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Question for anyone who performs
March 1, 2015
2:32 pm
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OwenKorzec
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Do you fall more on the side of:
A. staying in your comfort zone, sticking with what you 100% know you can nail and sound perfectly polished, or
B. sitting on the edge of your comfort zone, taking risks with some give and take of, sometimes it will sound amazing and make people jump out of their seat, sometimes it will be an obvious mistake

I'm not really at that point in my singing to make this decision yet, but I notice that when I play bass in my cover band I like to get pretty wild and do a lot of improv fills and stuff (kinda left of center for a top 40 band but I've discovered that people like it more) but it also leads to more chance of human error and just flubbing something. If I can gauge it right at the edge of my competent ability where any mistakes don't jump out at you that's where I like to sit. I notice the rest of the people in the band tends to stay in their comfort zone more, although all great players.

But I think even if I developed great singing skill, if I got too risky like that the little mistakes would probably get all the attention and not the crazy runs and stuff. Just because of the way people tend to view singing. What are you guys' experiences?

Lately I'm very inspired by Jeff Buckley's performances and he does a lot of risky things. It sounds like it's never outside of what he CAN do, but it has a rawness to it, as if he's taking leaps of faith and i LOVE that. But would be wise to assume that on some nights he just goes for it like that and oops sounds like a dying animal and that stuff just never makes it on youtube? Or would he just be so aware of his instrument every night to never over push what he can do that night but will gladly stretch its ability as much as he can? Or is he just an insanely gifted and/or overprepared and all of that stuff is comfortable to him LOL? I guess we don't have these answers for him but generally speaking for most great performers where do they lie on that spectrum?

March 1, 2015
6:59 pm
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daniel formica
San luis Obispo, Ca
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Never get comfortable. I always sing in the key it was intended from stevie wonder to donna summer. I dont change the melody or if im on guitar i dont go changing the riffs and lines because i didnt write the song so i always show much respect. I also believe this is why i get alot of work. I dont go in thinking I can make the song better by adding my idea. The most important thing is get out of your room and onto the stage because it will give you experience with different rooms and monitors and situations. you will wonder why everytime you play this one club you can nail your hardest songs but the other club it just doesnt fly as well. This cannot be taught. Jeff buckley was an original artist he wasnt in a cover band trying to make people dance remember that, he could take all the chances he wanted to but you as a bass player should just get with the drummer and play the songs into the ground so the song cannot be budged. I play with 100's of musicians in my show bands but there are only a handful i enjoy playing with because they are so solid and groove without trying to be flashy,they just nail the songs so there is no guess work .

March 2, 2015
10:38 am
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Felipe Carvalho
Brazil
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Yes, and no. Or, A and B. :)

You have to know what you can do, and you have to know how to choose a repertoire. For example, I dont do Skid Row and Guns n Roses songs unless I have absolutely no choice. And I know the songs that I can sing well and that will sound cool. So its my choice, do I take the things that sound cool to stage, or the so so ones?

However, as Daniel pointed, life is not always about what we want, I have a wedding I will do in july and there are one or two Guns songs that will be played during the more "serious" part...

Also about doing the things you know how to do, it does not mean that you will look and act in a "look at me, see how I do this easily" way. We do this sometimes on technique videos because its important to show for students that you dont have to kill yourself to sing, but, on stage, you must act as if it was hard. Both in looks, and in sounds. Do obvious vowel modification at times, some distortion, do something that suggests that is "helping" you reach the note, etc.

Actually you can save your voice too by not trying to sing the whole thing perfectly. You can shorten phrases on verses a little bit, this way you reduce the amount of time you are sustaining notes that are not so important. If there is a chorus and there are vocal harmonies, take the pedal from the gas a bit, this improves the harmony, and is more economic.

I am not against modifying songs a bit, or even a lot, as long as it is done well and produces something interesting to listen to. But that also depends on the situation and the goal.

Felipe Carvalho
Singer and Voice Teacher in Brasil - São Paulo

March 2, 2015
12:30 pm
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OwenKorzec
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Felipe, we MUST make it look difficult?

