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The Courting Coat

Jeffries duet folk traditional

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#1 StuartEstell

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Posted 01 December 2016 - 06:02 PM

Here's a traditional song I recorded today. It must be said that the song's narrator is a bit of a bounder.

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=FZppwAy9_2k



#2 Jody Kruskal

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Posted 01 December 2016 - 10:33 PM

Hey Stuart,

 

Wow! Great song, strong accompaniment with those lovely concertina dissonances and your singing was much more to my taste than in the other posts of yours that I recall hearing over the years.

 

Not that my opinion matters much, but... I'll write freely, for what it's worth and at risk of causing offense (the last thing I want to do).

 

That little wobble or vibrato you often sing at the ends of phrases does not please me. I know that it's a pop song technique often employed. However when you use it, to my ear it sounds more like an habitual affection. Your singing of this Courting Coat song seems to reduce that quality and has a directness and power I've been trying to cultivate in my own singing. So, bravo!

 

I do like old traditional songs and it might be a cool thing for you to listen (as I have been doing) to some traditional singers to hear how they use or don't use that wobble at the ends of phrases that I'm talking about. How about Mike Waterson for instance? https://www.youtube....h?v=DNA8kBIyais

 

He sings with plenty of vibrato from time to time, sure. Still, it sounds like it is under his control, serves the song well and does not happen at the end of every phrase in a predictable manner.

 

I hope that my observations are not taken amiss. I have always admired your adventurous spirit in the music you make. This latest offering of yours has me wondering if you are on to something different here? Do tell.


Edited by Jody Kruskal, 01 December 2016 - 10:46 PM.


#3 StuartEstell

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Posted 02 December 2016 - 04:09 AM

Jody, thanks for being candid, and for taking the effort to comment at length -- as I think I've observed before, you and I sometimes come at things from quite different angles, I think, which is fine.

 

That said, I listen to a good deal of traditional singers, but rarely singers of the revival. With a few exceptions (like Nic Jones, Peter Bellamy, John K. etc.) I tend to like hearing source singers like Harry Cox far better. It also interests me that you see my use of vibrato as a "pop" trait as Hedy West uses it similarly -- in fact when I was working on a way of integrating it into my traditional singing she was very much my model.

 

But in short, no, I haven't really hit on anything different with this song -- I think it's simply one that doesn't lend itself to longer notes at the ends of phrases because the character of it is so brusque. I think perhaps that is where the predictability arises in that I often add beats at the ends of phrases when the final word of a phrase seems to warrant it. More beats on a long note = more vibrato. The automatic end-of-phrase note-lengthening is something I've been thinking about addressing for some time -- or at least making it more conscious.


Edited by StuartEstell, 02 December 2016 - 04:11 AM.


#4 StuartEstell

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Posted 02 December 2016 - 07:04 AM

... and further, on reflection: proof that it's always good to get candid feedback -- I just drove into the city, singing a few of my "regulars". Jolted out of unconscious habits, I listened hard. And I see what you mean. What surprises me is how little vibrato I use on longer notes in the middle of phrases where it might be of greater expressive use. So thanks, Jody.



#5 Jody Kruskal

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Posted 02 December 2016 - 02:33 PM

I'm so relieved to see that my comments were heard as helpful.

 

Just listened to Harry Cox. No wide vibrato at the ends of phrases in the tracks I heard. Also little in revival singer Hedy West on the tracks I listened to, but rather a fast tight pitch flutter throughout her singing.

 

In listening to my own recorded singing I also hear lots of vibrato at the ends of phrases and all over the place. Nothing wrong with it per se IMHO. However, when it becomes a habit, one that is out of control... that is something to watch out for. When I record and then listen back critically to my singing (always instructive) I tend to like the takes where my intention is only to sing the pitches, rhythms and words as directly and simply as possible with as little added emotion or "acting" as I can manage and as little added vibrato as I can get away with. It always creeps in anyway.


Edited by Jody Kruskal, 02 December 2016 - 02:35 PM.


#6 StuartEstell

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Posted 02 December 2016 - 03:01 PM

Well, part of being a musician is working through those uncomfortable periods of reassessment and self-scrutiny that can only be brought about by constructive criticism.

 

You're right re: Harry Cox; his singing is as dry as dust (in a good way), I just mentioned him by way of the kind of source singers I like. I never think of Hedy West as a revival singer, as (to my understanding at least) she had a similar kind of singing lineage to Jean Ritchie, but I guess that's open to interpretation...

 

Have you had vocal training, Jody? I was taught classically for a while and sang chorally for a long time; in some ways that's been of huge help in that I rarely if ever injure my voice and can sing at considerable volume for ages. But I think that's another reason why the vibrato, as you say, "creeps in" unbidden.



#7 Jody Kruskal

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Posted 02 December 2016 - 05:36 PM

Have you had vocal training, Jody? I was taught classically for a while and sang chorally for a long time; in some ways that's been of huge help in that I rarely if ever injure my voice and can sing at considerable volume for ages. But I think that's another reason why the vibrato, as you say, "creeps in" unbidden.

 

Yes. My singing story sounds a lot like yours. 

 

The voice is wonderfully adaptable. It's possible to will it and train it to do what you want and still sound completely like you.  I've learned about this on my own but you could try it too. The process is what I said above about listening back to my singing as part of recording my CDs.

 

I recorded a few takes, then listened closely to what I had sung. Then sing a few more and listen again. I was able to step back from myself as a performer and be only a listener. Very revealing, as you are your most honest critic.

 

I would give myself feedback and often an intention, ex: this time sing it angry... sad... quietly... strong and even... more legato... as emotionally flat as possible... sing it like you just don't care... etc. In picking the best takes and parts of takes, I had to decide what sounded the best.

 

Pleasing your ear in this way allows you to craft your vocal sound and still keep it honest. Takes some time and effort though.







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