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It Ain't Necessarily So

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Eugene Steficek
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Just finished a cruise contract singing in a band for 6 months 6 nights out of the week. I'm still recovering... I WILL NEVER EVER DO THAT AGAIN lol but here's a clip of me singing when my voice was healthier a few months prior to the cruise, what do ya think? It's from the opera Porgy and Bess.

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You've got a good voice. I like improvization and dig singers who are 'on the spot' jazzing things up. That you'll go there in the first place is cool, it takes bravery to just 'go there' without guide rails.

 

If those notes are pretty comfortable for you to hit regularly on a reasonable schedule (6 days a week on a cruise is pretty intense, I don't know if it's a fair judge of how strenuous), your technique is already good enough, imo. I get a little Jackie Wilson vibe to the inflection a little Stevie Wonder ish stuff. There's just a little more 'uh' vowel from time to time, which gives you a kind of deeper/heavier curbing/mix/cry/whatever (don't care about the term) kind of timbre. 

 

I'd love to hear you take a shot at a song like this:

 

 

As for vocal masturbation, heh, I can give my 2 cents both as a singer and instrumentalilst. A lot of times when I'm improvizing on an instrument, my first instinct has always been to 'change notes' frequently? This note, that note, up/down, giant leaps, big constant changes. It's like every single time I go into a guitar shop, there is always some guy that hits every single note on the fretboard, but a lot of times it doesn't gel as very musical. I've done that, and some finger exercise are literally that.

 

Something that helped  (and still helps me to be honest) is to pick say 4 or 5 notes, and milk those notes for everything they've got. Not just the notes, but the space 'in between' the notes. Even 3 notes with varied phrasing can have huge possibilities when you repeat them, hold them out for varying lengths, move back and forth, and fill and create 'space' in various ways. I found once I committed myself to 'less is more' I could provide more 'movement' in the melody lines. 

 

Anyway, I'm not a rules kind of guy. If someone makes a rule, I'll find some way to break it, so i'm not saying this is the right way. But to my ears, I think you could fit most of the vocal range you displayed in this piece without being too excessive. It's a really jazzy piece, but maybe milking smaller intervals (2nds, 3rds, 4ths, 5ths) more frequently to 'ground' the sections and making dramatic leaps a bit more sparsely. 

 

If it feels authentic to you, I'd say go for it, but if it does feel a bit wankish, that's been how I've tried to tone my own down, on all of my instruments, including voice. It may or may not help you.

 

Cool voice, cool clip. I admire you being out there and going for it.

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Thank you for the feedback. I made this video a few months before the cruise contract. Thanks for the 3 to 4 note idea it'd be nice to sit down and figure that out because I have a tendency for jumping octaves and singing at the extreme high end of my voice (thanks Steve Perry) I hated the cruise gig because it's not a gig for singers if you take singing seriously. 6 nights a week all songs in original key (stevie wonder, journey, al green, Michael Jackson etc) my voice became tired and my upper passagio became hit or miss so I would sing higher. For instance if the song had a lot of A4' I'd take the melody up a third and sing high C#s and D's just to stay out of my tired area. I think the higher/lighter your placement the better. But either way technique can only do so much after you've been working out the voice every single nnight.the job was like taking a Cadillac(your voice) and treating it like a jeep wrangler

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I understand the part about showing off. Singing a long note, just to show that I could. Noodling and shredding in a guitar fill, just too scratch my EVH itch. It happens, just means you are human.
 
Something about endurance. One of the books that stays on my Kindle app is the "New Voice Pedagogy." In addition to all the dysphonias, lack of technique, etc., there is also mention of simple, pure exhaustion, even in a well-trained voice. There is a problem with singing too much for too long.
 
It has been suggested at times that singing is an athletic endeavor. In which case, we should look at like athletes, for real, not just rhetorically.
 
On a football team, a coach can find himself out of a job if he insists on playing the A players throughout the entire game. Even in the pro's, the starters are given some rest at times. Time for water, walk off a charley horse. It's not just a matter of giving second string players a chance to develope. It is because you have to conserve the assets that are your first string.
 
