Self-producing and finding a good vocal delivery
brockf
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#1
16th May 2007
Old 16th May 2007
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Self-producing and finding a good vocal delivery

Okay, so I am just a 19-year-old singer songwriter and I am finally recording my first album after a couple of internet EP's. I have come to a problem though and that is with the vocal delivery style that I use. I can sing in quite a few different styles and have a good voice (but not my own unique voice yet) but that's creating a problem because I keep second guessing my type of delivery (soft, drawl, pop, country, elliott smith-ish, raspy, etc.). Has anyone else experienced this problem? Any way to beat it and a) find the best delivery and b) get this out of my head? Thanks.
pan
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16th May 2007
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Quote:
I can sing in quite a few different styles and have a good voice (but not my own unique voice yet)
If YOU are not able to tell, that is definitely a job for a producer you trust.

For real:
You might HATE characteristics of your own voice that are unique and _your own voice_ . You need someone else to coach you to bring out the best performance - a performance that fits to you...

Did you consider lessons? A good vocal coach can work wonders to find _your_ voice.

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16th May 2007
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Best thing to do is to get married and then have your wife come in while you are listening to your playback. If she gives you that weird look and says "that isn't serious is it?" then you know it's time to switch up.

On a more serious note I do know what you mean. I often second guess my approach to a vocal part. I guess you have to go with your gut and what feels comfortable. Also go with your first instinct if all else fails because that is the way you originally felt it.
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16th May 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pan View Post

Did you consider lessons? A good vocal coach can work wonders to find _your_ voice.

Funny you mentioned that. As I was typing my first reply I though about my latest vocal efforts and how I was at the mercy of my limitations. I am hearing things that I just can't do vocally.
At 42 years of age I wonder if vocal lessons are even realistic. I have been singing for 25 years and it could be hard to undo all of those bad habits.
pan
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Quote:
the way you originally felt it.
Don't try to feel - feel it

Don't exaggerate and pose something you aren't.
pan
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16th May 2007
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Originally Posted by edwonbass View Post
At 42 years of age I wonder if vocal lessons are even realistic. I have been singing for 25 years and it could be hard to undo all of those bad habits.
I've been considering lessons for a long time - It's about time to start NOW

There's this special method that approaches via the speaking voice...I'll google it
pan
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16th May 2007
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Seriously, find a good vocal coach and treat yourself to a couple of lessons.
Nothing improves your singing as much as a top vocal coach, who can tell you how you sound, how you could sound and how to get there.

More importantly, he/she can teach you how to keep that voice of yours in shape, so you don't lose it in a couple of years because of bad technique.

Cheers!
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Get some voice coaching for sure, and those warm ups will be your best friend for life. Self producing is VERY difficult - if you have lots of time, try a couple of flavors and then DO NOT LISTEN for a couple of weeks and come back to it and see what works. It can take many years to actually find your voice... At some point it will maybe (hopefully) just be a case of if it's in time and on key, it's good. In other words, get it in the first couple of takes. Until then, if you are serious, you need a producer.
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By the way, there is nothing more irritating to me personally than a fake drawl... Except maybe a fake English accent... What you probably like about a drawl is that the vowels are accentuated. That's a good thing... But you don't have to pretend you are Gomer Pyle in order to achieve the open vowels. Voice Coach. Bella Canto. Etc.
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I remember feeling exactly the same way long, long ago. And the only cure was experience. Specifically, the experience of singing a lot in front of audiences. There's something about the predicament of live performance that gets you over those humps a lot faster than singing in your studio. I know that doesn't help you now--but it's something to keep in mind.

I guess the only advice I could give, based on what I've learned from that process, is: don't worry too much about it. ANYTHING that comes out of you is authentically you. Worrying about what's really "your style" is just getting in your own way.

Try thinking in concrete musical terms, rather than expressive or stylistic terms. I.e., instead of thinking about what's the right way for you to approach it, think about how the end result should sound. Imagine for a moment that the song is on the radio. How does the vocal sound? Do that.

All easier said than done, of course....good luck!
brockf
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16th May 2007
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Wow thanks for all of the replies so far.

I have been in vocal lessons for a few years now and both of my coaches have really liked my voice but the only problem is that I sing differently in lessons than I really want to sound on my songs. Like, I sing in a pop "wow that sounds nice" vocal sound in lessons when I want more of a folk "that sounds real" vocal on records. So, I have created this problem for myself by not being honest to myself with my voice.

I sing most naturally when holding a guitar and just performing acoustically so I am going to try to imagine doing that and just work with what comes out of me as if I was any other studio client.
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I didn't find my own 'voice' until I started recording myself singing very very quite this was just away that stopped me thinking aout how I was singing (I couldn't impart any fake character on my voice at that level) then is was just a matter of getting that natural voice up to a reasonable level! It is hard but the only real way is not to think about the singing at all, not even to try and sing in tune to start with.
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I find that singing while playing an instrument can help you be less conscious of your voice and allow it to come out in a more natural way.

Also, finding the right mic for your voice, and learning how to "play" the microphone when monitoring through the cans can help alot.

