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Singers: voice, techniq, melodies, lyrics, passion

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Ambient Hurricanes View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Ambient Hurricanes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Singers: voice, techniq, melodies, lyrics, passion
    Posted: July 21 2014 at 15:15
Originally posted by HolyMoly

All these are important to some degree, but the most important to me by far is the singer should have an interesting voice. If a singer makes me think, "whoa, that sounds different, or not what I was expecting", then they've got their foot in the door. One thing I don't like is a pitch-perfect singer with no character of their own. Or a singer who sounds like a composite of several well worn attributes of numerous other singers in their chosen field (or genre). Doesn't mean they have to sound outrageous, but if they do, that often helps. And if they don't, then if I can discern a personality in the voice, they're cool. In fact most of my favorite singers (eg Jack Bruce, Burt Cummings, jerney Kaagman, P Gabriel, P Hammill) aren't "outrageous" at all, but I feel like I know them.


Agreed here.  All of the qualities that the OP mentioned are important, but I personally value individuality and expression (in both composition of the vocal lines and in performance) the most when it comes to my appreciation of a singer.  That's probably why all of my favorite vocalists are so polarizing LOL.

To be a truly great singer, though, a master of your craft, you really do have to check all of these boxes (with the exception of lyrics, I suppose, since in some bands, like Rush, the singer and lyricist are not the same person), although of course there's plenty of subjectivity involved with regard to measuring the quality of a singer's voice, emotion, etc. 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote SteveG Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 21 2014 at 15:41
This is a great question Gerard, and one that I've always avoided as I feel that prog singers need both a defining character to their voice as well as great range and pitch. I believe that's just one of the reasons, apart from the actual music, that made groups like Yes and Genesis sound so unique. I think that the vocals were more a part of the band's sound than in other genres in that any high pitched singer could replace Ian Gillian in Deep Purple, which did happen in the mid 70's with David Coverdale replacing Gillian, with no major problems from fans. Contrast that with Marillion when Steve Hogarth took over from Fish. There are still Fish era Marillion fans that will not accept any of the band's newer output with Hogarth. So, I think in that prog this makes a big, big difference. The reason why I usually try to avoid the question is that the singers in prog are usually also the lyricists and, with exceptions, they are generally terrible, IMO. On the flip side, great folk lyricists such Guthrie, Dylan and all were, with exceptions, terrible singers or merely passable. Perhaps prog bands should bring back outside poets and writers as lyricists like they did in the late 60's and early 70's like Procol Harum, KC, and Renaissance once did. (So I can at least stop laughing half of the time when I'm listening to prog.)

Edited by SteveG - July 21 2014 at 15:59
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Post Options Post Options   Quote ExittheLemming Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 21 2014 at 18:07
I suspect that most of my favourite singers would rank very low on the technical 'chops' front (John Cale, Syd Barrett,  John Lydon, Mark E Smith, Robert Smith, Malcolm Mooney, John Wetton, David Byrne, Lou Reed, Robert Forster, Ray Davies, Stan Ridgway - the list goes on) but all have a unique timbre that even if not ostentatiously passionate, certainly emotes. Perhaps rock and blues forms are more forgiving of vocal technique than others? e.g. if someone is covering Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, Noel Coward, Billy Strayhorn, Harry Warren et al, unless they were blessed with a good technique it's likely they might render all the musical ideas as an approximate/sloppy parody. Having said that there are some singers on this site who are technically brilliant, very passionate and produce good lyrics like Arthur Brown, Christian Descamps, Demetrio Stratos, Richard Sinclair and Adrian Belew, (Not to mention several who have a beautiful timbre/texture but cannot string two words together i.e. Greg Lake, Jon Anderson, Roger Daltrey, Robert Plant, Ian Gillan,.. oops I just didWink)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote ebil0505 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 21 2014 at 18:24
I can't say really which one is more important to me. Some singers I absolutely hated when I first listened to them, and now it is the opposite that is true. I find that I should never give up on any singer, because eventually they will start to sound right to me.

Some examples are Jon Anderson and Fish and Peter Hammill. I love these singers, but at first they repelled me. That taught me that every singer deserves to be listened to, I think.


