Steve Balsamo

This is Steve Balsamo’s performance of ‘Gethsemane’ from Jesus Christ Superstar, and he does the mentalness of Ted Neeley’s original performance from the Jesus Christ Superstar film decades ago. I’d recommend watching the whole thing, but if you want to skip straight to the mentalness, shoot to 2m44s and you’ll get about 20 seconds run up into his prowess in full swing.

No, that is not falsetto, it’s head voice. You can hear he hits ‘that note’, then riffs (i.e. does some other notes in a musically cool and funky way) down back into chest voice in a fully connected way – if all the notes sound tonally even and connected together with no real tonal shift then it’s not falsetto.

But if you listen a little bit longer, as he’s ascending back up again, you can hear a noticeable shift into head voice. It’s still very impressive, but note that the illusion of one voice is damaged.

Learning points:

#1 – Half the range, twice the quality – While this is incredibly impressive, when you sit back and think objectively about the overall tone of his voice throughout, you can hear he is having to be incredibly light throughout in order to make sure he’s able to “get up there”. This means that although the high notes sound impressive, he’s compromised the whole of his vocal tone the rest of the song to get up there.

A phrase that is important to remember is that when it comes to longlasting voices, longlasting careers, and an audience that never gets tired of your voice, is to half the range to give twice the quality. So what if you hit crazy high notes, if your quality is compromised to do that, what was the point?

#2 – Technique does not equal listenability or success – This guy has done some incredible stuff here. But how many of you know his name? What about Michael Buble? Or Ed Sheeran? Almost all of you have heard their names. Their voices are lovely, but nowhere near as technical. What they are doing is almost pedestrian in comparison. Yet they fill stadiums and have millions of fans as well as critical commercial success. What gives? Music is not a competition. How much you can do with your voice is not as important as what choose to do with it. Being listenable is far more important than showing off a billion notes a second.

Now while this seems very similar to half the range, twice the quality, this is to point out that the real test you should always be sitting is “are you sounding good?”. Not “are you sounding impressive”. Impressive technique does exactly that for the first few seconds – it impresses. But what happens after that? Very few know about Steve Balsamo, yet Buble is a household name.

Make your first priority being listenable, and the rest will follow. Trust me on this.

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