All The Way From Finland

All The Way From Finland

It looks like the beautiful offspring of a baby grand piano and an acoustic guitar, with some subtle electric guitar sound-bending levers, is played like a harp on its side, or like a guitar on its back, but not really exactly like either of those. The sound is beautiful, can be picked, strummed or pressed. What is it? (more…)

Vibrato

Vibrato

Love it or hate it, it brings warmth to your voice!

Have you ever heard opera singers give vibrato some welly, or sat in front of someone in a carol service with a wobbly vibrato? Why does it sometimes make a voice warm and delicious, and sometimes make you want to put your fingers in your ears? 

Vibrato is when the frequency of a note fluctuates in pitch and amplitude. The frequency can vary up to a quarter of a semitone either side of the note. It is actually not physically possible to sing with no vibrato at all, as the human voice will always have tiny changes in sound – this is what gives it warmth. You can hear on tracks that have been pitch altered, creating a more produced and synthetic sound. Here, the fluctuations are removed, erasing the natural sounds that our voices make.

It is therefore harder to match pitch to straight sounds and this is why, when teaching, I ask students to pitch-match to my voice before using the piano. Teaching the technique of vibrato in singing is not quite as simple as it might seem. The difference in timbre can make a phrase more interesting – but if vibrato is too slow it sounds ‘wobbly’, and if it is too fast it can sound like a ‘bleat’. In order to effectively and beautifully use vibrato we need to understand and use it to varying amounts. This is done by training the muscles in the larynx to work together correctly.

When using vibrato the muscles are essentially tensing and relaxing; this added element of tiny relaxations allows the singer to sustain their efforts for longer and is most notably used in opera singing/performances.

Melody Gardot

Melody Gardot

It’s been a while since I went to a live gig. This weekend we headed down to the Colston Hall to check out the Bristol Jazz Festival, holding two tickets tightly in my hand.

 

I love jazz. But Melody is more than a jazz artist, she is a show-woman and a talented instrumentalist. Her vocals were exquisite – exploring the whole range of what her voice can do, creating atmosphere and holding us captive. One thing I loved is that it wasn’t all about the vocals; each band member was a brilliant musician, and each were showcased with solos throughout the evening.

 

The final tune was the gorgeous preacherman where the audience was invited to join in with a catchy riff. As we all joined in you could hear a few harmonies floating up from the chairs as Melody sang out over the top. It felt like we had joined her on the stage momentarily. Lush.

 

Check out Melody’s recent album here.

EP Recording Sessions

EP Recording Sessions

What a great weekend with Band13 and Stage2Studios. Pulling an EP together in just two days this was a fun action-packed weekend with some great musicians and tech effects. For those that haven’t been in a recording studio this is a brave new world of foam clad, deadened acoustic space, mic-ed up to expose every moment, expression and movement – gotta love it!

Starting with a raw click track through the headphones we got the drums and a fat bass layer down. Then came the keys and electric guitar – three different guitars, three different layers. And finally at the end of it all, down go the vocals. This EP starts with a Lament using ambient choral vocals and dirty electric guitar, followed by a couple of cleaner numbers, and finishing with a live-in-your-lounge-style finale.

Happy days. Stage2 caught the band’s vibe spot on and now Windfall has been laid down, mixed, and is ready to be mastered!

Thanks J, G, Jas, Sam and Becky for an awesome weekend.

Amaluna

Amaluna

So, my sister turns 21 this year, and to mark the occasion we went to see the Cirque de Soleil, an amazing acrobatic more-than-a-circus at the Royal Albert Hall. I have fallen in love with the wide circular building, the tiers of seats, and moons of acoustic domes in the ceiling. The set was very avatar-like in blues and greens with ambient forest sounds. The acrobatics were incredible, and while entranced by them it took me a few moments to realise that the music was all from a live band, partially shielded from view by green tendrils of the forest floor. A vocalist dressed in black standing on an illuminated basin of water cast ambient vocals out across the arena. There were no words, unless they were in the strange language of the island of Amaluna, but somehow you could feel the meaning of the music by the tone, emotion and, interestingly, the vowel sounds that she chose.

The change in vowels changes the shape of the resonators in your vocal apparatus, and this vocalist exploited all of them, allowing harmonics to rise and fall, changing the timbre, volume and intensity. Clever stuff. A few times I found myself watching her instead of the gymnastic feats on the stage. Mesmerising. All in all, it was artistic showmanship at its best.