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#1683550 - 08/01/05 03:19 AM PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
BrianK Moderator Offline
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Registered: 12/17/00
Posts: 228
Loc: Los Angeles,CA,UNITED STATES
Let's put AutoTune out of business for a while...

List your tricks - anything worth remembering - we can all use the help. I find singers even LIKE tricks - it makes them feel like something's "taken over" from their lack of control. It makes the maugh sometimes, it makes them NOT think about the pitch sometimes, which is good.

(I have a theory that the body WANTS to sing in tune naturally - if you line it up right and give it the right things to hear, it will...)

- Tilt their head up
- Think about the lyrics and what they mean (not the notes)
- Turn down any reverb in their phones
- One headphone off
- Turn up the BASS in the phones
- Have them smile a little while they sing
- Try the headphones VERY low in volume - they hear their INNER sound better
- Compress the hell out of the vocal track on the return (not "to tape"); it makes it sound thick and flat so pitch is more noticeable than tone or dynamics

[The Number One Secret Weapon to sing in tune: Seriously, this is one of my three biggest, best tricks in life...]

- Have them put their hands on op of their head.

...This works like magic, I've used it so many times. Then, after a while, sometimes they can do it with only ONE hand up there. If you get them to get used to it - you can even tell them to THINK about putting their hands on their head and it will work. I believe it has to do with body structure and positioning, but it could just be voodoo.
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#1683551 - 08/01/05 05:09 PM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
Philip O'Keefe Offline
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I've never tried the "hands on top of the head" trick - I'll have to give that a shot. \:\)

I have found the occasional singer who actually likes the bass turned way DOWN - back in the mid-1990's, when I was working on a as yet still unreleased metal album with Craig Goldy and Jeff Fenholt (yes, THAt Jeff Fenholt ;\) ), Jeff would have me kill the bass in his cans - he felt that any bass in there would throw him completely out of wack and made it harder for him to sing comfortably. As I've said, I've seen that work with a few other people too, although turning it up seems to help more people than turning it down does.

I'll frequently have people sing "past" an offending / difficult line. IOW, I'll say something along the lines of "even if you don't feel like you hit it this time, please keep going - I want to try something on the line right after it..." and many times, they'll hit the hard part just fine. My theory is that instead of psyching themselves out about the "hard line", they're thinking a bit more about the following line, and they tend to have a better chance of getting the preceeding line "right" because they're not overthinking it as much anymore. ;\)
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#1683552 - 08/01/05 06:48 PM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
Bejeeber Offline
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Registered: 07/11/04
Posts: 3014
Loc: Nashville from LA/Seattle
Good tricks there!

Hands on top of head....sing past the line.....I am definitely going to try those!
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#1683553 - 08/01/05 08:51 PM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
miroslav Offline
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For recording my own singing...

I try to get the melody worked out long before I ever get in front of the mic. Often, learning the part with just a guitar or piano accompaniment...seems to work best.
That’s when I will focus on certain words/phrases that are giving me trouble…and find alternative ways of signing them. I’ll also pay attention to my breath control.

Once if front of the mic, I first make sure I'm quite comfortable with the mic position, and my own stance….and that I have a clear line of sight, if I am using a lyric sheet.

I also have to get the vocals-to-instruments levels properly balanced in my cans. If the vocal is too loud or vice versa.,.it can distract me enough that I won't sing as well.
And of course, if I'm yelling because I can't hear myself, or if I'm holding back because I hear myself too loudly...then the vocals can go sharp or flat relative to the rest.

I may also pull down some of the other tracks if the mix is too busy...that way, I can clearly hear every nuance when I am singing.
That also works when I am recording other individual tracks too.
By pulling some tracks back, and leaving only the "core" backing tracks...it's sometimes easier to lay down a vocal or instrument track.
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#1683554 - 08/02/05 03:55 AM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
BrianK Moderator Offline
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Registered: 12/17/00
Posts: 228
Loc: Los Angeles,CA,UNITED STATES
Yeah, good trick - singing to the "real mix" is often NOT the best idea.

and pre-workiggn the melody on another instrument is a good one; I'm remembering a singer we did that laid down a basic horn-synth sound playing the melody, and he sang along to that. His voice had the subtle expression, but it was EASY to hear how out of tune he might be. But that method takes some time...
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#1683555 - 08/02/05 07:49 AM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
Kris Offline
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Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1531
Loc: Tallahassee, Florida
No vox in the cans with only one ear covered works well at times.

