This is a multi-entry blog regarding the setting of levels for studio monitor mixes. Part 1 is a discussion of the vocal mic.
In the studio, there can be dozens of variables to contend with, each one a discreet part of the mix that gets to your headphones. As a vocalist, I want my voice to sit just where I want it ...
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Formal ear training is a skill that musicians (and particularly vocalists required to sing backing vocals) must use constantly. In summary, what I'm talking about here is the ability to hear and recognize the intervals between one note and another. This can be melodic or harmonic.
In regards to melody, as one note follows another, whether your melody goes up or down, there are specific intervals between each successive note. For example, in 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow', the first two notes are on the two syllables of the word 'Some-where'. These notes are an octave apart.
Harmonically, this is when two vocals are present singing together but singing two different notes. This is heard very frequently in many forms of music, but is really distinctive and easy to hear in Bluegrass. Often, the melody is sandwiched between a lower and higher part, all sung together in what would be called close harmonies. What that means is that every vocal harmony is singing the next available chord tone either above or below the melody. So, if the melody is on a 'c' in C Major the upper harmony part would be on an 'e' and the harmony part below it would be on a 'g'.
It's important to note here, that harmonies need not be close all the time, and even in one song can change from close to open voicing.
Getting back to my post title though As vocalists, we can be called upon to sing harmony parts with little or no notice, and developing the skills to do so make us ever more valuable as sidemen, or improve our abilities to harmonize with ourselves when tracking vocals in the studio. That brings me to the link that I found online a few weeks back.
Ricci Adams has put together the website www.musictheory.net and has graciously allowed me to include the url here in my post. His website puts together both written theory and aural skills exercises that when practiced can greatly improve one's ability to create harmonies or understand what another artist is doing so that one might be able to make use of that idea in the future. Practicing just a few minutes a day on either the interval trainer or chord trainer has had dramatic improvements on my own ability to hear and recognize chords on the fly, which is a skill that is a must have for any working musician.
In summary, a little bit of music theory and aural skills practice goes a long way, and Ricci Adams' website offers a great way to get some practice in. Best of all, it's totally free!
Melisma:Succinctly defined:onesyllable of a word, with more than one note to be sung on it.
This offers a unique challenge to vocalists, as ourinstrument has no keys, and we must seamlessly slide from pitch to pitch, allthe while watching for accuracy and consistency of tone.Often, in an effort to ‘hold on to’ theline or make sure we’re accurate, we can unconsciously add ‘h’s’ in the middlesof these phrases, breaking them up and defeating the smooth melodic nature ofthe passage.If you’reencountering these in ...<< MORE >>
This isn't so much instruction for vocalists as it is for all of us who endeavor to bring our A game to the stage and studio each time we perform. Much as we practice and work towards honing our expressive qualities, intonation, and writing, there's no greater litmus test than a recorder, and I think it particularly shines when used in conjunction with a live performance.
As a voice instructor, I record every lesson so that my students can listen to what they're doing correctly, and hear what needs work. I encourage them to record their practices at home from time to time to get the unbiased feedback of a recording as well. Intonation tendencies, vowel enunciation and consonant usage all become much easier to evaluate when all one has to do is listen back.
The stage often gives insight into our greatest strengths, and it is truly gratifying to walk off, listen to your performance from a day ago, and hear that it sounded just as good (or better!) from what you remembered. Likewise, the areas that need work can be found, and worked out in practice so that when you do head back to the stage, you're even better prepared than before.
There are tons of recording devices out there which work wonderfully well in clubs, cafe's and at home. Some of the most notable ones would be made by Zoom and Edirol, but the market is getting wider with lower cost units. Most can also be expanded if you have your own mic's.
No matter how you go about it though, recording your performances will help you grow quickly. When two separate recordings of the same song sound drastically different, identify what changed from gig to gig. Were the monitors really out of whack? Bad dinner? Drummer too loud or too soft? Finding out the elements that give you your best performances and quantifying them gives you the control to create the best stage environment you can, or realize that you're working with what you've got and to trust your inner ear. This is all a part of developing the consistency which generates great performances every time.
Best Wishes, thanks for reading!
....a musician, songwriter, and vocalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. He teaches voice lessons privately downtown in SOMA, and can regularly be heard at clubs in the city. You can also hear him online at www.jeffrolka.comwww.myspace.com/jeffrolka or via his EPK at www.sonicbids.com/jeffrolka. He is available for lessons, in studio consultations, vocal recording, and, of course, performances.
As the vocalist, either on your own or in your band, you're in control of an amazing melodic instrument, your voice. As a songwriter, I used to get lost in the words of what I was singing, and the melodies of my songs suffered because of it. Now, as a vocal coach (and songwriter too) I find that I can't emphasize enough the importance that you play as the vocal representative on stage. It's your job to articulate the words so the message gets through, and in addition, the melody and hooks that the song has.
Generally, the best way to get at this is to remove the words initially, and check out the cadence and flow that your melody has. Is it short and choppy or does it have a more connected feeling to it? If you can't decide, perhaps give some thought to how you want to present it to your audience. Once you've ascertained that, pick a vowel of your choosing, it could be the long ee sound or oh if you want something more open, and sing through your melody without any words, using only the syllables. Make your phrases connected in between breaths, and look for natural cadence points where you can take your breath. Basically, have a look under the hood, and see what is making your melody tick.
Often times, when vocalists have problems making phrases, or where the range of a song is becoming difficult, taking a close look at the melody can have a dramatic impact. Allowing the vocalist to get a good breath before a challenging section, or connecting through two shorter phrases can have a great emotional impact when the words are returned to the music. The end goal here is to highly communicate the emotional content of the song, whatever that may be. Solidifying your approach to the melody not only increases the consistency of your performance, but it allows you the freedom to more fully engage with what you're singing.
I'll try to get a podcast of this concept together in the next week or so. I recently moved the recording studio, so I have to get things all squared away before I can record again, but all in good time.
Many voice instructors are quick to talk about support, or 'belly breathing' or some other such concept regarding where the air that you sing with comes from. Many methods discuss
diaphragmatic breathing, the diaphragm being this large band of muscle which is below your lungs, and above your intestines, separating the two. The problem here, is that the diaphragm is an
involuntary muscle. It's part of the support system that keeps you alive if you should fall unconscious, insuring that you'll continue to breathe.
But thousands of vocal teachers can't be wrong, and they're not, but what needs ...
We left off our discussion of studio mics with some high end examples. I'd like to now mention a few mics I've used in the past that are really affordable, but still offer some impressive
For starters, the AT 3000 series microphones continue to surprise me. These mics are designed for the home studio, and priced accordingly. For the money, they are really impressive. Take for
example the AT 3035. I've used this mic for close and pulled back recording applications and marveled at the transparency of the sound. Put up against the ...
The choosing of a vocal mic for your studio is perhaps one of the most important decisions that you'll make as a singer/songwriter or vocal recording artist. If you're a studio owner,
or building a studio of your own, this is an equally important decision that will need to be made within the context of the clientele you work with. You'll also need flexibility, as every mic doesn't
work with every voice. So let's begin.
The first thing to remember is there are two fundamentally different styles of mic's we're discussing. Condenser and Dynamic mics. The ...
Singing is not just for the stage, and in this area, I'll wax philosophical on microphones for vocal work, techniques to use to get particular sounds in the studio, and various other ways to
tweak out on gear and your ears!
I'm always happy to hear back, or answer questions as applicable, feel free to sign up, or send an email!