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Post Options Post Options   Quote Ambient Hurricanes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 21 2014 at 19:39
On a related note, what does everyone think of classically trained vocalists in prog (or rock in general, for that matter)?  Classical training certainly helps with technique, as the techniques taught in classical voice are the basis for vocal control in all western-music-style singing, but there's also the concern that a classical approach to rock singing can sound out of place and can hinder the unique expressionistic qualities found in traditional rock vocals.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Nogbad_The_Bad Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 21 2014 at 19:42
I tend to like vocalists who have the talent but more importantly have interesting styles and fit the music. So I'll take Dagmar, Bon Scott, Leonard Cohen & Peter Hammill over most other vocalists. So I'm pretty much with HolyMoly & ExitTheLemming 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Dean Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 21 2014 at 20:00
Originally posted by ExittheLemming

I suspect that most of my favourite singers would rank very low on the technical 'chops' front (John Cale, Syd Barrett,  John Lydon, Mark E Smith, Robert Smith, Malcolm Mooney, John Wetton, David Byrne, Lou Reed, Robert Forster, Ray Davies, Stan Ridgway - the list goes on) but all have a unique timbre that even if not ostentatiously passionate, certainly emotes. Perhaps rock and blues forms are more forgiving of vocal technique than others? e.g. if someone is covering Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, Noel Coward, Billy Strayhorn, Harry Warren et al, unless they were blessed with a good technique it's likely they might render all the musical ideas as an approximate/sloppy parody. Having said that there are some singers on this site who are technically brilliant, very passionate and produce good lyrics like Arthur Brown, Christian Descamps, Demetrio Stratos, Richard Sinclair and Adrian Belew, (Not to mention several who have a beautiful timbre/texture but cannot string two words together i.e. Greg Lake, Jon Anderson, Roger Daltrey, Robert Plant, Ian Gillan,.. oops I just didWink)
Thumbs Up exactly this.


When this thread first appeared my immediate reaction after reading the OP was: Mark E Smith.


I suspect if I should attempt to analyse what qualities are important for me to consider a singer as a great singer it would be like trying to nail soot to plate or juggling jelly ... it'll get as messy as a mixed-metaphor.

The most gut-wrenchingly emotional vocal performance I have ever witnessed was John Cale at the Pheonix Festival in 1994. [Coincidentally The Fall played that day too]. I was exhausted from just listening to The World's Greatest Living Welshman sing to a tent-full of festival goers, most of whom I suspect were only waiting for The Pogues. I guess Cale would be the "box-ticker" for me if I were go down Gerard's list of important qualities, but it wouldn't make him a great singer by most standards. Unlike all other Rock musicians vocalist are more about personal taste and preference than any identifiable characteristics. It's not about breaking rules it's about what fits.


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Post Options Post Options   Quote Dean Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 21 2014 at 20:30
Originally posted by Ambient Hurricanes

On a related note, what does everyone think of classically trained vocalists in prog (or rock in general, for that matter)?  Classical training certainly helps with technique, as the techniques taught in classical voice are the basis for vocal control in all western-music-style singing, but there's also the concern that a classical approach to rock singing can sound out of place and can hinder the unique expressionistic qualities found in traditional rock vocals.
Last Saturday I watched Alfie Boe and Katherine Jenkins performance of 'Barcelona' at the Edinburgh Castle musical "do" for the celebration of the Commonwealth games - Mercury was not a classical singer and Boe is not a rock singer - as well trained as he is, he simply could not sing that song like Freddie. The expression was there, the phrasing and emotion was there but something wasn't right. I can't exactly put my finger on it in words but the best example I can think of is Life On Mars ... when Bowie hits that top-E he's not singing nor is he screaming (we all know he can sing but his singing voice is in a much lower register) so when a trained singer with a vocal range that can hit that E perfectly attempts Life On Mars it just sounds wrong.

I have worked with a classically trained singer in a metal band and she's sung on one of my CoL tracks, the style of singing in all three situations was different, she adapted her singing to fit the genre by subtle changes in diction and voicing. On one occasion we got into an discussion on whether she should pronounce "been" with a long or short vowel sound in the middle, in the end she won because "bin" fitted the music better.


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Post Options Post Options   Quote Nogbad_The_Bad Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 21 2014 at 20:38
Originally posted by Ambient Hurricanes

On a related note, what does everyone think of classically trained vocalists in prog (or rock in general, for that matter)?  Classical training certainly helps with technique, as the techniques taught in classical voice are the basis for vocal control in all western-music-style singing, but there's also the concern that a classical approach to rock singing can sound out of place and can hinder the unique expressionistic qualities found in traditional rock vocals.


One band who make it work well is Diablo Swing Orchestra, their vocalist Annlouice Loegdlund has a very operatic approach which fits well with DSO's style of Avant Swing Metal. I think it's probably the deliberate clashes of styles and humor that are intrinsically part of the music. 


