Author Topic: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)  (Read 5226 times)

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Offline Anxiety35

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #35 on: May 03, 2018, 11:29:10 AM »
It gets old when we read the flame throwing comments and haters on YouTube or anywhere else about musicians. Are people that miserable in life where they feel they need to slam these people over and over? I'm a drummer and I'm amazed that many people hate on Neil Peart. Really? You get up there, BE ORIGINAL, and play that well for 40 years. Jealous? Maybe. But it's something deeper than that.

With James, he's got incredible talent. Sure, he's not what he once was but for Pete's sake, he's got one of the most distinguishable voices and has been going at it for a long time. If you don't like his voice or the way he sings, that's fine. You're allowed to have a preference. But it goes over the line when it's a constant bash fest. 

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #36 on: May 03, 2018, 11:48:20 AM »
The internet has given everyone a voice and an audience, regardless of whether you have a productive message or not.

This video was made as a result of an on-going barrage of videos from a certain individual who's attacking James (and the band and anyone in the fandom who supports the band) very harshly.
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Offline MirrorMask

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #37 on: May 03, 2018, 12:20:17 PM »
This video was made as a result of an on-going barrage of videos from a certain individual who's attacking James (and the band and anyone in the fandom who supports the band) very harshly.

Well, shouldn't then a "STFU, GTFO" gif be more than enough in that case?  :lol
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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #38 on: May 03, 2018, 12:27:39 PM »
You can try - youll probably be the target of an endless barrage of attacks yourself then.
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Offline Nekov

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #39 on: May 03, 2018, 12:33:04 PM »
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.

That should be obvious since he points out 3 different times that what he says is his "theory". Not sure he used that exact same word but he clearly states it more than once, and he also says that since he's not a doctor what he says shouldn't be taken as a 100% accurate medical reference.
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Offline bosk1

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #40 on: May 03, 2018, 12:35:35 PM »
Yes, it should be obvious.  But I still feel obligated to point out that which should be obvious regardless, simply because it isn't always obvious to everyone
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Offline Skeever

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #41 on: May 03, 2018, 12:37:47 PM »
It strikes me as unfortunate that instead of addressing any specific points made by the video, most here are busying picking away at the credentials of the guy who made it.

I don't know if Zach Ansley is the greatest or most educated vocalist in the world, but he certainly has some knowledge and credentials and basis for what he's talking about, which is more than most can say of themselves on this topic. And more importantly, he provided some real, substantial content which is far more interesting to me than just trying to undermine the guy who made the video himself or launching into some tirade about how sad it is that "everyone on the internet has a voice these days".

Offline bosk1

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #42 on: May 03, 2018, 12:44:51 PM »
I don't think anyone here is really "picking away at" anything.  I think most, if not all, have said it is a well-reasoned set of opinions.  There is nothing wrong with pointing out that, at the end of the day, they are still however only opinions, whether they are well-supported and well-reasoned or not.  That isn't a slight on Ansley or his work in the video.

But as to his credentials themselves, I don't know what they actually are.  And I'm not sure anyone else in the thread does either.  I mean, he says he has coached some well-known artists.  But as far as I know, he doesn't say who they are, and I don't think any of us know that, do we?  His arguments in the video suggest that he has a good amount of knowledge as a vocal coach.  But, again, I have no idea what his actual credentials are.  Maybe he is highly qualified to opine on the issues in that video.  Maybe he isn't and just talks a good game.  I honestly don't know and don't have an opinion either way.  But I don't think anyone here has attacked or tried to undermine his credentials at all.  I think you are misunderstanding and perhaps being a bit defensive.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2018, 12:56:42 PM by bosk1 »
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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #43 on: May 03, 2018, 12:53:29 PM »
I think you’re misunderstanding something here. I wasn’t making a dig at Zach - far from it. I know very well who he is, and his credentials. He’s the real deal. Pretty sure you can find videos of his vocal performances from his education days still on YouTube.
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Offline Skeever

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #44 on: May 03, 2018, 01:40:42 PM »
I think you’re misunderstanding something here. I wasn’t making a dig at Zach - far from it. I know very well who he is, and his credentials. He’s the real deal. Pretty sure you can find videos of his vocal performances from his education days still on YouTube.

My misunderstanding, then. I did go back and read your post and realized you were talking about Ravenskill.


