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What's a 'good voice'?

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Sourdough 14 Jan 00 - 09:49 PM
Jon Freeman 14 Jan 00 - 10:12 PM
kendall 14 Jan 00 - 10:22 PM
MMario 14 Jan 00 - 10:23 PM
JamesJim 14 Jan 00 - 10:23 PM
DonMeixner 14 Jan 00 - 10:25 PM
Michael 14 Jan 00 - 10:44 PM
Little Neophyte 14 Jan 00 - 10:48 PM
MMario 14 Jan 00 - 10:50 PM
emily rain 14 Jan 00 - 10:50 PM
Little Neophyte 14 Jan 00 - 10:57 PM
Sorcha 14 Jan 00 - 11:04 PM
Victoria 14 Jan 00 - 11:08 PM
fulurum 14 Jan 00 - 11:16 PM
sophocleese 14 Jan 00 - 11:28 PM
Robo 15 Jan 00 - 12:10 AM
Escamillo 15 Jan 00 - 12:16 AM
Sorcha 15 Jan 00 - 12:26 AM
catspaw49 15 Jan 00 - 01:12 AM
roopoo 15 Jan 00 - 02:43 AM
Doctor John 15 Jan 00 - 06:29 AM
Alice 15 Jan 00 - 07:51 AM
Margo 15 Jan 00 - 10:29 AM
Peter T. 15 Jan 00 - 10:52 AM
Peter T. 15 Jan 00 - 11:07 AM
Jon Freeman 15 Jan 00 - 11:13 AM
DougR 15 Jan 00 - 12:00 PM
Clinton Hammond2 15 Jan 00 - 12:08 PM
Alice 15 Jan 00 - 01:54 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Jan 00 - 01:58 PM
Little Dorritt 15 Jan 00 - 05:28 PM
paddymac 15 Jan 00 - 05:36 PM
Art Thieme 15 Jan 00 - 05:39 PM
Jon Freeman 15 Jan 00 - 06:34 PM
Escamillo 15 Jan 00 - 11:24 PM
roopoo 16 Jan 00 - 01:43 AM
Escamillo 16 Jan 00 - 04:59 AM
Escamillo 16 Jan 00 - 05:26 AM
Alice 16 Jan 00 - 10:09 AM
paddymac 16 Jan 00 - 11:31 AM
Peter T. 16 Jan 00 - 12:55 PM
Margo 16 Jan 00 - 01:48 PM
Joan 16 Jan 00 - 04:09 PM
Alice 16 Jan 00 - 04:27 PM
McGrath of Harlow 16 Jan 00 - 10:02 PM
Bill D 16 Jan 00 - 10:15 PM
sophocleese 16 Jan 00 - 10:23 PM
Kristi H 17 Jan 00 - 01:02 AM
Escamillo 17 Jan 00 - 01:13 AM
Barry Finn 17 Jan 00 - 03:07 AM
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Subject: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Sourdough
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 09:49 PM

Every so often there is a reference in a thread to a "good voice". Often, it is the writer, disparaging his own voice. That set me wondering about what is a good voice.

Some people swear they "couldn't carry a tune in a 10 gallon bucket". I don't know that I've ever met anyone who was so tonally lacking that they couldn't carry a tune as soon as they got a little confidence. Maybe their range wasn't very good but they could sing well enough to join in with friends and know some of that kind of joy. I think, without having a whole lot of experience to back it up, that almost everyone can sing well enough for an awful lot of traditional music. Would you consider that Woody Guthrie had a good voice? or Bob Dylan? Play a Leadbelly recording for people who don't have a sensitivity towards that music and they will think he sounds awful. I guess that's why the line, "Old Time Traditional Music: Better Than it Sounds", is so funny.

Maybe it is better to think in terms of "a good voice for what?" It would be real clear that few people are blessed with the kind of voice that can fill a concert hall, bringing words and melody clearly through the tangle of orchestral sounds but few of us ever feel that need.

Part of singing successfully, and by that I mean being enjoyed by whomever you choose for your audience, is must be choosing your material with some sensitivity to their intersts and to your technical abilities, strengths and weaknesses, but isn't a part of it also similar to what makes a man or woman attractive; a projection of a clear sense of self, some degree of confidence, the ability to carry emotion in your voice and the sense that you are having a good time. I think that there are people who do not have "good voices" who are terrific entertainers and whom we enjoy listening sing because of qualities other than their bare, unadorned voice.

I had a chance a long time ago to spend a little time with Alan Lerner and the subject of Rex Harrison's voice came up. He told me that he and his partner, Lowe, asked Harrison to sing some scales so they could get an idea of his range. They wanted to write his songs in My Fair Lady in a key and range he could handle. They were stunned to find out what that range was. I don't recall but I think it was only about five steps. Because Harrison "chose" the right material and mostly because his presence as a performer is so formidable, his voice is of far less importance and he starred in one of the great musicals of all time.

