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Volume for live rock vocals

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jonpall
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Hi guys,

What do you think is a good volume level for singers that sing with a live rock band?

Do you think it's wise to stick to about medium loud or maybe slightly louder, perhaps to save energy and reduce the chance of your vocal folds swelling due to excessive pressure on them for a long time?

Or maybe it's actually wise to sing very close to your MAXIMUM volume so that the monitors don't feedback and the energy levels of the vocals match that of the band when playing live? Maybe that's a very important point or what do you think?

However, sometimes I feel that my throat feels ever so slightly swollen if I've sun extremely loud for a long time. But then there are people who say that it's quite ok to sing close to your maximum volume IF you twang and support properly and use open vowels on high notes.

So if volume level "1" is almost inaudible and "10" means as loud as you can sing, at what level do you think it's wise to sing for the most of the time when you're live and are fronting a rock 'n' roll band - and have to play 3 hour gigs several times a week?

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Hey Jonpall, 3 hour gigs, several times a week. I know that can be very demanding for you. Does your band have their own soundman? Are you relying on the house sound system and their soundman? I would think you would like to sing like you practice. I would want the sound man to make the levels correct for what the band is trying to sound like and for what the audience is hearing. As far as the monitors feeding back, I’m not sure what you are experiencing and why they would be feeding back no matter what level you were singing at. I am assuming that you are using proper mic technique and etiquette so that leaves the sound man to know your show well enough to know when you are going to be singing soft and lovely to the ladies and when you are going to blow our sox off with power. Not sure if that is what you were looking for but more details can help. :)

Steve

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Jonpall great question and I would have to say on the songs I knew i could get by on a 5 being right in the middle then thats what I do. When your in a song that goes from lower notes that you can speak easily with a solid voice no air thats what you do. when it gets higher for dynamics you should get a little louder. Don't ever push the low notes cause you can't hear them thats the trap we all get caught in.. That can cause you to push as the week goes on. By the end of the week your shot..I would stay "softer" when you can, once the cords approximate without pushing your gonna sound very loud anyway. Hope that helps:)

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Wow. Those were great answers, guys! Thanks.

I'm kind of asking because CVT states that one of many (note I said "one of many") valid ways to sing with a live rock band is to sing at about volume level 8-10, to give the sound a bit of a "push", use a lot of "Eh" and "Oh" vowels, twang and support hard. They call it overdrive and edge. I'm sure they're correct and maybe many of my vocal heroes use this, but I've felt that it's better to use full volume (8-10) quite sparingly, especially for long gigs.

I've sometimes had the feeling that this theory is plain wrong, but I believe it's backed up with extensive research. But even though it's possible to sing that loud for a long time with very strong breath support and enough twang to drive the tone, I think that the effort level surely gets so high that it's just too tough to do it for too long a time. Again, I haven't researched this myself so I can't say for sure.

I just recorded myself singing an Aerosmith song on a crappy mic but I think you can hear all the important details:

https://www.box.com/s/g3mila3knj6i1ijf2o59.

Here I'm using volume 5 in the verses and maybe 7 in the chorus. I do get extra power and volume from making sure that I NEVER lose the constant twang in the sound and I'm pretty sure I'm using "mixed voice/curbing" in the chorus. Some of those B4 notes are distorted (some of them slightly too much but this was just a quick demo take) and I believe that's more from the overtwanging rather than overpushing. You should be able to hear that "crying" sound that many people recommend on high notes. But still, I think that it sounds at least powerful enough for me, even though it's "only" at volume 5-7. Do you think it sounds powerful enough to match a live rock band behind me or does it sound weak to you?

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Screaming as loud as you can into a mic for three hours is not a good way to go. When my band plays, I sing medium - ish. I do not sing as loud as I can EVER. I even sing some stuff softer than I should. If you feel like you have to sing very loud in order to hear yourself, get in ear monitors.

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Hi

As far as I remember, Catherine Sadolin said that for life performance there is sort of "step forward rule".

Per example - If in home/studio conditions you sing something using neutral mode, you should sing it in curbing during live. When you sing in home/studio in curbing you should choose overdrive or edge for the same stuff per live gig.

That is because we have natural tendence to pic louder volume while singing on big PA live.

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As far as I understand ted cvt material, the use of modes is more related to how you should keep track of projection, placement and the margin of error. In the regard, it makes sense. Because live there IS a tendency to go louder so its wise to play safe with the placement.