Beer doesn't hurt either (but you'll have to wait a couple years for that, right?)
brockf
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16th May 2007
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Originally Posted by Joe Porto View Post
I find that singing while playing an instrument can help you be less conscious of your voice and allow it to come out in a more natural way.

Also, finding the right mic for your voice, and learning how to "play" the microphone when monitoring through the cans can help alot.

Beer doesn't hurt either (but you'll have to wait a couple years for that, right?)
Actually, I'm in Canada so I can (legally) start drinking now

I just found out that instrument holding works a bit down in the studio right now. I'm basically just trying to stay natural and re-arranging a couple songs to a style that fits my voice has made a world of difference already.
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16th May 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundbarnfool View Post
By the way, there is nothing more irritating to me personally than a fake drawl... Except maybe a fake English accent... What you probably like about a drawl is that the vowels are accentuated. That's a good thing... But you don't have to pretend you are Gomer Pyle in order to achieve the open vowels. Voice Coach. Bella Canto. Etc.
Fake drawl, fake brit accent...

Heh... you can find both in my work... sometimes in the same song.


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17th May 2007
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I do like the Bonzo Dog Band though....
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17th May 2007
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try this

You've already done the vocal coach thing - so try this [worked for me]: record yourself singing the same song in each of your difference voices - then leave alone for about 6 weeks - then listen with a fresh mind. You will see immediately which are the 'fake' deliveries - helps narrow down to the 'real you'.. fuuck

JB
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17th May 2007
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first thing is try not to sound like anyone else. Dont imitate other singers,
don't sing in different styles unless you're trying to be a jingle singer or work in a cover band, be what you are, and what you are is what your songs are about. vocal coaches are not producers, as a matter of fact mainly they're evil and should be destroyed. What you need from a coach is mechanics, the second you're getting style it's just wrong. what you need is a producer to help you find your way. You aren't even remotely ready to produce yourself. But if you must, the main thing is this, are you getting an emotional performance? If someone didn't understand english would they know what you're feeling or what you're trying to convey from the sound of your voice? If not you don't have a performance.
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When I produce my own vocals, I try to determine which style of delivery fits the song and sounds best in the track. When you listen back, "it'll let you know".

After that, go for nailing down the timing, pitch, and inflections.

Good luck!
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17th May 2007
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In my first lesson my vocal coach said right off the top: "Whoever you want to sound like... you don't and you never will. Just sing like you."


My singing got dramtically better when I embrassed this idea. Best advice I've ever gotten fo vocals.
#22
18th May 2007
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Do what comes naturally

As a singer songwriter who records himself, I can totally relate to your problem, but somehow, some way, YOU MUST FIND YOUR OWN UNIQUE VOICE. IT NEEDS TO BE WHAT COMES MOST NATURALLY TO YOU, WHAT YOU ARE AT THE CORE OF YOUR SOUL. If you are pitching your music to an experienced Industry person (who is not an idiot) they can tell RIGHT AWAY IF YOU ARE FAKING IT OR NOT. The BIGGEST MISTAKE most singer songwriters make vocally is to think they need to sound like someone else who is popular because that's what sells, right? That's a HUGE mistake and will only make your stuff sound like the millions of other people they pass on, ignore, and forget. Decent singers are a dime a dozen, someone who can actually COMMUNICATE some emotion through singing and make you stand up and notice them, that's the hard part. Is Tom Waits a great singer? No, not by a longshot, but he is unique and you know its him when you hear it and he reaches people. There is nothing wrong with getting some voice lessons but, to be honest with you, with pop/rock music, most industry people hate "trained" singers because too much training can suck the humanity out of your voice. What works for broadway type theater for example, or opera, does NOT work for a singer songwriter.

Don't ever try and be something your not. To my ears, for example, one of the most annoying things in the world is white people trying to sound black. Unless you in musical theater, NEVER TAKE ON AN ACCENT THAT IS NOT YOURS. Anything that moves you away from who you really are at your core will not help you. LEARN TO RELAX AND LET THE REAL YOU COME OUT.

Do you perform your stuff live? If not, you need to do that ASAP. Start with open mics, anything to get yourself and your music in front of real people. If you do that enough you can get a feel for what "connects" with the audience. We are all unique and your best bet is to embrace it.

J. Mike Perkins
jmikeperkins.com myspace.com/jmikeperkins
#23
18th May 2007
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1: understand (as best you can) that at the age of 19, your job isn't so much to find your true voice, it's to experiment with every voice you can find and determine what *isn't* your true voice. identifying the false is the first phase in discovering the truth; but the truth will come later, starting with your first real experience with grief as an adult.

2: get a producer, or an outside perspective with impeccable ears. hell, send me a clip and i'll tell you what's what.

3: i'm a big advocate of singing when stratospherically high, on herb or whatever. psychoactives have a way of escorting you well outside your rigid concepts of self in a way that is effortless, if not involuntary. there are other paths as well, meditation being one of my favorites, but it's hard to sing and record yourself while meditating. well, it's also hard to do while baked, but at least it's manageable. and fun.

