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How to approach quiet song w/ a short belting section

Having trouble with line from Zep's Thank You: "From you to me, I'm the only (oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-ly) one." I can reach it when the line is isolated (it's still not easy for me) while practicing, but just completely splat in performance. I have similar issues with other songs that have a belted line or two in an otherwise easy tune. (I've been on Vol.3 for ~ one year; the belting only just "clicked" a few months ago after reading one of Highmtn's many helpful comments. After that, everything that Ken said was like, "Of course...!").


  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro Posts: 14,880
    edited August 2015
    Ken talks about this issue in a couple of places.

    To sum it up:

    We can't take the weight up with us. This particular song you are using as an example sings in full voice at a lower volume with lower notes throughout. Then he gets to that one part and there is absolutely NO WAY to continue with the voice you have used for the entire song so far. As you've pointed out, it's very difficult to suddenly go to a completely different configuration for that one line, but that's exactly what you have to do.

    As Ken has said: It's easier to do a song that is high belting from start-to-finish, than it is to do one that has to change up from one extreme to the other. The hardest songs are songs that go back and forth, repeatedly, between high belting and full chest low notes. It's easy to get tripped up, and try to go high with too much weight, or to go back low and have a stripped-down tone.

    That said, the skill is one of learning to compress the high belt, so that the breath is cut back AND the tone is cut back. It's a smaller sound, even though you are belting and it sounds "as-if" you are screaming. You aren't. You're belting, but you're NOT screaming. Even when performing a rock "Scream" you do so with compressed, supported, reduced-pressure/reduced volume singing, and if distorted, the distortion is a simulated distortion, not a tear-you-vocal-cords-to-shreds scream. It's as much a special effect as the CGI special effects you watch in the most impressive motion pictures.

    The alternative is to destroy your voice. That's not an acceptable alternative.

    So we learn to shift back and forth between normal singing at lower levels and pitches vs. pared-down tone and volume when singing demanding vocal passages.

    There will be an increase in volume and pressure, but it's not as dramatic a difference as what the listener perceives it to be. That's how we manage to do so and not destroy our voice.

    In this version, at about 2:53, Robert Plant skips that part, probably for the same reason you have difficulties with it:

    In the original version, here, at 2:22, you can hear that he's not shredding his voice.

    He's up there in pitch, but he's supporting well, putting a little careful grit in the texture, and gingerly singing G4, and then bouncing back and forth on B4, and A4 on that lick. He's not killing it. Not only that, but Led Zeppelin was reknown for doing an infinite number of "takes" on passages of songs in the recording studio. We have no idea how many times Plant may have tried and failed to nail this line in the studio. He's one of my favorite singers, but I saw them live three times. Each time the audience was told that the previous night was a spectacular performance, and Robert was in great voice, but had sung a little too hard. Unfortunately, at our concerts, Robert wasn't singing so well. All three of the concerts I saw, Robert's voice was shot and he couldn't do ANY of his high parts that we drove hundreds of miles to see and hear.

    Most of us struggle in that range. That's the dreaded G4 to B4 kill zone. Those are the money notes. But you don't kill yourself on those notes, or your voice will die.

    You are right to practice that lick over and over again. But what you also have to practice even more is starting from the preceeding
    "thanks to you, it weel be done, for you to me are the o-o-on-ly-wo--o-o-o-on" and practicing the split-second change of tone and pressures. You've got to suddenly clamp down on so much counter-pressure to press down on your diaphragm there so that you can compress that high belt down to a mini-voice that doesn't beat up your vocal cords. It's a miniature replica of a primal scream, but because it is so controlled, compressed, and pressure-regulated, that it is like a cool summer breeze on your cords as compared to the belting slam you may have been using to get there in the past.

    Think about Little Boy Voice, not King Kong.

    All the Best.

  • mfwmfw Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 12
    Many thanks. I'll keep at it. I love the "CGI" analogy! Any tips on the best way to keep the volumes at an even level? Do people practice with a volume meter (I'm sure there's an app). Will the proximity effect on an SM58 help with this? A touch of compression? I'm playing solo acoustic through a Fishman "Fishstick," and I sometimes wonder if what I'm hearing is what the audience hears.
  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro Posts: 14,880
    Yes, the Proximity Effect helps a lot with the reduction in volume, and also helps to emphasize the low-frequencies that you have reduced by shedding the weight. Having a great monitor system or in-ear monitors will help to prevent you from oversinging and allow you to feel good about cutting down the volume/air.

    It's better if you just train yourself to "know it's OK" and to know that it's actually BETTER when you are monitoring your own volume and getting used to keeping it "in-check".

    Vocal compression helps with this if you are truly cutting back the air.

    Audio compression may make you "sing harder" because it automatically reduces the volume when you sing louder. So that might not be such a good idea, unless you use a lot of "make-up gain" which probably will just lead to rampant feedback.

    As to the "fishstick", if you are hearing it from behind, there's no telling what the audience hears. If you are out in front of the fishstick, then you should be hearing what they hear. You may want to get a small personal monitor that you can put in front of you, that represents what you are putting to the front-of-house, to help you judge what's going out to the audience.

    I like to have a lot of mid and upper mid-range in my monitor EQ. That helps me to hear the vocal range well. You have to be careful of feedback, but there is usually a happy medium that allows you to get that sound at a good level to hear yourself, and not generate any feedback. That's very helpful if you can hear yourself well enough to feel comfortable cutting back the volume in your singing and letting the sound system do the work of amplification.

    You rest in that spot where you hear yourself just fine, without really pushing the volume. You actually dodge back from the mic on the higher, more compressed notes, because they just naturally resonate louder. That gives you a lot of freedom, and also does wonders in the realm of keeping your voice in a nice, non-abrasive mode.

    Avoiding oversinging is a true pleasure. Finishing a long performance feeling freshly warmed-up is so much nicer than feeling like you've been run through a shredder. Just cutting back the air and maintaining a good, healthy level of singing, even when singing and sounding powerful, is a great way to get through your vocal career, and to make it last as long as possible.

  • JoyceJoyce Pro Posts: 131
    Hello to all, as a side note,

    @highmtn you said

    quote As Ken has said: It's easier to do a song that is high belting from start-to-finish, than it is to do one that has to change up from one extreme to the other. The hardest songs are songs that go back and forth, repeatedly, between high belting and full chest low notes. It's easy to get tripped up, and try to go high with too much weight, or to go back low and have a stripped-down tone. unquote

    Yes that's why I mentioned somewhere in a thread that some Jazz songs are hard to sing (although I know you guys are not Jazz fans).
    Good singing to you all...
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