Having run on this much, I have to add that I am not a performer so I haven't been faced with htese issues as much as those of you who regularly chooses to get up and give paying customers their money's worth, whatever that is. I would be really interested to hear what others think about what is a "good voice". It has to be more than great vocal cords and an ear.

Sourdough


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 10:12 PM

Opinion: A good voice is one that keeps in tune for starters. Some voices do more for me than others and I can't really qualify it. One thing I will say is that I prefer a voice like say Ronnie Drew's to a very highly trained classical voice.

Jon


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: kendall
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 10:22 PM

I agree, but, he has a very annoying habit..saying uh after every word


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: MMario
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 10:23 PM

a very good question. I have been complimented a great deal in the last few years, but still don't like the sound of my recorded voice. And I'm still trying to get over almost forty years of "shut up, you sound like a dying cow" comments. But since total strangers will come up to me and compliment my voice, I have begun to believe them.

Oddly enough, it is frequently times when I feel my voice has been "off" that I get the most spontaneous compliments.

MMario


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: JamesJim
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 10:23 PM

Some very interesting thoughts Sourdough. I must say, I do have several friends who sing "off-key." I think that is fairly common. However, it doesn't stop them from joining in (in the least). I do make it a point not to have one of them positioned behind me (ugh!). It can throw you off terribly.

There aren't many people with what I would call a trained" voice. From what I've experienced, I believe a person is born with some sort of raw talent to sing and it can be developed (either through formal training, or just a lot of practice). I believe I have a rather decent singing voice, but so does/did everyone in my family, except my father (however, he could carry a tune). As I think back, I was singing from the time I was able to talk. We had a piano in the living room and two of my three older sisters played. I grew up in the forties (sheet music era), so we entertained ourselves with singing most every night. I am not an authority, but I would think the vocal cords are like any other muscle. Exercise them and they will improve. That had to help me in my early years. SO IT'S ALRIGHT TO SING, NO MATTER HOW YOU SOUND - HEY - YOU COULD GET BETTER WITH PRACTICE! Regards, Jim


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: DonMeixner
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 10:25 PM

There are lots of perfomers with a small range but are great singers. Bing Crosby had not a lot of range but amazing control and great power. Johnny Rivers was is the same way. No great range but good style. Kenny Rogers has a week voice but is a unique stylist which makes hom bankable, And anyone who remembers Malvina Reynolds remembers a great writer and a no generous voice. But she had a way with it. Jim Post has amazing Range power and control over a voice I can take or leave.

Joni Mitchell has a very good voce which I can't stand. I know its a good voice because my sister says so and Martha wouldn't lie.

I know a woman who can sing in three keys at once, none of which is anyone playing in. She is totally tone deaf but she is enthusiastic.

I think you may have aske d the wrong question, What makes a good singer may be better than what is a good voice,

Don


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Michael
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 10:44 PM

...one that compels the listener into wanting to hear MORE...


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 10:48 PM

When I first started taking music lessons from Rick Fielding, I had never tried to use my voice much. I told him I thought I sounded like a transvestite.
Having been told as a kid "you sound funny", I stopped singing.
What Rick explained to me is, I have a larger range than I realize, I just have never used it.
As I explore my upper range, I am pretty shakey. But I can see as I build my confidence with time and practice this will improve.

BB


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: MMario
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 10:50 PM

BB - you going to send in a tape to MC radio?


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: emily rain
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 10:50 PM

Sourdough,

i'd love to gab on and on about this subject, but unfortunately i find that i agree with everything you said. i don't know if i can add more than a good hearty nod.

the woman in my area whose voice i love best (Susan Welch, may god bless and protect her) sings with a rough, scratchy tone that would never get past a bel canto enthusiast. her range is not all that spectacular, either. but man, does she know how to move that voice... her greatest vocal assets are all things that can be learned, making her voice the servant of her musicianship. and she's a musician in the best sense of the word: she takes the music within her, makes it a part of herself, then opens the gates and throws it back out to us transformed, enlivened, and filled with love.

i'd choose her over a host of "purer" voices anyday.


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 10:57 PM

Hopefully one day I will MMario
I just need to get more of that practice & confidence thing going.
BB


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Sorcha
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 11:04 PM

Several points about "good voice"---I am totally deaf in my right ear, and only have about 65% in the left. I CANNOT hear myself as others hear me. I have listened to myself on tape and it's not the quality that bothers people, it's the fact that I cannot hear and make the correct intervals. I'll be doing just fine, and then all of a sudden, WHAM--I am way flat or sharp, or clear off key altogether. This doesn't bother ME, but it does bother people I am singing with. I play fiddle mostly by seeing my fingers, and by sympathetic vibration, and do OK. However, when our daughter was 2 days old, I tried to sing her a lullaby.......she OPENED her eye, let go the teat, and stuck her little tiny fist as far in my mouth as it would go! Needless to say, I have never sung to her again. She is now 15, and has almost perfect pitch. My deafness is congenital, but disease related rather than genetic. (My Mom had rubella when I was in utero) I played in a civic orchestra the whole time I was preggers with the daughter, and I KNOW she could hear what was going on, and I am sure it has affected her musical development.


