Singers! Vocal help needed.

Diocletian

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I have a new band, but we don't have a singer, so me and one of the other guys are trying to sing just now until we find one.
I used to do the backing vocals in my last band and it was fine, but trying to sing lead on something like "Symphony of Destruction" or "Sweet Child O Mine" seems to be extremely hard once I get into the studio. It's like my voice starts to crack, as though I'm straining to hit almost every note, not even just the high ones.
I can sing these songs fine at home or in the car, obviously the studio/with a band is another matter entirely but....f**king hell, why am I SOOO bad in the studio?
Do I need to turn the mic up more and use that better, rather than keeping it lower to hide how bad I am? :hmm:

Incidentally, I've surprised myself greatly by being able to play guitar and 'sing' "Symphony of Destruction" at the same time. :thumb:
 

LesMetal

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I would say maybe breathing? Maybe just being nervous. Take some room temp water and take a bit before a take.
 

Diocletian

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Nah I'm not nervous, it's just for fun, so I don't think it's that. I don't know about breathing, maybe it is that.

COULD it be because I've got the mic turned down too low? So I'm straining to be heard over the music? I'm going to try turning it right up next rehearsal and see how that works.
 

Rich

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If you're having trouble hearing yourself through the monitors, turn up your vocal mic in the send.

Singing tips:

Open your mouth up wide so that air can more easily flow through...

your vocal chords, which you shouldn't be constricting while singing as many singers do when trying to sing higher notes. Open up.

Use lots of air and project.

If you have trouble with going flat, "aim" your voice up towards the bridge of your nose.

When singing covers, don't try to sound exactly like the original singers. Nobody can sound like 20 different singers; instead, try to cop the inflections and styles of how they're singing the songs. Think of a singer like Mick Jagger who pronounces words like nobody else does; your voice might not sound like Mick Jagger, but you can still cop his style and swagger.
 

toneguy86

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The $10,000 question asked on all kinds of forums and I dealt with this for a long time. Basically I had a lot of bad habits that were enhanced because with a band or in the studio, I was often trying to compensate for a bunch of things by pushing too hard. Breathing issues (lack of diaphram support) was one thing...but that's just where it starts. If you are straining or pinching to get high notes...stop! It's not right and you will destroy your voice...plus sound like crap. Cracking happens because your chords are not closed entirely. Luckily there are tips and tricks that the pros know that the rest of us can learn.

Simple solutions to start: First is to visualize what is happening. Jamie Vendera (the guy that breaks glass on myth busters) has some great visuals that really help. Basically most of us guys never used our vocal chords right. When we were kids and our chords were short and thin, we developed a bad habit that remained once we matured. To visualize what is going on and how to fix it, he uses this model: Take a rubber band and loop it around a finger on each hand and stretch it tight. Then have someone else pinch the band together in the middle so that one side of the pinch has the two sides of the band touching and the other side of the pinch has them apart. We sing (most of us) only with the part of our chords that are touching together. When we reach that break point (the point of the pinch where the bands separate), instead of closing the chords the rest of the way, we stretch the band to increase range (sort of like playing up the neck of the guitar by fretting to a certain point and then going higher by increasing tension with the tuners). This is hard...and it can damage your voice. What we need to do is learn how to close our chords the rest of the way up (imagine then pinching the rubber band all the way so that both sides touch the entire length of the band). It is easier then it seems but takes some work and practice. As surprising as it seems, if you are doing this right, it takes less effort and air to sing high then it does to sing low (simple physics).

Exersize: Another image that I learned from Jamie is that it is helpful to think of our chords in our throats running in such a way that they close from front to back. This means we need to develop the muscles past our break point (the pinch point in the model) in order to do this. In fact, the muscles I work on the most are right around my break point because this is where they seem to be the weakest. What I needed to do though, was feel clearly which muscles I needed to work. Jamie's big breakthrough exersize for me was this:

Close your eyes and open your mouth as you would if you were singing (with a very relaxed lower jaw). Inhale and feel which muscles contract. Now inhale and try to direct the breath and muscle tension into various parts of the throat, including way back up the back corner of the soft palate. These are the very muscles you use for singing. The trick is to relax your lower jaw and lightly contract these muscles, imagining that you are inhaling while you are actually exhaling...seriously...it takes some practice

Once you get the trick, you will notice that certain vowel and consanant sounds require more force to keep the chords closed and that around E (high E string E on a guitar), which is the start of the break point for most males, it takes some more air and work.

