Feedback/critique please..."Grand Pretender" (heavy rock)

gruuvegruuve Member Posts: 4
Hi Folks...I'm a 49 yr old guy and life-long musician (as a hobby). I've been singing wrong for most of my life, but started working on my voice a few years ago when I started to see my range shrink with age. I have not bought Ken's program yet, but I'm seriously considering it...I like how Ken's voice sounds and what he can do with it, and I'm a high baritone (and hoping Ken's material is particularly baritone-friendly, since he's also a high baritone).

Here's a track I recorded earlier this year...please critique...I'm looking for actionable feedback.


My own critique: I don't connect between chest and head registers very well...I've spent years using grit in head voice as a crutch to make it not as shrill-sounding and to get me through my breakpoint. Earlier this year (around the time of the recording), I realized that I'm missing (ie. haven't developed) that "middle resonance" (pharyngeal resonance, twang, whatever you want to call it...that "Michael Sweet ping") that will carry me through my break point. I've been working on that most of this year and have improved quite a bit (this recording does NOT reflect that, it was tracked around the time that I just started working on that area). I still have a long way to go before I'm satisfied. I've been working pretty hard on developing that middle resonance, and seem to have lost some of the high resonance and higher range that you'll hear in the song above in the process, but I'm hoping that's just a matter of me practicing better placement of resonance.

After some warmup, I can produce a strong note up to G...G# is a little wimpy...picking up at A is strong on up to around B or C, up to C# or D on a good day. (This is WAY better than it was BEFORE I started working on building that middle resonance though...I had a 3-4 note gap between chest and head registers, and just tried to use grit to mask that. If I have to give up a few upper notes to get a more chest/head connected voice, I'll take that.) So, although I've been able to sing high, I'm pretty sure I wasn't doing it the healthiest, nor most toneful, way.

Anyway, I am open to (and very interested in) any and all constructive feedback and criticism on the vocals in the song above. (I also did the bass guitar, bass synth triggered by bass guitar, and drums on this song...one of the first songs I've done that is all bass with no guitar...so, hope you do actually enjoy the song!)

Thanks in advance!


  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,353

    It's a little hard to hear the fine details of your voice, because the synth is in the foreground and the lead vocals are a bit in the background. That makes it a little hard to give you actionable advice. In reality, I can give you a lot better analysis of your voice by hearing you sing simple scales with just a light piano background. Then I'm hearing your voice without chorus, reverb, echo, and competition from other instruments and effects. A plain tri-tone, arpeggio 1, 3, 5, 8, 5, 3, 1 (in other words) can tell me a lot about your voice that is covered-up in your demo. I did listen to your other demos as well, but a simple progressive scale going from your low range to as high as you can go would tell a lot about your voice and your present capabilities.

    As you said, you are using a lot of grit in your voice to bridge. Your higher notes could most likely be sung in full voice if you were to extend your chest voice range, but up top you are singing in a light head voice register. It's handy to have the capability to sing a lot of those notes in either chest or head, at your preference.

    Ken's program can definitely help you to build the range you are saying you want to build. Ken calls it "stretching Chest voice". It's not easy, by any means, and certainly takes some time and practice to achieve. If you apply yourself to it, you can fill in those missing notes, the gap you mentioned.

    Full voice above G4 is not easy. Once you get past G4 and G#4, it becomes a little less steep getting to A4, Bb4, and B4. Next stop is C5 and C#5. Ken teaches a LOT of baritones to get that far. It's a matter of self-determination and practice. Lots of practice. But it's doable. You may have to un-learn some of the ways that you have taught yourself or been taught by others that are not in accordance with what Ken teaches. He starts you from the ground-up.

    Getting those higher notes is not so much a Pharyngeal thing or even placement as it is extending your actual full voice range. You do change the tone according to pitch, but a lot of the hocus-pocus taught in some of the other vocal methods is just smoke and mirrors. Ken gives you a path to actually sing.

    Your age is not a problem. Although I read a lot about how aging limits your vocal range, I'm a senior citizen by comparison to you, and I'm singing notes I could never sing before working Ken's program. I'm tackling just about any song I've ever wanted to, and doing them in the original keys. I only seem to be gaining notes as the years go by. The compliments are on the increase, so don't let anyone tell you that you are doomed to lose your range. I'm certainly not.

    Anyway, it's nice to meet you. I would be happy to listen to you sing some progressive arpeggios and give you a very straightforward critique.

    The LAH (AH vowel) is the best, most basic vowel to send in for critique.

    All the Best!

  • gruuvegruuve Member Posts: 4
    edited September 2015
    Thanks Bob for your commentary.