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Victoria
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 11:08 PM

Perhaps it's that "good voice" has more to do with heart than with than with vocal chords ???? (And you can do it, BB!)


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: fulurum
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 11:16 PM

if you can sing well enough to entertain yourself, then your good enough.


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: sophocleese
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 11:28 PM

I don't know Don about the wrong question bit...I've had three glasses of wine so I may ramble a bit here. Different voices are useful in different types of music, that's partly why there are so many different names for sopranos. I have what I, and others, call a sweet soprano voice, its clear and often pure, sometimes it can sound shrill, it doesn't have a lot of vibrato, its a good choir voice, but its not strong enough to carry over orchestras. I have a clear memory of a drunken acquaintance saying "Its a nice voice but you've got to get raunchy." It limits somewhat the material that I can sing; but its also fun to take a raunchy bar song and sing it in a sweet soprano, can be a little sarcastic ofr ironic. As I get older my voice is developing its richness. Voices are often best when the singers are in their 30s and 40s. The advantage with trained voices is that they will, generally, last longer.

What people think of as a good voice will depend on what they grew up listening to. I'm not a fan of vibrato but some people love it. At a choir festival years ago there seemed almost a national character to how choirs sounded; what attributes they most enjoyed in a choir. The French tended to be more nasal, the English were sweet and ethereal, the eastern europeans were dramatic and strong, the Americans were brassier.

I personally prefer singers who have clearly thought a lot about their singing and invested the same amount of time learning to sing as they would learning any other instrument. Staying on pitch is good, but some people can sound effective being a little off the pitch, there's a roughness to it than can work well in some songs. I like hearing a voice that moves easily between the lower and higher notes of its range. I notice when I'm trying to learn a song off a tape or CD that if its high in the singer's range and they are straining at the top notes I will also strain even if the key is technically one I should be able to sing in easily, I mimic the strain, not just the note. Therefore I like voices that are comfortable in the range of the song they are singing.

Voices have colour to them and warmth, tenors can be sweet and light, floating on the note, but they can also be very warm and strong, or sound a little anguished and strangulated. People prefer different colours. There's a woman in our song circle who has what I call a smoky alto voice. Its strong and very effective and expressive; its completely different from mine. We sometimes like singing the same songs but the audience will never experience them the same way because we are different people with different voices and approaches. I think that over the last three years we have learned from listening to each other, I've experimented more in the lower part of my range and she's gained confidence in her upper range. We're both better for the learning.

I think most good singers are driven by a desire to sing and express themselves through song. Thus they tend to develop whatever voice they are born with to as a high a degree as they wish. Those with small ranges develop full expression within them and those with larger ranges ripple up and down them. Those with weaker voices exploit their dynamic range to full advantage and those with power belt it out and stun the birds in the trees. They can all sound good.


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Robo
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 12:10 AM

I couldn't agree more, Victoria. Run the voice pipes through the heart valves and everything flows. On a different note, I think the best voices are the most distinctive ones, those that are near impossible to imitate. Think Roy Orbison. Van Morrison. Rod Stewart. Any others?


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Escamillo
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 12:16 AM

Sophocleese, this phrase of yours is a pleasure for me: "I personally prefer singers who have clearly thought a lot about their singing and invested the same amount of time learning to sing as they would learning any other instrument."
I'll never regret to have invested a lot of time and money in studying vocal technique, and will always repeat to beginnners that there's a whole universe of difference between STUDYING and NOT STUDYING with a good, classic teacher, doesn't matter wether you are facing a popular or classical career. There are lots of good voices ruined by singing out of their natural range, full of vicious habits, of people convinced that a rusty emission is good for their repertoire, or a weak one is more expressive.
Un abrazo - Andrés (a bass who happened to be a baritone and later a tenor)


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Sorcha
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 12:26 AM

A good voice.......John McCutcheon. Nuff said


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: catspaw49
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 01:12 AM

Interesting thread. I personally have a lousy voice, so let's skip that. I bought two tapes awhile back from Sandy & Caroline at Folk Legacy Records.....Both are excellent and REAL representations of the music and sound of the Appalachians. The voices could not be more different. Frank Proffitt was a tremendous talent, but by most standards of "good"...he isn't. But what he plays and sings and the "delivery" of the songs is so authentic that I am literally compelled to listen. Karen looks at me like I'm nuts. The other is by Edna Ritchie (one of Jean's older sisters). Her voice is positively angelic and possesses that same quality that Jean has. But where years of public performing and recording has "toned" Jean, this recording of Edna is like sitting in a settlement school in Kentucky and hearing the traditions of the mountains.