Other tricks:
Lock down in your gut. The sure fire way to make sure you have diaphram support is to push down as if you were taking a crap while you sing (ya I know...it seems odd), especially as you go higher.

Next trick: A trick for hitting those high notes is to find a point on your soft palate called the "cold spot." Find it by opening your mouth and inhaling...it will feel cold. Imagine that there is a button on the top of that spot. As you go higher, direct your imagined inhale up and back as high on an angle as you can and push down on the top of that cold spot while pushing down with your gut muscles at the same time.

Hopefully this helps...
 

toneguy86

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If you're having trouble hearing yourself through the monitors, turn up your vocal mic in the send.

Singing tips:

Open your mouth up wide so that air can more easily flow through...

your vocal chords, which you shouldn't be constricting while singing as many singers do when trying to sing higher notes. Open up.

Use lots of air and project.

If you have trouble with going flat, "aim" your voice up towards the bridge of your nose.

When singing covers, don't try to sound exactly like the original singers. Nobody can sound like 20 different singers; instead, try to cop the inflections and styles of how they're singing the songs. Think of a singer like Mick Jagger who pronounces words like nobody else does; your voice might not sound like Mick Jagger, but you can still cop his style and swagger.
Good suggestions. That image of aiming your voice towards the bridge of your nose might work for some. For me it creates some strain I don't want so I aim it up and back, towards the back of my throat and soft palate. It seems to help me relax my jaw and throat better.

I also agree about not trying to sound like other singers. Once I figured out my voice and what worked, I noticed though that it was easier for me to come close to certain singers, so I listen a lot to them to figure out some things they do. I am not identical, but can get damn close to Plant, Rodgers and McCartney. Zep, Bad Co. and Beatles stuff is therefor much easier to sing...whereas AC/DC and GNR is harder. Not because of range necessarily...just that I don't sound anything like Bon, Brian or Axel and I have to find another way to do the music if I were to do it at all.
 

PapaSquash

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As a rookie singer, What Rich said is what I have been told .

I'd add that "open up" wasn't obvious to me. Feel your adam's apple. Now yawn. Feel how it drops? That's (part of) open. Practice the "drop" until you can stay open without the yawn. (you can't really sing while yawning) I'm still working on this, but I can get a lot louder and higher than I used to be able to. Don't "tighten up" to get high notes - it's not intuitive, but looser lets me get higher. "Shoot to Thrill" is as high as I can get.

Also I can't get nearly as high without cracking unless I have a fair amount of air available. If I don't plan for, and take, refills of the lungs, I often end up running short. You can't sing the way you talk, just naturally breathing when you feel like it.

I practice and find the spots where I can draw a quick breath - without it being heard. There are more opportunities than you might think, and you need way more air when projecting into the mic, than you do singing in the car. You don't have the song's vocals filling it out for you.
 

toneguy86

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As a rookie singer, What Rich said is what I have been told .

I'd add that "open up" wasn't obvious to me. Feel your adam's apple. Now yawn. Feel how it drops? That's (part of) open. Practice the "drop" until you can stay open without the yawn. (you can't really sing while yawning) I'm still working on this, but I can get a lot louder and higher than I used to be able to. Don't "tighten up" to get high notes - it's not intuitive, but looser lets me get higher. "Shoot to Thrill" is as high as I can get.

Also I can't get nearly as high without cracking unless I have a fair amount of air available. If I don't plan for, and take, refills of the lungs, I often end up running short. You can't sing the way you talk, just naturally breathing when you feel like it.

I practice and find the spots where I can draw a quick breath - without it being heard. There are more opportunities than you might think, and you need way more air when projecting into the mic, than you do singing in the car. You don't have the song's vocals filling it out for you.
Good suggestions. Dropping the larynx (what you do when you yawn) is critical for opening up all your resonators. It's sorta like cranking the bass control on your amp too. When you practice singing, use a mirror also. Your adam's apple should stay pretty level. If it suddenly rises up you are stretching your chords to sing higher rather then pinching them closed (two different muscles and one that is THE bad habit).
 

