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Greetings from Toronto, Canada... and looking forward to good things from this program

Hi everyone, 

I have been singing casually for 25 years.  I've done some acoustic guitar + vocals on open mic nights.  I've also written some of my own stuff, but my melodies have been limited by my range.  The same goes for my covers.

I tried two "in the flesh" singing coaches.  My first coach told me I'm a baritone, the second helped me understand I was pulling chest.  

I had to stop lessons for a bit when I had kids, and I set a goal for myself this summer to put up a few covers onto Youtube and get myself back into singing.  It's gotten my kids singing a lot too!

My first few videos are entirely in my original chest register, and I found myself going flat at times if a note made me struggle.

I started scouring Youtube channels for vocal techniquess, and that eventually led me to KTVA.  

I watched all of volume 1 in a few hours and was blown away how much open throat technique extended my chest range.  
I started singing stuff I've wanted to for years, and got a bit wrapped up in the enjoyment of that for the next few weeks (instead of learning and practising the technique like I probably should have!).

I started putting some more covers onto my Youtube channel.  Where I've struggled most are with songs that don't easily transpose or stylistically adapt to my current chest range.  

My buddy asked me to sing a Cat Stevens tune, and I picked Father and Son.

It's been about three weeks of struggle with that tune and it's brought me back down to the ground.  I watched volume 1 again last night and now plan to do the lessons with some discipline.

Here are some things I want to work on:

1) keeping my throat open - some consonants and dipthongs really close off my throat and it leads to strain

2) vowel modifications and vocal tract shaping - i wrote down all the modifications.  i'm still figuring out how to apply these techniques without exaggerating the pronunciation to the point where it sounds silly.

3) my jaw - sometimes i just let my jaw consciously hang to make sure I don't introduce tension.  It is a bit awkward at the moment.

4) blending head and chest - i think I have finally started to understand the coordinations required to achieve the elusive "mix voice" recently, but I am not that far along in the course yet, so I am hoping to learn that soon.

5) singing and playing guitar - it is a lot easier for me to sing when I'm not playing guitar.  the biggest thing i struggle with is maintaining breath support when I am playing.

I tried to gauge my range yesterday and it seems to be:

Upper chest: C#4
Lower head (easiest point to blend chest): G3
Upper head: A5
Upper falsetto: C#6

Here is a link to my youtube channel where my videos are posted. 


An audio version of the Cat Stevens cover I'm working on. Blending head and chest is where I am really struggling a lot at the moment.


At the end of the day, I want my voice to be an instrument I can use for years to come, and have the range to compose my own melodies.  Beyond that... let's leave it there for now!

Cheers,
Steve

Comments

  • highmtnhighmtn Posts: 14,606Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro

    Hi, @steves!

    Nice introduction.  How long have you been working Ken's program?

    I noticed in your videos that you do need to work on your breath support. 

    Since you are a guitar player anyway, if you aren't already doing this, you might want to play the chords along with Ken on your audio exercises.  Go ahead and do this standing up, so you can take advantage of the added support when you stand and sing.  (Do your recordings standing, also)

    Play the chords as you do your vocal exercises.  That way, when you work on your support, you will have your guitar strapped on and can get used to supporting while playing guitar chords.  It will embed the feeling.  Also, it helps you to know what chord you run into tension on, you can stop the audio and work on one tough scale and accompany yourself...  I do that all the time.

    On your recordings, you should isolate the noise that is happening in the background.  I don't know if your acoustic guitar is electro-acoustic with a bad battery, or what, but you should clean up the noise in the background.  It's constant on some of your tunes.  That way, when you start really getting the results you want from your voice, it will be on a clean recording.

    It's nice to hear from you.  Really concentrate on doing the Audio Exercises every day, with great concentration and attention.  You will be doing these from now on, and the more efficiently you practice, the better your progress will be.  You have a good basis from which to build your voice, and you can achieve the gains you want to make through diligent work!

    Good Singing to You!

     

    Bob

  • stevessteves Posts: 41Pro
    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for your response.  I bought Ken's program on Labour Day weekend this year.  

    That's a great idea to play the chords along with the exercises.  Thanks, I will try that more once I start getting somewhat proficient with the exercises.  

    The background noise on the recordings seems to be from the condenser microphone input.  

    It was bugging me too, and I was trying to figure out the root cause but no luck so far on that.  As far as I know, it could be cabling, power bars, even the microphone itself. I tried switching around whatever I could without having to buy any more equipment at this stage but no luck.  I also tried removing the noise using EQ on the mix, but that affected the vocals. 

    I have an Apex 460 microphone plugged into a steinberg UR22 digital audio interface, which then plugs into my Macbook Pro.  My UR22 also has balanced cables running to two KRK Rokit 5 monitors.

    If you have any suggestions let me know. 

    Steve



  • highmtnhighmtn Posts: 14,606Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro
    Are there batteries being used on the condenser mic, or are you using phantom power?
  • stevessteves Posts: 41Pro
    The condenser mic plugs into a power supply box, which then has an XLR output to the digital audio interface.