Two different voices. Both have merit, but would get differing views from "outsiders." But they both share in the all important delivery and the "truth" comes through.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: roopoo
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 02:43 AM

I agree with everything Sourdough has said. I once went to a series of singing workshops at Whitby festival, run by a guy I know who is a performing arts teacher, folk singer, musician, dancer and researcher. He said that many people try to sing in a voice that is not really their natural one, but one that tends to get forced upon them by school choirs, hymns in church and even singing along with popular music where you are presented with a set pitch and singing style and that's that. He gave many examples of the old singers from recordings, made by song collectors and others, of old solo singers such as "Pop" Maynard, Phoebe Smith, Walter Pardon and the like, who could carry a tune unaccompanied, but who were untrained singers. The tip he gave to help find your natural singing voice was to allow yourself an unrestricted sneeze! If you just let it out freely, the air passes over relaxed vocal cords and will therefore ensure the noise produced is really "you". Even posture will help (as you all probably know). If you are sitting, lean slightly forward so that your throat will stretch slightly to keep the same eye-level. This helps open the windpipe and also free-up the vocal cords. If you don't then clasp your hands on your lap you will also find that your chest is able to expand a litle more.

Aside from all this, I still maintain that I sing like a bullfrog, as at some point in my past, my voice seems to have broken. And I am not a bloke. I've been told I should always sing in the lower register, but much relies on me getting the first couple of notes right. If I fail, the earplugs come free!

mouldy


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Doctor John
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 06:29 AM

Everyone seems to be aggreeing with everyone for once! I think one question that hasn't been asked is "good for what?" Trained tenors and the like are said to have "good" voices but it's often impossible to hear what they are singing about and the yardstick here appears to be ability to perform vocal gymnastics. Not "good" for folk singing and especially ballad singing: OK for opera where it doesn't matter as the words are often Italian or banal or both! Lead Belly would not make a good long ballad singer either but is unbeatable in his own music. Paul Clayton was a good ballad singer as his diction is so clear; but his voice may be too colourless for some tastes. Richard Dyer Bennet? Not rough enough for me. I find Woody Guthrie just about right - listen to his "Harriet Tubman" - long but not tedious. Frankie Armstrong is said by almost everybody to be an outstanding ballad singer but I can well do without the drama. I think Cisco Houston and Isla StClair probably have the right balance for most listeners. Dr John


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Alice
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 07:51 AM

I agree with Escamillo. And the comment that it "doesn't matter" what the words are because they are in Italian? So, Dr. John, you think opera is banal and only English is acceptable for singing? The world is filled with many styles of singing. I have studied classical voice technique and it was very useful in giving my voice more power, volume and range as well as clarity of diction to understand the words when I sing any kind of music, including folk music.

The voice that fits the song being sung is the good voice. Regarding leaning over to sing... it cuts off the ability to pull the muscles of the floor of the abdomen down in order to have breath support. Expanding the chest is not the most important part of breath control.

Here is a list of threads I put together last year on previous discussions we have had on THE SINGING VOICE. click here


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Margo
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 10:29 AM

I think we're talking about several different things here.

THE VOICE. You are born with your voice and the raw potential. I have always been a singer, even as a child. I must have some ability I was born with because I have always sung on key, and complained when my siblings would go off key. So I hear the tones and can reproduce them. Classical training was FUN and I would recommend it for anyone who wants to gain control and discover what your voice can do.

THE TECHNIQUE. Oh boy, a raw scratchy voice, and a very moving performance. Both possible. Some people can really make a song come to life. For me, it's Lou Killen. He's not technically a great singer, as far as voice goes. But he has such passion, such energy, I love listening to him.

Isn't it great when someone has both?


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Peter T.
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 10:52 AM

Question: what should people who haven't got time to go to a voice teacher do to improve, shape their voice? Anyone found a good book or some words of advice? For popular or folk or jazz styles, not classical. How would you practice? -- I sing all the time, but have no structure at all.

Random thoughts:
One of the most interesting phenomena is listening to people grow into their voice, or learn what to do with it. Patsy Cline is really fascinating: she had this almost operatic voice that no one knew what to do with, so until about a year before her death, her voice has this kind of big, one dimensional sound; and then just before she got killed, the whole bottom of her voice changes beautifully, and she starts really singing. Then she gets killed: proof that there is mindless stupidity in the universe.

I think Willie Nelson's singing, like his guitar playing, is underrated. It is a bit like Fred Astaire: every songwriter wanted to write for him, because although he had not much of a voice, he just made it look so easy.
In terms of natural instruments in today's music, to me Sinead O'Connor has by far the most amazing voice: "Nothing Compares 2 U" is an incredible record. It is a terrible pity she is so traumatized. Sometimes the way.
yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Peter T.
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 11:07 AM

whew, thanks Alice, I remember reading those threads when they came out, but forgot how much was in them. yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 11:13 AM

OK, personal feeling on classical voices: Yes, I agree that proper trainig used sensibly can and does help but when it reches the point that words are distorted and that "operatic" accent is achieved, I switch off. The words are incomprehensible to me (even in English) and although these singers may have great power and range, as a general rule, I find the tones produced distinctly unpleastant.

This is my purely subjective opinion but that is effect it has on me.

