Tuesday, April 04, 2006

What the heck is going on?

Yeah I am sure you are wondering....all four of you....

Well here is the deal. I'm (Brad) not really wanting to carry all the singing chores for Soul Amp anymore. It is that simple. I'll sing backups and maybe a few songs. And continue to sing our old stuff, but I'm stepping aside because of several factors...incuding the comments posted earlier.

At some point the stuff adds up. And with the aid some interesting technology I came to a decision to start the process of stepping away from lead singing duties. As much as I love to sing that it simply is not enough to love to sing. I think after a point you also need something back...and after some thought and careful analysis I have concluded that my voice does not have the "right stuff" to carry this band forward.

I base that some very thorough analysis with sonogram visualization technology. Being the computer geek that I am I have analyzed my singing and compared the sonogram of my voice and SOul Amp's songs with a variety of other bands whose singers have voices that I find most pleasing to listen to.

I asked myself the question...what is it about the voices of singers that endears them with the listener. I realized that there is a certain characteristic that is common to all vocalists that you find are moderately successful...i.e. they make music for a living.

When looking at the sonograms of pleasent sounding voices they look very instrument like. In other words there are a series of semitones that make up the pitch that is being expressed. The pitch is made up of a range of individual frequencies all spread across a sprectrum of frequencies. This produces a very rich sound when sounding vowels like Ahhhh, OOoos etc...

I looked and lots of people including male and female voice, Josh ROuse, Ryan Adams, Kathleen Edwards to name a few also singers form bands like The National, Calexico, The New Ponographers even Buck Ownens and Neil Young. Basically just about every godamn song in my iTunes library.

The results were all similar, the voices all had a rather rich series of semitones spread across 200hrz to 1k depending on the key of the song and the gender of the voice. Ussually there were 8 to 10 or more semitones that made up the vowel sound. (Vowels are the long notes, obviously you don't hold T's or P,s S, etc.)

Then I looked at mine. I watched the sonograms in realtime as the song played via a iTunes plugin. The sonogram spills across the screen producing a picture that clearly shows the frequency, dynamic range and left, center and right channels. You can easily pick out the hunman voice, drums, guitar, synths...quite facinating to watch.

Well any way, my voice rarely produces the rich range of semitones. I have basically two bands. ONe around 300 Hrz that is a resonante boominess from my chest. And a narrow bright band around that hovers around 800Hrz to 1k That is the meat of my voice. Tt is basically a slighly nasal brightness with a boomy lowend. With not much in the way of tone from the neck, throat or my head. Sometimes I am able to achieve a good spread of semitones on more breathy, folky type songs in a very narrow key range. But the spread of tones is not consistent or regular.

I've been doing the analysis by the way for about three months now. And I have been trying to find those tones and have realized that they simply aren't going to happen.

Harmonic exciters might be able to aid this issue but I am unfamiliar with these devices and it seems to be more of a crutch that a solution. My solution was to simply accept the fact that thoguh I can sing on pitch, with dynamics and add emotional changes and have reasonably good sence of phrasing and melody..(maybe) it is all rendered moot by a voice that simply does not stand out as being instrument like.

Think of it terms of a Hammnond organ. I would be one only two of the drawbars pulled out compared to another singer who has 5 or 6. pulled out. THose of you familiar with Hammond will understand. The Hammond produces a pure sin wave for a particular frequency when the key is depressed. Drawbars control the semitones produced for that note and can adjust the volume as you pull the draw bar further out. The result is a mixture of tones to produce a more complex tonal structure. A brilliant invention really.

I'll put some of these studies and comparisons when I am able to do some screen shots and annotate them. It is really quite facinating stuff. To see the pure sin wave of a full organ or the absolute beauty of Kathleen Edwards Pink Emerson Radio...her voice layered over a slide guitar.

So based on some technology, and the fact that our debut disk was more or less ignored by everyone. And the fact that I don't get people telling me they really like my voice over the past year and a half...I've decided to shift away from singing lead.

Interesting enough I have theory as to why people in the past have commented on my backup singing and harmonies when I played bluegrass. I add this low and midrange comonent to the harmony that doesn't compete with the the main vocalists spread of tones and by matching the phrasing and backing off the consonants the harmony becomes very clean.

That is it. If you were interested. I suppose the title of this blog will probably change to Chronicles of a Modern Rock band....at some point. At least I hope it does.

Sounds like fun...I like the idea of adding another voice to the band.

So nothing is really going to change all the much for a while. I'll still be singing. But we'll be looking for a fourth. Someone with that voice.


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