Going loud is the worse you can do. These are measures that you should take so that, in the event of overdoing, you are still safe, but controlling the volume is still important.

In what I know, there is no such thing as voice not placed forward, so the measure is covering and keeping the volume under control. Its the same.

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To be in the cvt mode called edge you have to be loud. There is now way singing edge healthy without singing loud. If you're not loud you won't hit the center of the mode. But the twang and sharpness has to be there. The twang makes it loud (concentrates the sound). Forcing it may give you a mix between overdrive and edge and that's gonna hurt around c5.

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what about factoring voice types...for a singer like myself, i need to sing at a certain (hymm, what's the right word to explain this) intensity? sometimes just to generate and or sustain the note.

if you are really supporting well and are really warmed up you should be able to sing loud and strong for quite a while. but like anything else, you modulate..some songs need balls to the wall, others are mediumish.

example: most of the foreigner stuff is a workout, yet the queen songs are loud and powerful but don't take a lot out of me.

so we can say just because we sing loud and strong, doesn't always mean the song is vocally fatiguing.

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Jonpall- I also am doing a few three hour gigs a few times a week and have for years. Not every week, but most of them. I would advise you to get in ear monitors. Best thing I ever purchased as a singer. If you're singing that much at a loud volume it will take its toll on both your throat and your ears. If you're a young guy, you'll get away with it for awhile and your voice'll bounce back. The older you get the more difficult it is to bounce back (the longer it can take). If you're ears are getting fatigued, you won't hear yourself as well and you will push more and thus, blow out more. I would also use in ears during full band rehearsals. Also, the in ears will make it so you don't have to sing as loud and so the issue of "how loud do I sing?" kind of takes care of itself.

Volume to me depends what the songs dictate, but I'd say try to stay medium to low if you can. Let the mic do the work. Let your resonance do the work. Pacing yourself is also key. If you have 3 gigs in a row, don't over sing. That first night or second, you're feeling great and might go for extra high stuff and over sing a bit. Resist that temptation. Always keep your gig load in mind and pace yourself.

Proper warmup and warm down (though that doesn't seem to do a lot for me) is also key.

Singing loud all night, every night is not the way to go.

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It would be good to get a cvt expert here to comment on that, Felipe, because I'm not 100% sure. But I believe that some cvt people believe that mixed voice/curbing simply isn't powerful and loud enough for loud rock music - that it wouldn't cut through the mix and the energy level would be too weak for rock music (any type of rock music, really).

I've always kind of disagreed and it seems that I'm not the only one. As much as cvt has helped me, this is something that just doesn't make sense to me. I've tried singing in this manner (cvt's "overdrive") and if I use enough twang and support, I can do it for a while, but afterwards I feel like my throat is swollen. Overdrive means that you DON'T hold back the volume at ALL when you approach the passagio but basically "pull chest" - but by sticking to ONLY the "Eh" and "Oh" vowels, and use lots of support and twang, it's supposed to be completely healthy.

Well - like I said, to me it doesn't feel like it hurts my throat - UNTIL AFTER I've sang for a while. Maybe few songs and then I take a rest and feel like my throat is swollen. In this mode, you don't use a "cry" or "cord compression" to hold back the volume a bit - the cvt overdrive mode has the same sensation as if you were shouting at someone across the street - so you let it all out and sing without holding anything back, basically as loud as you can or very, very close to it. Pretty controversial but they swear by it and claim to have tested it, medically even.

Felipe, we're playing songs like "Here I go again" by Whitesnake and "White wedding" by Billy Idol, if that helps you understand where I'm coming from.

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Bob - in order to sing in "mixed voice" aka. "curbing" in the tenor range, you HAVE to be a bit louder than speaking level and sometimes quite a bit more than that. Think of the level 10 as the loudest possible volume as you could possibly get, even if you'd have to pull chest or do something that might be unhealthy to attain that volume.

But the interesting thing is that I've heard that if you sing in mixed voice, you will be at volume level 4-7, which means that you can sing at level "7" if you want to - and that's probably what feels right for you, Bob, for those Foreigner songs, to do them justice. And in the tenor range, that is fairly loud. Also, mixed voice gets very gradually louder as the pitch goes up, but nothing compared to how fast "overdrive" gets louder as the pitch goes up.