Diocletian

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Thanks guys, this is great! :)

The Beatles comment reminded me - my old band used to do Day Tripper, and I sang it one rehearsal when we didn't have a singer. The other guys in the band said at the end "We have our new singer!" I actually sang it well - this is one of the reasons I KNOW I can do it, so can't understand why it works sometimes and not others.

I'm gonna read through all those tips you guys posted again, cheers! :)
 

toneguy86

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Thanks guys, this is great! :)

The Beatles comment reminded me - my old band used to do Day Tripper, and I sang it one rehearsal when we didn't have a singer. The other guys in the band said at the end "We have our new singer!" I actually sang it well - this is one of the reasons I KNOW I can do it, so can't understand why it works sometimes and not others.

I'm gonna read through all those tips you guys posted again, cheers! :)
Funny thing about that. Tension comes at odd times and muscle memory is long and hard to undo. I do know that I really need to be careful if my monitors are bad or the band is particularly loud. I tend to push more in all the wrong places trying to get volume and it just makes everything go to hell in a proverbial handbasket.

One thing that a vocal coach out in Seattle does is train all his singers with a mic and PA since that's what everyone uses when they perform. I noticed early on that I had a certain kind of tension that I was used to on a mic in some situations. It has taken me two years to undo the habit.

Here's one thing I do: I really, really concentrate hard on feeling like I am inhaling as I sing. At the very least my chords are closed and I am not forcing things by stretching and straining. That way, even if the sound is for shit, I'm not straining as much.

Mark
 

Lurko

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Change keys and transpose down to one that's more in your range.:thumb:
 

toneguy86

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Change keys and transpose down to one that's more in your range.:thumb:
That is an option...but usually (with rare exception) keys are kind of sacred in that each one has a particular color and feel. It just sounds strange sometimes to have a song moved to a lower key to accomodate a singer who can't cut it. Better option...learn to sing.
 

Diocletian

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That is an option...but usually (with rare exception) keys are kind of sacred in that each one has a particular color and feel. It just sounds strange sometimes to have a song moved to a lower key to accomodate a singer who can't cut it. Better option...learn to sing.
Actually, we DID try going down to Eb but it didn't seem to help much, which perhaps bears out the theory that it's my nerves causing it.
 

76Custom

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Do I need to turn the mic up more and use that better, rather than keeping it lower to hide how bad I am? :hmm:
Best advice I can give is don't be afraid to be heard. If you are singing, belt it out man. You've got something to say, say it loud and proud. More headroom on the mic is a good thing as is a good monitor mix so you can hear enough of the other tracks to reference and inspire you as well as hear your vocals. I'm sure that in the car you are not being self concious. I don't care who you are or how much fun you are having, when the red light goes on it affects you. Call it nerves, performance anxiety whatever. Lay off the caffeine and the nicotine as well.
 

mudfinger

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Good times.

Dio: if you can sing, you can sing. Period. It DOES sound like you're mixed too low in the headphones to hear yourself properly; however the final mix gets setup, when you're in the vocal booth, the vocals should be waaay up in the headphone mix. When it's set up properly, you should be able to whisper into the mic and still hear yourself loud and clear over whatever else has already been tracked. At a bare minimum, there should be some compression on the vocal track at a ratio of 2:1 or so, and there's nothing like a touch of reverb in the headphones to keep the inspiration flowing.

If you can hit the notes, and the guys in the band are liking what you do, then any issues you have with the sound of your voice are psychological. Best thing to do in that scenario is track multiple version of your vocals, and then get the hell outta the studio while your mates and the engineer handle the production duties. You wouldn't be the first singer in the world who doesn't like their own voice, but as long as you can trust the people you work with to make it sound right to their ears, you're set. :thumb:

Toneguy: You're fired. Keys aren't sacred, and the voice doesn't work in the same way a piano or guitar does; every singer, good, bad, great, and even genius, has a sweet spot in their range that they like to use as often as possible, for good reason. It sounds best, and allows them to do what they do more effectively. Setting the key of the song to the singer's range is the FIRST order of business whenever professionals get together to work up a standard or a cover tune. Even a brief review of a few jazz, rock, or blues standards that have been recorded by various great singers of the past and present will confirm this. :cool:
 


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