    So, here's me going up the scale with "mah" note-by-note from D4 to D5 and keeping the notes clean (kept it just to the octave with the problem area).


    Strong from D4 (and below) up to G4...G#4 is a little weak and hard to hit accurately...A4 - B4 is pretty strong and accurate (although I'm not real happy with my tone)...then C5 - D5 is a stretch and too falsetto-ish. Some days I can hit these all pretty strong...after a long warmup on a Tuesday with a full moon. ;-) I can occasionally reach all the way up to D#5 or E5, but can't hit it strongly or accurately. So, this WAV file is pretty typical of what I can do on an OK day with a short warmup.

    I'm not afraid of practice...I just need to insure I'm actually practicing the right stuff to accomplish what I want. If I can get that area from G#4 - D5 (or E5) nailed where I can do it consistently, without straining, without stumbling over my break point, and with good tone and a little bit of on-demand grit, I'll be quite a happy camper.

    Would love to hear your analysis and suggestions.

  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,353
    edited September 2015
    Hi, Gruuve.

    Thanks for giving us an opportunity to hear your voice by itself.

    You are using the "M" consonant to launch each note. That creates a burst of air that you won't normally have available when singing lyrics. Ken's scales start on a more neutral consonant, the "L" and only on the first note. From then on, it's all continuous vowels. You have to rely on good breath control to keep going continuously without all of the individual bursts of air. You don't really want to rely on consonants to bang your way to those notes. The Mum-mum-mum, goog-goog-goog, Maaaaay, or nay, nay, nay methods are all teaching crutches that you won't have available on stage when you're singing a song.

    You are doing most of this scale in the Call Voice, the area above full chest and below head voice. It is the voice you would "call out" to someone at a distance to get their attention. This register can allow you to get a few notes higher in chest without transitioning to head voice. You have to learn to cut back the volume on this area to avoid overstressing your cords.

    I would agree with most of your assessment, in that you are getting into more troubles with consistency and tone as you get past the G4. That is quite common for most male singers. It can take a while to get more proficient above G4 up through B4. You are mostly using muscle to fight your way up to these higher notes. You can build this range to better manage the stress without having to use brute force so much to get there. If you can make it to a good, healthy B4, then it's not nearly as hard to move up to the C, C#, and D5 in like manner. Getting past G4 can be a BEAR.

    Ken would have you modifying your vowels as you approach and go beyond G4 which would help you to refocus the sound energy in more productive ways.

    Stretching the chest voice would help you to develop that entire area you are wanting to improve. It's a tough area to work out in, but that's what it takes to get to where you want to go.

    You have trained your voice to tense up to the pitches you want to hit. You need to learn some basic techniques that will strengthen and grow your stamina and support those notes, as well as to reduce or manage some of the stress.

    You seem to have the determination it takes to do the work to get there.

    All the Best.

  • gruuvegruuve Member Posts: 4
    edited September 2015
    Thanks Bob. So, that's the first time I've ever heard the term "call voice" used. I thought I was developing this "middle voice" that's often talked about. (And yes, it did add a couple or three consistent notes.) Can you provide a little insight? Mainly, is this good in terms of stretching chest voice up and developing a strong head voice, or is this counter-productive to that goal?

  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,353
    Hey, @gruuve,

    Call voice is the voice you use if you see somebody about to break into your car (down the street) and you call out "HEY YOU!!!! GET AWAY FROM MY CAR!!!" It's very assertive, and typically about the highest notes most people ever hit. You are using the high, loud pitches to express a warning. It conveys an emphasis on urgency. It's higher than your typical chest notes, and it's not in a head voice configuration.

    There is also a "mid voice" that is not at the increased volume, and that voice register sounds a little less strong.

    Once you get above the primo passagio, your voice will have a tendency to want to go into head voice if you keep the volume low. So a lower-volume mid voice will normally be a weaker sound than Call Voice, although they both have the same approximate range (C4 to F#4, approximately, depending on your own particular range). After somewhere, again depending on your own range, you experience your secondo passagio. That's where you break into head voice.

    Stretching chest voice is a means of raising that ceiling, often to C5 or so, before giving it up to head voice.

    This same region we're talking about is termed classically as the zona di passagi, which means the area between the primo and secondo passagi. It's typically an area where most singers feel imbalanced and weak, because it's the area right between your lower and upper passagi, and you may always be wondering exactly how to configure your voice in that region.

    Not only that, but that's the same area where, after building each individual register to full strength and agility, you can then begin to overlap the registers and build a mix with a varied amount of chest or head, depending on the sound you want. That comes later, after doing your homework. It's not the wimpy "mix" taught elsewhere. It's a true blend of chest and head.