Offline Mladen

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #45 on: May 03, 2018, 02:16:42 PM »
This video was made as a result of an on-going barrage of videos from a certain individual who's attacking James (and the band and anyone in the fandom who supports the band) very harshly.
That was the first thing that crossed my mind after seeing the video. It's my impression that on the last two tours James was a bit more criticized than earlier. I remember it was pretty much all praise during ADTOE and DT12 tours. That might be why the harsh videos gained a few more followers than they would have had they occured five years ago. Hopefully some of those people will take a look into an insightful, intelligent and constructive analysis for a change, because I feel Zach puts it across very eloquently and with great argumentation.

It's important that there have always been plenty of complimentary videos on youtube over the years, too. Does anyone remember the "James LaBrie nailing it" compilations that were around a while ago?

Offline ZachAnsley

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #46 on: May 03, 2018, 02:52:51 PM »
Hello everyone!  I am at work on my cell phone, so there is no way I will have time to address every single post here.  First off though, I want to thank all of you for being respectful and supportive in your responses to my video.  This topic really is dear to my heart, as I have built my life and career upon helping others improve their voices and helping curb bad habits and sustain vocal health and longevity.

To curtail some of the questions about my credentials - I am a voice teacher at The Music Studio at Vinings in Atlanta Georgia.  I formerly taught at the Columbia Arts Academy and Lexington School of Music in Columbia, South Carolina.  I studied Vocal Performance at Augusta State University (Now known simply as Augusta University) in Augusta Georgia under the tutelage of Dr. J. William Hobbins.  I've been in formal voice study for 15 years, and I have been teaching professionally for 3 years.  I have had hundreds of students from all facets of music, from Onur Coblanogu, Turkish contestant on The Voice, to Robert Edens and Myles Yang of Native Construct, to many Atlanta based performers and songwriters.

My passion is understanding and implementing healthy vocal habits, and I make absolute certain to ensure that my commentary is based upon peer reviewed, known facts about the vocal mechanism.  While it is true that there is more than one way to skin a cat with regards to vocal health, there are undeniable truisms with regard to the larynx, various methods of resonance, and the effect of tension and strain of the mechanism over time.

With regards to conflating the term autotune and pitch correction - while I have sung in studio settings a fair amount, I also in no way claim to be an expert on production.  I lumped the two terms together for the sake of simplifying my content for the unknowing audience.  I do the same with regards to the finer details of the singing mechanism.  I don't want to overwhelm my audience with too much jargon.  I also specifically mention that modern production practices treat recordings more like a composition or production than a recording, which is why techniques like pitch correction are so prevalent.  My overarching point was to show that James' bad habits have been prevalent even throughout times that the live recordings have been adjusted to show otherwise.  I also address, in detail, the reason that James seems to sound better live than on handheld recordings.

I made the video to hopefully provide a more academically based, objective approach to listening to James sing - so as to temper the expectations of the fan boys and to give a different, possibly more empathetic perspective to the hardcore bashers/haters.  I do hope I achieve that goal.

At any rate, I just wanted to drop in and clarify some things.  Feel free to ask me any questions you have about the subject or the video. :)

Offline El Barto

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #47 on: May 03, 2018, 03:06:08 PM »
I made the video to hopefully provide a more academically based, objective approach to listening to James sing - so as to temper the expectations of the fan boys and to give a different, possibly more empathetic perspective to the hardcore bashers/haters.  I do hope I achieve that goal.
Yeah, good luck with that. Some of us are neither, though. I'll check out the video later and you'll probably inform the hell out of me.
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Offline bosk1

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #48 on: May 03, 2018, 03:07:47 PM »
Thanks for posting, Zach.  Glad to have you here to answer questions and for us to get info directly from the horse's--er...vocal instructor's--mouth.  :)

I made the video to hopefully provide a more academically based, objective approach to listening to James sing - so as to temper the expectations of the fan boys and to give a different, possibly more empathetic perspective to the hardcore bashers/haters.  I do hope I achieve that goal.

^I like this part of your post quite a bit.  I can appreciate your perspective on why you made the video.  And I definitely DO think you achieved your goal.  And I also think it was respectfully done, which is important.