Edited by Nogbad_The_Bad - July 21 2014 at 20:40
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rogerthat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 21 2014 at 22:53
Originally posted by Ambient Hurricanes

On a related note, what does everyone think of classically trained vocalists in prog (or rock in general, for that matter)?  Classical training certainly helps with technique, as the techniques taught in classical voice are the basis for vocal control in all western-music-style singing, but there's also the concern that a classical approach to rock singing can sound out of place and can hinder the unique expressionistic qualities found in traditional rock vocals.

I think basic training in classical singing wouldn't hurt. But after a few years, a singer's style would be too much based in classical to be able to adapt to rock. A lot also depends on the imagination of the singer. Dio was not trained but he was inspired by Mario Lanza. He was able to blend perfect use of his registers with the aggression required in rock. My uncle is trained in Hindustani music and when he sings light music, he gets strangely self conscious and tries too hard to emote instead of just singing it in a natural way and appealing through spontaneity.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rogerthat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 21 2014 at 23:01
Katherine Jenkins's attempts at opera standards were shaky at best. I wonder if she is just a hyped 'product'.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Man With Hat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 21 2014 at 23:12
B than A for me. Melody I view more as a songwriting thing and would give the nod of great melodies to whomever wrote the song. (If that is the singer, than cool, but that's a different skill, in my mind anyway.) Ditto for lyrics. I guess E is third for me by default then.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Mirror Image Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 21 2014 at 23:41
Originally posted by ebil0505

I can't say really which one is more important to me. Some singers I absolutely hated when I first listened to them, and now it is the opposite that is true. I find that I should never give up on any singer, because eventually they will start to sound right to me.

Some examples are Jon Anderson and Fish and Peter Hammill. I love these singers, but at first they repelled me. That taught me that every singer deserves to be listened to, I think.

I just can't get into Fish or Peter Hammill. For Fish, the tonality of his voice is just annoying to me. For Hammill, it had to do with the way emotes his vocals and his delivery is just jarring to me. What both of these vocalists have in common, for me, is they just sing too much. One mouthful after another and there's no end in sight.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Ambient Hurricanes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 21 2014 at 23:46
Originally posted by Mirror Image

Originally posted by ebil0505

I can't say really which one is more important to me. Some singers I absolutely hated when I first listened to them, and now it is the opposite that is true. I find that I should never give up on any singer, because eventually they will start to sound right to me.

Some examples are Jon Anderson and Fish and Peter Hammill. I love these singers, but at first they repelled me. That taught me that every singer deserves to be listened to, I think.

I just can't get into Fish or Peter Hammill. For Fish, the tonality of his voice is just annoying to me. For Hammill, it had to do with the way emotes his vocals and his delivery is just jarring to me. What both of these vocalists have in common, for me, is they just sing too much. One mouthful after another and there's no end in sight.


As in, "youbegintowonderifthepointsofalltheancientmythsaresolemnlydirected STRAIGHT AT YOU"?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Mirror Image Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 21 2014 at 23:49
Originally posted by Ambient Hurricanes

Originally posted by Mirror Image

Originally posted by ebil0505

I can't say really which one is more important to me. Some singers I absolutely hated when I first listened to them, and now it is the opposite that is true. I find that I should never give up on any singer, because eventually they will start to sound right to me.

Some examples are Jon Anderson and Fish and Peter Hammill. I love these singers, but at first they repelled me. That taught me that every singer deserves to be listened to, I think.

I just can't get into Fish or Peter Hammill. For Fish, the tonality of his voice is just annoying to me. For Hammill, it had to do with the way emotes his vocals and his delivery is just jarring to me. What both of these vocalists have in common, for me, is they just sing too much. One mouthful after another and there's no end in sight.


As in, "youbegintowonderifthepointsofalltheancientmythsaresolemnlydirected STRAIGHT AT YOU"?

Yep, you pretty much nailed it. Big smile
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Ambient Hurricanes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 21 2014 at 23:54
Originally posted by Mirror Image

Originally posted by Ambient Hurricanes

Originally posted by Mirror Image

Originally posted by ebil0505

I can't say really which one is more important to me. Some singers I absolutely hated when I first listened to them, and now it is the opposite that is true. I find that I should never give up on any singer, because eventually they will start to sound right to me.

Some examples are Jon Anderson and Fish and Peter Hammill. I love these singers, but at first they repelled me. That taught me that every singer deserves to be listened to, I think.

I just can't get into Fish or Peter Hammill. For Fish, the tonality of his voice is just annoying to me. For Hammill, it had to do with the way emotes his vocals and his delivery is just jarring to me. What both of these vocalists have in common, for me, is they just sing too much. One mouthful after another and there's no end in sight.


As in, "youbegintowonderifthepointsofalltheancientmythsaresolemnlydirected STRAIGHT AT YOU"?