For certain singers, I'll bring in my life sized Shania Twain poster, and/or the Wrestling queen... helps to get the energy up in a sometimes sterile studio environment.
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#1683556 - 08/02/05 02:47 PM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
the stranger Offline
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Registered: 09/18/00
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Loc: THE TOP
I still think Phil Spector had the right idea. Nothing can compete with the motivational aspects of a handgun, ya know? \:D

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#1683557 - 08/02/05 03:44 PM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
Philip O'Keefe Offline
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Registered: 12/17/00
Posts: 17674
Loc: Riverside,CA,UNITED STATES
And while I like a good M1911A1, I personally recommend a Glock. ;\)
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#1683558 - 08/02/05 07:49 PM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
Editor Boy Offline
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Registered: 05/14/01
Posts: 369
Loc: San Mateo,CA,UNITED STATES
It's amazing how many singers "vibe" their way through a melody, not really understanding where the notes are -- even when they wrote the melody in the first place!

Those stylists who are really good at emoting can usually sneak by with notes that are a bit sharp or flat, but other singers just sound off pitch.

For those cats (or kittens) who never quite get to a "true" note, I typically play the melody on a piano and ask, "Is THIS the note you want? Or is THIS the note you want?" It's amazing how many singers DO focus in on the pitch when they can explicitly hear where they are going sharp, flat, or Balinese. The ego challenge is also mitigated somewhat because you're asking them where they want to go melodically, rather than telling them (for the 7,888,576 time) that they're flat.

For what it's worth, this option has saved quite a few sessions for me, as I don't use auto-tune-type plug-ins or Lugers.

Best to All,
Mike M
Editor in Chief, Guitar Player

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#1683559 - 08/03/05 01:47 AM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
tripit Offline
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Registered: 11/06/01
Posts: 20
Loc: LA, CA. USA
Rule number one: no milk duds before coming into a session. (I actually had this happen to me) Seriously, what a singer eats or drinks just before a take can really mess them up. And believe or not, alot of singers don't have the common sense to figure this out.
You have to tell them.

Finding the right mic. While you might think the mic sound is great, many singers don't hear themselves well just because the mic is sounding good in the control room. Sometimes changing out a mic can make all the difference. Also, sometimes the change is just a psychological one as well. If a singer is struggling, just the act of a mic change can get them over the hump.

I've also had luck using speakers in out of phase in the tracking room as well. It's a bit tricky getting it to work, but some singers just sing better without headphones at all.

I've used a similar trick a few times with the hands on the head (behind the neck actually or even behind the back, also tilting the head up) as well. It works because it gets them to sing more using the diaphram instead of the chest and throat which lacks power and therefore makes them more prone to being pitchy. This seems to work more for singer that don't have any vocal training. I actually learned this from a vocal coach who made you sit up straight, with your head up and position your arms to get the diaphram to work right.

I haven't tried the smile yet. I'll have to give that one a try.
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#1683560 - 08/03/05 05:34 AM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
Bill@Welcome Home Studios Offline
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Registered: 08/23/03
Posts: 9613
Take the reverb out of the monitors. Send his girlfriend home.

If he can't do it then, send HIM home. That ain't no singer, that is a wannabee.

Bill
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#1683561 - 08/03/05 07:42 AM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
miroslav Offline
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Registered: 05/23/00
Posts: 14215
Loc: NY Hudson Valley, USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Editor Boy:
It's amazing how many singers "vibe" their way through a melody, not really understanding where the notes are -- even when they wrote the melody in the first place!

Those stylists who are really good at emoting can usually sneak by with notes that are a bit sharp or flat, but other singers just sound off pitch.
And that's a big key...how it sounds within the mix.

You can solo a lot of great singers...and find that their pitch drifts from note to note...
...but as long as it all works within the mix it is OK...and going nuts trying to make them sing perfect pitch on every note, will mostl likely ruin the overall sound/mix a lot more...IMO.
It's not much different then digitally manipulating every note/beat 'til it's perfect...and then the mix sounds rather dull and robotic.

Style and vibe is more important then perfect pitch...but when it’s just plain sour...then it's time to stop and work the problem, if at all possible.
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#1683562 - 08/03/05 07:52 AM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
miroslav Offline
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Registered: 05/23/00
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Besides doing the obvious engineering/technique adjustments to get someone to sing better...
...do any of you ever just mess with the room's visual ambience?

I find that when I can't groove on something...I'll completely change the room lighting.
If it was rather bright, I'll go for very dark and moody...or turn on some of my assorted "fun " lamps around the room…and completely kill the ceiling track lights.

That seems to really help change the mood...and with a darker lighting scheme at the performer’s location...it's also a bit liberating and less intimidating.