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Here's a thought Jonpall.. if you can sing high songs at a 5 or an 8 choose the 5. If you have 3-4 nights to do 3 hrs a night it only makes sense. That's what I do and it worked for me for the last 20 yrs. but I have some friends that chose to get real loud and ballzy every night and as time went on and they got "older" they lost a little. Because remember, the lower the volume the more CT you are using and if your CT gets weak you are up shits creek(ha ha ha ha) just a thought from personal experience.

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Bob - in order to sing in "mixed voice" aka. "curbing" in the tenor range, you HAVE to be a bit louder than speaking level and sometimes quite a bit more than that. Think of the level 10 as the loudest possible volume as you could possibly get, even if you'd have to pull chest or do something that might be unhealthy to attain that volume.

But the interesting thing is that I've heard that if you sing in mixed voice, you will be at volume level 4-7, which means that you can sing at level "7" if you want to - and that's probably what feels right for you, Bob, for those Foreigner songs, to do them justice. And in the tenor range, that is fairly loud. Also, mixed voice gets very gradually louder as the pitch goes up, but nothing compared to how fast "overdrive" gets louder as the pitch goes up.

jonpall, the last sentence (above) .....this really surprises me. i really don't "feel" (key word to explain myself) like i get any louder as the pitch goes up unless i punch into a certain word. i feel more like i intensify more up high with much the same volume.

interesting...maybe the type of songs i sing....

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Bob, that's probably because I'm guessing that you use overdrive with medium volume on your low notes (compared to overdrive) and curbing/mixed voice on your high notes with rather high volume (compared to curbing). The net effect will be that all your notes are about the same volume. But like some guys here are saying, it might be wise to cut down on the volume of your low notes so that your low notes aren't too "weighty" - which could make your high notes feel MORE weighty.

When you say that the intensity increases with pitch but not so much the volume - that really makes me more sure that you're using mixed voice/curbing, as that is a main characteristic of that vocal mode. You get the "thickness" from the "cry" or "cord compression", rather than "pushing" the sound by a way of simply making your vocal folds as thick as they can.

I also think that many people simply PREFER the sound of a great mixed voice over a "pushed sound", even though the pushed sound (overdrive) is accoustically louder. And I'm even saying this for rock songs. If your sound is "pushed", many people will hear it as "strained".

These are all just my opinions and thoughts. I don't claim to be correct with everything I say, just to make that clear.

Daniel - great points as always. This thread is very helpful, actually.

My point is kind of - if I can get AWAY with using a bit less than maxium volume - and if it sounds more than powerful enough for a live rock gig (like I was trying to do with my audio example above), then I'd much prefer to use volume level 4-7 than 8-10.

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I think CVT underestimates the potential of curbing. They put limits on it that aren't necessary. If you take the weight of curbing, use an eh or uh vowel (similar to overdrive vowels), add twang, add SOME chest musculature, with enough practice you can eventually strengthen curbing into something pretty loud that sort of splits the difference between curbing and overdrive. It's what Rob Lunte teaches, using different terminology.

That kind of thing sits at around level 7.

What do you mean by the weight of curbing on overdrive vowels? If you want to stay in curbing in the higher part of the voice you need to use the vowels I or O. Using anything else will either be overdrive, neutral or edge.

If you are talking about your headvoice now, like after you've bridged, then you are not in curbing. You cannot do curbing in your headvoice. Head voice as tvs defines it is the same as neutral. So what you are talking about is curbinglike neutral. If you twang it more it sounds like metal-like neutral (fake-edge).

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It would be good to get a cvt expert here to comment on that, Felipe, because I'm not 100% sure. But I believe that some cvt people believe that mixed voice/curbing simply isn't powerful and loud enough for loud rock music - that it wouldn't cut through the mix and the energy level would be too weak for rock music (any type of rock music, really).

I've always kind of disagreed and it seems that I'm not the only one. As much as cvt has helped me, this is something that just doesn't make sense to me. I've tried singing in this manner (cvt's "overdrive") and if I use enough twang and support, I can do it for a while, but afterwards I feel like my throat is swollen. Overdrive means that you DON'T hold back the volume at ALL when you approach the passagio but basically "pull chest" - but by sticking to ONLY the "Eh" and "Oh" vowels, and use lots of support and twang, it's supposed to be completely healthy.

