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The Process

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I'm going to put myself out on a limb here for the sake of learning. What you will learn, if anything, is up to you. Maybe nothing as this isn't really an educational post. Rather it is just a glimpse into my process for learning a song before singing it live. Maybe some of the real beginners or those that are unsure of their voices or singing can see from this that it is always a process and it isn't easy. For me it doesn't start out good and even when I get to recordable acceptability it may still not really be "good." Only better than the starting point. Many times I end up scrapping a song completely if I get to a point where I just figure the song isn't for me.

I am posting a song here that I have just begun to work on. I may refine it to performance ready or I may eventually decide it's too difficult. Who knows. It is something I am hoping to have ready by February (second week). We'll see. The song may sound easy to some but there are a few, what I call, acrobatics, in there that I want to get right. It is by my man "Ray Charles" and it has it's share of ups and downs and vocal agility. He seems to sing this very nasal and I can see why after attempting it. I need to get the voice more up and forward for this.

This is a little embarrassing because this is me naked, so to speak. This is the start of my process and at this point it sucks really bad. But I am going to let you hear it so for those just starting you can see the building process even later as you start to progress n your training. Not that I am a pro :D But I'm just saying that I think it always takes work. In February or whenever I get this song down (if I do) I will post the final version. But for now this is day one. I did three attempts at this and believe it or not this was the best one. That tells you how bad the others were!! :o

Three times doesn't seem like a lot of practice but this song is hard on my voice and I started to get a bit sore. I had also recording something else earlier so it wasn't the only song I sang. So I called it quits. You have to know when to stop. You get to a point, imo, where you start to get diminishing returns. You get tired and your technique starts to fail and now you are practicing and committing to muscle memory, the wrong information.

Picture this like a hunk of clay that I just began shaping. Right now it resembles a hunk of turd. Hopefully can form it into something nice. This is how it usually goes for my songs. This isn't any worse than some f my other songs started.

In this clip I am finding my way around the song and notes. I am also trying to get a feel for the song as well as where I want to shade or modify. I am also working out where some rasp may be in order. I am also thinking about the falsetto and blending it smoothly with he rest of the phrase. Mostly I am trying to get the pitch especially at the start of the song which is terribly off at this point. Then there is a part where I want the right emotion but it becomes too loud so I have to figure out how to tame that and still get the note formed how I want it. Basically I am mapping.

But you can hear how sloppy, off pitch, wobbly and unfinished this is. But this is the process. (for me) Now the work begins. Ahhhh... and to find the time also!!!

So here I am baring my soul for all to see. No makeup!! Hopefully I can shape this into something. If it can go from crap to good. This is how most of them start out, so it isn't anything unusual. A bit of spit and polish and we're ok ;)

http://www.soundclick.com/player/single_player.cfm?songid=12010309&q=hi

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It pisses me off that your "bad" version, is so good. This is the first time I've really listened to your stuff, and I'm really amazed at how great this song was. I can see what you mean a little bit {with my amazingly fine-tuned ears} because a couple of areas the notes seemed a little unsure. It really does seem like square 1, which is what you were going for. But if this is you on point a of this song, the final version is going to be really good. I don't really have any real techniques, or ways to improve certain areas, but I feel like you do and this was mostly a test. Also seeing as of how this is the first thing I've really heard from you, I'm amazed at how much like your picture you sound. I can picture a skeleton {I think that's what it is} with a guitar, singing this song. I mean that in a complementary way because this was very good.

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Actually, I think you are doing the right thing for learning a song. Recording it so that you can review later and say, 'yeah, I missed the time there, started flat at the beginng ..." and whatever else.

As for bringing your sound more forward, even more nasal, like Ray Charles, that would be an artistic decision.

Anyway, thanks for sharing.

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Actually, I think you are doing the right thing for learning a song. Recording it so that you can review later and say, 'yeah, I missed the time there, started flat at the beginng ..." and whatever else.

Well it also helps because many times I hear myself different than what really might be going on vocally. Certain sounds need reshaping and I only hear that on playback. Phrasing also. A big thing is interpretation. I have a couple of ways I do this. One is by just familiarizing myself with a song then recording while reading the words (not knowing the song well purposely) so that the song is mostly my version only because I am not so familiar with the original. I get a feel for the song then just go by memory.