I think there is a time and a place.

I notice a lot more performers especially in the pop world, I'm sure jazz as well, etc that don't show any strenuous effort. Doesn't mean they look dead, they just eminate expression is a more relaxed way. And they may never go to the effortful looks, ever.

A bass player once told me the key is to pick one extreme, totally effortless or effortful, and portray that. But more and more I notice more people admire the effortless side...

March 2, 2015
2:11 pm
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Felipe Carvalho
Brazil
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Owen, indeed. I did not express myself well.

I meant on the situation you defined, of "taking risks". And thats what will convey the idea of doing so, or at least look like you are. Its a reality for me because of the kind of repertoire I do normally, so I wrote "must" thinking of that.

If you are singing a gentle song, or a style where the risk taking/trying is NOT acceptable, then the situation is different.

Felipe Carvalho
Singer and Voice Teacher in Brasil - São Paulo

March 2, 2015
7:44 pm
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OwenKorzec
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Felipe Carvalho said

Owen, indeed. I did not express myself well.

I meant on the situation you defined, of "taking risks". And thats what will convey the idea of doing so, or at least look like you are. Its a reality for me because of the kind of repertoire I do normally, so I wrote "must" thinking of that.

If you are singing a gentle song, or a style where the risk taking/trying is NOT acceptable, then the situation is different.

Ah. So would you say you've actually trained to be fully comfortable with those "risky" moments, so then you put on an ACT of rawness to make it look like it's a leap of faith?

March 2, 2015
8:39 pm
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Phil Moufarrege
Japan
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just put on a good show

@PhilMoufarrege
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March 3, 2015
8:12 am
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Felipe Carvalho
Brazil
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Yes, at least its what I look for and how I plan it.

Felipe Carvalho
Singer and Voice Teacher in Brasil - São Paulo

March 3, 2015
2:32 pm
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MdM
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I am not really a singer, but a guitarist. It seems to me you should be ready and have a plan for whether you've brought your A game or your B game. Sometimes there are things that are on the edge, but you can tell early on whether it will be happening that night or not. Also, I like the idea of making it either look hard or effortless. If I am playing flamenco or something flashy like that, it doesn't hurt to make it look physically difficult or that you are putting a lot into it. For classical guitar, it seems more appropriate to let the playing do the talking and pretend it is easy.

March 3, 2015
10:17 pm
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Phil Moufarrege
Japan
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For me it's never been about "making it look hard" it's more like, since the song is easier it gives you more freedom to put more emotion and heart and soul into it which can make it become harder to sing because you play it less safe and lean in on areas that you normally wouldn't if you were singing "safe".

For example one song I always warm up with everyday is MJ's "baby be mine" I can sing it "clinically" and on speech level with not much effort but if I want to sing it really good and put some bells and whistles in there it's a whole different ballgame and for that reason I am not on the level of doing it justice yet.

@PhilMoufarrege
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March 5, 2015
2:56 pm
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mystarryeyes
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@ Owen: I'm pretty much on the same page as Daniel and Phil with this. If I'm singing the rare cover song, I usually, (depending on the type of occasion/show) endeavor to sing it in a way that emulates the original recording. And although I do take a calculated risk here and there onstage, with my vocals, I try not to go too much out on a limb, for fear of messing up royally! As a rule, before I take the stage, my preference is to be very well-prepared if possible, so I'm able to perform with minimal anxiety and relative ease, thus enjoying myself a lot more. I'm not a big fan of onstage jamming, since I get my rocks off with all that free-from stuff during my songwriting sessions. Once I have songs, and all the parts worked out, when I perform them out in front of an audience, I like to stick to the plot.
By way of example, last weekend I appeared alongside Bangle, Debbi Peterson, as part of the Wild Honey Beatles' White Album show, a big production here in LA, and a benefit in aid of the Autism Think Tank. It's my 3rd year of participating, previous years have showcased different Beatles' albums. A host of various artists each sing a song from the featured album, ours being Ob La Di, Ob La Da. Backed by The Wild Honey Orchestra, who, as far as possible, faithfully replicate every sound, note and nuance, Debbi and I sang the song the way it was recorded, (no copping out on the difficult parts!) which is what that particular audience wanted to hear.
Perhaps the real challenge and feat of the night though, was Jim Mills' rendition of Revolution #9, which, along with some assistance, he successfully reproduced without the use of any samples of the original recording. Though I never really cared for that track on the original recording, I was absolutely awestruck knowing the years of work that went into deconstructing that recording, then reconstructing it then recreating it during that live performance. It made my task of singing one song seem like child's play, by comparison!
Check it out on YouTube.