Jon


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: DougR
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 12:00 PM

Sourdough, a good Thread. I find little to disagree with here but would just add one thing. I believe that the person who is "commercially successful" as a volcalist has a "distinctive" voice. When you hear that voice on the radio or a recording, you immediately know who is singing. Many examples can be given and most of them have already been named: Willie Nelson, Burl Ives, Hank Snow, Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves, Dina Shore, Doris Day, Mama Cass, Mary Travers and on and on. I think, after listening to his CD, Rick Fielding has that quality. You hear them, you know who is singing. To me, that separates the good solo voice (commercially successful) from the good choral voice that may blend beautifully with others. I am not implying, however, that only commercially successful voices are the only "good" voices. There are pleanty out there that sing well (good timber, resonance, on pitch) that will never be commercially succesfull for other reasons.

I certainly agree with Alice that good vocal training can improve almost any voice. DougR


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Clinton Hammond2
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 12:08 PM

Who was it wrote this???

Sometimes I wish I had a better voice
To singmy songs to you
A voice so brillian, rich and clear
Soaring and gliding throught the air
Placing the melody in your ear
The way good singers do
My voice cracks like a back-porch chair
Growls and groans like a big black bear
Full of whispers, kinks and snares
And I sometimes miss the key
But nobody sings my songs like me

kinda sums it all up eh? I get a awfull lot of mileage out of this one...


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Alice
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 01:54 PM

Training your voice to sound "operatic" is not the main purpose of voice training. And for those who say they don't like opera, how many of you have heard a live opera performance, how many know a classical singer and have sat in a room and talked about singing with them and listened to their singing? This is a reverse snobbery, and I wish people would just get over it. There are real ways that you can ruin your vocal cords forever, create permanent nodules, lose your range, etc, by not knowing some of the basic techniques that the opera singers have developed over time. On the other hand, there are styles of singing - look at the Balkans - that are so different from ballad type folk music that Americans are used to that to talk about 'a good voice' in such general terms does not make sense. I state again, the good voice is the one that is right for the type of song being sung.


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 01:58 PM

Mouldy's remark about allowing yourseelf an unrestricted sneezing as a way of finding out about your natural singing voice intrigues me.

A good sneeze is one of the great pleasures of life, and mine tend to be so unrestricted that they can bring public places to a srtandstill, and my wife tells me off. But I've never found a way of learning anything from them so far.

So could you please elaborate, mouldy? I'd love an excuse to justify my sneezing.


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Little Dorritt
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 05:28 PM

This is very interesting -I think half the battle is accepting that your voice may suit some types of music and not others- I love opera but dislike operatic stars singing contempory songs without changing their style. I have a reasonable voice for folk music and stick to traditional but I can't sing a pop song or jazz piece to save my life and so I don not try. Sean Keane sings some amazing,hauntng folk songs but I find his C & W stuff a bit of a turn off. A good voice I would probably define as one that can adapt to any style of music.


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: paddymac
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 05:36 PM

Voices are a lot like wine. One might be perfectly suited to one set of circumstances (venue, mood, style of music, emotion, etc, etc) on any given night, but the very same voice might be completely unsuited to the circumstances of another setting. And, like wine, too much of a voice can leave you feeling ill.

There is also the reality that vocal intervals within any octave are not the same as the "concert pitch" instrumentalists are accustomed to. An experienced vocalist will usually adjust to the instruments, since the instruments can not adjust to the voice. Instrumentalists will sometimes criticize an unaccompanied singer when they hear the difference in vocal intervals in contrast to what their "concert pitch ear" tells them they should hear. There is a current thread on "perfect pitch" that nicely complements this one.


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 05:39 PM

Jim Ringer

Jo Stafford

(no kidding)

Art


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 06:34 PM

Alice, while I didn't say I don't like opera (my comments were on the voices), I will reply. I have only been to one opera (The Barber Of Seville as a child) which I thoroughly enjoyed and while I wouldn't pay to hear one (I'm like that with most things) if somebody offered me a free ticket, I would go and expect to enjoy it but there is more to opera than the voices of the singers and I would be enjoying the spectacle rather than the singing. My father loves opera and regularly used to play his record collection at home and I can assure you that I found many of the voices, particulary sopranos, very hard on my ears...

Up until 2 years ago, I used to chat in a pub practically every night with a classically trained singer and although I rarely try to sing these days, he did give me a couple of tips that I found useful at the time. He is retired but I he did actually bring me a recording of him at the time when he was working professionally and one that I particulary enjoyed (much to my surprise - I thought he would murder it) was "I Dream Of Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair".

I like what I like and dislike what I dislike and I don't consider the fact that I don't like most of the "operatic" voices that I have heard to be a form of reverse snobbery.

