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snowcooley
05-25-2009, 06:39 PM
Okay, so I'm pretty insecure about singing, and I know that nothing's going to really make that better except for practice, learning to sing properly, and starting to understand what my voice can and can't do.

But here's a question for people who can sing successfully/have taught themselves to sing... how much control do you have over your vocal style?

Personally, I'd love to have a growly jazz/Tom Waits as a woman voice (you know, the kind that cracks in all the right places?), but I'm kind of at a loss for how to get there. Aside from the time-tested standards of practice practice practice and imitation, how much of this is basically determined already by my range, the tone/timbre of my voice, etc?

I'd love to hear about anyone's experiences becoming a successful imitator/finding a vocal style that fits their voice AND their musical style. Did this come naturally? Did it have to be a compromise? Did your playing style determine your singing style or vice versa? And how much does it vary from song to song? I know there are lots of great singers out there on UU, so it would be great to get some advice from the champs!

ukeatan
05-25-2009, 06:47 PM
... Aside from the time-tested standards of practice practice practice and imitation...

For a growly Tom Waits-like voice, the time-tested standard of substance use might play an unfortunate role.

But I'm glad you asked this, I'm interested to hear too...

Yopparai
05-26-2009, 04:18 AM
While smoking two packs a day and screaming a lot before you sing can get you there, if only briefly before damage to lungs and vocal chords ends it all...

Tom Waits' style has more to do with Kargyraa style throat singing.

Here is a comparison from the yopp files.
Plain vanilla yopp voice (down there where the train goes slow) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiR8PmqQBN4)
Mild Waits (Poor Edward) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yitd9iurZFg)
Full on Waits (City of New Orleans) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_Kous4-0M4)
Throat singing. (SuperNote challenge entry.) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNI83D4k1m0)

I guess its natural for me, such as it is. It sounds more impressive in my head than it does when I actually record it.

Ukulele JJ
05-26-2009, 06:04 AM
There are several things that make a singer's "style" what it is.

Some of these are things that you don't have much control over. They depend on how your body is made. Training can extend your range and improve your tone somewhat, for example. But no amount of practice is going to get me to sound like Thurl Ravenscroft, or Steve Perry, or Michael McDonald. I'm just not built that way.

However there are aspects of "style" that are totally under your control. The way you inflect a particular note. The way you place a phrase rhythmically. How on-pitch (or not) you are. The liberties you take (or don't take) with the melody. Chest voice vs. head voice.

A few sessions with a good vocal teacher will certainly help answer this question better than I have, but you get the idea. No matter how much you might like the sound of a Stratocaster, if you've got a Les Paul, you're just going to have to use that. Take the vocal instrument you've been given and find a style that works with it. :cheers:

JJ

SailQwest
05-27-2009, 06:33 AM
I've recently been work on a growly kind of thing. I'm still not comfortable enough to trot it out in public because it seems like such an affectation, but it really adds another dimension to some of the songs we do.

snowcooley
05-27-2009, 07:58 PM
Thanks for all the helpful advice, guys. Sounds like if I want to do this right I will have to get someone to help me learn how to actually sing (which I kind of suspected would be the answer). But it seems like the goal might not be that unattainable. I'll just have to learn to make it sound less like a silly impression/mockery and more like the way I actually sing.

Alternatively, I might just have to give in the smokin', drinkin', yellin', and scrappin' part of me if I really do want that growl... it seems doable. :)

seeso
05-27-2009, 08:14 PM
Please be careful when attempting the Tom Waits growl. You could damage your voice.

Find out what your voice is like. Embrace it.

Jimmy
05-28-2009, 07:44 AM
Please be careful when attempting the Tom Waits growl. You could damage your voice.

But then you'll natural get a Tom Waits growl though, no? :p

Singing and being the moody teenager I am sometimes is awkward. Pretty much E above middle C is difficult to get up to. My squeaking above that attracts all the ladies for sure.

snowcooley
05-28-2009, 07:50 AM
Thanks, seeso. You're right. I certainly don't want that full-out growl and I have no intention of doing anything that will harm my voice (that smokin' and scrappin' stuff is not exactly my forte). That, and I'm 5'4" and female. It's not gonna happen. What I do want is to strike a balance between finding "the vocal instrument I've been given" (in JJ's words) and learning to sing in a style I find appealing. I hope that can include some growliness and deepening my range, but I should make the distinction between wanting to actually sound like Tom Waits and wanting to incorporate aspects of his style that I appreciate.

I probably should have mentioned someone else, because it looks like this has turned the way of "how to sing like Tom Waits." Imitating Nina Simone is probably a little more likely for me and in-keeping with what I have than imitating Tom Waits (she's got a nice growl, too, although she uses it in very different ways)... but I digress!

Anyway, I'm more interested in how people here have found their own vocal style, and what advice they can give in general.

seeso
05-28-2009, 10:16 AM
Forgive me for sounding preachy in my previous post. It's taken me years to get close to what I consider is my "real voice." Some people are smarter than me, and start singing in their real voice from the get-go.

I started out trying to imitate my favorite singers. I went from Chris Robinson to Billy Joel to Ray Charles to Tom Waits to Eddie Vedder to what have you. Oddly enough, I started to find my real voice when I briefly chose to give up pursuing music as a profession.

It was about letting go of what I wanted to sound like.

Now, I'll be the first to tell you that I'm not the best singer in the world. In fact, I can be downright excruciating at times. But I've finally learned to embrace my voice. It took me years, but I did it.

I rely on character more than technical expertise. Mostly because I don't have any technical expertise! I think telling the story of a song is more important than anything else.

My advice to you is to tell the story of the song in your own way. There's nothing wrong with incorporating elements of other peoples' styles into your own. I still kept those tricks I learned from Jim Croce and Eddie Vedder. What I try to aspire to is an unmistakable character to my own voice. When people hear me, I want them to know it's me.

ukantor
05-28-2009, 11:44 AM
I used to know a guy like that. He was a very good guitarist/singer, but always sang in the style of the performer associated with the song. Someone once asked him to sing in his own voice, and he admitted that he could not sing without doing an impression of someone else.

Ukantor.

Ukulele JJ
05-28-2009, 11:59 AM
I started out trying to imitate my favorite singers. I went from Chris Robinson to Billy Joel to Ray Charles...

Interestingly, Ray Charles himself started out trying to sound like Nat "King" Cole. As awesome as Nat was, I'm sure glad Ray finally decided to sing like himself!

JJ

snowcooley
05-29-2009, 08:45 AM
I started out trying to imitate my favorite singers. I went from Chris Robinson to Billy Joel to Ray Charles to Tom Waits to Eddie Vedder to what have you. Oddly enough, I started to find my real voice when I briefly chose to give up pursuing music as a profession.

It was about letting go of what I wanted to sound like.

Thanks, seeso. I think I understand where you're coming from, now. And thanks for the excellent advice... it definitely helps to get a bit of background on how you developed your style.

Ukantor-- That's a good point. Last thing I want is to sound like an amateur impersonator. :)