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Topic ClosedSingers: voice, techniq, melodies, lyrics, passion

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Dayvenkirq View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 23 2014 at 17:17
Originally posted by freyacat freyacat wrote:

... what they have to say is more important than who is saying it.
That ... right there ... I never thought about lyric-writing that way (so call me dumb, whatever). I like that.

Actually, now that I think about it, this reminds me of something mentioned on this thread: self-pity vs. sanctimony.


Edited by Dayvenkirq - July 23 2014 at 20:10
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 25 2014 at 09:15
I think a,b, and e are the most important.  I'll have to ask our church choir director what she thinks.  As for examples, James LaBrie is a guy with a really good voice.  Sadly, he often doesn't use it well.  On the other hand, I'll cite someone outside of the progressive realm.  Foreigner's Lou Gramm has an incredible voice.  More importantly, he uses it properly.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 25 2014 at 09:47
^^^  Nice mention of Lou Gramm.  One of those singers who gets underrated simply because of the music he sings but, standalone, he is superb.  So, again, when people say they would give the credit for the melody to the songwriter, they probably emphasise the tendency to derive their opinion of the singer from their reaction to the music.  If they don't like the music, they are quite likely to blame the singer for it even if he/she has done a good job.

Edited by rogerthat - July 25 2014 at 09:52
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 25 2014 at 11:02
Well, of course Pop and Commercial Rock have many more good singers than Prog, at least for what regards timbre beauty and technique (not those who need autotune of course), I guess it's because if you are really good as an instrumentalist you don't have many chances to shine in Pop, while Prog (or Jazz, JRF) gives you those chances, but for a really good singer he-she can easily shine in Pop (and make money) so they tend to go that route.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 25 2014 at 11:19
Well, in my experience, Lou Gramm is not much talked about even in non prog circles, in a very glowing light, that is.That's because (a) while Foreigner were popular, they are not an iconic band and (b) these  days, range is to singing as the speed of sweep picking/alternate picking is to guitar.  Gramm doesn't really use range in a way that stands out so he tends to be overlooked a bit. 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 25 2014 at 14:21
Originally posted by Gerinski Gerinski wrote:

Well, of course Pop and Commercial Rock have many more good singers than Prog, at least for what regards timbre beauty and technique (not those who need autotune of course), I guess it's because if you are really good as an instrumentalist you don't have many chances to shine in Pop, while Prog (or Jazz, JRF) gives you those chances, but for a really good singer he-she can easily shine in Pop (and make money) so they tend to go that route.
Ermm ...well.. no. 

I think you've successfully managed to list all the wrong reasons there. And produced some inaccurate conclusions to boot. 

It is incredibly difficult to succeed in Pop no matter how good a singer you are. The sheer number of aspiring wannabe Pop singers is too huge and the numbers that are successful too small for a good singer to easily shine. There are a vast number of good singers in this world and this is no accident nor is it a special gift or talent because (practically) every human being can sing - just as (practically) every sky-lark can sing and (practically) every dog can howl. When you have 7 billion singing voices to choose from finding singers who can sing in key that have pleasing timbres, projection and diction is not difficult - so being one of the chosen is much harder.

[I know most of you are shaking your heads in disbelief but hear me out here.]

It's one of the remarkable things of human physiology that if you can hear sound and make a vocal sound you can sing. All humans beings can sing - some of us may not be able to sing in key, or carry a tune, or have good technique and many of us will sound just plain awful, but all that can be fixed with training and coaching to a certain degree - it will never make you a great singer but you can be taught not to be a bad one. (Finding someone who is tone-deaf is very rare because it is a neurological condition not a natural trait, if you can appreciate music you are not tone-deaf.). Singing is the first musical sound the human species ever made, musical instruments were much later inventions created to harmonise with the human singing voice. Unlike playing an instrument singing requires no special equipment and no special training, all children can sing without having lessons and without being taught.

Because we are biologically attuned to the sounds that the human voice can make we are naturally disposed to recognise a sonorous sound that appeals to us on an emotional level and we can then replicate that sound for the appeal of others. The interval between one sonorous sound and another that sounds pleasing to us (ie it is harmonious) is also a product of our biology and it can be analysed and described by mathematics (just ask Pythagoras). That harmonious interval is a constant that is shared through out the world by all humans. Because that interval is relative to the first sound we can repeat the same interval on the second to produce a third sound that is harmonious to the second... and so on until we have a whole bag full of sounds that all sound harmonious with each other. From that bag of sounds we can produce a melody and a tune and that is singing and that is how the phenomenon of music was discovered. 

