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The quality of upcoming singers worries me
Old 19th August 2005
  #1
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gainreduction's Avatar
 

The quality of upcoming singers worries me

In the last 2-3 years I've noticed a trend that worries me a lot. Young and upcoming artists are simply not as good singers as they were pre-auto-tune, pre-DAW. Of course there's always exceptions but in general they're getting worse and more lazy all the time. It's as if they don't even bother giving 100% because they know I can "fix" it later, and make them sound good. Well, for your information, I can't and I won't. I've taken a whole new approach and I tell the artist that I'm not going to edit vocals for two days and that it has to come from the singer. More blood on the pop-shield. The voice is what sells a record and since the voices quite aren't there anymore maybe that's another reason why sales are down. And everytime I work with an "older" artist that is used to singing to tape and actually singing when doing live shows I'm smiling again. They can sing !

I'm really worried about the fact that almost on every song I got released last year (I'm mainly a songwriter) the demo-vocal was in a whole other league than the actual artists performance. The demos were sung by professional demosingers. Does this make any sense ? I'm getting so tired of the worthless A&R-ing at the labels. Anyone with a pair of big boobs get to make a record, everybody with REAL talent and something to say... good luck ! The creative state of the industry just sucks right now. BTW, I was so happy to hear Dave Grohl scream his lungs out on Foo Fighters "best of you". Blood on the pop-shield...there you have it, right there.
Old 19th August 2005
  #2
Now we are all sons of bitches

It is odd that when you hear someone that CAN sing well live - that it's some sort of miracle..

"Now we are all sons of bitches"

Kenneth Tompkins Bainbridge, the George Vasmer Leverett Professor of Physics, Emeritus. In May 1943, Ken was recruited to the nuclear weapons laboratory at Los Alamos. There he prepared and directed a facility for the first explosion of a nuclear bomb, the "Trinity Test." Following the fearsomely successful explosion early in the morning of July 16, 1945, he congratulated J. Robert Oppenheimer and the others, then made his legendary remark, "Now we are all sons of bitches." Oppenheimer later remarked that this was the best thing anyone had said just after the test. Ken subsequently was deeply dedicated to the control of nuclear weapons.

Old 19th August 2005
  #3
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bunnerabb's Avatar
Sons of bitches?

We're f*cking proofreaders.
Old 19th August 2005
  #4
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Kris's Avatar
I just finished a project with an "exception"... Autotune was never mentioned on this session... There's plenty of great young singers out there... just much more riff raff to weed through... exponential growth and all... damn rabbits...
Old 19th August 2005
  #5
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warhead's Avatar
 

I work with a particular producer a lot, and she brings me local talent very often. Young singers, most of them good. However, the more editing / pitch correction (I use spot pitch correction in Nuendo way more often than Autotune) / comping she witnesses, the lazier SHE seems to get too. She'll be satisfied when it's close enough to be tuned right, years ago she would not have had that option of course. Even funnier to me is that making the kid sing it right again takes way less time than editing a whole frickin' song to death!

As engineers I still feel like we get paid to churn out what the paying customer wants even if that includes heavy editing. If you are in the role of producer, it is your place to comment on performances during sessions to have an effect on the outcome.

But I too am alarmed at how many people, even good musicians, throw the term "oh you can fix that mistake, right?". That's what's happening with these technologically knowledgeable young singers...they know it can be "fixed". Tis a shame indeed!

War
Old 19th August 2005
  #6
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I couldn't agree more about singers nowadays. I think when Autotune became common, engineers were so blown away that they'd say, "good enough, I'll just tune that line...". So, I think it's sort of a two way street. But I will say that I've bitched about the exact same thing you're talking about many times after comping through 8 takes of vocals and then autotuning every line just to make the singer sound like they even halfway belonged in the record. I have gone back to my tape (or in my case "ADAT") mentality a little with vocals. The thing I've found is it's not going to sound that much better after all that comping. Comping should be used to capture vibe, not to correct faulty performances. At the same time, the reason why a lot of us are in business is those ****ty singers. Let's face it, this year has been my best money year so far. And most of it was making sub-par "musicians" sound good. A least that's what their friends and family say.
Old 19th August 2005
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gainreduction
...Well, for your information, I can't and I won't. I've taken a whole new approach and I tell the artist that I'm not going to edit vocals for two days and that it has to come from the singer...
I envy you. When I am wearing my engineer's hat, I can't really afford to blow off two days of work because of my moral objections to fixing unskilled 'talent'. Maybe even alienate the client altogether? I explain the options, explain that I charge by the hour and then I give a deep sigh and start editing.

