Constructive criticism please?

PeteMurphyPeteMurphy Enrolled Posts: 95
Hi guys,

So, in February I took part in a songwriting challenge. The challenge was to write 14 songs in the month of February. No prizes, just a feeling of personal achievement.

The idea was to just write the songs and to record them quickly, not paying much attention to performance or pitch or timing or recording quality (the idea is to go back later and develop the performances into something better). And also the songs didn't have to be amazing, it's more about being productive, just churning ideas out, to get the creative juices flowing.

So I complete the challenge, and these songs are the most recent thing I have with me singing lead vocals. I really dislike the sound of my voice (always have), always been VERY self conscious about singing, and doing this challenge and hearing my voice on these songs is what prompted me to start the KTVA course again. So I've been back doing KTVA for seven weeks and I recently tried to re-record some of the vocal takes for these songs, thinking that I could massively improve on the original takes. Only it didn't work out like that and I don't feel that what I recently tried to do was any better than the quick, half-assed takes I recorded during the challenge. For now I've left the original takes on there.

So... I haven't played these songs to anybody, apart from the other people who took part in the challenge (not even my wife has heard them).

I was wondering if anyone would fancy listening to a few of the songs (or even just sections of a few of the songs), and telling me if they can hear where I'm going wrong, or if they can hear that there's anything I should be doing. I'm aware that I'm pushing too much air a lot of the time, but when I try to hold back the air I sound even worse.

I know these songs might not be to a lot of people's tastes, even I'm not sure about a lot of them. I usually write and perform hard rock music, but on these songs... well, I had just started learning piano a few weeks before, so I decided to write all of the songs at the piano, which means there ended up being a fair few ballads in there.

So anyway (sorry, I'm rambling)... If anyone fancies listening to the following songs and giving some criticism on my voice, I'd really appreciate it.

Song 2 - (Travelling Light) - You only have to listen to the first verse of this really. My voice feels really clean and weak. I'd like it to be more raspy and soulful. I had some great tips on my post in the 'general' part of the forum (my post was called 'tone'), but was just wondering if anyone had any more advice to offer after hearing what I sound like.

Song 8 (Peacefully Uneasy) - again, you only have to listen to a the first verse and chorus.

Song 10 (Fragile) - this one is a bit more rocky, but my voice just feels really weak and again it doesn't have the edge I'd like.

Song 11 - (Here Comes The Low) - this has a bit more of a country vibe and I can imagine a voice like Chris Robinson from The Black Crowes singing this type of song... but when I sing it, again my voice feels weak and characterless...

Song 14 - (Goodbyes/Beyond) - another ballad, again my voice feels weak.

Song 1 - (Numb) - At the end of the first and second lines you can hear my voice get a bit raspy/throaty (on the words 'skin' and 'thing'), but it's from pushing a lot of air... obviously when I sing like that my voice gets blown out very quickly.

I know it might be a lot to ask, but if anyone does ever feel like listening and giving some advice, I'd greatly appreciate it.
The page with the songs can be found here - http://fawm.org/fawmers/petemurphy/ (fawm stands for 'February album writing month').

Many thanks,


  • PeteMurphyPeteMurphy Enrolled Posts: 95
    And also, this is me singing backing vocals in my band. Very different in style to the songs I posted above (I'm the guy closest to the camera in the black leather jacket)... https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10150273732777889
  • KokonuhtKokonuht Member, Enrolled Posts: 658
    edited April 2012
    I will check this out later! Stay tuned!

    EDIT : 
    Listened to Travelling Light. 
    I find the title a bit weird... when I read the comments, I noticed that one guy commented on travelling light on an airplane. That was when it hit me haha! I was like "Ah yes! That's what it was". I suppose this title is supposed to be a bit artistically placed? XD

    To be totally honest with you, I like the tone and your voice. I don't really like the song as it repeats itself a bit too much? The word "Travelling Light" appears a lot and reminds me of Beatles haha. To me, a song should be like a story, having a plot and the climax being the epic part of the song. XD ( I think the climax would be the part you left out blank haha) Though I do somewhat like the melody as well ;). Just that' it's too repetitive x_x" Not my cup of tea :3

    As for your voice, from what I can hear.. yes you do use quite some air. Though these notes are low so it doesn't really matter much. Ken does say that if you are on lower notes, it's okay to get a bit breathier and have more consonants in your sounds. 