    As to your question "is this good in terms of stretching chest..." that's kind of a yes and no situation. It's not good to shout notes out, even though we might sometimes "Call out"... The cords can only take so much air pressure before we start losing notes. Ken teaches a method that eventually reduces volume. It's not "speech level" singing by any means. The difference is like night and day, but it is a compressed breath that you sing on that is much kinder and gentler on the vocal cords. That's part of the equation. He runs you through a whole section on stretching chest without bridging, and then bridging at a later, extended note. You work on this for a long time before working on compressing, and before going into extended head voice training. Ken teaches you how to distort safely. He teaches you how to keep from going hoarse.

    So, back to "is this good?" The midvoice area is a part of the voice that you have to traverse when singing music that takes you through that range. If you have the tools to choose whether to sing in an extended chest sound, a mid voice, a call voice, a blend, or a timbral head voice, all of these are available to select from. It's more like do you want to use a wrench or a hammer? Sometimes hammers are the right choice. Sometimes not. Options are good. Mostly we do want to be able to SING notes rather than just "HIT" them. We want to be able to sustain them and shape them with some choice in the matter. That requires learning a lot of technique so that we have some variations and methods to get there and make some choices. We want to use methods that will allow us to have a long singing career, not just a short but spectacular career.

    Ken's methods are tried and true. It's not just a matter of "learning the secret, going "Oh, OK, now I know the secret" and then having the magic method. It's a matter of training and growing the voice in every way over a period of time that begins on day one and continues until the day you stop practicing the methods.

    That's a little insight into the middle ground between full chest voice and full head voice.

    All the Best!

  • gruuvegruuve Member Posts: 4
    edited September 2015
    Hi Bob...that was a great explanation, thank you. I'm still not clear on one point though: is call voice what Ken has us work to "pull chest voice up"? Or is it something different from call voice entirely?

    This comment implies that extended chest voice and call voice are two different things:
    " If you have the tools to choose whether to sing in an extended chest sound, a mid voice, a call voice, a blend, or a timbral head voice, all of these are available to select from."

    I would suspect what you're calling "extended chest voice" and "call voice" are similar, but I'll let you clarify. For instance, I listen to Ken's demo of Stryper's "Soldiers Under Command", and I can't tell if he's doing the higher passages in call voice or some other way...but I can hear that it sounds chesty, like call voice does.

    I guess my root question is this: What does Ken have us work on to "pull chest voice up"? (The answer to that is probably the main deciding factor in whether I purchase Ken's program or not, so I need a little more detail on the "how".)

  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,353
    Trying to separate out call voice and extended chest is trying to divide some things that are more of a shading of the same thing.

    It can definitely be called "call voice" when you "call out" as if you were shouting as someone 100 feet away so that they will hear you and obey your commands. That's when you need to be careful to avoid overblowing your cords.

    You can also be in the same range as call voice, but be in a less loud full chest, a less loud head, or a mix, which is also less loud.

    The one thing that distinguishes Call voice is that it's the same as when you see someone taking the stereo out of your car and you get mad and you call out to them, and in no uncertain terms, attempt to assert yourself with your voice. It's done in a higher, louder pitch than your normal "Oh, hey, please don't do that" voice. You wouldn't go into a Monty Python falsetto and expect someone to drop your stereo and run. They would laugh at you .

    Don't fall into the trap of trying to get every vocal term "exactly" right, either black or white. Some things overlap. Everything needs to balance out, rather than be all this or all that. Many vocal applications are more a matter of relativity than absolute.

    Yes, there is a disctinction between Full chest and Full head voice. There is also a zona di passaggi, that is a no-man's land that gets a lot more variation and is more subjective.

    Back to your question. When working to stretch chest voice, it would be better to explore and grow new notes in a more gentle voice than call voice. Once you have nurtured the notes a while, then you can begin to lean into them with a little more volume and just a bit more tone. As they become stronger, that would be a better time to use them in more of a call voice volume. While new notes are just getting established, they can tend to be a little weak, and you don't want to blow them out. You want to grow them. So gentle stretching is required. Just don't force them. Stretch, don't strain. Give the notes a while to grow, then lean into them a bit. You are building new notes that need a little time to develop. Your body needs time to adapt to the new muscular coordinations you are asking it to access.

    You mention some examples in your comment. That is the goal. When you have stretched your chest voice up, your head voice down, built the zona di passaggi, and learned to blend and fuze them all together, your listeners won't know if you're in head, chest, mix, whatever... and to you, it just eventually becomes "singing". You have one, unified voice that does what you want it to. That is an advanced stage, but that is the goal of Ken's program.

    All the Best.

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