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Buford Offline OP
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If you're a singer, what's your opinion of your own voice? After years of tracking vocalists in the studio I can tell you that most people don't seem to like their own voice all that much. But they wrote this song, or someone else did, and they feel like they HAVE to sing it. They struggle with pitch, and range, and delivery and eventually get something they think they can live with. Well, it doesn't have to be that way. There are things you can do to advance the quality of your vocals and maybe you'll even come to like your own voice.

First and foremost, singers sing. I know..."Duh!" But what I mean is, good singers sing a LOT. If you're a singer, your voice is your instrument, even if you play other things, guitar, keys, whatever. To be a better singer you need to sing every day if possible. I don't mean hours of boring practice, but do something to keep your voice in top shape. If you're not a professional performer, vocalist/musician, who sings regularly, this is very important. At least pick a few songs you like and run through them. You'll be amazed at what fifteen minutes a day will do for your singing. And when the time comes for you to stand in front of that mic, you won't lock up. Even with your own home studio, that red light can be intimidating. But if you're prepared to perform, things get a lot easier.

Practice doesn't make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. And you get that by singing properly. There are any number of instructional resources for singers on Amazon.com, etc. But if you really want to improve quickly, find yourself a vocal teacher and spend at least a month learning how to breathe, project, phrase, and deliver a great vocal. I can't emphasize this too much. A vocal coach can help you evaluate your voice and help you to improve in ways you never imagined. It's an inexpensive investment in your art and skill.

I started singing as a kid and sang for years in small amateur bands and eventually in a professional group before I took my first voice lessons. I didn't really think I needed any instruction, but I was about to embark on my first album project and I wanted to have an edge going in. I had just completed a run of 100 consecutive shows with a professional, multi-harmony group and my voice had a lot of power. So when I took my first voice lesson with a retired Julliard instructor who lived in our town, I was amazed at what she taught me. She showed me things that made me a better singer nearly overnight. So, if you want to be a better singer get some professional instruction. You won't believe the great results you'll get. You don't have to take lessons forever. But at least spend a month or more working on your voice, depending your how you feel about your progress. It will be money well spent.

While any vocal coach can help improve your vocal skills, I think it's a good idea to find one who is familiar with the style of music you're doing and can help you with genre specific skills. A screaming rock singer needs different help than a jazz crooner. You get the idea.

And finally, even if you decide to self-educate, you need to practice every day...and learn to SING OUT. Amateur singers generally have a weak, tentative, vocal delivery. They sing softly in their bedroom with their guitar and they think they sound fabulous because their friends and family have told them so. If you ever turn pro, or hang out with professional performers, the first thing you'll learn is that these folks are not shy about performing. They go for it, and they go for it hard. To play in that league or deliver a pro performance you have to be aggressive with your delivery whether it's vocals or your other instruments.

For example, I had been playing guitar for about ten years or more before I learned to play bluegrass banjo. It took me nearly seven years to gain enough skill and speed to take it to the stage. During my woodshedding years I played with light gauge strings because they were easier to play, and were sweet sounding. One week into my gig with a pro group I started breaking my strings onstage. I was "playing like an animal" as Hot Rize bluegrass guitarist, Mike Scap, would say. So I moved up to medium gauge strings, which most banjo players avoid, out of a need to keep up with my band mates. Aggressive delivery became my style. It's how pros perform.

There are a lot of areas to cover in this topic, but for now I want to mention one more thing that has to do with equipment rather than performance or lessons. When you buy a microphone for your studio...PLEASE...get a good mic. A cheap microphone, usually under $200, is like a cheap lens on a camera...it can ruin the most beautiful scene. When it comes to mics get a bit more than you think you can afford. And I don't mean a $4000 Neumann U87. There are some great mics in the $350 to $700 price range that will make you sound fabulous. No point in getting lessons and practicing your art only to trust your perfromance to a cheap mic. I have several dozen mics, but my favorites are made by Rode. The NT1000 comes to mind; about $330 on the open market. Try to listen to a few mics if you can. But find one YOU like, not the salesman.

