Over the course of writing this column, I’ve come across some pretty sensational vocalists, and I had the chance to pick many of their brains about the most important aspects of being a professional singer. I’ve also observed many of the biggest voices in music, and the way that their voices have developed and changed over time. Getting up and singing for an audience, whether you’re a professional singer or just someone who loves to sing, is not easy. So, here is a list of some of the advice I’ve encountered while writing Vocal Points that may help the aspiring singers out there:
- Everyone can sing. This is probably the most important piece of advice I’ve encountered because so often we feel that only certain people are blessed with a beautiful voice. As vocal therapist Mark Baxter said in his OurStage interview, “Singing came before speech. Humans are instinctively wired to send and receive melodic passages of emotional statements.” So if you love to sing, don’t let anyone else stand in your way.
- Nobody is perfect. Its important to remember that our favorite vocalists got to be so good because of hard work and practice. As Kevin Devine explained to me, “I think I’ve embraced my limitations as a singer and tried to re-frame them as strengths. “
Let’s face it, much of popular music these days is cookie-cutter stuff”melodies that are easy to sing along to with mediocre lyrical content and little to no emphasis or inclusion of the intricate vocal harmonies which make music so interesting. Layering these harmonies add a really cool, depth to music which allow listeners to discover something new about the music with every listen. But now that the lifespan of a hit song is much shorter, and music tends to be more shallow, much of the importance and depth of vocal harmony has been forgotten.
But there are still bands who “get” harmony. A great example is Grizzly Bear, an indie band whose four members, Chris Bear, Daniel Rossen, Ed Droste and Chris Taylor all contribute unique vocals to their music. Both Droste’s and Rossen’s tenor voices are different, but the way that they come together with the upper-range voices of Bear and Taylor is truly stunning. Grizzly Bear’s phenomenal attention to details in music is so well done, making for a sound unlike anything else. And in live performance by this band succeeds at an even higher level. Grizzly Bear makes these complicated harmonies come together seamlessly, channeling a choir while still being full of life and fun to watch.
As great as 2011 has been, it’s time to start fresh. So, while you’re making your New Year’s resolutions, start thinking about what music will be your soundtrack to 2012. Here are some of the voices we’re looking forward to hearing more from in the year to come!
Paramore, who made news in late 2010 for their split with founding members Josh and Zac Farro, are scheduled to release a full-length album in early 2012. So far, we’ve heard singles “Hello Cold World”, “Renegade” and most recently “In The Mourning”. Still, we’re wondering how the full-length album reflects any change in the band’s style. And it’ll be particularly interesting to see if Hayley Williams‘ voice is strong enough to keep fans hooked.
We’re also looking forward to having John Mayer‘s voice back in 2012! His fifth studio album, Born and Raised, which was initially scheduled for the end of 2011, will now be coming out in 2012, as soon as Mayer’s voice has completely recovered. And since the album’s already mostly completed (just missing vocals) it looks like we don’t have too long to wait!
Mumford and Sons won’t be keeping us waiting much longer either. According to the band, their next LP will be more mature, sounding a bit like “Black Sabbath meets Nick Drake”. And after the success of Sigh No More, its hard for us to imagine the band’s follow-up being anything less than great. Our fingers are crossed. (more…)
Everyone knows that the stars of OurStage are the artists. We would be nothing without them! However, there are plenty of unsung heroes working behind the scenes to make sure the wheels keep turning and everything is running smoothly. We are the OurStage Community Team; Co-Op students who work tirelessly answering emails, writing blogs and reviewing the songs entered into competitions. We’ve been working here for the past six months, but now it’s time to move on to new frontiers. Still, the experience we’ve had here has been amazing, and our parting gift to you is a playlist of some great OurStage music that has either flown under the radar, or is just so great that it merits a second listen. So kick back, put on your headphones and check out some of the best we think OurStage has to offer. You can listen to the full playlist right here!
Cara: I spent the past six months writing Live Wired, and when I wasn’t spending the majority of my free time at venues around Boston, I discovered tons of great music while working at OurStage! My picks for the playlist include finalists The Well Reds from The OurStage Panel, who I was lucky enough to see perform, and tunes from Marie Hines, Talain Rayne and Cooper Brown”these are sure to make you smile. Enjoy!
Christmas comes once a year, and this year we’d like to give you free downloads of songs by some of the best and most distinct voices on OurStage. The seemingly bottomless pool of talented vocalists on the site made it hard to narrow down our list. But, we’re sure our picks will satisfy your musical cravings. Enjoy!
“Colorado Rain” by Fiske and Herrera is a beautiful folk tune that combines Amy Herrera‘s sweet vocals with Jared Fiske‘s soft tones to create perfect harmony.
If you’re looking for a spunky, hard-hitting song which flat out rocks, look no further. “The Other Side Of You” by June Divided proves once again that a woman can rock just as hard as any man. And front-woman Melissa Menago‘s strong voice never fails to impress.
On the complete other end of the spectrum is “I’d Rather Not Know” by country singer Adam Sanders, whose deep, hearty vocals make you melt. Sanders exemplifies how great country can tug on your heart strings.
We’ve talked all about our favorite singers and the way that their voices shape the music industry, but these voices would be nothing without someone like renowned vocal therapist Mark Baxter to shape them. Baxter’s experience and insight about the human voice has helped thousands of singers, from superstars to up-and-coming singer-songwriters, attain the voices they desire. And now he’s been kind enough to share some of that insight with us. Check out what he had to say!
OS: How did you decide to become a vocal coach? What sort of training did you undergo in order to be qualified?
MB: It was a very gradual progression from performer to vocal therapist. I took voice lesons from several different teachers over the course of many years. I became curious and started asking doctors and sports therapists about physiology. As my voice improved other singers in my circuit took notice and asked for tips.
I continue to study all aspects of the voice through self-study and courses at the Harvard Medical School’s Continuing Education Program. I am also fortunate to have Dr. Steven Zeitels, who is an elite Otolaryngologist, as a mentor. I have found the medical community the best source for un-biased information about the physiology of the voice but my lengthy stage experience is what really qualifies me to work with other performing singers. (more…)