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Country Vocals Lessons: Texture

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A very, potentially,
powerful tool in a singer's tool
belt is the use of texture.
Some singers really don't use a very
wide range or spectrum of texture.
Astrud Gilberto, as I mentioned before,
she uses a very pure, beautiful,
straight tone with a little bit of air.
Air is actually a form of texture but
she doesn't really introduce
many other textural sounds into her tone,
and it's a beautiful sound.
Texture, the various forms of texture,
can just be a little bag of tools that
you can throw in at the ends of
phrases,or at the beginnings of phrases.
Or to color a note or
if you're approaching a certain style
of music such as R&B or soul music.
It seems that there's a more
common use of texture
in certain forms of music,
certain genres and styles of music.
And of course, we all know voices
that are inherently textural,
Janis Joplin, on your listening list.
I'd like you to check out Louis Armstrong
as a classic song that he does,
What a Wonderful World.
And his voice is just rich with texture,
this gravelly rough sound, and
it's so beautiful and appealing.
Another record duet by two vocal artists
each with very interesting texture and
together they're fabulous,
is Stevie Nicks and Don Henley.
They recorded a duet called Leather and
Lace, that's your listening list to just
listen to some voices with
very distinct textures.
Unfortunately, that gravelly
sound when it's pervasive,
and you hear that singer is always
singing with that gravel or grit.
That can sometimes mean that
there is actual damage,
physiological damage to
the vocal folds themselves.
If you are really hurting your
vocal folds or not protecting them,
using them in ways that overstress them or
overuse them.
You can develop little calluses
actually on the vocal folds that
are called polyps and
those are the pre-cursor to vocal nodules.
Vocal nodules are actual scar tissue
that can form on your vocal folds and
really interfere with your
ability to control them.
And accomplish the sounds that you want,
can make it impossible for
you to sing without that gravelly texture.
So what we want to do is
look at texture as a tool,
something that you would occasionally pull
out and use, hopefully in a healthful way.
To achieve a certain effect,
give a little bit of energy or
power to a particular note or line.
Or if you're singing in a certain style or
genre of music that really calls for
something a little more textural.
That you would be able to use
it without hurting yourself.
And there are a couple of options
that you can play with and
carefully experiment with that won't
hurt you and add this tool to your belt.
You want to make sure that you always
are conscious of not hurting yourself,
it shouldn't hurt, if you're doing
anything that hurts, you should stop.
The techniques of achieving
a few types of texture,
you can experiment with and
they shouldn't hurt.
They might fatigue you and tax you
vocally and so you don't want to repeat
them a lot, you don't wanna growl
ten times to practice growling.
But as long as you are in your
good mountain post stance,
you are solid in your base and
your balance, you are breathing.
Your necks and shoulders, always relaxed,
all of your good posture and
your good breathing techniques
filling your lungs with air.
Concentrating on providing stability and
lots of air.
You can play with these a little bit
at a time and experiment with them to
see how you can learn to control
the use of these elements of texture.
I'm gonna demonstrate just a couple
of specific kinds of texture
that are relatively easy to
experiment with and to hear.
The first one we actually mentioned in
the conversation on vocal registers,
it's called vocal fry.
And I know that you can sometimes hear
me introduce it into my speaking voice.
I am in the habit of occasionally
ending my sentences by dropping my
voice down into that register and
adding that little bit of grit.
It's a habit I got into when I
was a young girl wanting to sound
older when I picked up the phone and
answered the phone.
It's become a habit and it's something
that I have to very much concentrate on
to keep my speaking voice elevated.
In its healthy range as we learned
with Dr Mitchell and Dr Asaph.
Wanna make sure that your speaking
voice is staying up there unless
you want to use vocal fry for
the specific effect of texture.
So I can sing a line
from Blue Eyes Crying in
the Rain, blue eyes cryin' in the rain.
And all I've done there is introduce
a little moment of vocal fry in
a couple of spots.
Blue eyes cryin' in the rain, so,
on crying and, in the rain,
you can hear just a little
touch of vocal fry.
I am not doing anything
except dropping my larynx and
engaging my vocal cords to
have a little bit of bubble.
Or I'm slowing down my airflow and
I'm allowing my vocal
cords to bump together
slowly to create that little
textural effect, you can try that.
Be very gentle, drop your larynx,
keep your body and your shoulders,
especially your neck, relaxed.
[SOUND] As you get into
that lower register
toward the bottom of
your modal chest voice,
[SOUND] That's how vocal fry feels.
When you're conscious of
how you're making it,
you can start to add it to your tool belt.
And you can also start to pay attention
to when you use it unintentionally.
If you find yourself as you
dial up your awareness,
introducing vocal fry into
your speaking voice regularly.
Make a concentrated effort to avoid it,
get it out of your speaking voice cuz it's
incredibly taxing to your vocal cords.
You're intentionally bumping
them together in a way
that can be very damaging.
The next specific
tool of texture that I wanna
share with you is the growl.
A growl is a great piece of
texture that is used in Rock and
Roll, and Country, a lot of belting and
feisty energetic melodies,
it's great to put that
growl on a note,
particularly later in the song.
There's a great example with
a Carrie Underwood song, Before He Cheats,
she's got a lot of power, she sings
this great, really feisty song about
tearing up her boyfriend's car because
she finds out he's cheating on her.
And she sings a great line
in her first course about,
In the second and
third chorus, she adds a growl.
the second chorus.
In the third chorus,
I think she does it three times.
She's using a lot of her
respiratory musculature,
her lower abdominals, her intercostal.
A lot of those respiratory muscles
are engaging to provide a burst
of air that powers air through
the closing down of her throat.
So when you close your throat down and
push more air through,
that it can help you
achieve a growl [SOUND].
You can do it without even
doing a note [SOUND].
So play around with that.
Again, it shouldn't hurt.
And you shouldn't do it frequently
enough to really fatigue your voice.
But it's something you
can play around with.
Something you wanna look out for when you
are trying to achieve texture is you never
want to accomplish a texture
by over supporting and
pushing too much air across your
chords with your chords engaged.
Because basically you're over driving and
forcing your chords together in a hard way
that's gonna hurt them and damage them.
I'm only going to do this once
because it is very fatiguing and
very damaging to your chords.
I'm gonna demonstrate over supporting and
accomplishing that textural effect.
Not the proper way, but
with over support and overdrive,
where I'm engaging,
I'm grinding down on my throat.
And over supporting, pushing too much air,
and overdriving my sound.
You can hear that texture being
introduced, but
it's all coming from my throat and
it's being pressed by too much air.
That hurts.
Never want to do that.
So anytime you're going for
a texture and you can feel it hurting
in your throat,
you know that you're down the wrong path.
Take a step back, let your cords
in your body rest and revisit it.