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muffled sound, unclear words

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MDEW
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I have noticed in the critique section there are some singers whose tone gets lost or muffled. The only way that I can make this sound is by keeping everything focused around the Eh vowel. My main question is should I point this out to them? I don't have a good way to explain what I am hearing and I certainly do not have an idea of how to prevent it.

If you understand what I am saying and have a better way to put it into words, that in itself would help.

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Would I just say to them that the pitch sounds good but it sounds as if there is still tension?

Or would that just leave them to wonder where the tension is and make matters worse?

I fought with myself whether to point this out or not. I did not mention it this time because others gave advice that may help this also. But what I perceived was not mentioned.

I have heard this sound enough for it to stand out in my mind. It may be a product of cultural influence.

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mdew we are getting into a very personal line of thought here. To me the question is, does it sound good as a whole?

If you dont like it and its muffled:

"man didnt like it, sounding muffled, its hard to understand you"... And you can count that a number of other problems with plasticity will tag along: pitch, scoops, strainned production and so on. There is no need to dissect the whole thing down.

Now if you like it, its not such a big deal is it? Just direct the person to study if you think its the case and the teacher will surely notice the problem and fix it.

It serves no purpose to nitpick something you like. The most important information to the singer is if you are enjoying listenning to it or not, the rest is really secondary. If you are sure that the person will relate to the information, maybe you can drop a pointer.

When you dont like it, and you are sure of what you are listenning, dont try to be technical, just say what you hear and be done with it. If you cant precise, then just say that you dont like.

You know, its one hell of a good thing that you took your time to listen to the person, and its even more nice of you to write about your experience. So you did not like? It happens! Even technical perfection is not a guarantee of people liking what you are doing.

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Thanks for the replies. I wasn't sure whether it would be concidered a technical problem or my sound ideal.

This time the person was questioning his sound and he does have a teacher so I thought better to keep this opinion to myself. :)

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mdew we are getting into a very personal line of thought here. To me the question is, does it sound good as a whole?

That was perfect. Just give your impression. If there was a technical fault and the only way you can describe it was pitchy, soft, brassy, muted, whatever, do that.

Of course, someone will come back and say what do you mean?

At least here, they are likely to get more comment than the public at large, who will either like the performance, or not. And not care to explain either reaction.

If someone sounds muffled, say that. To me, that would indicate a problem with diction or articulation. Or a recording problem.

Another question I had about reviewing. It's possible for someone to sing something technically perfect and it just doesn't move you. You know the singing was good and the singer probably worked on it a while. It just doesn't move you. Should we comment? Or not? Is the review section only for technical problems like pitchiness or volume or timbre? Or is also for overall presentation, stuff like that, from a personal aesthetic point of view? And would our review be accurate?

I might see that someone did a song well, even better than the original. But it just doesn't do anything for me. I may think they should do different songs. And they could actually record that version they did for release and sell a bunch of records, proving me wrong. Is it still valid for me to say, good job but it does not thing for me?

Who knows? We just run it up the flag pole and see who salutes, I guess.

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Being someone who posts to the critique section and wishes for honest feedback, If someone did detect a problem area, I would want to know. Maybe not just that it did not do something for you emotionally, but why.

I can listen to myself objectionaly. I know that my pitch is not perfect and I have other problems. I do not have enough knowlege to pinpoint the area myself. I have already felt that my voice is dull, lifeless at times. I know it is not a pitch problem. It is a tone problem. I would not want to be told your voice is dull and lifeless then be left with that. I would want "it sounds to me as if the tone is stuck in your throat. Try to bring your tone forward." and perhaps be given some kind of direction.

One of my favorite songs is HOOTIE and THE BLOWFISH "Let Her Cry". But if Hootie would have submitted that song here I would have had to say to him " Man, that was powerfully emotional song. It chilled me to the bones. But I wish you could be a little clearer on your words. You sounded more than a little muffled."

