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Thread: Wanna-be Critique Me

  1. #1
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    Wanna-be Critique Me

    Hello Folks! I知 new to this forum.

    I知 an adult beginner jazz vocalist, low on instruction and confidence, living in the middle of nowhere. After seeing a couple of other posters get some good feedback from their recordings, I was hoping for something similar. Not exactly sure what I知 looking for, just seeking a little direction I guess. I really have no touchstone from which to judge myself.

    From my video series of duets with my cat.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_km684BknqY
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEXxyEpPS5k

  2. #2
    Guitar edrowland's Avatar
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    That's not too bad really. Good pitch mostly, nice time feel. Good tone, in a limited range. Can't really what will happen when you step up to something a bit bigger.

    The only thing that could be better is you need to drive the tune a little more. Which of course is not really possible with music minus one. There a couple of brief points where you come unglued -- both in pitch and time -- because you're not committed, and end up being dragged along by the music-minus-one. But that's definitely a problem with music-minus-one. The problem with a live band is to "own" the tune, and "drive" it, and interact sensitively with the musicians in your band. A totally different prospect. Sort of like the "coming unglued thing", but on a much larger scale, to the point that it's not really comparable; made considerably easier on the other hand, by a band that interacts with you.

    Body and Soul. There's interesting stuff going on -- particulary in the scatting -- but the that's a tough tempo to take that tune at. Ballads are deceptively tough. Even more so at that tempo. And music-minus-one on top of that, with no feedback at all from the rythm section. Not sure it really succeeds. But again, a live band would make this so much easier (and they definitely wouldn't be playing that tune that slowly with anyone but a really great singer).

    Being able to sing in tune, with decent time feel is surprisingly not a trivial accomplishment among beginner and intermediate jazz vocalists. Being able to improvise plausibly is also not a trivial accomplishment. I play with a lot of amateur jazz vocalists in my jazz community. I'd be quite content to play behind you on this tune, if you can do the same with a live band.

    The "driving the tune" thing will probably be a bit of a shock though, when you step up to live musicians, after doing music minus one. Basic plot summary: as a singer, you have to lay down the tempo, and the feel, and the interpretation tune with enough presence that the musicians you're playing with can pick up on it instantly. Just step on stage: 1 ..2... 1.2.uuh uh. <sing your tune here>. And when it happens it happens. It's amazing. It takes a bit of getting used to. If you crash and burn on the first try, don't let it get to you. It's one of those things you learn by doing. And you'll quickly figure out that signing over a band that responds, is far more thrilling and interesting than playing over music-minus-one.

    Definitely a good start though. Fundamentals are there, and there's enough interesting going on that you might be able to make something really good out of it. And, it case the point wasn't adequately made, you really do need to know that live music is, in many ways, much easier, than music-minus-one.

  3. #3
    musician Jeff Smith's Avatar
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    Go for it. Find a voice coach or someone who's had some training and is willing to share. Listen to lot's of jazz vocalists, male, female, plus other jazz instrumentalists, and find out who really speaks to you personally. Listen to how they phrase lines and color their voices to express things. Take what you like and try to incorporate them into your own style. Find opportunities to sing with other musicians and perform in front of others. There is a special energy present when you involve others in your music that takes it to another level. That's what it's all about.

  4. #4
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    Thank you so much! That was very helpful.

    I do realize that this is a group activity and I look forward to working with musicians. I'm not there yet partially because I'm so isolated and finding these elusive jazz musicans around here is difficult ...and also because I'm a big chicken

    I've also been searching for a coach, but I'm not quite sure how to go about that either. I had one briefly who was more of a pop/rock vocalist. When I tried to show her what I wanted to do, she kind of looked at me like I was crazy and told me I was "biting off more that I could chew with the jazz and the scatting." That seemed odd to me since I had not done any scatting for her, and ever since I have been wondering if, indeed, I am crazy. So I'd like to find someone who kind of gets what I'm trying to do. It helps to know someone else out there can see something in my singing, and I'm not just completely delusional.

    So, again, thanks to you both. Loving the advice!

  5. #5
    Guitar edrowland's Avatar
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    Don't look for teachers. Look for jazz musicians. There aren't too many jazz musicians that make enough money that they don't want to teach on the side.

    If you want to learn jazz it HAS to be from somebody that plays it for a living. There are far too many teachers who will say yes to anything. And very few who can actually play jazz.