The other way is the way I am working this. I'm tying to make this my next big live song. So I am studying it for exactness before deciding which parts of Ray Charles I am going to cut and replace with Tommy. If I can do it as close as possible to him then I gain more control over the song. Like I did with Georgia On My Mind. I own it.

As for bringing your sound more forward, even more nasal, like Ray Charles, that would be an artistic decision.

I guess. But I noticed he is doing it on the original and after singing it a couple of times somehow I can feel how that might work to get the feel right on the notes as he is hitting them. Once I settle on how "I" might want to do the song that may change.

Thanks for the comments :)

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A big thing is interpretation. I have a couple of ways I do this. One is by just familiarizing myself with a song then recording while reading the words (not knowing the song well purposely) so that the song is mostly my version only because I am not so familiar with the original. I get a feel for the song then just go by memory.

I did that once. According to some, it was an epic failure on my part. I was even told that I should not sing the song unless I could sing it like the original singer (a baritone who was admittedly singing out of his range and with bad technique.) And no, I'm not talking about my recent posting, either. Then, again, it wasn't a big, important song for me. I did it at the suggestion of a friend.

I still believe in doing whatever song I want to sing in whatever way I want to sing it. And, in hind sight, I would do that albatross of a song again, given the same circumstances.

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Ha!! You know how I feel about doing it like the original! Man that has been done already. You want original then go buy the CD!! Meanwhile if you watch a singing comp or something similar they hammer the contestants for not doing their own thing. When you copy the original they say it sounds "karaoke." Even though I sing karaoke one thing I work on when singing live is to sound not karaoke. Well as much as possible when locked into a karaoke track and not your own musically moldable band :)

Artistry man! Screw the original what can you do with that song? (without changing the original melody too much of course).

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Thanks and a happy to you too. Really? High notes? I didn't think so. You may be surprised at what I can actually hit, I just choose not to. ;) But in that song? I didn't think so.

Anyway, thanks. And once I get it ironed out and "right." It will be in my list for sure. I want it to be my next show stopper! :D

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Ahh yea. Those :) A bit of falsetto. Hmmm...maybe falsetto mixed with headvoice? Not sure...doesn't matter. it's for effect. :D I do those sometimes, depends on the song. I only have one or two songs recorded where I may have had a chance to do something similar. I think one was have You Ever loved a Woman (which i plan to re-do at some point) and the other was With a Little Help From My Friends which I have since deleted. Other than that the closest I come to that might be at the end of my recently posted remake/collaboration of 'Wish You Were Here" somewhere down the page.

You're right, not really like those two you just heard.

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Knowing how you record, Tommy, I don't think the high notes were falsetto. They were a little too strong for that. I think it was a light headvoice that you are not used to feeling.

I don't usually concern myself with the labels and terms. Only the effect or product. So yea...I really don't know. All I know is that at that moment it felt like it needed that. Also Ray does that (or something like it) at those points. I copied best I could. Whatever it was :)

Good call, Padre du Chanteur.

Say what? :D

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  • 3 weeks later...

The Process Part II

Ok, so here is where I'm at. It's been about 3 weeks and I have sung this song quite a few times now....yea...lots :)

I am now getting a better feel for it and the lyrics are more comfortable as well. It isn't where I want it yet and there are a couple of spots I need to iron out but little by little it's taking shape. I'm working on a couple of other songs at the moment so it's a little tight time wise but I think I am moving ahead with this one slow but sure. As I said, this isn't unusual for me and over time I just keep polishing and reshaping my songs.

Here we go. Round two!

http://www.soundclick.com/player/single_player.cfm?songid=12042426&q=hi&newref=1

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The first take sounded great. I did not hear anything that I would comment on other tham I liked it and I believed the singer. That does not mean that there was no shakey areas. You already knew where they were.And they were not that bad only shakey like one would expect. I do not need to comment on those.

The second Take sounded as if you were more comfortable with the song and therefore sounded more natural.

:)

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:36 -ish "since you been gone" : "you" was a little flat.

excellent on "so the rain must fall" later on.

Other than that .....

wait for it ......

good job.

:D

I agree. You have such a distinct voice(that fits perfectly with the genre) it "unsettles" me when you lose pitch on the top notes. This is 100000000% technique/tension/constriction related(so not an artistic "shot" at you by any means.) You need 2-3 notes above your max and you will own this shit.

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Thanks guys.

