Author Topic: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)  (Read 4631 times)

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Offline Skeever

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The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« on: May 02, 2018, 09:58:56 AM »
Looks like in response to some really nasty videos to appear regarding James' voice lately, a vocal coach/teacher just did a really in-depth video about JLB's voice. Was not going to share this until I saw how respectful the host and the material is to James/the band, but there's a lot of good information here which is probably interesting both to fans and to singers. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3fGgEciPcI

Offline Setlist Scotty

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2018, 01:17:21 PM »
Very interesting video - thanks for sharing!   :tup  I agree that it's well put together and is fact-based instead of based on an emotional response (negative or positive).
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Offline rumborak

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2018, 02:21:09 PM »
That was a really interesting video, a lot of solid content.
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Offline Cool Chris

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2018, 02:50:53 PM »
Can someone summarize for the attention-limited fans here?
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Offline bosk1

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #4 on: May 02, 2018, 02:54:49 PM »
No.
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Offline bosk1

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2018, 03:04:25 PM »
Okay, just kidding.  The gist of it, incredibly simplified, is basically:

-The voice is a delicate instrument, and is the most susceptible to irreversible damage.  That inevitably happens over time as the body ages because, physiologically, parts of the body responsible for producing sound inevitably weaken, wear out, and deteriorate.  Where a singer takes exceptional care of his instrument, he or she can mitigate those effects and prolong their good singing voice longer.  But in the life of a touring rock/metal performer, that's not really realistic.  (these points are kind of sprinkled in throughout the video rather than stated outright, and a lot of it also comes from his other videos)

-James is incredibly talented and had an incredibly powerful voice.  He also had some very good singing technique in some areas.

-James also used some bad singing techniques in other areas, and those did not do him any favors.  In fact, over time, they have worn his voice out and done damage.  And...that's normal.

-The fact that James is a touring musician, and made the types of decisions to push through and perform at times he shouldn't have would have inevitably caused damage.

-The food poisoning incident may have contributed, but was just one factor.

-The result, over a very long time, is that, despite still being an incredible singer, James is not physically capable of what he was in the early '90s. 

That's it in a nutshell.  The dude has a lot of good insight.  I cannot really say whether he is right or not, but most of what he says sounds pretty reasonable.  He is off on a few things, but I don't think that really changes the validity of his overall point.
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Offline rumborak

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2018, 04:00:42 PM »
One question that came up twice is whether JLB can recover from where he is now, and his opinion is ... no. His age combined with the accumulative damage means he needs to manage what he has left, by for example downshifting tunes and playing more instrumentals.

One interesting point personally for me was, I entirely agreed with him that the schedule James was/is subjected to is not reasonable. Granted, the economics often dominate the schedule, but to this day they do "An evening with" shows despite James so obviously struggling. I actually kinda liked the old days when DT showcased an up and coming band as a support band, creating a more manageable amount of singing per night.
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Offline bosk1

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2018, 04:08:35 PM »
One question that came up twice is whether JLB can recover from where he is now, and his opinion is ... no. His age combined with the accumulative damage means he needs to manage what he has left, by for example downshifting tunes and playing more instrumentals.

Well, and I think that, to an extent, what he is saying is logical.  But I think we need to take a step back from what "recover" means in that context.  I think his point was, "Can James 'recover' and sing like it's 1993 again?  No."  But that doesn't mean he cannot deliver some really quality performances that may be better than what people were seeing on some of the I&W tour.  With shorter sets, appropriate rests, and set lists that don't push him nearly as hard as trying to sing Images & Words, I think he can absolutely sound fantastic.  And he has, in recent years, delivered some pretty awesome performances.  So I want to temper what you are saying, because it can easily be taken too far and be taken to mean something that guy in the video did not mean.  He said repeatedly that James is a great singer and that James can deliver great performances, and that the video is NOT meant to be taken as bashing James or calling for James to call it quits or anything like that.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2018, 04:57:53 PM by bosk1 »
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Offline rumborak

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2018, 05:19:54 PM »
Yes, I think I can agree with that. There are definitely videos of I&W shows where you could tell that given decent rest he is still able to deliver a solid performance.

I really hope they take this into account from here on (IMO they should have done so a long time ago). And that includes what they put on disk, I feel they give him vocal lines he can produce in a studio with X takes, but live they just don't make sense.
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Offline Cool Chris

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2018, 05:37:29 PM »
Bosk, thank you for the summary. As a non-musician I also feared it would be too technical for me, so if that was the case, thank you for dumbing it down for me.