This is not an invention of musicians and it is not the result of music theory  - it's the other way around - music theory describes this natural phenomenon and musicians employ it. All music and all music theory was developed from singing. It should be of no surprise that the oldest known musical instruments produce notes with intervals that we recognise as being the similar to modern instruments (unless reported in the press of course, where every ancient discover is treated with surprise). They won't have the same pitch but the intervals between notes are relatively the same - this is because the common link is the voice they were created to accompany and that has remained the same. (erm... the song remains the same... I think I've heard that before)

So singing "in tune" is a also natural process of human evolution that is common through-out the world regardless of race or culture. No matter where or when a musical tradition developed all basic singing is in pentatonic scales with the same relative intervals between notes and this is usually over more or less the same pitch range. [a link for those struggling to believe this]. This is not the same singing in key or singing in other musical scales or singing with the same pitch-tuning because all those are artificial constructs and the result of imposed standardisation.

[Okay, we're back]

How good a singer you are does not determine the genre of music you will adopt. That would be weird to say the least. And good singers are not predisposed to only sing Pop or Opera nor are bad ones predestined to only sing Rock or Metal. Contrary to the popular concept, Progressive Rock does not have a predilection for bad singers, it has some jolly fine singers and one or two outstanding singers ... and most of them are good singers. Damn good singers. You cannot even argue that all singers of a particular genre all sound the same, because they don't. This may be a little more prevalent in Pop because of the selection process of finding singers is dictated by the producers who are looking for the next Madonna or next Adele but as Pop history has shown, it is the voice that is different that produces the biggest success. The difference between genres is not how good the singers are but the style of singing that they use - a Jazz singer has style of singing that is shared by other Jazz singers and would sound out of place in Opera or Pop but the character of their voice is different and allows us to tell one singer from the next. Progressive Rock tends to emphasis these character difference more and because it is not singular style of music (like say Grunge or Hip Hop) allows for a wides range of differing styles of singing -  but that doesn't stop Fish from being influenced by Peter Hammill's singing style or Peter's Hammill and Gabriel from being influenced by Roger Chapman.

[Oh, one last thing before I leave you in peace]

If you can tell which singers are using auto-tune then it is either being used for effect or it is set-up badly - used properly you cannot tell whether it is used or not.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 25 2014 at 14:38
^Just an aside, many pop singers vocals are so highly processed that they almost sound robotic at times, something only done in prog for effect at rare times.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 25 2014 at 15:01
Originally posted by SteveG SteveG wrote:

^Just an aside, many pop singers vocals are so highly processed that they almost sound robotic at times, something only done in prog for effect at rare times.
Ermm That's what I said. 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 25 2014 at 15:07
Originally posted by Dean Dean wrote:


Originally posted by SteveG SteveG wrote:

^Just an aside, many pop singers vocals are so highly processed that they almost sound robotic at times, something only done in prog for effect at rare times.

Ermm†That's what I said.†
Perhaps I should have said all the time.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 25 2014 at 15:16
Confused but they don't. 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 25 2014 at 15:17
Originally posted by Dean Dean wrote:

Confused†but they don't.†
Could have fooled me but then I don't listen to Ke$ha as a steady diet.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 25 2014 at 15:19
Originally posted by SteveG SteveG wrote:

Originally posted by Dean Dean wrote:

Confused but they don't. 
Could have fooled me but then I don't listen to Ke$ha as a steady diet.
Which also implies you don't listen to a lot of Pop either.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 25 2014 at 15:26
^Not if I can help it. But my grand kids do all the time. Oh God, how did things come to this?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 25 2014 at 15:37

Originally posted by ExittheLemming ExittheLemming wrote:

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.
...

I like this.

As you well know, I come from a literary background. I had heard, BEFORE all the rock music bruhaha, a lot of the literatii read some of their stuff at home ... so hearing Jorge Amado, GM Marquez and many others read something was not news to out family, and in fact, it was one of the ways that these "literatii" inspired each other. So hearing things like Syd Barrett, for me, was highly poetic and satirical. Lou Reed, for me, was more of a very typical big city guy, that was more street wise, than anything else, and in some ways, it comes off as a satire of "meaningful cats" like Bob Dylan and so many others getting credit for their words and no one else paid attention to others in NY. London had the same thing, and even a David Bowie would have been a part of it, for example.