4: agreed with lou, teachers are for the mechanical stuff, and most do more harm than good. buyer beware...


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18th May 2007
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Interesting thread. Some of my fave singers are technically inept, but ooze style. Where it comes from is a result of there own personal journey.

I actually like Shaun Ryder's delivery (Happy Mondays). The guy couldn't hit correct pitch to save his life, and crap tone. but he believed it and sold it.

Many great pop singers have styled themselves after their heroes, and have taken it a step beyond to suit their music and experience.

Lennon $ MacCartney were big Little Richard fans, and you can hear it on their early stuff, and they also reflected a bit of Dylan in there music too. They had a way of making it their own, probably because their love of those styles is genuine and they had fun with it.

Jagger (another technically inept singer) modelled himself after roadhouse blues guys. The guy has loads of style.

Bowie impersonated a british film character (I can't remember his name)

It sounds like you have a good voice and tone, maybe it's all the avenues your voice gives you that is bogging you down.

If you have to fake it, then you have to sell it. That being said, it's easier to do that if you believe in your style. You need a style that fits your musical message (part of projecting a focused sound)

Have fun with it, experiment, listen to your music in your head before you go to sleep and hear what the voice is supposed to be. Make it all come together.

Work it!
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18th May 2007
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the job of a producer is to recognise the 'golden' take - not just regarding pitch but all aspects of the take....if you cannot figure out where the gold is for yourself then you need an outside producer to help you. but be prepared to have your ego bruised - the first time one of my old bands got an outside producer in i remember him telling us weeks before we got started, during preproduction: you gotta let go of your egos coz i am gonna tell you what riffs suck and what vocal melodies/ideas suck etc and you are gonna have to suck it in and give me better...no sulking or mourning the death of your musical 'babies' etc.......and it was hard at first but it only took that one experience with a great producer to learn for yourself and to criticise yourself more coz you end up realising what could be better and you push yourself to get there! well worth the experience....if you can't afford to get in a producer then get a trusted mate who likes similar stuff to you to give you some honest feedback - otherwise just do your best - don't get too bogged down with the thinking process and put it out there....in 6 months time you may look back and hate what you've done but that's the whole journey and one of the best ways to learn where you want to be heading, by seeing where you don't want to be heading first.
have fun!
rog
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18th May 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Musiclab View Post
the main thing is this, are you getting an emotional performance? If someone didn't understand english would they know what you're feeling or what you're trying to convey from the sound of your voice?
Quote:
Originally Posted by jmikeperkins View Post
Decent singers are a dime a dozen, someone who can actually COMMUNICATE some emotion through singing and make you stand up and notice them, that's the hard part.
Quote:
Originally Posted by los marbles View Post
Some of my fave singers are technically inept, but ooze style.
I record my own stuff....have been for many years. My voice has been described as a cross between Tom Waits and Kermit the Frog.
Sounds like you don't have that problem.

Either way....by developing an emotional delivery, one that comes from your soul, you will find your own style.

I always cut five or six vox tracks. And I almost always like the one that emerged first best.
brockf
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18th May 2007
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I think the root of the problem is that (as someone touched on earlier), I am not hindered by sense of pitch or technical skills of singing and I almost feel as if unlearning these things, if possible, would benefit me. Almost everyone's favourite voices, the ones that are brutally honest and have character, are people who can't really sing but they give it a heartfelt delivery and it sounds awesome. My problem is that I know too much about singing (and it wouldn't be honest) to mimick someone like Conor from Bright Eyes or Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie (two singers whose sound I love).

I am really into Dustin Kensrue of Thrice's new solo record because that guy really can sing and he still gives a performance that I enjoy and believe. He inspired me to stop lightly singing the song and really give it a performance that I would give live every night.

I've linked below to what is a mostly natural performance with a couple pitch hiccups. Could you guys give me some feedback based on what we've talked about here? Thanks a lot.

http://www.booksharks.com/vaqueroson.mp3

EDIT: Here is a song that acts as the conclusion to the album and I am happy with the vocal sound here (distorted w/ delay). http://www.booksharks.com/astormashelter.mp3
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18th May 2007
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OK. This is a really good thread, and here's an other idea: take some kind of acting workshop where the emphasis is on NOT "Acting", but rather on learning how to "be" in the moment. If you really do have the technical stuff down like breathing and placement you just need to get to a place where you are NOT having to THINK while you sing. That's the key to getting the emotion into it. Of course, it's subtle, though, maybe not your cup ot tea. Here's another thought: Read "Be Here Now" by Baba Ram Dass (AKA Richard Alpert - former pal of Timothy Leary). Jeez, I feel like your producer...
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18th May 2007
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OK, just listened to your sample: you ain't breathing right. Sorry, but that's what I hear. The good news is that I can hear that you will eventually get it. Cheers!
brockf
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18th May 2007
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Originally Posted by soundbarnfool View Post
OK, just listened to your sample: you ain't breathing right. Sorry, but that's what I hear. The good news is that I can hear that you will eventually get it. Cheers!
Yah, breathing is one of those things that completely falls by the wayside when I get too stressed about how I'm singing. Thanks for the listen.
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