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Country Vocals Lessons: What is Country?

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Country Vocals

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What is Country Music?
I can't think of any better
way to answer that question
than with a song by
the legendary Hank Williams.
Isn't that a pretty perfect song?
I only sang the first verse and
the first B section.
And the ending,
there's another beautiful B section and
another set of lyrics that you
should track down on that one.
But you have the backing track in
two different keys: in the key of A,
which is where I just sang it.
That's the key of A.
And then you also got in in the key of D.
So you can pick which one
of those keys guys and
girls will hopefully find one of
those keys comfortable to you.
But we're gonna talk a little bit
about what it means to be country.
And its kind of part of the thing,
part of a country thing,
that it's always a little
subject to debate.
There's always a little bit of,
there was a period of time in the 80s
when there were a lot of pop influences in
country music, and country traditionalists
were upset and up in arms that country
wasn't sounding country enough.
And then there have been times
when there have been very,
a lot of pop influences
on country radio and, and
someone like Randy Travis comes out with a
very traditional sounding country record.
And the people in country radio
at the time initially said,
we can't play Randy Travis
he sounds too country.
So, there seems to always be some kind of
debate going on about what that means, but
I've been trying to look for what the
underlying like, what's the common thread.
And I think you can point back
through the history of Country Music,
with its roots in
Appalachian Mountain music and
bluegrass and folk music, always acoustic,
always very simple,
always very much bound to and
emerging out of a life style that's
very connected to the earth.
Basically, pretty much anything that's
not city anything that's not Urban.
That seems to be, as far as I can tell.
Country Music will incorporate Folk,
and Gospel, and Pop.
And these days,
a lot of Country radio has even Urban and
Pop influences to the point of building
songs on loops and dance beats.
But what they are singing about?
They're singing about driving through
the country on the dirt road and
a pickup truck with the dog and a beer.
So the common thread
is pretty consistently
that it's in contrast to the urban,
the city and
all of the lifestyle
differences that happen
in the gap between those
two ways of living.
If you go back to like
the old folk tale or
Parable of the country mouse and
the city mouse.
That's kind of the root of that
difference between Country music and
really anything that's not Country.
So, people like Sam Hunt are having
big successes as Country artists.
Incorporating Urban Beats,
loops and dance influences.
And then, an artist like
Casey Musgrave's is writing really
earthy songs about the trailer park and
life in this tiny town.
And it's mostly acoustic and
there's lots of Bluegrass influences.
So you make your own way in country music.
The main thing is, it has to be authentic.
It has to be real and
that's something that country fans and
country listeners always expect.
Can't be contrived,
can't be can't be over the top
theatrical I mean even Reba Mc Entire
at the height of her stardom when
she was doing shows where she
had 12 costume changes and
sets as elaborate as broadway shows.
She was singing country songs about
getting your heart broken and
running out through the cornfields and
living life very connected to the earth.
So think about these
things as you listen to
the songs that you love in country music.
As you're finding songs
that you want to claim and
make a part of country music, Faith Hill
had a huge hit with Piece of My Heart
that was a big smash on Janis Joplin
in a completely different genre,
turns out that song was a big country hit.
And a lot of people who knew Faith's hit,
didn't even know Janice Joplin's record.
So look for songs that mean something
to you in country music and
kind of define country music for you.
Put a list of those songs
in your song journal.
What songs specifically
define country music for you?
They might have influence of
folk of hymns, gospel music, but
they're all gonna share similar
vernacular, similar vocabulary.
What kind of vocabulary do those words,
do the songs use?
And what's the subject matter?
And if you have a minute drop me a note,
let me know what kind
of songs you collect that
define country music for you.
We're gonna take all of
this information and
we're gonna move on to singing some
developing some singer tools that are very
specific to country music and
don't really show up any place else.
And then, we're also gonna bring in
tools that happen in other genres of
music that you can also incorporate
into singing country songs yourself.
Okay so we've talked about what kinds of
elements makes something particularly
I want you to submit
a video now of you singing
to the backing track of I Can't Help
It If I'm Still In Love With You.
If you already know that song, learn it,
I highly recommend going and finding
the Hank Williams version, the original
version, to listen to and learn it from.
Pick one of those keys and
a backing track and sing that song,
making it a country song,
staying true to the writer,
Hank Williams, to his original approach,
like his original intention for
that song as a country song.
Not over the top, don't make it
a caricature of country music, but
just what authentically,
honestly makes it country for you.
What are the tools that
you use already that make
this particular performance country for
Can't wait to hear you.