The Acoustic Guitar Forum

Go Back   The Acoustic Guitar Forum > General Acoustic Guitar and Amplification Discussion > PLAY and Write

Reply
 
Thread Tools
  #1  
Old 01-12-2019, 08:35 AM
washy21 washy21 is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 216
Default Vocal Range Debate.

Hi all,

For those who sing and play I’m curious to hear others views on this:

Several years back I began, and continue to have, vocal lessons. It wasn’t long before I realized that a lot of the songs I play and sing were not in the right key for me. Sure, I could hit the notes but my teacher urged me to change the key to fit my voice. Moreover, he is an advocate that you should make songs your own rather than trying to mimic, others singing and playing. Obviously I realize that this is a personal opinion.

Anyway, I am a baritone with a good range and as soon as I started changing the keys, using a capo if needed, I really began to see improvements. A good example is ‘Yesterday’ by the Beatles. I have to play that in C but if I capo and play it in G (capo third fret actuall key Bb) I really opens up my voice.

So personally, what I once thought of as the baritone curse, turns out to be not such a bad thing.

On YouTube I see people who are hellbent on playing songs exactly as the original artist does but often they are clearly struggling vocal wise.

What do others do and what do you personally believe.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 01-12-2019, 10:57 AM
Dog Shape Cloud Dog Shape Cloud is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jul 2017
Posts: 84
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by washy21 View Post
Moreover, he is an advocate that you should make songs your own rather than trying to mimic, others singing and playing. Obviously I realize that this is a personal opinion.
In the same way that "it's better to tune your instrument than not" is a personal opinion.

Though I did recently experience a tourist in her early 20s defending a succession of extraordinarily off-key singers on the radio in my country, backed by bands that clearly didn't care much about being in tune either, which I was complaining about: "I know you have strong opinions on this, but maybe it's part of their culture so you should respect it," or words to that effect (it isn't, if it matters).

Quote:
On YouTube I see people who are hellbent on playing songs exactly as the original artist does but often they are clearly struggling vocal wise.
In many cases it's likely people just don't know how to adjust for vocal range, don't know what their vocal range is, or have never thought about it, but actively valuing "exactly as the original artist does it" over all other criteria is quite ridiculous (outside a classroom or test scenario, anyway). I don't think there's any debate at all.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 01-12-2019, 11:20 AM
Glennwillow Glennwillow is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Coastal Washington State
Posts: 31,933
Default

I tend to choose to sing music sung by artists who sing within my vocal range. I am a baritone, so I like singing music by other baritone singers such as James Taylor, Paul Simon, Gordon Lightfoot, Jim Croce, etc.

But I do take on songs sung by those who sing totally out of my vocal range -- women, for example -- and then I need to change the key and figure out where I should pitch the song.

I did a version of Michael Martin Murphy's "Wildfire" song. He hits a high A in the chorus of that song that is just a little out of my range on the high side, so my tutorial on this song is how to change keys and place the song within my own vocal range.

I don't think it occurs to a lot of players that you can change the key of a song and make it fit your vocal range better. I think they become so consumed with copying the original artist's style that they forget about how to best serve the song with their own voice.

- Glenn
__________________
My You Tube Channel
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 01-12-2019, 11:29 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 4,609
Default

Yes, this is a common issue. Rock singing began from singers (usually white) copying certain black blues and R&B singers, whose tradition is often to sing very high - either high tenor, or falsetto in some cases. High pitched singing - including screaming - derives from gospel, and obviously communicates passionate intensity. Little Richard, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Smokey Robinson, etc.

The thing is, most untrained male voices are somewhere in bass/baritone register. It's only a minority (like Robert Plant, Paul McCartney, Neil Young) who can effortlessly get up into tenor register. Plant in particular established the rock tradition of high screaming vocals in heavy rock and metal. Very few can cut it up there - and a lot of amateur guys don't realise that!

Somehow it was that rock tradition of screaming tenors that caught on, rather than the sexier baritone style of Elvis Presley. By the late 60s, that kind of crooning just sounded too cheesy and old-fashioned. Rock culture somehow demanded the kind of singer who sounded like he was barely in control of his anguished emotions. That sound somehow spoke to the frustrated adolescent male - maybe less to adolescent females, although the spectacle of a long-haired man in peacock clothes letting it all out in a high-pitched voice must have struck a chord with many. (And it's significant that what got the girls screaming most to the Beatles was when they hit their falsetto: that proves that ultra high pitch is sexier than one might imagine... R&B singers know this much better than most white singers.)

Naturally, amateur singers want to emulate their heroes, and the idea of transposing a key seems like some strange alchemy to most of them. Guitarists don't help, because a lot of the guitar parts simply won't work in other keys - they can tune down to some extent (to maintain the same chord and riff shapes), but there's obviously a limit. To a guitarist - probably even more than a singer - there is only one "right" key for a song, and that's the original key.