But, this reminds me of the first time, I heard Allen Ginsburg! Mind you I was already used to "heaging" folks read their material ... which most of us AREN'T, and will NEVER HAVE that experience! I had alreayd read many of his works and all that and NONE of them "clicked" with me at all. And one of these days (couldn't help it!), I caught the film "Tonite We All Love in London", and you get to hear him read it. Son of a gun! His words just fly right out at you with an incredible force and beauty, that you did not see before!

And that is the magic, that we have forgotten in the literature, as opposed to just "singing", which is a similar form, and we have become all jaded by the musical aspects of it, instead of its very own quality as you mentioned!

Originally posted by ExittheLemming ExittheLemming wrote:


... produce good lyrics like Arthur Brown, Christian Descamps, Demetrio Stratos, Richard Sinclair ... Jon Anderson, Roger Daltrey ...

Indeed!!! And they express it very well!

The likes of Greg Lake and Robert Plant, I would say that they are very good actors, and even David Bowie fits more in this group than otherwise. But it's hard to think of the early days of Led Zeppelin and Robert practically having sex on stage with music that helped take it that far, which is something that no one here on PA has ever seen! No progressive band, EVER, has been that strong and experientially important, though I think that Jon Anderson in 2 albums alone, brought this to another level altogether, whicn none of us are capable of seeing or understanding properly.

Of all these, Greg Lake, is a magnificent actor, as is David Bowie, or Robin Williamson, or Kate Bush, and they were really good at blending their delivery to the work at hand, and it made it special. It helped that both KC and ELP brought out something completely different than just a rock song (for the most part) which helped accent the lyrics and poems that were done.

The last part, is the one many of us don't want to discuss. I just heard an interview with Robin Williamson, and he will readily tell you that he was writing poetry way before music came around for him! And we fail to understand that connection many times, and how "poetry" affects what one says, reads, sings, or states from the soap box! You and I included, of course! I get the clown outfit, and you can have the fool outfit! Or viceversa!

Very nice comments on your part, btw ... loved it! Made me think even more!

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 25 2014 at 15:41
Originally posted by Dean Dean wrote:

...
It's one of the remarkable things of human physiology that if you can hear sound and make a vocal sound you can sing. All humans beings can sing - some of us may not be able to sing in key, or carry a tune, or have good technique and many of us will sound just plain awful, but all that can be fixed with training and coaching to a certain degree - it will never make you a great singer but you can be taught not to be a bad one.
 
...
 
 
Very nice and well written.
 
We should just about make this an important part of the PA's understanding and definition of music for the masses, instead of top ten!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 25 2014 at 16:18
Originally posted by moshkito moshkito wrote:

Originally posted by Dean Dean wrote:

...
It's one of the remarkable things of human physiology that if you can hear sound and make a vocal sound you can sing. All humans beings can sing - some of us may not be able to sing in key, or carry a tune, or have good technique and many of us will sound just plain awful, but all that can be fixed with training and coaching to a certain degree - it will never make you a great singer but you can be taught not to be a bad one.
 
...
 
 
Very nice and well written.
 
We should just about make this an important part of the PA's understanding and definition of music for the masses, instead of top ten!
pft! It's not well written it's got a stupid sodding spelling error in it. Angry

Wanna n'other homily? Don't stay obsessed with all that popularity nonsense, just do what the rest of us do: listen to the music and not concern ourselves with what other people are listening too.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 26 2014 at 01:46
I largely agree with Gerard on the point that pop singers tend to better in terms of great timbre.  I cannot prove what is better or worse with regard to something so subjective but (a) I can feel it when I am hearing the singers, especially Peter Gabriel followed by talented pop singers and (b) prog is not a genre that really emphasises the personality of singers.  It may be more open to different and unconventional styles as compared to pop but a singer is not expected to stand out.  It is often enough if he is pleasing enough and gets the job done.  A pop singer is the front for a successful commercial enterprise and it is imperative that he/she should offer something distinct.  Charisma, as it's called.  I wouldn't say any of the well known prog frontmen like Gabriel, Andersons (both) or Hammill had voices as charismatic as say a Michael Hutchence.  How much that kind of approach to delivering a pop hit or creating a pop star is relevant today is a different story.  But to the extent that it is, it tends to emphasise great timbre much more than is the case in prog.

I also want to add that the situation is different in prog metal, where a lot of singers have great, wholesome and powerful voices and where they may not be so attractive is in using only a very non descript accent  (Gabriel or Hammill compensated for a less attractive voice with great and distinct diction) and not doing particularly interesting things with their phrasing or variations.  