Jon


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Escamillo
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 11:24 PM

Let's not confuse a good voice with a good ARTIST. One may have Louis Armstrong voice and make miracles with it and with the songs, and may have Domingo's voice and be unable to sing a tango acceptably.
BUT, the most important, in my opinion, is to never assume that a good voice is not necessary for a singer, or not necessary for certain repertoire. For example, listen to Kiri Te Kanawa - she is an "operatic" voice indeed, and possibly her high pitch will sound hard to the ears of Jon and many people who dislike this form of singing, but HOW SWEET she is when she comes to intimate songs, even to popular and maori native songs, and so many different kinds of music!
On the other side, listen to Shakira (one of top sellers in Latin America, hope you know her): she seems to have a good timbre, but insists, purposely, in a nasal sound full of unnecesary "breaks" which will ruin her voice in a couple of years. Of course she sings things A LOT EASIER than classics or even jazz.
One word about the "operatic" sound: this is the sound of human voice, magnified only by vocal technique, in order to fill a theatre (you should never sing in open air) as it was known until amplification arrived. One should understand this before comparing the sound with any popular singer of the XX century, who were born with a Mic on their hands. Did you hear old Italian songs, English madrigals, Spanish romanzas ? They were the popular music by those times AND THE VOICES WERE TRULY "operatic" TOO ! Because there were no mics.
As the electric amplification comes to our lives, we start to hear NOT the human voice, but an imitation made by an electric circuit and a paper cone activated by a piece of carbon. Even we hear the same when we attend our artist's presentations. Then EVERYBODY , even who did neither have the VOICE nor the TECHNIQUE, could raise his voice and it was necessary only the art and the sensibility, to reach the audience ears and hearts. I find this is NOT BAD at all, but it is not THE voice, not THE singing.
Hope I had contributed to a deeper confussion :))
Un abrazo - Andrés


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: roopoo
Date: 16 Jan 00 - 01:43 AM

McGrath, I can't say if it's true or not. It sort of sounds logical. Best to allow one or two brave souls in the room with you to hear, when you have a cold! Or it could be: "Hurry, Mavis, with the cassette recorder - there's a sneeze a-comin'!" An alternative is to carry a memo-recorder with you and fascinate the public by recording your own sneezes! I never really had to try it out because I have a fairly low speaking voice, and accepted what I was told. But on the odd occasions I have tried to hear, it seems to be "something like". I mean, when the mother of all sneezes is on the way, you don't start to think, "Oh, I had better listen to this," do you?

How considerate will your wife be if you tell her you are conducting scientific research?

mouldy


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Escamillo
Date: 16 Jan 00 - 04:59 AM

Mouldy, if you allow me, I would try to make it clearer what that musician wanted to say when talking about sneezing to let your voice be emitted freely, etc. I think the term is YAWNING and not sneezing. If this is what he said, it is absolutely true (according to several serious teachers and books I know) because when you yawn you get your larynge in the most relaxed position and the upper (most internal) palate in a high position, allowing for the formation of a large cavity in the inner mouth.
It is a known trick of the teachers to tell you "get the yawning sensation" to make us feel the correct position for a maximum flow and minimal effort. Those who learn to manage muscles to obtain this effect, do not need to yawn - they start to sing with their real voice. At first the sound is strange, feels too artificial, but so is this business, to look for beauty in the artificial fact of making music with an instrument that has been made up to speak, scream, curse and drink gallons of beer (oops sorry ladies, of course you don't curse).
Un abrazo - Andrés


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Escamillo
Date: 16 Jan 00 - 05:26 AM

(Why I get so involved in "voice" threads ?) Sorry for posting too much.
There's one last question from my friend El Pedro which I would like to answer:
.................
Question: what should people who haven't got time to go to a voice teacher do to improve, shape their voice? Anyone found a good book or some words of advice? For popular or folk or jazz styles, not classical. How would you practice? -- I sing all the time, but have no structure at all.
.................
There are many good books, for example The Art of Singing by Madeleine Mansion, about 1950, but the problem is that this is a highly physical process of learning. If no teacher hears your exercises, nobody tells you when it is good to stop, when you are forcing your voice, when you are obtaining the correct sound, how gradually you should attempt the high notes, etc., the process may be more harmful than beneficiary. I would recommend to go to a teacher who has a classic education and experience, and tell him the truth, that you are not starting a career in opera, but want to improve. If he/she is reasonable, and has had experience with pop and folk singers, will surely accept the opportunity of making together a good job . If he/she tells you that only classic students are accepted, don't feel disappointed, cause each one has his own speciality, just look for another. Avoid those who have never had a classic experience.
And see you at La Scala !
Un abrazo - Andrés


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Alice
Date: 16 Jan 00 - 10:09 AM

