Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Vocal Covers? Do I dare?

Hey guys. I know this really doesn't have a whole lot to do with gaming but I don't have much other place to write about this so I'll blame this on the sexy microphone I received from the Team Cena sponsors.

I've been singing/playing vocals on Rock Band for sometime now, I also (as you know) have been posting videos of myself playing the game for a while too. I know that being good at the game on vocals doesn't make you a good singer. It's more or less like an advanced karaoke where you have a pitch line to follow that hopefully prevents you from sounding less bad than a tone deaf monkey.

I've kind of hid behind the game, this was a way I could post videos of myself playing it and having fun knowing that I wasn't really trying to impress anyone with my singing or anything. I know covers are a whole other world and open to more criticism and possibly rude comments.

Another reason I've never attempted covers is the kind of music I like generally has a classically trained soprano vocalist. Being that my only experience involves singing in a car or when I'm by myself this hasn't exactly been a welcoming domain to enter. I'm not into pop music too much (which would be much easier to sing) and the vocalists I like are just jaw-droppingly impressive. On the other hand this mic is so awesome that I HAD to test it out especially knowing that such vocals were too overpowering for the microphone I had previously.

So this is a partial cover of Amberian Dawn's Passing Bells. I just was singing it for fun and thought I was recording the whole thing to compare mic quality when I realized for some reason I had only a partial recording (hence why this is "partial"). I guess it is a good way to see if I should even bother trying covers of such music and/or if my youtube subscribers are even interested.

Either way whether you think it is bad or not, bet your ass I'm doing ALL of Amberian Dawn's DLC from the Rock Band Network for my youtube Rock Band videos. And if I DO do more covers in the future know that they won't all be Amberian Dawn and they will probably be much less frequent.



Should I bother pursuing covers? I know for sure I need more practice, but would you be interested?

8 comments:

  1. I don't feel like I can really assess the power of your voice from this snippet, and it's too bad that there isn't more of the song to listen to, but the excerpt sounds quite impressive given the difficulty of the task! I was surprised that you can reach that high, and that final note is surely LONG! Pitch-wise, it sounds correct to me, too! You pretty much nailed it, huh? Congrats!

    You've never had any lessons at all, or have you? I can't remember anymore. So you're saying your voice is loud enough to overpower your old microphone? Whow!

    I sure hope you'll pursue this, I'd definitely love to hear more. I'm really curious now! Also, I hope that you'll consult a professional vocal teacher to help you polish your technique and learn all the tricks of the trade. There's no need to be afraid of criticism!

    I mean, if your question is "Do I have (enough) talent?", don't be worried. Talent isn't as crucial as people think (unless you aspire to being a virtuoso or genius level musician ;-) ), and being (relatively) untalented is not a reason AGAINST, but FOR getting lessons. (Exceptionally talented people may not even need lessons and may do things correctly instinctively, or figure things out themselves - though they can still profit from lessons and get even better, especially if they aspire to the highest levels of the art.) Of course, you need some basic abilities, but you sure have those. ;-) Also, it's not like you'd have to learn singing from the beginning on, as many other young people nowadays do (since singing and home music is not really practiced in many families anymore). RockBand has already taught you something, too. Also, talent often only reveals itself while learning. Just stick to it and don't give up.

    By the way: For a teacher, it's important to know what your goals are: singing just for fun, as a hobby, or as a profession. However, your goals may eventually turn out to rise to the next level once you taste blood. ;-)

    Also, if you're nervous about this, you won't have to sing anything for the teacher at the beginning if you don't want to. (Only if you want to join a choir it would be a good idea to let the choir leader assess your skill level ;-) ) So, don't worry! It's really all an issue of practice!

    Hope this helps,

    Almagest

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  2. Yes it's unfortunate that I totally screwed up the recording, I'm not sure what I did.. I will try to get a full version up soon. I actually went to buy an XLR to 1/8" cable but found a cable from a crappy 15 euro Karaoke mic that will do the trick. I think It's so quite because I wasn't untilizing the sound card on my computer but the motherboard being that the cable I had was USB.

    My old microphone was actually so crap that as I got louder/higher is just couldn't handle it. It's not meant for anything but karaoke games.