    Though this song has a lot of sustained end phrases. So on those phrases it's better to have vibrato so it doesn't "bore" the listeners and it also acts as a release valve and makes it sound better. I noticed you actually had vibrato (but maybe you didn't notice). At 2:27~2:28 "There's no need to be afrAID" That last phrase had a tiny bit of it in it haha ;)

    I don't really think there's much to do on this song except to make the song maybe a little bit more nicer with random licks or trills and a bit of modifications here and there to make it more interesting. Though it's meant to be a peaceful and slow song so it's pretty good.  As for the voice, I don't think there's much to work on for this song as well... except maybe doing your first vowel modification when you go high. It's alright to pronounce the consonants as normal since this song isn't that high. Vibrato is a huge plus point if you can add it in. You can learn to develop vibrato but it takes practice! 

    The main thing I suppose is the emotion and soul in the song. Frankly I don't... feel you XD!

    Will check out the others later!
  • PeteMurphyPeteMurphy Enrolled Posts: 95
    Thanks @Kokonuhtz - I look forward to hearing your advice and wisdom!
  • PeteMurphyPeteMurphy Enrolled Posts: 95
    Thanks @Kokonuhtz

    The songs are kind of irrelevant at this point, as the goal really was just to put the ideas down very quickly, then come back at a later time and develop them into something better.
    (on a side note - Travelling Light has nothing to do with airplanes. It was written for my grandmother who passed away last year... about the journey she would be taking from here to wherever she is now ;-)

    So you think I just need to keep going with the course, and practising the techniques you mentioned? I haven't practised vibrato yet... there's so much to concentrate on already that I haven't brought that into my routine.
    As far as the pushing air thing, I do feel it escaping sometimes, but I really struggle to hold it back.

    And when you say "frankly I don't feel you", does that mean you don't feel there's any emotion or soul in my singing? The vocal takes were done very quickly, and they were also done with no warm up and before I started back up with KTVA, but I do still try to put everything I can into a performance.

    Somebody told me once that I couldn't sing, and I didn't sing for about three years after that.

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

    Just for the record, Pete...  you CAN sing.  I like your voice, but I think we are all going to like it even more as you continue to develop.  It is evident that you are really ready to apply yourself and learn all you can about improvement this time around...  And you have the tools in your hands right now that you will be using to build this voice.

    We are all our own worst critics sometimes...  but please be sure to avoid beating yourself up too much.  And also, don't let other critics wound your self-esteem.  Several people here and on the link site have commented that they like the sound of your voice.  Yet there is plenty of room for improvement.  Who doesn't want to improve?  I do!

    Those who are super gung-ho (like you and me and so many others here) just need to remember to enjoy the journey.  This is a process, and like many processes that are truly worthwhile, you don't just add water and stir to get instant professional superstar voice-o-matic.  It's a labor of love, and we're all blessed to be taking part in it.  Sometimes it will seem slow going, and other times we will astound ourselves and others when we have another breakthrough in our development.

    Many purchasers of vocal method lessons want to watch the video one time, and hear the secrets of the universe, and then just go out there and be the greatest singer of all time.  There are merchandisers out there that will lead them to believe that learning great singing is that simple and instantaneous.  Just give me the secret gimmick and watch me go! 

    I know you aren't expecting unrealistic results in that kind of time frame.  We all just need to be OK with where we are now, simply because that's OK, and we all have to start from somewhere in order to begin and continue our journey to vocal improvement.    

    I haven't had time to listen to each song yet, Pete, but so far my favorite is Travelling Light, and I just like it because it's a good song.  Your style and sound reminds me very much of The Beatles.  At times I lose track that I'm supposed to be critiquing your voice, and get lost in the music and the lyrics. 


  • jayjay Enrolled Posts: 32
    edited April 2012
    @Petemurphy - you can definately sing !