Yep, you pretty much nailed it. Big smile


One of my favorite vocal moments ever LOL  But I can see your point.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Mirror Image Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 21 2014 at 23:59
Originally posted by Ambient Hurricanes

Originally posted by Mirror Image

Originally posted by Ambient Hurricanes

Originally posted by Mirror Image

Originally posted by ebil0505

I can't say really which one is more important to me. Some singers I absolutely hated when I first listened to them, and now it is the opposite that is true. I find that I should never give up on any singer, because eventually they will start to sound right to me.

Some examples are Jon Anderson and Fish and Peter Hammill. I love these singers, but at first they repelled me. That taught me that every singer deserves to be listened to, I think.

I just can't get into Fish or Peter Hammill. For Fish, the tonality of his voice is just annoying to me. For Hammill, it had to do with the way emotes his vocals and his delivery is just jarring to me. What both of these vocalists have in common, for me, is they just sing too much. One mouthful after another and there's no end in sight.


As in, "youbegintowonderifthepointsofalltheancientmythsaresolemnlydirected STRAIGHT AT YOU"?

Yep, you pretty much nailed it. Big smile


One of my favorite vocal moments ever LOL  But I can see your point.

Well it's not just the wordy vocals, I also can't stand a vocalist that just goes on and on. A good vocalist knows when to keep quiet.

A few of my favorite vocalists: David Gilmour, Peter Gabriel (though he about drives me crazy in The Battle Of Epping Forest and this is coming from a huge Genesis fan), Phil Collins (pre-commercial success), Greg Lake, Joanne Hogg, and Geddy Lee.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rogerthat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 22 2014 at 00:40
Originally posted by Man With Hat

B than A for me. Melody I view more as a songwriting thing and would give the nod of great melodies to whomever wrote the song. (If that is the singer, than cool, but that's a different skill, in my mind anyway.) Ditto for lyrics. I guess E is third for me by default then.
Whether a melody is memorable or not depends on the songwriter. But making it sound less or more melodious depends on the singer. And in many bands, the singer is not the main composer (Genesis, Iron Maiden come to mind) so the singer has to translate the composer's vision, which the latter may not be able to vocalise very well. Comparing Stephanie Adlington's rendition of Ocean Gypsy with the original spotlights this. I don't mind a different interpretation but there is a noticeable lack of melody in Adlington's take.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote ExittheLemming Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 22 2014 at 02:05
Originally posted by Nogbad_The_Bad

Originally posted by Ambient Hurricanes

On a related note, what does everyone think of classically trained vocalists in prog (or rock in general, for that matter)?  Classical training certainly helps with technique, as the techniques taught in classical voice are the basis for vocal control in all western-music-style singing, but there's also the concern that a classical approach to rock singing can sound out of place and can hinder the unique expressionistic qualities found in traditional rock vocals.


One band who make it work well is Diablo Swing Orchestra, their vocalist Annlouice Loegdlund has a very operatic approach which fits well with DSO's style of Avant Swing Metal. I think it's probably the deliberate clashes of styles and humor that are intrinsically part of the music. 


Good call, great singer and great band. What I particularly like about DSO is how they apportion the lead vocals between Loegdlund and the more conventional rock tonsils of Hakansson for contrast and relief (I mean, 80 minutes or so of a classically trained diva is just too much for my tiny rodent ears y'all)

Perhaps the late Francesco Di Giacomo was the closest to a classical tenor we ever got in Prog? (though he didn't really sing like a opera singer in my book)

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Dayvenkirq Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 22 2014 at 02:37
Originally posted by Gerinski

What do you consider most important for a singer to be considered as a great singer:

a) he-she should have a very pleasant or special voice timbre
b) he-she should have a great technique, vocal range and mastering of different vocal expression techniques
c) he-she constructs really strong and beautiful melody lines
d) he-she is a great lyricist
e) he delivers his-her singing with great passion and feel

and it can be interesting if you can point to examples of singers who have some of these qualities but not others.
The way I see it: A, B, C, and E would make not just a great, but a perfect singerD would make a great songwriter.

I really can't think of anyone at the moment who has all five of these gifts, let alone in prog. One will sing beautifully, but the lyrics are crap; another will write some very open, concise, and emotional stuff but in a manner so straightforward and prosaic that it sounds embarrassing; third sings some pretty insightful and creatively written stuff with an emotional tone but he is not (subjectively speaking) gifted vocally.

I never got the whole package, so I never really bother looking for it. I just listen to what pleases my ear. If I want something with the emphasis on singing, I will not look into prog (and I make no bones about that). I will look into British folk.


Edited by Dayvenkirq - July 22 2014 at 02:43
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