Edited by rogerthat - July 26 2014 at 02:04
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 26 2014 at 03:32
Ermm isn't Peter Gabriel better known (in the public eye) as a Pop singer than as Prog singer? He's definitely had more UK top 10 hit singles than INXS. 

Timbre is a difficult quality because it is, as you say, subjective and is referred to using terminology that is related to emotive response to the perception of the frequency spectrum in its tonal quality, which is called "colour" but is describe by words such as "warm", "thin" or "shrill". Timbre can be measured empirically but it is a complex time-dependant multi-dimensional parameter that is difficult to use for any comparative judgement - it can be used (and is used) to assess similarity and difference but not good and bad.

Timbre forms part of the overall tonal character of a singers voice along with formant and resonance - the timbre can change during the duration of a note and from note to note. Singers like Bowie and Gabriel can vary timbre considerably from song to song.

In recent years the timbre of pop singers has become more homogenised (which is why many think all Pop singers sound the same - they don't sound the same, it's just the timbre is less varied from singer to singer), before there was far more variety in timbre. Prog is not immune from this homogenisation of timbre - there is less variety in timbre in some Prog subgenres, especially between modern bands.

Charisma is not a term I would associate with the singing voice, it is a personality characteristic not a vocal one. A voice can be called a charismatic voice but that more often applies to speakers (ie actors) rather than singers - Christopher Lee has a charismatic voice but not when singing. Charisma is not a defining feature of a good singer even if more pop singers than prog singers have it. 

However, for a vocalist charisma is related to stage presence and that's something you've either got or you haven't - From seeing them live on stage I'd say that Fish has it and Hogarth hasn't though both can sing (and that is a purely subjective opinion, however I'll make no judgemental comparisons between their ability to sing or the quality of their voices). Prog has its charismatic front men and it has singers with a strong stage-presence but I admit they are few and far between and would possibly be those who have successful solo careers as well as group careers and are measured to some extent by their overall popularity.

Damian Wilson has a superb voice, is a great character singer and has a most charming personality on and off stage -  [I took my wife and daughter to a Threshold gig, they weren't fans and frankly he's not that good-looking, but they couldn't take their sodding eyes of him LOL] - he has stage-presence but I'd not say he was charismatic in the manner of .'Percy' Plant or (your choice not mine) Michael Hutchence.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 26 2014 at 03:43
Gabriel did well as a pop artist because he was such a good songwriter.  On the other hand, INXS had barely anything original to offer so if at all they still succeeded, a large part of the credit has to go to Hutchence.  Anyhow, the reason I don't consider Gabriel's timbre to be particularly great is it's too nasal and does not have a large presence.  As I said earlier, this is more noticeable when you follow up a Gabriel-sung track with that sung by a singer with a powerful voice.  And it's NOT because he is singing within himself, even at full tilt his voice somehow feels small.  It also loses shape pretty early into his upper register, though that has more to do with range.   He is artful in using these limitations in a way that appears to suit the music but limitations he does have. 

I understand that charisma is not perhaps the right word but I am struggling to come up with an alternative term to describe what I have in mind.  Could be aura, maybe, individuality, presence, etc.  I don't know, just that some singers have the knack of grabbing a listener's attention right off the bat.  I agree with you that in both pop and prog, diversity has gone down substantially over the last few years.  It's partly that a lot of singers have learnt to sing well technically, where singers like Gabriel had a somewhat flawed approach.  But what was human and endearing about a singer like Gabriel is lost in the process as singers are not balancing technical perfection or near perfection with great stylistic traits in diction or phrasing or riffs.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 26 2014 at 04:12
Originally posted by Dean Dean wrote:

Originally posted by Gerinski Gerinski wrote:

Well, of course Pop and Commercial Rock have many more good singers than Prog, at least for what regards timbre beauty and technique (not those who need autotune of course), I guess it's because if you are really good as an instrumentalist you don't have many chances to shine in Pop, while Prog (or Jazz, JRF) gives you those chances, but for a really good singer he-she can easily shine in Pop (and make money) so they tend to go that route.
Ermm ...well.. no. 

I think you've successfully managed to list all the wrong reasons there. And produced some inaccurate conclusions to boot. 

