Singers That Changed My Life

We all have pieces of music or singers that bring out certain feelings in us, that create a lasting impression on us that transcends just a “nice piece of music“. But in some cases, a piece of music or a singer’s voice can be literally life-changing.

And for me, I’ve got four singers that changed my life at different times. I heard each of them at very specific times in my life, and in some cases, I literally would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for their music hitting me like it did.

1. Elton John

When I was about 10/11 years old, I discovered Elton John’s greatest hits album in my parent’s record collection. I used to listen to it on repeat for hours at a time. It’s only looking back on it now I can see how much of my musical preferences stem from Elton’s approach. The interesting arrangements, the piano being front and centre, and dramatic yet moving melodies… not to mention the enormous catalogue of material he’s put out over the years.

Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” was probably my favourite. There’s also a very clever key change between every verse and chorus, but it’s covert rather than overt… and I love that.

Continue reading “Singers That Changed My Life”

The Worst Voice I’ve Ever Heard

This story is going back a while, maybe 10-15 years ago. We had some friends round. One of those friends had some of their university friends visiting them, and they came along to our house as well.

One of those friends of friends heard that I was a voice coach, and they said “Oh, I’m a singer, I’ve just done my grade 8 vocals and got a distinction“.

Well of course, my curiosity was piqued! So I offered to run through a few exercises with them and see what we could do with their voice.

I started them off with the standard assessment… and what came out was diabolically bad.

How bad was it?!

It was all in tune, but it was the weakest thing I’ve heard come out of a “singer” even to this day.

It was so breathy and weak, I had to set the digital piano I teach from to the quietest setting to hear them. It was not much more than someone breathing out but with some semblance of pitch to it.

Their range was so impaired, they had less than an octave of range to their voice. At either extreme their voice became just fully disappeared into pure air and breath.

Put bluntly, there is no way that person could ever sing a song with what they were doing with their voice, let alone be heard by anyone else whilst doing it.

But they’ve got a grade 8 in singing… with distinction?

Quite! If grades actually mean anything at all, this doesn’t add up. How can someone with basically no useable singing voice have achieved a grade 8 in singing? I asked them to tell me about what singing they’d done previously. Continue reading “The Worst Voice I’ve Ever Heard”

What does a ‘heavy’ voice sound like?

Recently, we looked at what a light voice sounds like. I promised we’d look at what heavier voices sound like, and that’s what today’s article is about.

More particularly, I want to talk about what heavy voices sound like, but also what heavy voices do NOT sound like.

With the clips in the light voice article, the differences are very overt as they lie at one extreme. With weightier voices, these differences can be less obvious to hear. In the following clips I’m not trying to claim these are the weightiest possible voices in the world, but to highlight qualities and characteristics that emerge as we move along the spectrum from lighter voices to weightier voices.

The weightier the voice, the more of these characteristics appear. Similarly, the lighter the voice becomes, the more these traits disappear and the characteristics you hear in the lighter voice article appear.

Once you grasp the extremes, the in-between stuff should be easier to grasp, or at least appreciate where these differences may lie. Now, on to our singers…

1. Tim Storms

This gent holds the Guinness World Record for the lowest sung vocal note (it’s lower than the lowest note of a piano). Here’s an example of his singing:

And here is an example of his speaking voice:

Two things I want you to note: Continue reading “What does a ‘heavy’ voice sound like?”

The Most Insane Excuse: Finding time vs making time

Many years ago, I had a client who gave me the most insane excuse I’ve ever heard. Brace yourselves, because it’s a doozy.

They had started voice training with me whilst they were working a normal job. At some point they had decided to change career, but for a period of time chose not to work. So they were free as a bird from a normal 9-5 job. No job, not employed, no kids, some household responsibilities, but nothing contractually obligating them every hour of the day. About as free as one can get is my point.

A bit of context

Before we get into the story, a bit of background about how sessions work. The way sessions work is that I will start someone with a warmup exercise, and how this sits in their voice tells me where their voice is at on that day. This then helps direct me to the next appropriate vocal exercise, and so on. I generally have a strong imprint of where people are at vocally from one session to the next, but what I hear on that specific day is a big part of good training.

If someone’s voice has really moved forward since the last session (generally due to effective practice) then I can move ahead to more advanced tools and improve their voice quicker.

In contrast, if someone’s voice has not moved all that far (sometimes due to lack of practice, but can often be due to the general difficulty of physiological adaptation) then we often have to re-tread ground and refine the work.

The latter is totally fine, but that brings us neatly back to our story. Continue reading “The Most Insane Excuse: Finding time vs making time”

What does a ‘light’ voice sound like?

When people come for an initial consultation, we conduct an assessment on their voice. It’s like an MOT for their voice, where we identify what’s good, what’s OK, and what needs work.

But even before we do the assessment, I am listening to the timbre and weight of their voice even as they speak. I want to hear what their voice actually sounds like when it is not interfered with, and from there I can more accurately figure out how to build their voice for them.

What affects their vocal weight

Their size, age, sex, and particular physiology all play a role in how weighty or how light a given will be.

When I talk about a weighty voice, it’s a marriage of several factors. The more muscle someone has in their vocal folds, the more muscular and weighty it can sound. A large larynx, a low larynx and long neck can also deepen the resonance of the voice, which makes it sound weightier but in a different way. The bigger someone’s body, typically the weightier their voice sounds, though this is not always the case. The older someone is, the weightier the voice becomes also, only reversing this trend in much much later life (e.g. muscular atrophy, larynx height, etc).

A lighter voice tends to have all the opposite traits. Smaller statured people, younger singers, women more than men, etc. Lighter voices have less mass to them, less weight, and so are more nimble. They tend to have less range at the bottom end of their voice, and far more at the top. Agility and nimbleness are more normal traits for lighter voices, but they often have to work harder to sound bigger and powerful. The reverse is true for weighty voices.

I’ll cover weightier voices in another post, but now we’ve covered the basics of light vs weightier voices, let’s feature a few examples:

1) Bruno Mars

Listen to the opening seconds of this video. Bruno simply says “It’s so beautiful, I want to hang out with all of my Billboard friends”. Listen to how light and almost feminine his normal speaking voice sounds. Then listen how high his voice sits in the following songs. You can hear his singing voice is more or less in the same place. A lighter voice has this… well… light quality to it, and the power has to come from aggression and style, as the tone can never reach the dramatic height of weightier voices. Continue reading “What does a ‘light’ voice sound like?”

Five Songs From The Last Week

I’ve written a lot of articles on weightier topics recently, so I thought I’d return to a lighter vibe and feature five songs that have come up in the last week.

Queen – Let Me Live

My Dad is a huge Queen fan. We were round at theirs for dinner and he had the album ‘Made in Heaven’ on. This album was released in 1995 after Freddie Mercury’s death, and was made while he was suffering quite badly. They allegedly had to do vocal takes on days when he was feeling more physically capable.

When I heard this again, I got strong vibes of Michael Jackson’s ‘Man in the Mirror’, mainly from the choir in the backing. What do you think?

Continue reading “Five Songs From The Last Week”