    Watch out for musicians playing jazz locally. Go watch. If you like what you hear, ask them if they will take students. A pianist that sings would be ideal. A pianist that doesn't sing would be a start, and might get you far enough that you can make a decision as to whether want to get a vocal coach who can teach you the mechanism of good support and breath control, range (and all that singer stuff). You will definitely need a vocal coach later if not sooner. But a pianist might get you started.

  6. #6
    balladeer page's Avatar
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    Hi Stella, welcome to the AAJ forums. I can't see why that singer/coach said that to you, watching/listening to your videos I do think you can grow into becoming a jazzsinger. And you already are into improvising which is a good thing!

    I do not completely agree with edrowland, although I do agree you need someone from jazz itself. I'm a singer myself and I do think you need to get a coach who does know about how to sing. Not every jazzmusician would know, some do. It is important to not get accustomed to 'bad habits', because those are hard to get rid off. A pianist that also would teach vocals though, is a very good idea.
    When I started lessons it was with a qualified vocal coach. She was from the opera/musical world. However her father had been a jazz musician, so she did know about jazz. There were some techniques she didn't want to teach me because I wanted to sing jazz and so she chose another approach with me. She did know she wouldn't be able to teach me everything so she did tell me to get some other vocal coach from jazz itself at some point because she felt like she wouldn't be able to teach me more of it.

    Since you live 'in the middle of nowhere' like you say, I understand it being hard finding people to play with or study with. I do know some great musicians teach via Skype; I haven't heard about vocal coaches doing so, but they might. Of course to actually have lessons with someone present personally would be of preference but it is an idea when you would have a hard time finding a teacher/coach. Like edrowland says, go watch jazz musicians play, go talk to them and maybe you'll get in touch with people who can help you along because they know other people or can help you themselves. I got my coach through a saxplayer who knew her personally. However I've noticed you can approach people themselves and ask, even when they are 'famous', a lot of professional jazzsingers teach and are happy to do so.
    Another idea is to prepare a few songs, bring sheet music in the right key and try out at jamsessions. That is fun and will you help to grow enormously.
    Good luck!
    regards, page

  7. #7
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    Thank you, Page. I saw you on the forums and had hoped you would chime in.

    Thanks much for the suggestions. The skype one is interesting and I hadn't thought about anything like that. I have thought about going to a jam 70 miles from here, but was hoping for a smaller step first to build up my confidence a bit. The teacher I mentioned is the only person for whom I've sang. While I played some sax and danced before an audience another life ago, this whole standing on a stage and opening my mouth to a mic is foreign and intimidating.

  8. #8
    balladeer page's Avatar
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    Hi Stella, I understand about the confidence part. I first sang in a choir and it took me some years before I dared to try auditioning for the lead part. I was very shy and nervous. When I did finally, my thrill appeared to be bigger than my nerves. You'll get more secure the more you do it. Btw don't forget you already sang for an audience just now on you tube and you've got positive response. When you'll get to make music with musicians they will help you too, since as a band you are always in it together to make it work. You'll have to rely on each other. For some reason I've always got to be close to the rhythm section and made friends there at first, they are your 'lifeline division'.

    The Skype is an idea, I don't know whether there is actually a vocal coach who teaches this way but since there are musicians that do, there might be.
    Maybe you should try to find some people to just sing with in a group in the mean time, while you are looking for a coach. It is great fun to sing together with others and a great training for your ear.

    You don't need to use a mic right away, at least not in such a group nor at lessons. When you want to train mic technique use a little water bottle. Keep about 3 fingers distance between your mouth and the bottle/mic. A lot of singers that aren't used to one, keep it much too close.

  9. #9
    musician Jeff Smith's Avatar
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    Often a church choir or a community chorus has a director or other members who have knowledge of proper fundamental vocal mechanics. A local high school with a music program might have a chorus director that would probably be aware of all that is available in the area. There are probably more resources lurking in the shadows than you might imagine. You are already braver than you think, just by posting links to your videos. Anyone who wanted to check them out can see you've done over 20 videos, and this thread has been viewed 609 times as of today.

  10. #10
    Registered User jazz,from,a,rat's Avatar
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    Totally dig what your doing.

    One book I strongly recommend to anyone looking to be a singer is,
    The Rock-N-Roll Singer's Survival Manual
    by
    Mark Baxter.

    He goes into breathing technique and why it's important. In fact most of the book is on breathing. Great exercises using vowels to help you strengthen your voice.

    Looking forward to hearing great things from you soon!
    Making music with hair from a horse's ass.

  11. #11
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    You guys are great! Thanks for the advice, suggestions, encouragement. The responses have been more and better than I expected. And, oh look, the book is on Kindle.

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