It is incredibly difficult to succeed in Pop no matter how good a singer you are. The sheer number of aspiring wannabe Pop singers is too huge and the numbers that are successful too small for a good singer to easily shine. There are a vast number of good singers in this world and this is no accident nor is it a special gift or talent because (practically) every human being can sing - just as (practically) every sky-lark can sing and (practically) every dog can howl. When you have 7 billion singing voices to choose from finding singers who can sing in key that have pleasing timbres, projection and diction is not difficult - so being one of the chosen is much harder.

[I know most of you are shaking your heads in disbelief but hear me out here.]

It's one of the remarkable things of human physiology that if you can hear sound and make a vocal sound you can sing. All humans beings can sing - some of us may not be able to sing in key, or carry a tune, or have good technique and many of us will sound just plain awful, but all that can be fixed with training and coaching to a certain degree - it will never make you a great singer but you can be taught not to be a bad one. (Finding someone who is tone-deaf is very rare because it is a neurological condition not a natural trait, if you can appreciate music you are not tone-deaf.). Singing is the first musical sound the human species ever made, musical instruments were much later inventions created to harmonise with the human singing voice. Unlike playing an instrument singing requires no special equipment and no special training, all children can sing without having lessons and without being taught.

Because we are biologically attuned to the sounds that the human voice can make we are naturally disposed to recognise a sonorous sound that appeals to us on an emotional level and we can then replicate that sound for the appeal of others. The interval between one sonorous sound and another that sounds pleasing to us (ie it is harmonious) is also a product of our biology and it can be analysed and described by mathematics (just ask Pythagoras). That harmonious interval is a constant that is shared through out the world by all humans. Because that interval is relative to the first sound we can repeat the same interval on the second to produce a third sound that is harmonious to the second... and so on until we have a whole bag full of sounds that all sound harmonious with each other. From that bag of sounds we can produce a melody and a tune and that is singing and that is how the phenomenon of music was discovered. 

This is not an invention of musicians and it is not the result of music theory  - it's the other way around - music theory describes this natural phenomenon and musicians employ it. All music and all music theory was developed from singing. It should be of no surprise that the oldest known musical instruments produce notes with intervals that we recognise as being the similar to modern instruments (unless reported in the press of course, where every ancient discover is treated with surprise). They won't have the same pitch but the intervals between notes are relatively the same - this is because the common link is the voice they were created to accompany and that has remained the same. (erm... the song remains the same... I think I've heard that before)

So singing "in tune" is a also natural process of human evolution that is common through-out the world regardless of race or culture. No matter where or when a musical tradition developed all basic singing is in pentatonic scales with the same relative intervals between notes and this is usually over more or less the same pitch range. [a link for those struggling to believe this]. This is not the same singing in key or singing in other musical scales or singing with the same pitch-tuning because all those are artificial constructs and the result of imposed standardisation.

[Okay, we're back]

How good a singer you are does not determine the genre of music you will adopt. That would be weird to say the least. And good singers are not predisposed to only sing Pop or Opera nor are bad ones predestined to only sing Rock or Metal. Contrary to the popular concept, Progressive Rock does not have a predilection for bad singers, it has some jolly fine singers and one or two outstanding singers ... and most of them are good singers. Damn good singers. You cannot even argue that all singers of a particular genre all sound the same, because they don't. This may be a little more prevalent in Pop because of the selection process of finding singers is dictated by the producers who are looking for the next Madonna or next Adele but as Pop history has shown, it is the voice that is different that produces the biggest success. The difference between genres is not how good the singers are but the style of singing that they use - a Jazz singer has style of singing that is shared by other Jazz singers and would sound out of place in Opera or Pop but the character of their voice is different and allows us to tell one singer from the next. Progressive Rock tends to emphasis these character difference more and because it is not singular style of music (like say Grunge or Hip Hop) allows for a wides range of differing styles of singing -  but that doesn't stop Fish from being influenced by Peter Hammill's singing style or Peter's Hammill and Gabriel from being influenced by Roger Chapman.

[Oh, one last thing before I leave you in peace]

If you can tell which singers are using auto-tune then it is either being used for effect or it is set-up badly - used properly you cannot tell whether it is used or not.
I admit my sentence "a good singer can easily shine on Pop" was certainly wrong, that's not really what I meant. I meant that the Pop world is more concerned with recruiting good vocalists than with recruiting good instrumentalists, while in Prog often the opposite is the case.
Besides, your first sentence seems to imply that there are tens of millions of great singers in the world, and that I find a bit stretching. The fact that most humans have the ability to sing if they receive some training does not mean that every band can find a good singer around the corner.
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