    I would LOVE vocal lessons, I think it would be fun. I've never had any training or classes. My mother liked to sing a lot and it just kind of rubbed off. I mostly sing when I'm alone because I'm shy (except in Rock Band because I hide behind the game). I wanted so badly in school to do choir (it was a class and a "sport" activity) but when I heard there were auditions I chickened out because I knew poeple in it at least had actual lessons and knew how to read music etc (I don't :/).

    My main question is mainly "does my voice make your ears bleed?" "would my youtube subscribers even care to hear any covers?" "does this sound ok?" I guess is more the question.

    Again, I'm not against real lessons at all, I think it would be fun.. but I feel like I'd need to start from the bottom because I know absolutely nothing. Maybe when I return to the US I can go to college/university and take some singing classes there (I have some cousins who do).

    For now I'd take singing more as a hobby, I just wish I had some place to practice my hobby more outside of RockBand as the songs limit me... well until Amberian Dawn's songs come out.. I can't wait to do those! Now if we can get Tarja's music in there.. hmm..

    Thank you for your always honest and wise response :)

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  3. I think it would have been clever if you had made the AD sample quieter, I find the difference in volume quite startling and even jarring ;-)

    To me, your voice sounded a little bit unsure and slightly wobbly ... as in quavering, not as in actual vibrato, I mean. But otherwise, you made no mistake (that I could discern), which is quite amazing considering you're not a pro. Once you overcome your doubts and have more practice I'm sure you'll manage to sound virtually identical to the original.

    I've actually rephrased and repeated some of the advice I gave here (which is the result of a frantic web search - I was sure that the worry "isn't it necessary to be super-talented for voice lessons?" is totally unfounded and sought to back it up) on the Tarja forum (thread "What instrument do you play?"), together with a few additional suggestions and ideas I've found.

    Actually (even keeping in mind that you have already practiced singing a real lot, which simply makes a difference) I consider you to be a well above average musical talent and that's why I'm urging you so strongly to get professional feedback! In fact it's not surprising - when a person is as interested in learning to sing and as ambitious as you are, it's to be expected that they have a natural predisposition for it.

    But even then, apparent "unmusicality" has many possible reasons, everyone has a certain potential that can be developped, and it would be frivolous to write someone off as a hopeless case right away, when you can't really assess, much less see their full potential yet. Sure, few people have what it takes to be an opera singer, violin virtuoso, professional pianist, composer genius or jazz master, but few people have such high aspirations and for most people, music is never going to be more than a hobby and they wouldn't even want to devote themselves to it full-time.

    As for getting Tarja's music on RockBand, have you seen my reply in the forum?

    My pleasure if I could help you :)

    Almagest

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  4. By the way, are you sure that there are no voice teachers where you live whose English is good enough to work with them? I mean I understand that you'd rather work with a native speaker, but at least for professional classical musicians and those working at universities/colleges it's not at all unusual to be multilingual and it would be strange if you couldn't find anyone who speaks English fluently (even if not necessarily perfectly), if at least for a few elementary lessons. Or are you going to leave France for good very soon already?

    Oh, and have you seen on Tarja's blog her Quest for the Perfect Microphone? LOL, I'm sure you can empathise with her. :)

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  5. Ah yes.. I wanted to make the AD sample quieter but I was silly and placed it and mine on the same audio track and therefore didn't lower the volume. If I had been smart I would have done them separately and decreased the volume for the AD one. Ah well trial and error ;P

    I looked for the topic about RBN and Tarja but didn't find it anymore.. since the forum doesn't let you look at posts individual users make (which would have allowed me to look up topics I started) I didn't find it.. it's probably a few pages back I guess.

    There are vocal teachers here.. I don't think they speak English though. I looked at music schools in the area and did find singing teachers and even choir. The problem is though that they only take students between the ages of 16-24.. I'm 25 (ouch) but they do say to call if you're older. So I'm going to look into it, if I can manage to find a way to communicate I should be ok.. it would give me some "me time" too which I could surely use after chasing my toddler every where.
    My main concern is that there is an audition to be able to take the class.. one song you pick yourself and one they assign you. I can barely read French musch less sing it and on top of that i can't even read music (though the class claims it is for beginners with no background).
    As I said I will look into it. It's apparently not that expensive which is nice.

    I'm hoping to leave France by the end of next year but I honestly don't know.