I feel they give him vocal lines he can produce in a studio with X takes, but live they just don't make sense.

I agree with everything you said, but haven't they been doing this for a long time?

And as a tangent, assuming lots of musicians/groups put things down on record that would be hard to replicate live night in and night out, how much should that factor in to recording an album? Should they say "This are some awesome vocals and will showcase our singer's talents, but it will hurt him in the long run if he does this part live for a long tour, so let's rewrite it?" Or rather, "We can change how he sings it live, or just not do the song, but we should put it on the album as we wrote it."
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Offline rumborak

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2018, 07:15:35 PM »
I feel they give him vocal lines he can produce in a studio with X takes, but live they just don't make sense.

I agree with everything you said, but haven't they been doing this for a long time?


They have, and in the 90s James was able to push through that, which however is a point the YouTube guy makes, that continuously pushing his voice like that was the more likely reason for his decline, not just the food poisoning.
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Offline TAC

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2018, 07:23:12 PM »
Who is Zach Ansley? What does he do?
would have thought the same thing but seeing the OP was TAC i immediately thought Maiden or DT related
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Offline Skeever

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2018, 07:46:17 PM »
Who is Zach Ansley? What does he do?

He's a voice instructor.  For a bit of history,  there were some very nasty videos about James which had been generating a lot of buzz lately (I won't link to them here) and the guy I linked to had been active in comments and started doing these videos as a more substantial response to that.

Offline rumborak

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #13 on: May 02, 2018, 08:07:10 PM »
He is a professional voice coach who has (according to him) coached several prog metal singers "people would probably know if I mentioned them".
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Offline Adami

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #14 on: May 02, 2018, 08:12:00 PM »
He is a professional voice coach who has (according to him) coached several prog metal singers "people would probably know if I mentioned them".


Including Nicky Spanjaards?
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Offline Cool Chris

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #15 on: May 02, 2018, 08:41:06 PM »
They have, and in the 90s James was able to push through that....

But even then he was often flailing through many of the tougher passages. My opinion, of course. I don't know if it is JLB struggling, or just how he choose to sing live at the the time, but man much of the Live in Tokyo DVD is hard on my ears.
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Offline rumborak

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #16 on: May 02, 2018, 08:49:35 PM »
He is a professional voice coach who has (according to him) coached several prog metal singers "people would probably know if I mentioned them".


Including Nicky Spanjaards?

Now there's a singer who can push through a tough performance.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2018, 10:19:27 PM by rumborak »
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Offline KevShmev

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #17 on: May 02, 2018, 08:54:25 PM »
Eh, I have never agreed with that.

In the studio, go all out and do the best you can, if you can't reproduce live, oh well. 

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #18 on: May 02, 2018, 09:31:00 PM »
Robert Plant almost never sang things the way they were on the album.  He saved his voice.   Can you imagine what would have happened if he had done multiple tours doing Rock n Roll like it is on the album every night?   His voice would have been completely toast before Zeb even broke up.   But he played it smart.   He came up with a completely different melody for that song, and saved his moments so that he wasn’t constantly in his upper range all night. 

But regarding rock singers...I’ve always wondered.  Don’t opera singers arguably have an even more difficult job and yet manage to keep their voice into their 50’s?   What are opera singers doing that rock singers can’t?  There must be a physical “method” that crosses over somehow and can protect the voice by singing “properly”...
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Offline rumborak

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #19 on: May 02, 2018, 10:18:09 PM »
The guy actually uses opera singers as a comparison point. He says that in opera you are never on stage for more than 10 minutes at a time, and then you can rest. Also, classical singing use the voice essentially how it normally works, whereas in rock and metal, with raspiness etc, you put more strain on the voice. He makes the interesting point that despite common myth among rock fans, there is no strain-free way of singing with raspiness.
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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #20 on: May 03, 2018, 02:00:59 AM »
And as far as I know, opera singers don't do shows 3-5 times a week. At least not consistently for years on end. To be honest I was quite surprised to hear that James had bad techniques quite some time ago, as over the years I've read interviews with him where he talks about how much he cares about his voice and health, he's had multiple vocal teachers over the years, including classically trained opera singers.