Also, don't mount a good mic on a cheap cable. When I was building my first studio, my sales guy at Sweetwater advised me to buy good cables. He was right. It's been a great investment. Yeah, there actually are hundred-dollar mic cables out there...and you only need ONE. So get a good one.

Much more to come on this topic. Post your questions. I hope we'll hear other advice and experiences from our forum friends. Now...go...SING!

Bob Buford



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I'm an instrumentalist, but I've spent enough decades in the studio to know solid, experienced advice when I see it. Great job, Bob. Thanks for all your efforts to share your wisdom here.


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Buford Offline OP
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Originally Posted By: Matt Finley
I'm an instrumentalist, but I've spent enough decades in the studio to know solid, experienced advice when I see it. Great job, Bob. Thanks for all your efforts to share your wisdom here.


Thanks, Matt. Hope we can help some folks.

Merry Christmas,
Bob

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That was spot on target.

Athletes are training constantly for a performance that might last a minute or two. They spend years in training. A working musician or studio cat is no different. Our shows last longer.

I'm no professional singer, and don't really desire to be. I just want to deliver a solid performance of the stuff I write. I'm mostly self taught in that I sang in bands, both lead and harmony. There are folks who are naturally gifted to have amazing voices and the rest of us really have to work hard at it. We see those gifted folks on the TV talent shows and it's true.... they come into the show with a God given vocal gift, but over the course of the show, with the help of various vocal coaches, they are transformed from raw talent into fairly well polished professionals.

That said, I also believe that most anyone who really works on their voice, no matter how bad they think they are, can develop a decent quality voice with work and practice. The professional world of singers is filled with singers who fit this category. The point was, they didn't listen to the critics and as a result we have Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, John Prine, Tom Waites, and so many more.

You are correct in stating that attitude is critical in singing or playing in front of people and even in the studio. I can start recording, but if my attitude isn't right and positive, the sessions will not be good. Once I get my proper perspective, the sessions are like magic.

Regarding gear.... yep, I try to buy as far up the food chain as I can afford. I know some folks can't and that's OK. Do what you can. Good gear removes the limitations inherent in crappy gear and makes the process a bit easier, and it has better resale value if you want to sell it later.

Good advice.


You can find my music at:
www.herbhartley.com
Add nothing that adds nothing to the music.
You can make excuses or you can make progress but not both.

The magic you are looking for is in the work you are avoiding.
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Buford Offline OP
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Originally Posted By: Guitarhacker
That was spot on target.

Athletes are training constantly for a performance that might last a minute or two. They spend years in training. A working musician or studio cat is no different. Our shows last longer.

I'm no professional singer, and don't really desire to be. I just want to deliver a solid performance of the stuff I write. I'm mostly self taught in that I sang in bands, both lead and harmony. There are folks who are naturally gifted to have amazing voices and the rest of us really have to work hard at it. We see those gifted folks on the TV talent shows and it's true.... they come into the show with a God given vocal gift, but over the course of the show, with the help of various vocal coaches, they are transformed from raw talent into fairly well polished professionals.

That said, I also believe that most anyone who really works on their voice, no matter how bad they think they are, can develop a decent quality voice with work and practice. The professional world of singers is filled with singers who fit this category. The point was, they didn't listen to the critics and as a result we have Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, John Prine, Tom Waites, and so many more.

You are correct in stating that attitude is critical in singing or playing in front of people and even in the studio. I can start recording, but if my attitude isn't right and positive, the sessions will not be good. Once I get my proper perspective, the sessions are like magic.

Regarding gear.... yep, I try to buy as far up the food chain as I can afford. I know some folks can't and that's OK. Do what you can. Good gear removes the limitations inherent in crappy gear and makes the process a bit easier, and it has better resale value if you want to sell it later.

Good advice.


Hey Herb... thanks for the input. Some good points there. BTW, you have such nice vocal quality; on "Christmas Without You" on the first vocal line I thought..."Neil Young"!

Keep 'em coming,
Bob

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