When I am producing, I suppose I can tell the artist what I want. On the one hand, as Warhead said, it often takes less time to make them sing it again- and we producers do love to save money- but on the other hand as a producer, you want that final product to sound as good as it can sound- whatever it takes. Again, I am not so busy that I can turn away the ones who can't sing. (someday.....) So I give a deep sigh and start editing.
Old 19th August 2005
  #8
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Another aspect is that as long as the labels are signing mostly bad singers then how am I supposed to make hits with a voice that won't sell, because it's not good enough ? That becomes a big problem for me as a songwriter/producer. It doesn't matter if I can sit for a month or a day editing, the problem remains. If the vocal needs lots of editing, then there just isn't that magic that will break the act/song/album.

I might be wrong but I think this is a bigger problem here in Europe than in the States because USA has a long tradition when it comes to singing rhythmic, soulful music in different styles and that a lot of talent grows in churches and other places when in Europe it would be a lot stiffer and uptight and formal. No soul. And the states has a tradition/history with vocalgroups etc.. It's another heritage I think. Again, I might be wrong but this is my impression.
Old 19th August 2005
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bunnerabb
Sons of bitches?

We're f*cking proofreaders.
bunnerabb is right....
Here´s what happens sometimes at my studio:


Me: Ok, everything´s for ready tracking....

Artist: (performs)

Me:

Artist: Can you fix it?

Me: Will take time. I have to find out how that works...( heh )

Artist: Ok, i´ll try my best...(performs again)

Me: thumbsup

Artist: (listens to the last take)

Band:(just entering the control room)


Too bad that this technique doesn´t work when the artist has a DAW at home....
Old 19th August 2005
  #10
Gear Head
 

No matter how lazy people get, I still think that autotune is a valuable tool. However, I agree it would be best if only the egineers and producer knew about it and not the artist. But as an engineer how much can you care about the artist giving 100% if they don't? However, even artists on major labels putting out bad music does ruin music. There is still plenty of great music out there, just as much as there ever was. Every older generation claims that the new one is going down the drain. I don't know how much everyone else actaully listens to new music, but I try to listen to at least 3 new albums a week. I must say, there have been a lot of really good albums put out so far this year. The notion that music is going down the tubes is really an absurd one.

Bart
Old 20th August 2005
  #11
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It's always been this way.

Elvis once said "I don't know anything about music, in this profession you don't have to".
Old 20th August 2005
  #12
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Well....I think Elvis was entitled to say something like that considering the fact that he had TALENT.
That was the fifties when he said that, everybody had some sort of talent. Some of the music made was awful, but at least the singers were in tune and all in one take!
Elvis was right, you don't need to KNOW anything. You just need to be able to DO it.
When the next crappy client starts quoting Elvis I'm gonna stick his head in a leslie speaker.
Old 20th August 2005
  #13
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Most of my work this week was 'tuning' vocal tracks. I HATE IT!!! But, bills have to be paid. I hate it so much I charge a fortune so people wont hire me to tune vocal tracks. But the more I charge, the more they hire me.

I just finished tuning a track a few hours ago. The producer called me and asked how it went. I recommeded that the 'singer' keep his day job and not bother at all.

I agree that within the past few years I have heard the most pathetic, horrid, dog howling, useless crap ever in my entire life. Everyone thinks they can sing now.

I even had singers 'demand' that their track be tuned before mixing started. (Tracks that didnt even need it! They just felt that it had to be done cuz everyone else does it!!)

And just to make it even worse, wait until you mix some of their live shows. Every live performance I mixed this year (except 2) had the lead vocals in the backing track with the so called 'singer' dog howling over top of it.

This is so disheartening that I just feel like leaving it all behind. In fact, I decided to do mostly dialog and VO work and very little music these days.

How long is this 'trend' going to last?

Time to demand a few acoustic 'unplugged' performances from these so called, self titled, dog howling 'singers' heh heh

Autotune sucks.

Shane
Old 20th August 2005
  #14
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Gotta say, I'm really surprised if this really is the attitude of people, because even though I know it's the thing to do right now, the toy of the moment, as a singer, every time I feel I need a "fix", I'm depressed for days.
Old 20th August 2005
  #15
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Quote:
Gotta say, I'm really surprised if this really is the attitude of people, because even though I know it's the thing to do right now, the toy of the moment, as a singer, every time I feel I need a "fix", I'm depressed for days.
i hear ya.
most of the singers i've worked with lately (even the horrid ones) have too much pride to "fix" their bad takes. we've ended up giving quickie vocal lessons ("this is how you're breathing now, this is how you should adjust your breathing, now go home and work on it tonight and come back tomorrow"). it's always proven beneficial, even if the end takes aren't 100% spot on. even the guys that still couldn't sing perfectly left with a sense of pride and accomplishment that they'd improved as a performer and have gained skills/ knowledge to keep improving over time. i think that's much more valuable and long lasting than a tuned vocal track that could never be pulled off live. i'd always rather listen to a performance that has character and spontinaity with a few shady pitches here and there than to a performance that's had all life sucked out of it by alingning and pitching. so much emotion is conveyed by a voice that wobbles here and there, or a pitch that bends funny at the right time. we're losing all of that color and character.