Well - like I said, to me it doesn't feel like it hurts my throat - UNTIL AFTER I've sang for a while. Maybe few songs and then I take a rest and feel like my throat is swollen. In this mode, you don't use a "cry" or "cord compression" to hold back the volume a bit - the cvt overdrive mode has the same sensation as if you were shouting at someone across the street - so you let it all out and sing without holding anything back, basically as loud as you can or very, very close to it. Pretty controversial but they swear by it and claim to have tested it, medically even.

Felipe, we're playing songs like "Here I go again" by Whitesnake and "White wedding" by Billy Idol, if that helps you understand where I'm coming from.

Ok man, lets see if we are talking about the same here.

I placed the mic 3 meters away, low gain.

First, this sample is speaking and then stronger on the end:

https://www.box.com/s/eiybjb8efy6ibj4xexaa

There is speaking there, listen close...

Then, what I know as a "calling someone voice":

https://www.box.com/s/51pr830kh6t2ib10y1lq

This is how I would sing this live:

https://www.box.com/s/hnyfrpuminxlt1qalsqj

And this is what would be closer to "all out":

https://www.box.com/s/1r56yxpcz4nlkv9vgv6m

And this is how it would sound if I did in one of the ways where I could protect myself at this level of projection:

https://www.box.com/s/p5r1l3nnbd1gt7spn1ce

For this song, number 3 is the best approach, there are backing vocals and it will sound better against them, its easier, much more controlled and requires less support effort.

The number 4 sample is just a brute force approach, air in, pressure out, its not technique, its just going hard against the conditioning I have. There is another option, that is placing everything even more forward, but it will sound just as wrong as number 5.

No way this is healthier, I can feel my throat a little bruised just because of what I did on number 4.

Are you sure you are not following things meant for beginners and taking it as truth? For real, if you use that smile thing you asked about to make the sound brighter, it will sound much stronger and closer to what Coverdale did then these exagerated things. Louder is not better, specially because there will be a compressor there preventing you from smashing the audience with the sound pressure, which, if you could, would really have a great impact.

I think that you going all out is just as loud as the samples I recorded, or even more, isnt that right? Thats not how you call someone far away, not at all.

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Felipe, those links are links to your private section of box.net. You need to give us the public links so we can view them? What did you think of my audio file? Never mind that I was recording it with a mobile phone and the performance wasn't perfect - did it sound like it could work for a live setting?

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damn I gotta learn how to use this thing

there, now I think its fixed

Just listenned. Is it comfortable like that? Sounds quite nice, spreading a bit on the highs maybe, but surely no problem related to energy, quite sure of that. It may sound actually too harsh because of the more wide posture. If you manage to ballance it a bit more, supporting a bit more and allowing more covering, or curbing, or whatever you call it, it will be easier and sound even better even if you lower the volume.

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As far as I have kown, jonpall, you are the resident "expert" on CVT and have talked about it more consistently than most others. If someone asked me a question about it, I would refer them to you.

From what I do understand, which would fill a thimble halfway, I don't think curbing in CVT is a covered sound. In my humble opinion, intrinsic anchoring or even laryngeal dampening, especially without twang, is more like to result in a covered sound. And I am probably wrong about that.

Guess I had just had to throw my two cents in. Net worth: two cents.

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jonpall - I think Daniel and Felipe make some good points here. The other thing I would be concerned about is on stage monitoring. The quality of the power amp, the quality of the EQ - the ability to quickly EQ to the room, and last but not least - the quality of your personal vocal monitor (and placement of). If you can hear yourself very well even though the band may be loud, it can make a huge difference to any extra "push" you may feel you need to hear yourself over the band. This was something I always made sure was as close to perfect as it could be. If you can hear yourself you tend to not use extra energy and strain. How's your monitor situation?

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Jon,

post your current set. I can't be sure what I would add w/out seeing the actual set list. Of course as Dan said, if you can get away with a lower volume do it. But really I think it's deeper than that(at least it has been for me over the years.)

Right away I see White Wedding that has ton of bottom end...so the temptation is HUGE to really fill it out(if you have a solid low end because you will sound great doing it and your ego will override rationality.) If you start down that road, it is almost impossible(IMO) to bail out and lighten up enough to do an entire set of 80's metal/rock. You will finish Wedding sounding great...but then you go into Whitesnake tune that ALSO has a very perceived "heavy" sound(even if not as low)...so again...bam. Right off you could be in some trouble(especially if we're talking 3-4 nights in a row. So, I guess I'm saying(like others have) watch the low end...but depending on what songs you're doing...don't completely sell-out...

blah blah blah...post the set list.

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