Love this forum!
Thanks everyone.

John

April 11, 2015
10:25 pm
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KillerKu
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I have often thought about how much I enjoy covering songs, but the reality is probably I wouldn't be capable of doing the job you guys are describing with any level of satisfaction.

I'd feel like a zombie regurgitating by trying to reproduce exactly what already exists. It's not really about showing off either, so much as I don't find much artistic value in reproducing something that already exists.

That said, bass is my first instrument I ever played and how much freedom you have with it sonically varies a lot on the rest of the music.

It plays foundational role in the harmonic structure, and constantly redefining chords with every movement you make, which can really alter the feel of a song, but it also has a frequency range that can occupy too much space with other instruments (particularly very distorted guitars).

My favorite bass player is James Jamerson. He was extremely improvisational, melodic, and rhythmic. He'd often play counterpoint with Motown vocalists, so this can work very well in accessible pop compositions on recordings, but even if you were to just include a very heavily distorted guitar he might not be able to fit into such a structure on recordings.

The live experience might go completely incoherent if there is not only a constantly moving bottom, but frequencies overwhelming each other in that spectrum. So it might depend on the style of your band, Owen.

April 12, 2015
7:10 pm
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OwenKorzec
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KillerKu, nice of you to remind me about that video. I think I saw it before I was playing bass all the time and now after all my experience I can see it in a new light.

What I've learned since posting this thread is to just do whatever's necessary to serve the intention of the song. It may feel like over- or under- playing/singing at first but you just gotta develop the taste for what's truly supportive and musical by studying how other master players do it, how your band likes it, how the audience reacts, how it sounds to your own ears if you shut off your ego and be honest with yourself, etc.

April 12, 2015
7:56 pm
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KillerKu
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OwenKorzec said

KillerKu, nice of you to remind me about that video. I think I saw it before I was playing bass all the time and now after all my experience I can see it in a new light.

What I've learned since posting this thread is to just do whatever's necessary to serve the intention of the song. It may feel like over- or under- playing/singing at first but you just gotta develop the taste for what's truly supportive and musical by studying how other master players do it, how your band likes it, how the audience reacts, how it sounds to your own ears if you shut off your ego and be honest with yourself, etc.

Another thing to think about is I didn't listen to Motown songs and think 'wow that's the best bassist of all time. Look at that guy!' Now I've played bass for over a decade and a half, so if someone would notice some kind of bass virtuosity off the bat it might be someone like me, right?

It was more like there was this vibrancy, freshness, and intrigue in even what felt like the simplest of pop songs. Got my toe tapping, my interest piqued, I felt really involved and immersed into this music. It was only when I really paid attention to him that I realized he was a virtuouso at what he did. It was 'felt' not 'heard' even though it was way more complex than most bassists.

I'm still not as good as he is, but it's an aspiration every time I pick up that instrument if I want to try something a little more out there. There's a place for bass hooks, but the ones people remember most are often the simplest (Under Pressure). When people hear the bass jump out with complexity it can distract from the mood, most famously like in Spinal Tap.

We've all done it. So yeah. Laugh

April 12, 2015
8:17 pm
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Phil Moufarrege
Japan
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I'm a big James Jamerson fan as well bro..
As well as Frank Blair who played on Marvin's later songs:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....t-Jl-izxak

@PhilMoufarrege
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