seriously, aren't we all people with imperfections, unique personalities and voices. let that stuff shine through. keep music honest and organic and we'll all be happier and more inspired in the long run.

just my $.02.
Old 20th August 2005
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stinkpot

seriously, aren't we all people with imperfections, unique personalities and voices. let that stuff shine through. keep music honest and organic and we'll all be happier and more inspired in the long run.
thumbsup yep.

Another auto-tune thing is that if you tune a vocal it might still sound out of tune if you have a lot of real instruments in the track, say guitars that never are "synthesizer-intonated" on all chords. In relation to that guitar the vocal is out of tune when auto-tuned.
Old 20th August 2005
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hans Hitmachine
Well....I think Elvis was entitled to say something like that considering the fact that he had TALENT.
That was the fifties when he said that, everybody had some sort of talent. Some of the music made was awful, but at least the singers were in tune and all in one take!
Elvis was right, you don't need to KNOW anything. You just need to be able to DO it.
When the next crappy client starts quoting Elvis I'm gonna stick his head in a leslie speaker.

i agree with this - autotune sounds horrible - it was difficult for me to even purchase
it - it had been here as a rental on previous occasions - as my drummer bill
would say "lexling is a c+ alternative to the pressures of modern living"

having been blessed with the gig of recording most of the vocals for rufus
wainwright's "want one" and "want two" - i have had experience with
plain TALENT.......nothing beats it.........
that the u.s. has not reacted more extremely to those two masterpieces
says more about the sorry state of clearchannel and american taste than
it says about rufus.........but they didn't get my dear friend jeff until
he drowned.........closest thing to elvis since elvis...........

it's gotta be in a strange voice : "lexling is a c+ alternative to the pressures
of modern living"

i applaud those who simply say no....
sometimes i have days where i give the vocalist one analog track - if its not
right we roll over it -


be well

- jack
Old 20th August 2005
  #18
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Was just watching a post-beatles John Lennon DVD and thought of this thread. Alot of his vocals were "sketchy" to say the least...but the impact and tone of his voice hits you somewhere deep inside.

If he was a "nobdy" and walked into a studio, I wonder .... how does the saying go about missing the forrest for the trees?
Old 21st August 2005
  #19
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Gee
all of you who are saying the quality of singers is not up to par, statistically what percentage of singers are you talking about. There are thousands and millions who sing and you are talking about the few that happen to be with a band that can afford to go into a studio?
Old 21st August 2005
  #20
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by djui5
It's always been this way.

Elvis once said "I don't know anything about music, in this profession you don't have to".
Elvis also refused to allow the release of anything he couldn't sing perfectly from the top because he considered editing dishonest.

There have always been hits by TV stars who can barely sing. It's just that being a TV star didn't used to be the prerequisite for becoming a music star.
Old 21st August 2005
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson
Elvis also refused to allow the release of anything he couldn't sing perfectly from the top because he considered editing dishonest.

There have always been hits by TV stars who can barely sing. It's just that being a TV star didn't used to be the prerequisite for becoming a music star.
History repeats itself - there have ALWAYS been PLENTY of bad singers!!

It's one thing if you're talking soul (I'll take poor pitch from Otis Redding ANYTIME - but, actually his pitch was pretty friggin great ), but if we're talking pitch - some of the most iconoclastic singers in pop music from the 50s and 60s through now have had the most horrendous pitch problems - not to name names, but I think looking for GREAT singers in any kind of POP music - well, good friggin luck (again, we're talking pitch!! ).

Most Swedish pop (at least that we get to hear) has the tendency for great finely tuned harmonies and vocals - it's almost ALWAYS a treat from you guys

And if you guys are doing it all with auto-tune now, I don't know what to say - it still sounds great to me. That's not different from us pop, at all, obviously.

I know quite a few Swedish singers, and most of them have a pretty great sense of pitch.

Bad pitch = BAd pitch, no ifs, ands or buts

I usually frown at big wobbly vibrato, and also the tremolo-style vibrato, because of what it does to the pitch. It can be nice in Gospel, Blues and Opera, but it can be rough in pop - especially when you've worked SO hard to tune all the track instruments and harmony in the sequencers, etc.