Offline Peter Mc

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #21 on: May 03, 2018, 06:23:19 AM »
I don't know if I'm just lucky but I've seen DT on every tour from FII onwards and I can honestly say I've never seen him do a bad show.  There are some standout ones that are better than others certainly but I've never come out of a show and said "wow! JLB was really off tonight" and I would say that the Along For The Ride tour and the recent Images & Words tour are both absolute standout performances from him so he can still sound great.  The Astonishing Show was maybe a step down from those but I saw the very first performance of that album in London so it's understandable that it was not perfect (the whole band were a bit tentative to be honest apart from Mangini who was incredible).

I can accept that there are youtube videos out there and even some official releases (OIALT & CIM) that sound pretty bad but all I can say is that, in person (and that's all that matters really) he always sounds perfectly good and sometimes absolutely outstanding.  I know some will say that this is the heat of the moment and you don't notice mistakes when you're there and enjoying the show, and this may be true, but who cares why he sounds good in person, as long as he does?

If anyone is deciding against going to see DT based on youtube videos, I would strongly suggest you take a chance and see them in the flesh, it sounds infinitely better.

Also meant to say, regarding the long shows, DT shows usually have a lot of lengthy instrumental passages, it's not like he's a pop singer who's constantly up there singing for the whole show.  Would be interested to see how much time he actually spends singing in these 3 hour shows.

Offline MirrorMask

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #22 on: May 03, 2018, 07:01:52 AM »
I can accept that there are youtube videos out there and even some official releases (OIALT & CIM) that sound pretty bad but all I can say is that, in person (and that's all that matters really) he always sounds perfectly good and sometimes absolutely outstanding.  I know some will say that this is the heat of the moment and you don't notice mistakes when you're there and enjoying the show, and this may be true, but who cares why he sounds good in person, as long as he does?

Yeah, same here. Maybe when I'm there in the moment, living the experience, James sounds better to me than he's actually doing, or Petrucci makes a minor mistake that I don't notice. Who cares. I have a critical ear when I am at concerts but if I'm enjoying it that's all that matters. I agree also that while here and there I may have witnessed just ok moments from James, I never walked away from a concert saying "Meh. This night he was really off, I almost didn't enjoy it because of that".
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Offline bosk1

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #23 on: May 03, 2018, 07:46:38 AM »
I don't know if I'm just lucky but I've seen DT on every tour from FII onwards and I can honestly say I've never seen him do a bad show.  There are some standout ones that are better than others certainly but I've never come out of a show and said "wow! JLB was really off tonight" and I would say that the Along For The Ride tour and the recent Images & Words tour are both absolute standout performances from him so he can still sound great.  The Astonishing Show was maybe a step down from those but I saw the very first performance of that album in London so it's understandable that it was not perfect (the whole band were a bit tentative to be honest apart from Mangini who was incredible).

I can accept that there are youtube videos out there and even some official releases (OIALT & CIM) that sound pretty bad but all I can say is that, in person (and that's all that matters really) he always sounds perfectly good and sometimes absolutely outstanding.  I know some will say that this is the heat of the moment and you don't notice mistakes when you're there and enjoying the show, and this may be true, but who cares why he sounds good in person, as long as he does?

If anyone is deciding against going to see DT based on youtube videos, I would strongly suggest you take a chance and see them in the flesh, it sounds infinitely better.

Agreed 100%.  And I'll just add that while the things Zach Ansley says in his video seem level-headed, well-reasoned, and pretty fair and well-intentioned, that isn't to say that everything he says is necessarily correct either.  As I watched his video, there was a lot that rang true.  But some that didn't.  And some of his facts were off.  Not to take anything away from him, but just to point out that not everything he says should be taken as gospel just because it appears well-reasoned.
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Offline Samsara

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #24 on: May 03, 2018, 09:33:28 AM »
That video was extremely well done, and very respectful of JLB. The guy clearly knows his stuff.

I have seen Dream Theater live from 1998 (summer, opening for Deep Purple) through November 2017 (Images anniversary tour). I have seen great performances, and horrific ones. And while the effort is always there for James, the decline in the quality of his voice IS undeniable. He knows it, I am sure. But I also think the thing to take away from the video is that at this point, it is about maximizing what James has left with his voice. And to be honest, I think James is doing, and will do that moving forward.

Pride is something I personally believe James has in his vocals, and whether stuff is pitch corrected or not (I believe it has been), it's not like JLB wants to do that. He is likely working diligently to maintain what he has, and get his voice to a level that he is proud of. I don't necessarily agree with Zach that James can't improve...I think he can, he just can't get it back to 1993...and that is totally understandable. The human body reacts how it reacts.