    I've just had 2 coffees (was a late gig last night) while being completely drawn in by your lyrics, melody and of course your voice.

    Firstly to pen that many tunes in that time frame is an achievement in itself.

    There is a great variety of styles and think this is a credit to your ability both as a songwriter and singer

    In other posts you mention you dont favour your tone - i know i'm getting a little off the subject here but that is probably down to you singing a lot of BGV's - a lot of people have the misconception that its "only backing vocals" 
    when in reality harmonies can be more complex and vocally demanding than a lead vocal.

    As Bob said and I fully agree, your tone,dynamics,style and everything else will improve with perfect practice

    Great job on the songs mate 
  • PeteMurphyPeteMurphy Enrolled Posts: 95
    Thank you for the comments, @highmtn and @jay

    First of all I'd like to say that my comment about the bad review I got when I stopped singing for a while. I wasn't saying that so that people would only say nice things. I'm totally happy for people to point out the bad stuff if it's helpful and constructive. That particular review was pretty nasty, and it's funny that there had also been a lot of good reviews for the band I was in... lots of good reviews all got cancelled out by one bad one. If they'd have said the same thing about my guitar playing I'd have laughed, because that's something I'm more confident with...

    Bob - I am most definitely my own worst critic, and in the past I have been guilty of "oh, if I just buy this product and learn the secret of the week I'll be able to sing as good as [insert current favourite singer]"
    It was after my bad experience with SS that I realised it wasn't the case, and that it was going to take a lot of hard work. The most frustrating thing for me is that I've been surrounded by amazing singers for most of my life - from the Irish folk singers in my family when I was younger, to the amazing singers I've been in bands with who have gone on to great things... I've constantly heard these beautiful, amazing tones coming out of people's mouths at close range, and most of these people have never taken a lesson in their lives.

    What you say about needing to enjoy the journey is so, so right. I've always had low confidence and self esteem, always been an anxious person... a worrier... and I know I need to lay back and enjoy this period of learning rather than fretting all the time. Thank you for the reminder.

    Jay - Oh, let me tell you... the sheer panic I went through knowing I had to write that many songs in that amount of time... it was crazy, especially as I had a lyric block for the first two weeks. The songs aren't perfect by any means, but I am starting to go back and work on them, improving the takes and the production on the recordings. A few people have encouraged me to put them up on bandcamp when they're finished, but we'll have to see about that, I'm not sure I have the confidence to put anything out as a solo artist. There's definitely an element of safety to being in a band setting.

    Thank you so much for listening and taking the time to comment,

  • PeteMurphyPeteMurphy Enrolled Posts: 95
    Oh, and just to add - If you listened to the songs on that site, there are two versions of the song called Travelling Light. The one that is song number two is mine, but the one that is number 15 is by someone else, they just took my lyrics and made their own song out of it (the only reason it shows up in my songlist is because they tagged me as a co-writer).

    So that's not me singing on song number 15

  • KokonuhtKokonuht Member, Enrolled Posts: 658
    Sorry Pete but I haven't listened to the rest of your songs as I'm going to be busy for this week... preparing to go overseas BY MYSELF :DD! So I'm preparing a lot for it to make sure I don't forget anything! Will listen to it in future! or when I have spare time.

    Also, we here at KTVA will not critic you just to make you feel better but rather on how we feel when we listen to one's demos :). I hope you accept our honest criticisms here. I also went back to listen to travelling light and then I started to think it was a pretty nice song. The ONLY turn off for me was the long sustained one-lined notes at the end of most phrases. Adding vibrato there will be superb XD!

    Don't rush into vibrato, take your time. You can have a peak at it at the Volume 3 videos section as it's pretty much okay. XD! You can even start practising it on Vol 1 ;)

    Taking account into all the pressure and time frame that you had. This is a pretty good job ;)
  • jimiwaynejimiwayne Enrolled Posts: 21
    Few months late to the draw but gotta say dude AWESOMENESS! Hey man, Peaceful uneasiness___ I GET IT __  Thank you.
    Jimi Wayne
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