So, when things are kind of draggin' along...you take-5, and then change-up the entire visual mood in the room...and all of a sudden...
...everything also SOUNDS different!!!
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#1683563 - 08/03/05 10:58 AM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
J.J. Blair Moderator Offline
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Registered: 07/22/05
Posts: 329
Loc: Hollywood, CA
I am always amazed at how much time I spend teaching singers how to sing a semi-tone, especially when it comes time to do harmonies. The harmony moves one half step and they can't help but ggo a whole step. If it requires a major third, they insist on singing a minor third, and vice versa. Or whether it's meoldy or harmony, if it requires singing the same note through the course of several words, they can't stay on the one note or stay on pitch for that one note.

On another note, somebody mentioned getting them to angle thei chin up. I find the opposite. Having your chin up tightens your vocal chords, where as having the chin down eases the strain.
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#1683564 - 08/03/05 11:07 AM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
miroslav Offline
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Yes...a bit down works better for me...
...though there are certain words/notes that will come off better when the head is tilted up/back...
...specifically BECAUSE of that added strain on the vocal chords.
It allows you to add a sense of urgency and tension to a particular phrase, word or note.


But that is only to be used as an intentional vocal effect...
…and signing like that all the time would most certainly kill your vocal energy and pliability, quite fast.
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#1683565 - 08/04/05 06:27 AM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
BrianK Moderator Offline
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Registered: 12/17/00
Posts: 228
Loc: Los Angeles,CA,UNITED STATES
Chin up - try this: go "aeaeaeah" with your chin normal. Tilt it up while doing this - your throat opens up. Ask Lemmy....
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#1683566 - 08/04/05 08:10 AM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
miroslav Offline
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#1683567 - 08/04/05 08:11 AM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
miroslav Offline
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Well...for me, the spot where it's most open ...is about mid point...give or take a small up/down margin. And that may vary from singer to singer, with each person finding their own "sweet spot"...and varing their head position within that margin as they sing, to alter their tone as needed.

But as you tilt up further, beyond that margin… you can hear the sound get a bit tighter.
Not to mention that the back of your neck will also start to lock/tighten up when your head is tilted up/back. Though there may be phrases/words/notes where that is intentionally used to accent the melody and emotion of the song.

Of course...having your chin way down by your chest all the time, is kinda' awkward too, though when you do bring it down a bit more…you can get the Bing/Elvis “crooner” tone. ;\)

When I sing…I don’t really think too much about specific body positions…I just try to stay comfortable in my stance…and listen to what/how I am singing.
When I am in a good groove…my body will automatically adjust to the best position, and small, subtle body movements/adjustments will tend to happen naturally, rather then me consciously thinking, “I have to tilt my head more”…or…“I have to breathe deeper”…etc.

It’s like anything we do enough times....after awhile, it becomes second nature…automatic.
But it is easy to develop bad habits that are difficult to shake…though sometimes, those bad habits can also become your “signature” style…and if it works in the long run…then don’t mess with it! \:\)
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#1683568 - 08/05/05 11:57 AM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
wwittman Offline
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Registered: 12/07/01
Posts: 120
Loc: peekskill, NY, USA
A lot of singers find it much easier to sing with speakers instead of headphones.

And if they stay close to the mic, the leakage is sruprisingly less of a problem than you might imagine.
Just don't put in anything you might want to lose later (like the click!)

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#1683569 - 08/05/05 01:41 PM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
BrianK Moderator Offline
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Registered: 12/17/00
Posts: 228
Loc: Los Angeles,CA,UNITED STATES
Hello William!I've also found that headphones with lots of hyped bass and treble "distract" the singer from pitch.

There's a company called "More Me" that makes cheapo headphones - they are designed to seal in the sound - but I find they actually have a midrage quality that lets the singer find pitch better...
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#1683570 - 08/05/05 02:29 PM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
miroslav Offline
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The old style Koss Pro4AA phones are like that...not real hyped in the low and high ends.

They are my preferred all-purpose studio phones...they fit snug, with less chance of them moving slipping off as you play/sing...and they have excellent isolation...
...though for long sessions, they can start to feel a bit like a bear trap on your head! \:D

I have a bunch of them...all in great shape...and if you lose the ear cushions or they stop working...Koss fixes/replaces them for free...just pay the shipping…they have a lifetime warranty.
I recently sent in three pairs with each having one side out.
Hell...Koss replaced the cords, the ear cushions, the drivers...just about everything!!!
I actually think they just tossed out my phones, and sent me new ones...for only about $10/set shipping both ways!!!