The criticism of James from a live perspective is often very unfair. I mean, I saw the Oakland performance of Images and Words -- James had a very rough night. But I've also seen him have incredible performances as well (San Francisco, the opening night of A Dramatic Turn of Events tour comes to mind). I just think its important to be mindful that James is probably reading a lot of this. And what the guy probably needs is encouragement and support, not people ripping him a new one. Criticism of the guy's voice is fair -- we are the paying customer. But you can be critical, respectful, and encouraging at the same time.

Anyway, a very well done video, and I hope the right people in JLB's corner see it.
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Offline Skeever

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #25 on: May 03, 2018, 09:44:04 AM »
I do think James deserves kudos for trying. Even though there are more and more "piped in" vocals in their live show, there are far less than what I've seen from (often times) even younger singers. I saw Tesseract last week, and it was a great show, but I'm certain that half of Dan's vocals - if not more - were canned. Even at their age, DT tour far more extensively than many of their younger peers, and are far more demanding on JLB. So much of DT's material - like Images - leans heavily on James' ability to belt. But I can't say I'm really looking for that in DT's new material, and I can't speak for the rest of the fans, but I'd not be upset at all by hearing a DT album that more played to sustainable singing habits for James (the Astonishing seems like it was very demanding).


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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #26 on: May 03, 2018, 09:59:35 AM »
James has always been unfairly treated IMO, being in a band with master musicians who's instruments won't fade with time, his voice becomes the noticeable difference.  I've never seen a bad show from him, usually I walk away saying "wow, JLB sounded good" and sometimes the video shows different, but for the most cases he still sounds great on video too.  But that doesn't take away from the live experience of his performance.  Either way, I've always been a fan and there's legit damage that's been done from time, but I still think he's a great singer. 

Offline bosk1

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #27 on: May 03, 2018, 10:23:34 AM »
Pride is something I personally believe James has in his vocals...
Absolutely.  And to add to that, he takes great pains to take care of himself physically and to take care of his voice, and has for a very long time. 

The criticism of James from a live perspective is often very unfair.

...

I just think its important to be mindful that James is probably reading a lot of this. And what the guy probably needs is encouragement and support, not people ripping him a new one.

Yes, and this is a point that often gets lost.  It is easy to forget or not appreciate that, as the front man of a band, James puts himself out there in a very vulnerable positions.  Yeah, maybe that "comes with the territory."  But still, part of being a good human being is being considerate.  James is an artist, and his singing is his craft.  Any criticism, especially overly harsh and unfair criticism, has the potential to bother him and be taken personally.  It's different than, say, if he were to make all kings of controversial statements in interviews and his stage banter, and then to be called out on his conduct.  It is him being criticized for his art that he puts out there for the enjoyment of others.  Harsh criticism of that kind of thing can be taken very personally.  So, IMO, it should be VERY carefully tempered.  More often than not, I think the adage "if you don't have anything nice to say, best not to say anything at all" applies.  And it's not about squashing discussion.  It's about being considerate of the impact of our words on others.  The guy puts out 100% effort on DT's albums and live performances, and doesn't deserve to be picked apart simply because some may not like what he does.

And kind of related to that--

...But you can be critical, respectful, and encouraging at the same time.

Anyway, a very well done video, and I hope the right people in JLB's corner see it.

It is a well-done video.  And I think Zach tries to be fair and objective.  But...I disagree about people in JLB's corner--and James himself--seeing it.  At the end of the day, while the intentions behind it might be good, and it might be fair and objective, the fact that it was even done is a problem.  Maybe it shouldn't be.  But keep in mind the bigger context.  I think James is kind of raw over FAR too much unfair criticism, as discussed above.  Put in that context, I think it will understandably be difficult for him to take a video like this, as well-intentioned and as objective as it might be.  Maybe that's not on Zach.  And maybe, taking a step back, it can be argued that it is on James to take it for how it was intended and to let any negativity roll off.  But I think people also need to keep in mind the simple human aspect of it.  The unfair bashing has been excessive, and I wouldn't be surprised if it has taken a toll and made James less likely to take ANY criticism of his singing objectively.  I wish people would take that into account and be more understanding before they post.  And I'm not directing that at people posting here on the forum--but more generally public posting about James. 