    From the noise you heard, could the mic just be so sensitive that it's picking up background noise in the room?  In that case would a gate effect on the track help?

    Steve


  • highmtnhighmtn Posts: 14,606Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro
    edited October 2014

    Yes, a gate would reduce the noise when you aren't singing or playing, but it would be there when you were singing or playing.

    Are you using a mixer?  You could put on headphones and listen with the volume turned up, and disconnect the mic, and see if the noise goes away, then disconnect the guitar (if it's got a pickup) and see if it goes away.  It may be a signal/gain issue.  You should not have a -10 dB switch turned on at the mic and then crank the volume at your interface.  That can just magnify small amounts of noise.  You could have a bad cord.  You could have a low battery in anything that has batteries.  You should use the process of elimination to see what you can do to eliminate or reduce the noise.  That will really help your recordings.  If you don't fix it, you will have the problem in most, if not all of your recordings.

    It may be the way you have your gain staged on the way into the computer or the mic input sensitivity on the computer itself.  You might want to read some articles on signal-to-noise ratio.  That might help you to isolate where you have your gain incorrectly staged.  Compression can also make the noise floor rise up to crazy levels when there is little sound being compressed.

    Bob

  • stevessteves Posts: 41Pro
    Thanks, Bob.  I am not using a mixer.  My Steinberg UR22 has a USB connector which plugs into my computer.  I am using Garage Band to do my mixing and effects at this stage.  

    I did try troubleshooting this a few weeks ago and here is what I came up with:

    - unplug the guitar channel (input 2) and the sound remains
    - unplug the mic channel (input 1) and the sound goes away --> this suggests the mic
    - i tried changing power bars, but the sound remains
    - verify the gain on the mic input is at the lowest level at which the peak indicator does not light up

    I have not proven conclusively, but it does seem like the noise increases with time, ie: possibly as the mic gets warmer.  The microphone is about 10 years.  

    I have not tried swapping cables at this stage as I do not have any spares.

    I have been using NYC style compression setting on most of my vocals, which I know tends to boost some of the sound.  Is there another setting I should consider using?

    Thanks for all your help.

    Steve
  • highmtnhighmtn Posts: 14,606Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro
    edited October 2014

    Do you know anyone that could loan you a mic?  That way you could verify or eliminate the mic itself as the cause.  The shielding on the mic cable could have come loose at one of the connector ends.  That could cause intermittent noise.  A song or two did not seem to have the noise, but I didn't take note of which ones in your six or so demos.  You could check that and see if you recall anything different in your setup at the time.

    Are you using acoustic (without electric pickups) guitar, and are you recording it through the vocal mic as you sing?  If so, then you have the mic turned up loud to get the guitar into the recording, and it will pick up room noise, computer fans, room fans, traffic outside, etc... and if you are using a compressor with a lot of makeup gain, it will really pump up that sound when you aren't singing into the mic.  I don't have garage band, so I'm not familiar with the NYC setting, but if you use a lot of compression and a lot of makeup gain, you will get pumping background noise.  A gate or expander could help with this, but you DO need to see if your mic is pumping a lot of static into your recordings.

    Experiment with some of the other compressor preset settings, or instead of using compressor presets, try learning compressor controls and find your own settings that aren't so extreme.

    Oh, yes... You said as the mic gets warmer, it seems to get worse.  My main condenser mic is a TUBE mic.  Tubes have to warm up, and eventually go bad.  If it doesn't have a tube, then it has transistors.  Those go bad, too, and sound a lot like the sound we're hearing on your recording.  It might be hard to find a shop that could troubleshoot and repair an intermittent transistor in a studio recording mic, but if anyplace has such a sleuth, Toronto should be one of the places you could find someone to do that.  Surely Los Angeles or possibly even Nashville would have someone who could fix your mic, if that turns out to be the problem.

    Maybe your best bet is to ask a friend, music stores, or even a recording studio if you could rent a mic.  It wouldn't have to be a thousand-dollar mic.  Just a condenser that you could use to substitute for an A/B test on your system.  Certainly you could find someone in a craigslist ad that would rent you a mic for a couple of days. Put the ad in the musicians area.

     

     

    Bob

  • stevessteves Posts: 41Pro
    I think the compression settings could be the issue after reading your explanation above.  Here is what Wikipedia says about New York compression (also known as parallel compression):

    "Rather than bringing down the highest peaks for the purpose of dynamic range reduction, it reduces the dynamic range by bringing up the softest sounds, adding audible detail."

    That seems to be exactly what is happening - low background noises are boosted very high.  I only started using the New York compression setting after my second or third recording, so also as you said it explains why not all the recordings have the setting.
     
    Let me play around with the settings a bit and see what I find.  I have not spent much time with becoming proficient with effects processing and mixing.

    Thanks for all your help Bob.  I do appreciate it!

    Steve

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