I also have a pair of the Fostex T50RP semi-open phones...and they are quite un-colored and well balanced.
When I track by myself...I've been using them mostly, over the Koss...and they are quite good...especially for doing vocals...
...though they're a bit light, so they tend to slip around with every little tug of the cord...
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#1683571 - 08/05/05 05:41 PM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
J.J. Blair Moderator Offline
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Registered: 07/22/05
Posts: 329
Loc: Hollywood, CA
As far as getting that tonality from 'chin-up' without contricting the vocal chords, I like the 'tilt your head to the side' thing. I just know that the chin up thing makes higher notes harder to sing, especially if you are near the top of your range.
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#1683572 - 08/12/05 03:03 PM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
Sui_City Offline
Member

Registered: 08/12/05
Posts: 3
BrianK,

Sorry, but i have to disagree with the "Tilt head up thing".

As has been stated by others, the muscles in the neck tense up when you lift your head. Unless you're a sword swallower.

Check out Seth Riggs' "Singing for the Stars". Great stuff that really opens one's eyes to the working of the voice.

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#1683573 - 08/13/05 01:56 AM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
PookyNMR Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 01/01/04
Posts: 50
Loc: Canada
Quote:
Originally posted by J.J. Blair:
On another note, somebody mentioned getting them to angle thei chin up. I find the opposite. Having your chin up tightens your vocal chords, where as having the chin down eases the strain.
This is the same reason the hands on top of head works - less tension in the vocal chords.

For those of you who have kids - try teaching your singers LeMans (birthing) techniques. It all centers around keeping the tension in one area of your body while keeping the other areas completely relaxed. Many vocal coaches teach this - focus the tension on a leg and keep the rest of the body relaxed. Looks like they're trying to squeeze out a turd but it really helps keep the voice relaxed.

Peace to your mamas.
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#1683574 - 08/13/05 05:17 AM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
Sui_City Offline
Member

Registered: 08/12/05
Posts: 3
Pooky,

LeMans techniques are for driving a car really fast! \:\)

Lamaze however, is the birthing practice of which you may be speaking.

And trust me, i dont want my girlfriend driving my car any faster than she already does.

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#1683575 - 08/13/05 06:48 AM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
BrianK Moderator Offline
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Registered: 12/17/00
Posts: 228
Loc: Los Angeles,CA,UNITED STATES
"Sorry, but i have to disagree with the "Tilt head up thing". As has been stated by others, the muscles in the neck tense up when you lift your head."

Many people disagree with it - but I find it works the opposite as they say, and I care what works (UNLESS you tilt your head WAY back). Just tilt it back a bit - the throat OPENS up, your tongue floats more easily, the bottom jaw opens and drops easier, and the words are far more clear on the recording.
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#1683576 - 08/13/05 09:55 AM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
J.J. Blair Moderator Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 07/22/05
Posts: 329
Loc: Hollywood, CA
Quote:
Originally posted by BrianK:
Just tilt it back a bit - the throat OPENS up, your tongue floats more easily, the bottom jaw opens and drops easier...
I keep trying to explain this principle to my wife. :p
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#1683577 - 08/13/05 01:31 PM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
BrianK Moderator Offline
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Registered: 12/17/00
Posts: 228
Loc: Los Angeles,CA,UNITED STATES
Snare.... - Crash cymbal/kick.
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#1683578 - 08/14/05 01:24 PM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
Tedster Offline
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Registered: 09/21/00
Posts: 5935
Have them try enunciating a certain problem word a different way. Say for example, the singer is having trouble with singing (for lack of a better phrase, and I'm looking at Brian K's avatar)

"I read the news today, oh boy"...

He's having trouble with the word "news"...for some reason. Enunciating it a bit differently can support the muscles necessary to pull a certain "problem word" into pitch. I don't know why this is, but I've heard other singers do it. It mystified me for awhile why certain singers would enunciate a certain word somewhat "unnaturally" from everyday speech...that is, until I myself tried to sing the tune. I found that more often than not, a slightly (only slightly) different enunciation can elicit the response necessary to make the phrase easier to sing in tune.
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#1683579 - 08/14/05 05:13 PM Re: PRACTICE: How to make a singer sing in tune
BrianK Moderator Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 12/17/00
Posts: 228
Loc: Los Angeles,CA,UNITED STATES
One more trick - I learned it in choir many years ago.

Notes are not REALLY "high" or "low" - those are just frequency numbers. You do not go "up" to high notes, or "down" to low ones. Once you understand this concept, your singing (singer) can become more effective.

To counteract the natural tendency, my teacher used to have us think "down" on high notes and "up" to low notes! Note how your throat relaxes more on these directions... less strain overall.
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