Singing…. A couple of bits of advise.

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First off, let make sure that no one mistakes me for a vocal coach. I am not. I’ve had some vocal training when I was studying to be an actor and broadcaster, both of which I never ended up doing as a career. That training gave me some valuable instruction on how to use my voice when speaking. Though it did lay some very important groundwork, those techniques don’t always translate when using your voice for singing.

The most useful pieces of advise that have helped me over the years have come from two people.

First on the list… The one…  The only…  Kevin Krohn.  One early evening we were sitting in the car singing (I do a lot of my singing in a car). We were giving Mr Mister’s “Go On” cassette a run through. Now, Kevin, just like Richard Page of Mr Mister, has a fantastic singing voice.   It is a wonder to hear. I was singing too. At one point, he stopped and asked “why are you trying to sing so loud?”. “Because I can” was I think my response.  My voice is not a bad tool; it’s pretty flexible. But I was so intent on either copying another style, or especially trying to sing at the top of my lungs, I often sounded like crap. Now, it didn’t dawn on me at the time, but Kevin was pointing to one of the errors I made for many years when trying to sing lead vocals…. I tried too hard!

The vocals on any given recording are mixed and compressed when they are added to any given recording, which brings them out in front of music on a record. I was trying to emulate that. Me being dense and a little slow, it took me a while to realized the value of Kevin’s advise.  A side benefit, I found I could extend my range if I laid off the volume.

On to the next step in becoming a better vocalist.

A couple of years ago, my current band Acoustic Highway added a guitarist, Steve Kuykendal, who was also a superb vocalist. On those occasions where I was going for broke when I didn’t need to, during rehearsals he would basically slap me upside the head to get me to stop doing that!

“Stop trying so damned hard!”

I wasn’t going as crazy trying to push so much air as I had in the past, but yeah, I still need that reminder every once in a while. The vocal arrangements in Ac Hi need more finesse, less volume. Steve is a task master, and want’s to get things right as much as possible. He is terrific at arranging sings, and I’m using what I learned from him on some of the songs I’m putting together for my solo album.

But he helped me in another way that I am forever grateful. He is the guy that sat me down and forced me to sing in my falsetto range. I had always HATED my falsetto!  Would never use it. Years earlier, when recording the “I Like Their Old Stuff Better” EP for Chris Plays Guitar, I was asked by the producer to lay down a high harmony, which meant singing falsetto. I didn’t do it because I just didn’t have the confidence to do it.

Fast forward a few years.

Acoustic Highway was originally a four piece band. We specialize in music that has tons of harmonies. I can do four part harmonies all day without moving into a falsetto range. So I never did. Avoided it like the plague. When Steve and his wife, also a singer, joined the band, we now had six voices and started doing even more complex stuff. This included the Eagles “Seven Bridges Road”. I was bumped to the Timothy B Shcmidt falsetto. I was the only one in the band that could do it. I was not comfortable with it at first, but it really grew on me after a while.  Now I’m fine singing in my falsetto range when the need arises.

Steve and Nancy have since moved to another state, so he can no longer slap me upside the head. I owe him, and Kevin, a lot. I don’t claim to have the best voice in the world, but I’m much happier with what I can do, and have more confidence than I ever had.

Now I’m once again doing a Police Tribute band. This is very tricky vocal-wise. Sting’s vocals on the early recordings are so interesting. The range and timbre of his voice are very unique. I’ve blown my voice out in the past trying some of his stuff because I was not approaching this challenge in a disciplined way. Once again, falling into the trap of being too loud trying to be Sting. But, I think I’ve learned my lessons. I  will no longer sing AC/DC’s “You Shook All Night Long” or Zep’s “Rock And Roll” for that reason… Too damned hard on my voice box. We had our first Police rehearsal last week, and  the focus on vocal discipline paid off. My voice came out of the rehearsal intact and ready for more singing.   Yay!