Few people appreciate that a "song" is not a specific recording to be copied in every detail, it's just a bunch of lyrics, a melody and chords - which will work (be the same song) in any key; sung by a man or a woman, and using any instruments.
__________________
"There's only two kinds of music: good and bad. I like both kinds." - Duke Ellington.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 01-12-2019, 11:34 AM
Nymuso Nymuso is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Nov 2017
Posts: 749
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by washy21 View Post
, he is an advocate that you should make songs your own rather than trying to mimic, others singing and playing. Obviously I realize that this is a personal opinion.
Yes, and it is my personal opinion. I rework just about everything I do. If there were a law passed that one had to mimic the original artist I simply would not play.
__________________
343
53 Hours
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 01-12-2019, 11:51 AM
Stratcat77's Avatar
Stratcat77 Stratcat77 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: St. Louis MO area
Posts: 369
Default Vocal Range Debate.

This is a topic I’ve debated with other musicians for years. I am firmly in the camp of changing the key if needed to make it work for the vocalist. I do that regularly for my solo acoustic gig. But I have received snarky comments from musicians who feel it’s compromising and amateur to change the key from the original recorded version. Often those are the same guys who try to do things they shouldn’t.. [emoji6]. My view as a vocalist is changing keys is appropriate and a positive if it results in a better performance.

As a guitarist, I also recognize that sometimes changing keys can make it difficult if not impossible to have the music sound like the original. Certain open string things and riffs just don’t work in other keys. A capo can help for acoustic things but for certain guitar riffs, you can’t replicate the sound in another key. Those are the songs I simply choose to not do if I can’t sing them well in the original key. An example is Long Cool Woman. I love that song and love the guitar riff, but do not think its possible to do it in another key and sound right.. and it’s up there vocally.

One thing I love about the solo acoustic gig is that people’s expectations are generally different than with a band, where they usually expect a performance that sounds like the record.
__________________

2010 Taylor 814ce
2008 Taylor 616ce
2008 Taylor 426ce LTD (Tasmanian blackwood)
2010 Taylor GS Mini

LD Systems Maui 11 G2
Bose S1 Pro
LR Baggs Venue
iPad with OnSong
Ditto X2 Looper
TC Helicon H1 Harmony Pedal

My Facebook Music Page
My YouTube Page
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 01-12-2019, 12:01 PM
muscmp muscmp is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: socal
Posts: 8,060
Default

i use my tuner with a microphone so i can find the proper range for my voice on a particular song. the sweet spot. then i can change the key if necessary.

i can't sing like the original and can't play like the original so i make the song my own.

play music!
__________________

2014 Martin 00015M
2009 Martin 0015M
2008 Martin HD28
2007 Martin 000-18GE
2006 Taylor 712
2006 Fender Parlor GDP100
1978 Fender F65
1968 Gibson B25-12N
Various Electrics
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 01-12-2019, 12:51 PM
Davis Webb Davis Webb is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Toronto
Posts: 4,114
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by washy21 View Post
Hi all,

For those who sing and play I’m curious to hear others views on this:

Several years back I began, and continue to have, vocal lessons. It wasn’t long before I realized that a lot of the songs I play and sing were not in the right key for me. Sure, I could hit the notes but my teacher urged me to change the key to fit my voice. Moreover, he is an advocate that you should make songs your own rather than trying to mimic, others singing and playing. Obviously I realize that this is a personal opinion.

Anyway, I am a baritone with a good range and as soon as I started changing the keys, using a capo if needed, I really began to see improvements. A good example is ‘Yesterday’ by the Beatles. I have to play that in C but if I capo and play it in G (capo third fret actuall key Bb) I really opens up my voice.

So personally, what I once thought of as the baritone curse, turns out to be not such a bad thing.

On YouTube I see people who are hellbent on playing songs exactly as the original artist does but often they are clearly struggling vocal wise.

What do others do and what do you personally believe.
I agree with your vocal coach. I capo all the time. I use a technique someone here mentioned, find the highest note in the song you are doing and make sure that the key will let you do that without straining. Then you see if lowering the pitch of the rest of the song makes it sound good or bad. Then, if it sounds bad at the lower pitch, dump it and move on.

I have to capo at the 8th fret to sing Steve Winwood's Arc of a Diver! I have to capo on the 7th to do Steely Dan's Do It Again. I capo on the 3rd fret for Woodstock by CSNY. I removed the 3rd fret capo for Thick as A Brick, which is the key that Ian Anderson used, I now perform it open. I had to capo to the 7th for Sarde's "Smooth Operator" and marginally made it work. I had to abandon Waiting for a Girl Like You by Foreigner....because his vocal range is so high that it sounded awful without his natural range.

Eventually I became a country singer given my range of high bass, an especially terrible singing key. But for Merle Haggard, Luke Bryant, Kenny Chesney and George Jones, it was fine. No Vince Gill for me however!