Usually to me, 8-12 cents off is enough to raise my hairs. There are probably quite a few of you who have violent reactions to even less then that - I feel sorry for you - because it's painful enough for me.

JMHO - and 8-12 cents

Somebody get me my banjo
Old 21st August 2005
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kats
Was just watching a post-beatles John Lennon DVD and thought of this thread. Alot of his vocals were "sketchy" to say the least...but the impact and tone of his voice hits you somewhere deep inside.

If he was a "nobdy" and walked into a studio, I wonder .... how does the saying go about missing the forrest for the trees?

He did walk into a studio (with 3 other nobodies), and he did get turned down (a number of times)! Until tone deaf George Martin took a chance.

Maybe the problem these days is not only are there no John Lennons but there are no George Martins either.
Old 21st August 2005
  #23
Quote:
Originally Posted by JP11
He did walk into a studio (with 3 other nobodies), and he did get turned down (a number of times)! Until tone deaf George Martin took a chance.

Maybe the problem these days is not only are there no John Lennons but there are no George Martins either.
I HEAR THAT JEEZ

ALL HAIL THE MASTER
Old 21st August 2005
  #24
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i for one believe that there are more talented singers than ever before. It's just an over abundance of bad talent that overshadows the good. There are so many more recording artists and singers and record labels, and producers than there were 20/30 years ago when one artists could dominate the charts and airwaves with one album for 3 years.

also, in todays entertainment industry being album to sing is just not enough if u wanna sell records. for most target audiences the other aspects out weigh the talent aspect.
Old 21st August 2005
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by jlotto
i for one believe that there are more talented singers than ever before. It's just an over abundance of bad talent that overshadows the good. There are so many more recording artists and singers and record labels, and producers than there were 20/30 years ago when one artists could dominate the charts and airwaves with one album for 3 years.

also, in todays entertainment industry being album to sing is just not enough if u wanna sell records. for most target audiences the other aspects out weigh the talent aspect.
True dat
Old 21st August 2005
  #26
84K
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"The quality of upcoming singers worries me"


The squeeze you throat constipation vocal style bothers me. The predictable and rehashed songwriting bothers me more. Singers are born and/or trained. Artist are special based on their own inner-uniqueness and the way they express it. Songwriters that sing and play that fall under the artist category are where I feel we are lacking these days.

Most of today's rockers lack identity and individualism. I don't give a $hit about autotune or over compression, or blah, blah, blah. The original rockers would have used that stuff too if it was around. Give me a vibe and be your cool self. Rock. That is all I want. I don't care what you put on it if you give the goods with a vibe. Just kick out the jams M-_-_ - F-_kers! heh
Old 21st August 2005
  #27
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7161's Avatar
 

i have to say... here in the UK we recently had to endure that awefuly cringe-inducing pile of patronsing poop called LIVE8 & omg, I caught Mariah Carey's 'set' on the TV (worst luck, while channel hopping)

lol... hopeless, out of tune, no sustain. chopped-up halfassed 'scales' slung in all over the place.. it was just bloody aweful, she cant sing live for toffee if that's par for her course.
Old 21st August 2005
  #28
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James Lugo's Avatar
 

I think there are young guys with good pitch, hell there were guys back in the day with bad pitch who could have used autotune.
Old 21st August 2005
  #29
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by gainreduction
Another aspect is that as long as the labels are signing mostly bad singers then how am I supposed to make hits with a voice that won't sell, because it's not good enough ? That becomes a big problem for me as a songwriter/producer. It doesn't matter if I can sit for a month or a day editing, the problem remains. If the vocal needs lots of editing, then there just isn't that magic that will break the act/song/album.

I might be wrong but I think this is a bigger problem here in Europe than in the States because USA has a long tradition when it comes to singing rhythmic, soulful music in different styles and that a lot of talent grows in churches and other places when in Europe it would be a lot stiffer and uptight and formal. No soul. And the states has a tradition/history with vocalgroups etc.. It's another heritage I think. Again, I might be wrong but this is my impression.

definitely a lot of great singers in churches, a dime a dozen where i'm at - they just don't make records or stand in cattle call lines for American Idol. these days with increased emphasis on entertainment/enhanced production in the churches, there are more talented singers than ever. i did a backline gig last Easter where there were 4 or 5 singers in a row that would have absolutely killed any of the American Idol *winners*, let alone the **** that appears on the show.
Old 22nd August 2005
  #30
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church is where a lot of the great ones have come from....

that's good to hear




be well


- jack
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