Andrés, thank you for posting because you wrote everything I had been thinking, too, but I feel like I am repeating myself again from all the other singing threads I linked to with my earlier message. Peter, I will send you a private message on this, but my voice teacher says that for free you can send her a tape of your singing and she will respond with some analysis of the direction in which you need to seek guidance (singing in the back of the throat, scooping the notes, blocking the sound on the roof of the mouth, breath support or whatever it is she can hear from a tape). BUT, again, I repeat what Andrés wrote. One cannot really learn how to use your singing voice to its maximum ability from a book or tape, although you can learn information about singing from a good source as Andrés referred to. Each individual is different and a teacher needs to be able to listen to what you are doing and hear how your voice improves as you work on what you need to learn. Don't worry about being turned into an opera singer!! Only a person born with the type of vocal cords that could create the operatic sound can learn to sing that way, and learning the good techniques that will protect your voice is not going to make you sound like you are singing opera. If you are serious about protecting your vocal cords from damage and having a lifelong ability of singing with endurance, then learning vocal skills is important. Another advantage of studying singing is that you HEAR what other singers are doing when you understand the mechanics. You listen to recordings and suddenly realize which singers do not have enough air to get through a phrase, which ones are off key or blocking the sound in the roof of their mouth. The advent of microphones and studio manipulation makes up for alot of weaknesses in singers.

Right now I am listening to an NPR radio story on Bessie Smith and the St. Louis Blues with Louis Armstrong on coronet (1925) with a harmonium, also! She had a voice with power and control and support. It's a great performance. The perfect voice for that song.


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: paddymac
Date: 16 Jan 00 - 11:31 AM

Excellent thread - special thanks to Andres for his most insightful comments, particularly as to not confusing the voice with the artistry.


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Peter T.
Date: 16 Jan 00 - 12:55 PM

Andres, why did we just not go off into a corner of that hotel and sing for an hour or two? Damn it all to hell. Now we have to meet again so that you can give me a lesson or two!
For sheer volume, I remember the first time I heard Birgit Nilsson at Covent Garden, I really thought the walls would come off. Once I heard her from the back row at the Albert Hall, which is a huge barn, and you could almost feel the pressure of her voice on your face. She was recently interviewed prior to the Heppner/Eaglen Tristan, and was really interesting about technique (she was giving a master class). I had always assumed she just had a vast natural voice, opened her mouth and sang.

The most wonderful singer I have ever heard live is still Pavarotti when he was young, doing La Boheme or Tosca. Just for the sheer Italianness of it all, hurling himself at you. Has anyone ever really enjoyed the whole thing as much as Pavarotti and his audiences, everyone including Pavarotti just being thrilled at what was going on?
Your opera house is so good, you must have heard a lot of good singers come to town, or locally. yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Margo
Date: 16 Jan 00 - 01:48 PM

Jon, I think it will be very interesting for me when I finally get set up with a mike and can sing for you on the HearMe chat. I will appreciate your opinion (blunt and honest) because I make a great effort to sing plainly and not to sound "operatic". It'll be fun! :o) Margo


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Joan
Date: 16 Jan 00 - 04:09 PM

At the risk of sounding crass, I think there are two kinds of voices, too: The Constipated Voice and The Open Voice. If you hear an open voice, there seems to be nothing between you and a steady, sure, flexible stream of sound. Now if that sound is divided into clear words and phrases, then it's even better, since you not only have free and open tones, but you can understand what the song has to say, AND if the singer goes a step beyond that and thinks about meanings, then you get passion and nuance, which makes it still better.

The constipated voice gets constricted inside somewhere: the throat, the jaw, the chest.... It comes out breathy and tight. (When I did school programs I'd get the kids to yell..then when they finally did, told them I wanted to hear them sing like that.)

Anyway, I really don't feel the owners of lovely, mellow voices make for the best singers; two different things. Sometimes the passion, diction and phrasing make up for everything else, as long as it starts free and easy.

Joan


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Alice
Date: 16 Jan 00 - 04:27 PM

For anyone interested, you can hear my voice at the beginning of Mudcat Radio XIII (13) singing some of the verses I wrote on the Mudcat song thread (Come All You Loyal Mudcats). - Alice


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 16 Jan 00 - 10:02 PM

There really are different ways of using the voice, it's not just a question of lacking the technique.

It's the same way that a fiddle playing in a folk tradition is essentially a different instrument from a violin being played classically. The very things that a clasasical violinist will have learned to avoid may be an essential part of a traditional way of playing.

So what classically trained singers may hear as failure to use the voice right - a head voice rather than an open voice - may be a very important element in a traditional singer's technique.

Learning how to avoid hurting your voice is useful - but someone who sings for the pleasure of it in a small setting isn't making the same demands on the vocal mechanisms as a professional trying to achieve a maximum volume.

Opera sounds best with classically trained singers, I think - but I don't find that true for folk songs - including classical arrangements. Vaughan Williams arrangements of "Linden Lea" (which is a dialect poem by William Barnes t=rather than a folk song)for example sounds just wrong to me when I've heard it sung by concert singers. But Dave Goulder's singing of it (on a CD "Stone, Steam and Starlings" Harbourtown Records, HARCD 017) I think is very powerful and moving.

Incidentally, "Linden Lea" doesn't seem to be in the DT. So here is a link to a midi of the tune used by Vaughan Williams and here is a link to the words of William Barnes's poem, in broad Dorset (since Dick Greenhaus rightly pointed out the other day on a thread somewhere it is discourteous mentioning a song without putting the words in).