Hope this helps.
__________________
Larrivee, Gibson, Ovation, Strat, Tele
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 01-12-2019, 12:54 PM
Davis Webb Davis Webb is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Toronto
Posts: 4,114
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nymuso View Post
Yes, and it is my personal opinion. I rework just about everything I do. If there were a law passed that one had to mimic the original artist I simply would not play.
YES! I wish we could Like posts, I would triple "Like" this one!
__________________
Larrivee, Gibson, Ovation, Strat, Tele
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 01-12-2019, 02:02 PM
washy21 washy21 is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 216
Default

Some great replies — thanks.

One artist that got me thinking more about the concept of ‘making a cover your own’ is Ryan Adams. For example he took that metal song ‘Wasted Years’ and, in my view, made a superb acoustic version.

I capo a lot now and moreover as long as I keep the essential melody I fingerpick songs that should be strummed and vice versa.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 01-12-2019, 05:37 PM
Paddy1951 Paddy1951 is online now
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jul 2018
Posts: 953
Default

I do think a singer should find a key that works for them rather than try to do a song as it was originally done, if that key is not good for them.
Even singers who are known for a particular song, eventually have to sing it in a key different from the original because their voice changes with age. This isn't always the case, but often is.

As for making a a song your own- absolutely! Key, tempo, phrasing, complexity arangement, etc. Whatever works. A late friend of mine who was a singer, described it as getting inside the song and owning it.

Think about good songs that are ruined by just going through motions. One that comes to mind is Creedence Clearwater's "Proud Mary." It is a great song and it has become pretty cliche' because every wedding band in the world does it so half-heartedly instead of finding a way to do it well and the vocals are a big part of that.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 01-12-2019, 05:51 PM
KevWind's Avatar
KevWind KevWind is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Edge of Wilderness Wyoming
Posts: 10,678
Default

I will add to the chorus "Make it your own" Personally I think attempting to mimic exactly is a disservice to the art of music. I think exact reproduction is the realm of sound reproduction systems not musicians


Now that said: I also do not care to listen to something that feels as if the musician is trying too hard to make it different..

In other words I think what makes a good cover is the balance when it is familiar but personal. Where it feels to me like the performer is giving an honest performance of how the song makes them feel, which in turn allows me to explore how it makes me feel .
__________________
" Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding." Albert Einstein
Enjoy the Journey.... Kev...


KevWind at Soundcloud
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 01-12-2019, 10:33 PM
bufflehead bufflehead is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Location: Puget Sound and the Salish Sea
Posts: 651
Default

Baritones rule;
tenors drule.
Capos rock.
__________________
Martin 000-15M; Taylor BBT; Martin Custom D Classic Mahogany; Breedlove Concert Red Cedar
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 01-13-2019, 12:14 AM
jim1960 jim1960 is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 1,847
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Davis Webb View Post
I use a technique someone here mentioned, find the highest note in the song you are doing and make sure that the key will let you do that without straining. Then you see if lowering the pitch of the rest of the song makes it sound good or bad. Then, if it sounds bad at the lower pitch, dump it and move on.
I suggested the same thing to someone here a few weeks back as it's what I do to determine whether I can sing a song. I have no interest nor inclination to match keys with any other artist. And mostly this is for my own amusement as I rarely will play a cover if I'm performing, preferring instead to play my own songs. But playing other folks songs at home is fun and nostalgic and I have a couple of hundred songs loaded into Onsong in my iPad.
__________________
Jim

2017 Circle Strings 00 bastogne walnut/sinker redwood
2015 Circle Strings Parlor shedua/western red cedar
2009 Bamburg JSB Signature Baritone macassar ebony/carpathian spruce
2004 Taylor XXX-RS indian rosewood/sitka spruce
2002 Taylor 814ce Limited cocobolo/sitka spruce
1988 Martin D-16 mahogany/sitka spruce


SoundCloud link
Spotify
YouTube
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 01-13-2019, 12:18 AM
wguitar wguitar is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2018
Posts: 94
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by muscmp View Post

i can't sing like the original and can't play like the original so i make the song my own.

play music!
I think Muscmp has the most concise and best way to answer this question. Fact is, unless you're an extremely talented, well-trained, professional, incredible vocalist you simply will not be able to replicate the vocal ranges of Roy Orbison or Axl Rose or Mariah Carey (to name just a few). The 2nd point is that "stretching" for high (or very low) notes (in my humble opinion) is very noticeable to audiences and can detract from their appreciating the song. By transposing songs to better fit your vocal range and voice in general you make the song your own -- and audiences appreciate that. They judge you for you, and not against a Paul McCartney or other superstar standard. The venue will influence audience expectations as well. For example, if you book yourself as a Journey tribute band audiences pay and expect to hear something that sounds a LOT like Journey. On the other hand, if you're a solo acoustic performer expectations are more likely to focus on your interpretation of songs vs. the superstar vocalist. Make songs your own, study them, practice them, and perform them to the best of your abilities. This is what music is all about !
Reply With Quote
Reply

  The Acoustic Guitar Forum > General Acoustic Guitar and Amplification Discussion > PLAY and Write

Thread Tools



All times are GMT -6. The time now is 09:47 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, The Acoustic Guitar Forum
vB Ad Management by =RedTyger=