    As for Tarja's blog I haven't seen it but it sounds like it could be fun to read :)

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  6. You mean the Tarja forum? You can do that from your profile, which you get to by clicking on your name wherever it appears in the forum, or the "profile" button on the bottom left of a post of yours. You can use this link, too:

    http://www.tarjaturunen.com/forum/profile.php?mode=viewprofile&u=39832

    Then click on "Find all posts by Anex". Or use this link:

    http://www.tarjaturunen.com/forum/search.php?search_author=Anex

    That's strange, haven't you been able to find musicians who give private lessons and elementary tuition and speak English? Music schools may not necessarily be what you are looking for, because the level may be too advanced. The presence of an audition suggests to me that they presuppose that you have already undergone elementary voice training. It sounds like they train professional or at least semi-professional singers, while you have probably not decided yet if you want to pursue singing as more than a hobby or even just for fun, so I think starting with basic lessons is best for you, especially if you cannot read music.

    OK, they may claim it is for beginners (although the audition really clashes with that, that contradiction smells fishy and you should really ask them and make sure that it is for total beginners), but they may presuppose that you are really, really serious about singing, want to be a professional singer eventually and proceed at a rather brisk pace, which may too much pressure for your taste for now at least.

    I'm a bit uneasy with that. I mean, I don't really know, I may well be overreacting and probably I'm overly suspicious (perhaps because they are French :-P) but I'm just a bit skeptical.

    But you can still try, of course. It won't hurt and you won't have to stay with the French teachers for years probably, since you're not going to stay in France for that long. Also, I think you're smart enough that you will be able to manage it even if the teachers are demanding.

    You say you can't read music, but do you know how musical notation works in principle? The kind of basic stuff you can look up on Wikipedia for example. I mean I couldn't sing off sheet either but I know how notes work, so I wouldn't call myself entirely musically illiterate.

    By the way, have you seen this cover of Passing Bells?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=op00-FkIs3U

    It's funny that she chose the same song.

    Tarja's blog can be found here: http://tarja-whatliesbeneath.com

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  7. I found the blog and I found the post! ^^

    As for the school I don't really know.. I'm a bit concerned as well.. I mean I totally need it from a "talk to me like I'm stupid" level. I just tried to find the site that had the school and I ended up finding many more teachers.. who all demand an audition for beginners. I wonder why that is. Maybe because they want to scare people away? lol

    I'm music illiterate. I had a class in school when I was like 12 that taught us some really basic stuff for playing the plastic flute (called a flutophone). I wanted to pursue that more and learn to play clarinet in the school band but my parents didn't want to drive me to practice or pay for an instrument so I didn't get to.

    But yeah I understand your suspicion, I'm not overly trusting either.. French people can be very arrogant. :/

    As for that cover I hadn't heard it before but she certainly has a different kind of voice I think. She seems to sound lower which makes the song sound a bit different (not bad though).

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  8. Yeah, that's REALLY strange. (Is every Frenchman born with musical skills and the ability to sing off sheet, or what? :-P But perhaps they have better music education at their regular schools and perhaps home music is more common, too.) I mean, if everyone requires an audition I wonder why they even announce it, you could think it was obvious then, at least for the French. LOL

    In Germany, children typically learn to play a wooden recorder. I've never heard of the flutophone before. That sucks that your parents didn't want to finance you music education. But I suppose Americans, and especially Texans, are not big on that. (Man, they should at least have allowed you to learn the guitar or harmonica or a keyboard or anything like that - if only for honky tonk :-P)

    Did you know that Tarja used to play clarinet too as a girl? She said she was never good and has totally forgotten it by now but it has actually helped her with breath control.

    I've let the original song and her cover run parallel and it doesn't sound to me like she sings it lower. I think it's only her timbre that is darker. Perhaps she's a mezzo-soprano (although timbre isn't a necessarily an indication for that, Tarja has a dark timbre, too, and is a soprano). The song is sung mostly in a relatively low register anyway, so it's not easy to tell.

    I'm not sure myself if You thought you'd be open for requests. Check out Lumsk, Stine Mari Langstrand has a very similar voice type:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCFfuq_1iJA

    Other similar singers I can come up with are Vibeke Stene from Tristania (especially on the first two albums, where she sounds very operatic), and the Icelandic singer on Luca Turilli's solo album "King of the Nordic Twilight" (for example in the song "Princess Aurora"). You could also try Loreena McKennitt. She's not a metal singer and not trained and she may not be the exact voice type but she sounds really nice. Or how about trying to cover a Sarah Brightman song? "Fleurs du Mal" is very popular.

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