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Bill D
Date: 16 Jan 00 - 10:15 PM

I have heard...live, Pete Seeger, Frankie Armstrong, Jean Redpath, Lou Killen, John McCutcheon, Sara Cleveland, and more, including some local folk with AMAZING voices that are not famous.....and, 40 years ago, I heard Mahalia Jackson, whose voice made the hair stand up on my neck!.

..and some of those voices were 'purer;..and some were rough...but they all grabbed your attention. I have also heard a few folk who simply could NOT hit a note, or who had no 'life' in their voice...and seemed NOT to be able to improve...so, I think a lot of it is just the luck of the draw. I am one who is not great, but who can manage ok with a little practice..(and now has hearing aids to boost those 'lost' high notes and clarify tones, so I know better what I am singing)


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: sophocleese
Date: 16 Jan 00 - 10:23 PM

Good points McGrath. Those singers I find most irritating aren't necessarily those without classical training but those who think that they don't need to spend any time THINKING about their singing. I do wince sometimes if I hear somebody consistently doing something that I feel must be painful, screeching like the lead in AC/DC for instance. Good fiddlers, like good violinists, need to practice and learn what makes music and expresses the song and what is just a mindless exercise in running through the necessary notes. I am not a fan of country and western singers singing traditional, usually English, christmas carols: singing through your nose just doesn't sound good there although its highly approriate in country and western songs where an Anglican hoot would be awful. Generally speaking a singer with training can learn to sing in a greater variety of styles if he or she wishes to than somebody who isn't trained.


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Kristi H
Date: 17 Jan 00 - 01:02 AM

How long does it take to get a handle on what your voice really is? I'm relatively new to singing, a couple of years. I hadn't sang to anything but along with the radio from a very young age, 9, and am now 33. I started some informal singing lessons a few months ago. My fellow musicians have all played and sang for 20-30 years. They tell me the voice I have now is the only voice I can have and to basically give it up and concentrate solely on my instrument. They don't understand the phobia about singing that I am trying to overcome. So,from the wealth of people out here, my question is: For a person working on their singing a couple of times a week(due to the time constaints of family, work, etc.)how long should a person give before just accepting the limitations the fellow musicains are setting for me? Also, Where does the line between playing technically correctly versus with feeling and commitment fall? Kristi


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Escamillo
Date: 17 Jan 00 - 01:13 AM

Peter, I am no teacher, so I hardly could give lessons, but if you wait until I grow up, it could be possible!
I like your comments about Birgit Nilsson's performance, it gives me another reason to understand what happens to people who don't like opera singers (even when they like the melodies and expression involved) : they generally hear opera singers through a CD, an amplifier and the ominous speakers or headphones. Then what happens when the great Nilsson sings to her maximum power, in a voice and orchestra climax of drama, and you are not in the theatre? You turn it off. Me too. You don't feel raised up from your seat with emotion, you just feel pain in your ears.

One of the possible exceptions I know of, is the recordings made by Herbert Von Karajan, because he always spent half his time in the recording studio, and what we hear in his CDs is what Karajan wanted us to hear.

Yes, our opera house (Teatro Colón) is one of the best in the world, told by top performers. I've sung there, just in the choir, and it is an incredible experience. After my pants dried up a little, I started to enjoy the rehearsals and concerts, because I could hear MYSELF among the other voices, that phenomenal is the acoustics.
One last thing regarding classical voices: there's not only opera (which is musical theatre). There's oratorium, chamber music (where you'll never feel anything hard on your ears), French and English and Russian and American songs, German lieder, AND of course, there's Paul Robeson.
Thanks, Alice, I always enjoy your valuable contributions, and will try to hear you.
Un abrazo - Andrés


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Subject: RE: What's a 'good voice'?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 17 Jan 00 - 03:07 AM

Hi Kristi, pay them no mind & continue, if your just starting to sing you'll have no idea how far you can go with it unless you keep at it. No matter what voice you have there's always room for improvement. If you think you've a fair voice now (or even if you don't ) then it's worth every moment you spend trying to improve it & you'll always be paid back two fold. As for those who tell a singer they should try something else, it's a shame they were given a talent at all then maybe they'd have more respect for those who are trying to develop theirs. In 7th grade I had a nun for a band leader, I tried out & after I had sung the scale for her she rudly shouted for the next victum (had no idea what singing would have to do with playing an instrument). It took years to get over what she had crushed in seconds. I always sang anyways (just fooling around stuff) but it wasn't until I was at a worksong workshop in the 70's that someone mentioned that I should do a bit more singing & that she (Barbara Karns) liked what I did (that was a 1st). A couple of years ago this same women came to a workshop on worksongs I was doing & later came up & said how much she enjoyed herself, she had no idea of ever meeting me before & I had to turn the complement around & thanked her for the few words of encourgement, decades earlier, that gave me the little bit that I needed & that in this case she should only need to thank herself. Barry


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