing.

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Tommy you are also walking into the direction I want to take. But I still want a more direct and objective approach. Convey emotion is the purpose, of course.

You are almost on the right track concerning vowels and how to add emphasis, but you are looking too much into the scope of single words.

Anyways, the last two things that are of key importance, are: vowels (your baby sample) (which prety much resumes the variety of formant postures we normaly use), and the use of technical resources of placement (something that would be similar to that use of the n, but not quite that) or whatever is defined within the method you work with.

So we have:

1 Intervals

2 Rhythm

3 Dynamics

4 Vowels

5 Technical Resources

Interpretation and artistic content, as in any other form of art, is given not by a static content, but by motion, flow and contrast. Even the term chiaro-scuro, that we hear often on classical singing, is used on other forms of expression, like painting.

Now, I know that most here do pay attention to have the intervals well defined within their heads when singing, I would like to know how many of you pay the same degree of attention and care to the other 4 items. Do you even pay attention?

Do notice that this is not about "preferred vowels" or vowel modification or how to reach notes. Consider only the part of your voice where you can use all vowels (and they will ajust as they need to) and dynamics, this is not about trainning, but rather the application into a performance.

Lets also consider that generic musical resources like legatto, staccato, rubato and others are just part of the melodic line. Legatto is of special importance (not the same as the legatto line used to train and develop the vowels, which is the main responsible for homogeneity, homogeneity is a requirement to sing, not a resource).

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So, on with the game.

Ill make a statement in order to proceed:

All singing that we perceive to have quality, and that can make connection to us, has a very, very strong and defined interpretation line, be it counciously or just improvising. On ALL these five aspects.

Great. So what?

Time for some samples.

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Consider this recording of the beginning of the song The Deeper the Love:


It may sound strong when you begin to listen... the intervals of the melody is correct, and its on timming, but its all kinda just there. Its all forward and technically it could be said that its correct. Still, it does not sound good.

So lets begin with a few choices.

First thing to consider: The original sits in a much lower dinamic range, its all too strong and too forward.

Another thing that can be fixed right away: The rhythmic content, the verses are:

1 When I look back

2 On everything Ive done

3 I know you must have cried a river of tears

1 But you were there

2 When I was feeling low

3 To walk me through my darkest fears

You will probably notice that I numbered them and repeated right?

The reason for it, is that its a pattern, the same pattern repeats over and over on the whole song, on the verses that will come after the chorus, and on some songs it may be within the chorus itself. So lets use it:

The rhythm divisions on the original are for 1 and 2, kinda rushed on the upbeat, on 3, its maked with the beat.

Lets combine these changes and see how it sounds:


Its a little better, but still there is something missing. A lot really.

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So now that dynamics are centered, lets map the contrasts:

On 1, both verses:

When I look back

But you where there

They are both strong.

Also lets adress vowel use here:

The key vowels on both phrases are:

When I look back

But your where there

Its the SAME vowel, its open and strong, and it will do us a huge favor if we give it the attention it needs. On both phrases, we want this open vowel strong and sustained. Lets make the following consonants just disappear in the end of the phrases.

The dynamics then go down to the end of the first verse. On the second verse, it goes down on 2, and then on 3 it rises again, to call the pre-chorus (breaking the pattern and calling for attention).

Here is how it sounds:


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Lets keep these aside for now, they are sounding nice. Now for the pre-chorus:

1 But when the sun goes down

2 Those nights grow colder

3 I will be there

4 Looking over your shoulder


Piece of cake

Begins on the overall level of the song

Drops on 2

On 3 it rises again

And on 4 it goes to the climax of the song, resolving into the chorus

Key spots are the words colder and shoulder. And the vowel on there (give the listenner the same one of the first phrases of the verses).

Here, legatto is crucial, its very melodic, so its nice to fall back from heavy articulation, and just connect everything:

Here is how it sounds:


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So now the chorus

1 And the deeper the love

2 The stronger the emotion

1 And the stronger the love

2 The deeper the emotion

This chorus is tricky. First of all, its on low dynamics, but it must come from a stronger call on the prechorus and retain definition (it cant be soft either). So its a spot where I would mark a "support" indication to let me know that I should keep the pressure.

The word love has a OH vowel, that is nice for us. Coverdale had a deep tone, so lets use this oh, again, defining it well and sustainning.

On the original, both rhythm patterns are alike, but lets add a little bit of our own thing to the line. Lets do a sacrilege and anticipate the number 2 of the second part of the chorus on the upbeat.

And also to make things more interesting, on the verses, the last phrase calling the pre-chorus, has a strong EE on fears, and because of how my voice is, it naturally went forward and strong, so Ill use the same EE on "the dEEEper the devotion".

Here is how it sounds:


BTW Im comping this, Ill not sing everything over and over again :P.

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Now on into second part, I think its obvious what to do with it:

There were times

I almost let you go

But I found I need to break free

But you were there

To whisper in my ears

Why dont you share your dreams with me?

But when the sun goes down

Those nights are growing colder

I will be there

Looking over your shoulder



Verses should follow the exact same pattern of the other two. Times and there, are the key vowels for us.

Still, the last verse has a crucial difference on the middle of it:

But you were there

To whisper in my ears

Why dont you share your dreams with me

Very tricky, the ears is done on EE, on low dynamic, on a decrescendo, and then opens into a strong AH. I will choose to retain the original idea, but unlike the orinial, Ill make the end EE on focus to follow the idea of the other 2 verses we did before.

If the melody was the same, it would be the time to break the dynamic pattern. But this EE and the different intervals are more than enough to add contrast.

On the pre-chorus, same pattern.

On the chorus, also same pattern, but Ill increase the dynamics to call for the bridge.

Sounds like this:


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So into the bridge. Tricky also:

Lets dismantle everything and just go into a more crude direction again:


The melody is right, and technically its also right. But it does not work, its too dark and strong for this. The original is done more open and on lower dynamics.

So in here, I would use a kind of "mixed" thing, although its mixed only due to the sonority. An upper smile, rising the larynx a bit and rendering the sound more open. I will also, focus on the open vowels, because the EE when done like this sounds a bit strange. The lyrics would go like:

Ah dont Mahhhnd...

Here is how it sounds:


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So the frankeinstein so far is this:


My point with all this is: its all right there on our faces, the objective and measurable information used on singing is not limited to melody/lyrics. Its just the tip of the iceberg.

Of course, the more emotion you put behind the words, the better you will convey, but this is a planned and defined thing, just like the notes and rhythmic information. Sure, some can improvise on it without knowing, but MOST needs to learn!

Im not really so good at it, but even with this basic and simple application, the difference is huge. And all it needs is control of what you are doing and a little thinking about it, the same ammount you expend on memorizing lyrics and melody.

If you dont plan it, you will simply have to improvise. But one way or another, you will do it, it is a crucial part of the song, so even if you dont like the idea of doing it on everysong, it will surely pay off to do this kind of study. Looking with this kind of eyes into some commercial works that we may not give so much credit is prone to some huge surprises.

Its a powerfull tool for anyone who wants to work doing covers, and for those making your own material... Well, it IS the song, the better you work this, the easier the message will be delivered.

Ill elaborate on how to work on patterns and contrasts later on with another song, vowels also play a huge role in this.

And I just noticed I messed up all the files on box.com... Fixing it. There, its fixed

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