:36 -ish "since you been gone" : "you" was a little flat.

excellent on "so the rain must fall" later on.

You see now, I don't hear that on "since you've been gone." And I listened back a few times. Odd because I want to fix it if it's off, but I don't hear it so now I'm stuck!

But I do hear it (and did even before I posted it....but it is a work in progress after all, hence the thread title) right at the first line on the work "Brings. " The line "it brings a tear." That is off.

And also the line you like "ohh some rain" I thought that was pitchy also. Flat on ohh and some.

So this is very curious.

There were a few other spots but I'm working on ironing it all out as I've said. I think it's better than the first one I posted and hopefully it will get even better.

Thanks again :)

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I think the newest take was better, too, I just can't put a finger on it except to say that you were more relaxed and you have brought the song more into your voice and I think that is the key. Even to pitchiness, whether I perceive it or you perceive it.

And, to me, the easiest solution is to change the vowel in a very, very subtle manner. No big changes. Just a slight tweak, I think. You don't have to start from scratch. Just a surgical strike, here and there.

As a whole, the whole performance was great and live, the slight pitchiness would probably be forgotten. Recording is forever. And since a number of people have expressed the desire to have more pointed and precise reviews and that we can only improve if someone points out what is wrong, I am trying to do that. Granted, maybe my hearing is off. But, since it is all perception, then, there you go.

It has been suggested, in so many words, that equipment and mixing strategies do not matter, that the weather, such as room humidity does not matter. That something wrong is a matter of wrong or failing technique. In that case, if I heard a flat note, I cannot attribute it to mic proximity, recording strategy, editing strategy. I must, per the definition, assume it was actually a flat note.

And before the recent discussions, I might have said "good job" and then my failure woud be pointed out to me that I have done a disservice by simply saying good job rather than pointing out what I heard or thought I heard.

So, was the whole recording ruined by what I thought was the flat note at :36? I don't think so. Yet, now it is becoming a focal point. So, do we want generalities or surgical precision? It may not matter, as long as it is me who is wrong. I can play that game, too.

:)

Tell me what it is that you and others expect and I will try to meet that expectation, if I can.

To quote Toby Keith, "How do you like me now?"

:D

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No problem Ron, there was nothing at all wrong with your critique. Actually I am grateful if you hear something which then allows me to correct it. And as I said in my post I too hear pitchy spots. Bot oddly enough they were on different spots than you pointed out. I am only troubled because I want to fix the bad spots but I have to hear it first in order to have a direction to go in. I'm not hearing it on that particular spot. Other areas yes, So that kind of concerns me. Nothing to do with your critique. Just my ears :D

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No problem Ron, there was nothing at all wrong with your critique. Actually I am grateful if you hear something which then allows me to correct it. And as I said in my post I too hear pitchy spots. Bot oddly enough they were on different spots than you pointed out. I am only troubled because I want to fix the bad spots but I have to hear it first in order to have a direction to go in. I'm not hearing it on that particular spot. Other areas yes, So that kind of concerns me. Nothing to do with your critique. Just my ears :D

I also find, and this is something I am trying to improve on, is to record something and then sit on it. Give it a few hours or a day. Then listen, with a fresh set of ears. And that takes time, when it is tempting to record something and then u/l it quickly.

In the case of this thread, that's okay. Like you said, it is a process and we get to take part in it. And thank you for letting us inside your voice.

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Tommy, I know you know this already but don't over analyze things. Sing the song over and over. You know what you want. Your technique is better than it was before. The things I heard in the first take were different than in the second. No point in pointing out things that are just a matter of that particular point in time. A wobble of hesitation, A distortion or grittiness that may have been on purpose. Those things take care of themselves the more comfortable you are with the song.

I am not a teacher and I may be full of BS but that is my truthful opinion.

If you think you will have problems in a certain area you will have problems in that area.

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If you think you will have problems in a certain area you will have problems in that area.

And there is truth in that. And I get red light syndrome. When I am recording and make a mistake and then try again, some times, I lock up, knowing that the "problem" is coming up, again. So, I get another problem in another spot because I am stressing about the first one.

So, I have to walk away and wash the dishes or feed the dog or go to the store. Start again, later, with a fresh outlook.

It's not that I brag or think we should all be one-take singers. But like Felipe said, if you iron out the performance before hand, recording is secondary. I have never had success fixing a problem in recording. I have to change how I approach the song before clicking on "record."

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