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I agree with MDEW, too. Some of the most enigmatic performers would receive harsh critcisms and the advice to get a coach if they had posted even some of their hit songs in here.

But I think the initial question of this thread is valid. You have a perception, whether you have the technical language to describe it. It's okay to write it as you would say it. For it means that something is garbled, that the singer needs to work on articulation or pronunciation.

For me, articulation is lip movements and consonants. Pronunciation is vowels.

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I have noticed in the critique section there are some singers whose tone gets lost or muffled. The only way that I can make this sound is by keeping everything focused around the Eh vowel. My main question is should I point this out to them? I don't have a good way to explain what I am hearing and I certainly do not have an idea of how to prevent it.

If you understand what I am saying and have a better way to put it into words, that in itself would help.

MDEW: From my perspective, there are really two sets of interrelated ideas here. 1 is about the etiquette or expectations of how to proceed with suggestions, and 2 is about the language to use in describing sound experiences (yours) and technique recommendations to them, based on your analysis or impressions of what you hear.

As a coach and teacher, my personal approach is to answer this question: What do I say that will make the biggest benefit that can be achieved in the singer's situation. This always begins (for me) with thanking them for the performance, and an affirmation of what I saw or heard that was admirable or well-done... that I want the individual to continue doing, or even to enhance in the future. Then, I go on to the item that can be improved most readily for benefit.

In the case of a performance that comes across as 'tone gets lost or muffled', there can only be 2 things that lead to that impression; problems with resonance or articulation of consonants. Of those, articulation is the easiest to address, and gets the quickest win.

So, in the advice, I would say something like 'What I notice first of all is that the meaning of the song would come across better with additional emphasis on the consonants. Another way of putting this would be 'I could not get all the words clearly, so more energy is needed'. Pick a word in the first line that is particularly important for the sense of the meaning, and focus some repetitions on that until its clear in isolation, and then put the word back into the context of the line.

With more time, that approach (isolate, conquer, incorporate), applied systematically to the text of the song, will improve the intelligibility of the whole thing.

Now, if the issue is resonance, 'muffled' tone is either about lack of twang, or indistinct, undifferentiated vowels. Of these two, the easiest to address immediately is the pronunciation of particular vowels in key phrase words. For many beginning singers, the issue is insufficient jaw drop. Just listening (and not watching) the singer who has only the /i/ (ee) vowel clear, with all others muffled, is in this situation. This is quite common when a person sings with the same pronunciation approach they use in speaking. When I hear it (or, better yet, see it) the recommendation is simply to practice the vowels in the key lyric word(s) of each phrase, and then work systematically out to all of them, and then re-incorporate into the entire song.

I hope this is helpful.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Someone posted this video to help someone who is singing way to soft and breathy. How the girl is singing at the beginning is exactly what led me to start this post in the first place. I believe that Bret set this up so that he can demonstrate his method but this is how the person was singing.

I hear this alot in the review area. Almost all of the vowels are shaded to EH there is no pure O's or E's or A's.

Is this a matter of culture ( local Fad )or just a misunderstanding of technique? And should I mention it?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=vNh5YKyf6f8

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Both. There's a bit of cultural preference in american pop music to pronounce, for instance, "somebody" as "somebodeh"...stuff like that. And then it's also just good vowel modification if the singer is looking for a consistent belty sound

Pure oo, ee, and ah are really freakin hard vowels to pronounce exactly during powerful singing. They tend to be modified to something more eh, uh, or oh ish on money notes.

I can understand for the higher pithes to modify. I also understand that in this instance Brett has the singer stress the mispronunciation on purpose. But do you really want to do this on lower pitches. Even if you are going for a powerful sound on lower pitches you should still be able to sing with good diction.

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I haven't found the original post that got me started on this. After looking through the critique section and reviewing some of the singers that use a similer tone I believe they are singing a song that is usually loud and powerful but because they are recording they are holding back. So they are using a shouty belting shape vowel with to low of volume.

Thank you for trying to help. I think I know what to say to individuals if I hear this again.

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