Otherwise, your star players could get hurt and be out for half a season to the rest of the season and there goes your division championship, or at least standing in the play-offs, somewhere.
 
Switching metaphors. A racing team does not run the car full out. There is a science and art to shifting gears, when to use brakes. Timing and pacing of the fuel and tire stops so that the car completes the entire race. A driver who thinks it's just "mash the gas and turn left" will be unemployed. Or dead in turn number four.
 
In the book of interviews with all the big named singers in heavy rock and metal, 3 things are consistent, regardless of who is speaking. Hydration and rest are the first two. This is advice from guys who have been pros (as in getting paid for it) for 30 to 50 years.
 
The guys that did have to sing for 4 to 6 hours did so when they were really young and the voice bounced back. They don't do it in their 50's. And rest is not just the sleep at night but resting points during the set. In Kansas, while Steve often did the lead vocals, it was Robby that spoke with the audience and did all that interacting.
 
In addition, in rock music, for example, there are often instrumental interludes that offer a break.
 
As opposed to the theater musical like pacing on a cruise ship show. That cruise ship is a hard way to make money. If I am correct, you get a per diem or salary, right? That is, it is not like a tour where you get paid per show.
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On the cruise I had to sing "here I go again" by whitesnake and "pride" for 80s night, if my placement wanted to work it'd be fine but sometimes it wwouldn't be spot on placement - wise and it would bug me. Especially singing "in the Naaaaaaame of love, whaaaat more in the name of love" all on a high b. That was always a fear of cracking on the b, so instead I'd sing a high e flat to hook in before the high b" I guess all I'm trying to say is that it was very vocally fatiguing and it forced me to reevaluate my technique all the time, and that I CAN'T sing any and every genre of music

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On the cruise I had to sing "here I go again" by whitesnake and "pride" for 80s night, if my placement wanted to work it'd be fine but sometimes it wwouldn't be spot on placement - wise and it would bug me. Especially singing "in the Naaaaaaame of love, whaaaat more in the name of love" all on a high b. That was always a fear of cracking on the b, so instead I'd sing a high e flat to hook in before the high b" I guess all I'm trying to say is that it was very vocally fatiguing and it forced me to reevaluate my technique all the time, and that I CAN'T sing any and every genre of music

 

Journey, Stevie Wonder, Whitesnake, Michael Jackson? 6 days a week, all the time locked on a boat? "We don't change keys, cause it's too hard." Professionals change keys all the time, to suit a singer's voice aesthetically but likely for health reasons as well. It sounds like you had 3rd rate musicians.

 

I think Ronws is right. You've got a pro voice, but that ain't a pro job. I've read about Adam Lambert's vocal coach saying they usually restrict his 'intense' songs to maybe 3 a night. To paraphrase: 'his voice can do amazing things, but it's like a sport, he has to rest as it isn't limitless.'

 

Maybe there are more tricks you can take to preserve it during demanding repetoire. I've heard repeated recommendations of using a lighter, twangier head voice over belting, say over a softer passage, which could rest some of the heavier coordinations. Don't give up on preserving as well as you can, but everything I've ever encountered from people doing extensive touring is pretty much all the same. A lot of people barely even speak the day before a performance to give it as much rest as possible. No matter how good you are, it is finite.

 

I've never been in a situation as demanding as the one you're describing. I hope I never am.Get your rest, and figure things out from there. Might be good seeing a professional to help you recover at some point.

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On the cruise I had to sing "here I go again" by whitesnake and "pride" for 80s night, if my placement wanted to work it'd be fine but sometimes it wwouldn't be spot on placement - wise and it would bug me. Especially singing "in the Naaaaaaame of love, whaaaat more in the name of love" all on a high b. That was always a fear of cracking on the b, so instead I'd sing a high e flat to hook in before the high b" I guess all I'm trying to say is that it was very vocally fatiguing and it forced me to reevaluate my technique all the time, and that I CAN'T sing any and every genre of music

 

Great voice Eugene.  Interesting to hear your experiences in that environment.  Seems like that could be pretty taxing.  

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