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Country Vocals Lessons: Tone

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Let's dig a little
deeper into tone.
Many people argue that what sets any
successful vocalist
apart is a natural tone.
Now, you can be born with a certain tone.
It's genetic, it's in your DNA.
The shape of your instrument,
the size of your body.
The shape of your face,
and head, and throat.
So it's true that there are a lot
of natural kind of built-in factors
into any human beings' tone of voice.
But it is something also that you
can develop that you can work on.
You can learn to control the little
tiny muscles and ligaments.
And all kinds of very
nuanced small incremental
controllers that you
have in your vocal system
to slightly change the tone or the sound.
The color, the quality of sound
that you deliver as a singer.
Remember when we were looking at the
relationship between pitch and frequency,
and we listened to various wave
forms at certain frequencies which
correspond to the pitch and the place,
a keyboard note, that we could find?
We're gonna listen again.
Remember the sine wave, we're gonna
listen to a sine wave at 440 Hz.
This is familiar,
we've listened to this before, and
you're gonna hear a 440 Hz sine wave.
That's the note on the keyboard,
that's the pitch A above middle C.
Sounds like this, a sine wave at 440 Hz.
pure tone.
So now, I want you to listen to the string
sound on this electronic keyboard.
[SOUND] Same note, A, 440.
[SOUND] And you hear how different
the tone is from this sound, the vibes.
[SOUND] The string sound
has a little bit of a,
what would you call it,
buzz, [SOUND] fizzle?
here again is the sawtooth wave.
[SOUND] So you can hear how
different wave form shapes.
When they are part of an instrument sound,
they color the tone.
That's actually what's happening
when we hear differences in tone.
We are hearing the presence
of different wave forms,
different shapes of wave forms.
We do the same thing with our voices.
We create our own algorithms
of combinations of wave
forms that were able to produce because of
the complex structure of our vocal folds.
We've got those great
muscles that are nice and
strong at the core of our vocal folds.
And they're covered by layers,
and layers, and layers,
and layers of this mucosal
tissue that each layer has
a slightly different flexibility,
a little bit different strength.
And so there are very subtle
nuanced effects that can happen
in your vocal folds as you learn how
to manipulate them and control them.
So tone, the different colors
of sound elements that
we introduce into the sound
that we're producing.
We also wanna talk about vibrato.
Vibrato is a beautiful
tool that you can use
as a singer to modulate the tone
that you're producing in pitch.
Depth of pitch, like how far off the core
pitch you're modulating, and in speed.
So here, I'm gonna demonstrate on Crazy,
which has got a nice melody
to play with vibrato on.
I'm gonna do a very slow, deep vibrato.
Crazy, I'm crazy for
feeling so lonely.
So that, ly,
I'm actually moving the pitch back and
forth around that note as I hold it out,
And it would be considered
kind of a slow vibrato,
because you can actually hear
each wave of sound as it unfolds.
Now, I'm gonna do a little bit faster and
shallower vibrato.
Crazy, I'm crazy for
feeling so lonely.
I sped up the vibrato a little bit and
I didn't have it as deep.
So the pitch didn't modulate as much.
Let's play with Amazing Grace.
Amazing grace,
how sweet the sound.
That vibrato was somewhere
in between the slow,
deep modulated vibrato of
my first crazy example, and
not as fast or
shallow as the next example in Crazy.
So just mess around with your vibrato.
Some people have a very
natural vibrato that
that's the tone that they naturally go to.
Some people use their
vibrato very judiciously, and
they only introduce it
at the end of a note.
I'm crazy for crying,
crazy for trying,
crazy for loving you.
So I held that last note very straight
before I introduced the vibrato, you.
So vibrato is a very powerful tool,
we respond in very intuitive pickup.
We respond in very intuitive emotional
ways to different shapes, and
depths, and speeds of vibrato.
The last thing I wanna talk about
in this lesson is texture, and
this is something that we'll
dig deeper into later.
It's a very conversational tool.
We speak with different textures
depending on what mood we're in,
who we're talking to.
The examples that I think
of really immediately
are Marilyn Monroe's singing
Happy Birthday, Mr. President.
Marilyn had a very
naturally breathy texture,
it was a very smooth texture
with a lot of air around it.
Janis Joplin, of course,
very gritty texture,
very what we associate with
classic rock and roll vocals.
That one is a little tougher to control.
A lot of singers that have natural grit,
actually have damaged vocal cords.
And they naturally sound that way,
because they're very similar to
calluses on their vocal folds.
And that's what causes that
distortion of the grit, but
it's also something that you can control.
There's a great moment in
a Carrie Underwood song where she growls.
You'll have to pick this one up,
but if I can find it.
Or she sings,
I took a Louisville slugger
to both headlights.
That is a texture that I'm introducing,
a Louisville slugger to both headlights,
by clamping down ever so
slightly with my throat.
And that's not something that
you wanna do all the time.
But if you learn how to control it,
you can use it very carefully and
place it right where you want to
put it to achieve that effect,
and it could be very exciting.
Just wanna make sure that
you do it the right way, so
that you don't wear out your instrument.
Another one I think of is Astrud Gilberto.
Tall and tan, and young and lovely,
the girl from Ipanema goes walking.
And when she passes,
each one she passes goes.
Very smooth tone, very beautiful but
not very distorted texture.
So these are the things that
we're gonna be thinking about as
we go into the next video submission.
Diction, phrasing, vibrato and texture.