Vocal Technique vs Feel
False & Pre-conceived Notions Regarding Technique
In my experience, I have heard a lot of people say that vocal technique ruins the feel of a singer. This is a very common belief in today’s music industry. However, it doesn't have to be that way. Good and natural technique (that includes belted head voice) can actually assist in the emotions and the feel. This is how it works:
1) If the vocal instrument is not functioning as it needs to in order to get the feel across, feel can’t truly come through and reach the audience. Vocal technique can help change these bad habits and correct them at a much faster pace; 2) vocal technique can add power to notes that are higher and have more intense emotional meanings, not just to show off.
Some people believe that you have to first totally train and master vocal technique (all basics accomplished), and then you can work on the feel. The problem with this in our industry is that it takes too long to master vocal technique. This is because the singer, who gets caught up in the mindset of mastering and monitoring their vocal technique; finds it difficult to work on and master the feel.
The way this happens is that singers go to schools that teach vocal technique, or go to teachers/coaches who teach strictly vocal technique. (Some, also, use online self-learning programs to learn vocal technique; but learn bad habits since no singer is the same, each needs one-on-one feedback.)
The truth is that vocal technique and feel can be learned together at the same time. So, as the technique is getting better, the feel and the emotional expression will improve as well. Vocal technique and feel have to be ingrained to the point that it's totally subconscious. This allows the singer’s mind to be free (the conscious mind)— to experience and express the emotions of their story. Then and only then, the producer and audience can experience the emotional experience of the story with the performer.
Straight emotion without any technique, as I mentioned in earlier blogs, can have some problems where the singer just can't accomplish certain emotional goals. It's true that 80% feel is more important than technique. If one cannot work technique, then one should work feel first, then technique can help later on when the person feels it is necessary, or they may never feel that it’s necessary. The audience and the producers (as I mentioned in previous blogs) demand 80 to 90% feel over technique. Feel can also be coached and learned just like vocal technique with exercises and rehearsal sessions. Exercises for feel entail having the singer work on feeling the emotion of each phrase, enabling to express the whole song as a story. This is something I work on extensively in my one-on-one vocal coaching sessions with singers.
Bob Dylan - Feel:
I have four categories for singers: 1) amateurs – these singers need pitch, rhythm, feel and more range; 2) professionals – these singers are the ones that worked very hard on just vocal technique and are respected for their vocal technical ability (studio session singers, choir singers, musical theater singers, or opera singers); 3) stars – these are singers who have 80% emotion, but not necessarily good vocal technique (such as: The Luminaires, Bob Dylan, Dido). People, who are their fans, are so wrapped up in the emotional expression of the singer that they can’t hear the off pitch notes; 4) super stars – these singers have excellent abilities (whether natural or trained) and at the same time have excellent emotional expression. This is the ultimate singer as far as I'm concerned.
Straight Talk on Record Producers:
Producers, these days, expect the singer to be a full package. They have to have it all. Emotional expression is the most important talent. The producers don't want to fight with the singer in the studio, who is focused on vocal technique and not feel. Sometimes a student asks their vocal technique teacher/coach to come into the recording studio with them to make technical corrections. If it's a great producer, they don’t want the teacher/coach there. (I know of instances where the producer kicked the coach out of the session because they were interfering with the producer’s coaching on feel.) Great producers just know this won’t work and so they don't want to fight with a mindset that is too technical and lacking in feel.
Sometimes producers don't know what they want. They expect the singer to know what they want. For this reason, it is important that the singer learns the producer’s language and knows how to give them what they want. Pre-production is a big key to that, because everything is done ahead of time, and the producer is already communicating well with the artist. The great news is that you can study vocal technique and you can study feel at the same time and become the great artist you'd love to be.
Brad Chapman Vocal Coach & Pre-Producer