Anyhow, I've given more than my two cents.
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Offline rumborak

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #28 on: May 03, 2018, 10:40:50 AM »
I really can't find any fault in Zach in producing that video. It is as objective and level-headed as it can be, it is his daily job to judge and criticize (in order to improve) singers, and people kept beleaguering him on Youtube to analyze James' voice. I would say this video is as good an analysis as James will get, because most YT videos are just mudslinging.
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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #29 on: May 03, 2018, 10:45:52 AM »
most YT videos are just mudslinging.

It's really sad how harsh people are on him.  Like the fan pages dedicated to hating on him.  Don't people have better things to do with their time than hating on someone? 

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #30 on: May 03, 2018, 10:48:00 AM »
But some that didn't.  And some of his facts were off.  Not to take anything away from him, but just to point out that not everything he says should be taken as gospel just because it appears well-reasoned.
Like what? To someone that isn't in the know of things like that anything that sounds reasonable rings true. And I'm pretty sure he'd welcome the feedback/discussion.

Offline bosk1

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #31 on: May 03, 2018, 10:49:43 AM »
I really can't find any fault in Zach in producing that video. It is as objective and level-headed as it can be, it is his daily job to judge and criticize (in order to improve) singers...

No, that's very true.  BUT there is a big difference between offering private critique to a singer that has hired you to do so as their coach, and doing it publicly when it has NOT been solicited by the person you are critiquing.  There are two issues that make it different: (1) it is unsolicited (by James) and (2) it is public.  I'm not slamming him for doing it.  I'm just saying that the video isn't free of being problematic just because that is his job and because it may have been done with benign intent and level-headed tone.  The element that is perhaps missing is just a general consideration of, "even if this is his job, and even if it may be pretty objective and level-headed, how is it likely to be received by James himself?"

Look, I'm not saying we can't have discussion of public figures.  I'm just saying that we still do need to be careful and considerate, that's all.  And I'm also not saying Zach necessarily wasn't.  I don't think Zach is necessarily part of the "problem."  I think the problem is more that he felt obligated to do it because people kept beleaguering him on Youtube to analyze James' voice in the first place. 
"The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie."

Offline bosk1

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #32 on: May 03, 2018, 10:56:32 AM »
But some that didn't.  And some of his facts were off.  Not to take anything away from him, but just to point out that not everything he says should be taken as gospel just because it appears well-reasoned.
Like what? To someone that isn't in the know of things like that anything that sounds reasonable rings true. And I'm pretty sure he'd welcome the feedback/discussion.

Oh, sure.  I'm not saying he was intentionally inaccurate or anything.  But just that not everything actually was accurate.  For instance, he attempts to address James' performance on the Octavarium tour, and Score in particular.  He makes the point that Score was obviously overdubbed, and you can tell if you compare fan recordings to the final product that James wasn't nearly as "on" as the final product indicates.  Well, yeah, if you compare fan recordings of the show, you WILL find differences.  But his assessment of the fan recordings is not accurate because, other than a few patches here and there, as is common with almost ANY live release by any band, those fan recordings reveal that James most decided was ON for that show.
"The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie."

Offline mikeyd23

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #33 on: May 03, 2018, 11:19:26 AM »
Yeah, just finished watching this whole video, overall really good stuff. The guy is clearly very knowledgeable when it comes to the voice.

I agree with Bosk that his Score comments kinda were a little weird, and that coupled with his mention of auto-tune and pitch correction (along with his comments about the topic below the video) show that he doesn't know much about actual modern audio production. I think he'd be better suited to stick to the topic he knows more about which is vocal technique. For instance, there's a difference between auto-tune and pitch correction. He seems to blur the two together. Not even sure it's worth discussing pitch correction, at this point, every professionally recorded and mixed vocal is pitch corrected here and there. That's like pointing out that his voice is EQ'd in the studio, it's a pretty safe assumption all singers in all bands are now a days.

Offline bosk1

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #34 on: May 03, 2018, 11:27:11 AM »
And to add, regarding his assessment of vocal technique and such, even where he is accurate, I'm just saying that, despite his obvious depth of knowledge, his conclusions are ultimately opinions.  They aren't gospel.  There is significant disagreement among vocal coaches and in the medical field about the toll different things take on the voice, how and to what extent the body/voice can recover from damage, etc.  His opinions are well supported and well articulated.  They just shouldn't be taken as fact, that's all.
"The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie."