Thursday, February 28, 2013

Technology and teaching singing | Vol. 4

Hello singers!

This time I write what ways I have found for using a software called Sing & See. This software is available for Mac and Windows. For the pitch tracking part of Sing & See there is also a similar software for iOS called Sing-inTuna.

Sing & See gives visual feedback on pitch and also has a spectrogram. I wrote about using a spectrogram last time and to be honest I find SpectrumView on my iPad better and easier to use than Sing & See's. But what kind of help can we get from the pitch tracking?


One thing I use it for is visual feedback when doing support exercises. If you do a simple exercise with 5 notes up and down and see the pitch jumping a bit when going higher in pitch you might want to check that you're not locking your support. The support might be working otherwise but in order to "secure" a note it's often tempting to put a bit too much energy when changing the note. So, try to make  changing the note look like a fast slide. And check that your abdomen around the navel is moving in slowly, not in jumps. If it's difficult you might want to try sliding slower first and then make it faster. This method can help in songs too. You can put extra attention in consonants and how they affect the pitch and support.


Sing & See gives a very clear picture what vibrato is about, modulation of pitch. The pitch goes up and down. The more regular the pattern is the more stable the vibrato sounds. You can use pitch tracking to train vibrato even if you don't know how to do it. You can start by alternating between two notes and then trying to make it faster. Some singers might also find it just by trying to achieve the right visual representation of vibrato.

Some more advice

It's wise not to look at the picture too much. After all, the most important thing is how it sounds. I think Sing & See is a valuable tool in analysing why something sounds good to you. If you do a long powerful note does it sound better if there is slide down in the end? Or do you see vibrato in certain places but not others?

Sing & See can be an useful tool for singers who can't sing at all. You can practise your ear by playing the note on piano and then trying to sing that yourself. Also, you can slide up and down and try to find the right note. However, I've noticed that it's most often more useful to concentrate on working with the support than the visual feedback. The emphasis should be in physical sensations and sound, not in the visual feedback.

What ways do you use Sing & See?


Thursday, February 21, 2013

More dynamics ≠ more volume


I want to share a song that really moved me. Obviously I listen to a lot of music and really enjoy it but it doesn't happen so often that I get this captivated by something. But James Blake's new single Retrograde does it for me. 

Some people don't like to discuss or analyse music that's important for them, maybe in fear of losing some of the mystery or magic of it. But I don't mind and I thought there's something in James Blake's vocal performance we can learn from.

One interesting thing is that one of the hooks of this song is a part around 1:28 where James Blake sings a phrase in the lower register. Since most of the song is sung higher and softer it stands out. It's a good reminder that in order to make a dynamic vocal performance you don't always need to belt out high notes. Also, if you feel like you're lacking dynamics in your expression I feel it's often better to widen the dynamic range towards softer than louder volume. More dynamics doesn't necessary have to mean more volume.