I do confess that I bristle a bit at statements like "there are undeniable truisms with regard to the larynx, various methods of resonance, and the effect of tension and strain of the mechanism over time."  I am not saying you are wrong.  I wouldn't presume to do so.  But--hopefully I am saying this well enough to not be misinterpreted--I guess I just resist the idea that, when it comes to the human body and how it works, that we can say such things with such seeming absolute certainty.  I mean, yeah, we understand a lot in this day and age.  But we don't understand everything.  And well-established experts still can disagree with one another, and can get things absolutely wrong.  Not directly related to this discussion, but in my lifetime, experts swore that, after extensive, peer-reviewed research, it was indisputable that margarine is a healthy choice that is MUCH better for the human body than butter.  Nowadays, we know that it is one of the worst things you can put in your body.  :lol  Knowledge changes.  And things that are indisputable one day are proven wrong or inconclusive the next. 

Anyhow, that said, please don't misunderstand--I have a great amount of respect for your knowledge base, and a great deal of appreciation for your opinions and your explanations at how you arrived at them.  Keep up the good work.  :tup
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Offline cramx3

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #49 on: May 03, 2018, 03:14:36 PM »
Thanks for posting Zach.  I haven't watched the video (I think it's going to be above my head) but I appreciate someone putting some actual thought and analysis (especially from a SME) to JLB and not just bashing him.

Offline Setlist Scotty

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #50 on: May 03, 2018, 04:25:16 PM »
Glad you're joining us Zach - I really appreciate you taking the time (no pun intended) to make that video to try to explain things.  :tup  For someone like me who has no voice training, there were some things that went over my head a bit, but overall I understood everything.

And for those of you who haven't watched the video, I encourage you to do so. It's a little long, but very informative and worth the time. If you're like me, you'll walk away with a better understanding of what happens to a vocalist over time.

I'm definitely looking forward to more of Zach's videos, be it about JL or other vocalists, since the responses I've seen on YT have requested more background about others too.
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Offline DoctorAction

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #51 on: May 03, 2018, 04:48:51 PM »
Big love here for James. I love his tone. His voice just connects with me emotionally. Even on the DT output i dislike (TA and TOT, for example) he brings a very genuine quality to proceedings.

One of the all time greats for me.

Offline Evai

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #52 on: May 03, 2018, 05:43:08 PM »
JLB never belts the F#5 in Learning To Live though, that would sound awful. He always switches into another voice for the last note and it sounds good every time.
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Offline ZachAnsley

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #53 on: May 03, 2018, 05:49:23 PM »
He definitely does.  If you are interested, I could take a few minutes and demonstrate to you the differences on skype in the next couple of days.

The clip I use in my video is one of him using reinforced falsetto, which is the far healthier approach than he uses today.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2018, 05:57:14 PM by ZachAnsley »

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #54 on: May 04, 2018, 02:47:34 AM »
https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/news/general_music_news/dream_theaters_james_labrie_opens_up_on_how_vocal_rupture_affected_him_it_was_a_very_dark_period.html 

Quote
"For example, when we finished this last tour in December, we have been out just shy of two years touring. So that's a lot of shows and each night it's three hours. And what happened to me a couple of times on the tour, I got pretty sick. Like sinus infection, bad colds, flu, stuff like that. And then nowadays it doesn't matter when you go out and then you say, 'I'm only gonna sing 80%, I gotta really watch myself here because I'm a sicker than a dog.'

"You've got trolls out on the internet and they're going, 'What the fuck is wrong with LaBrie?!' And you're just sitting there... At the end of the day, you're still a human being, you've got feelings in your life. You get upset, you're going, 'You have no fucking idea what I was going through.'

"It's an organic instrument and you're trying to get the best of it. And it doesn't matter what singer I've talked to in the world, they've all gone through it and they've all had their acrimonious people that were cutting them up left, right, and center. And it's a freaking horrible situation.

"But the way I look at it is like, 'Whatever...' You're not gonna satisfy everyone. They don't necessarily have to know what you're going through. If that makes them feel better by criticizing someone when they're down - so be it. I hope to never sit around and I hope to never meet them because someone like that is just shallow as far as I'm concerned.

"You know what? We've picked our instrument right. And I stand behind it 100%. We're not gonna be 100% capacity all the time but if you can sit back and say to yourself, 'For the most part I'm there,' then that's all that matters."
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Offline ZachAnsley

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #55 on: May 04, 2018, 02:59:05 AM »
Looks like it lines up pretty well with what I said in the video.

Offline Evai

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #56 on: May 04, 2018, 04:53:34 AM »
In the 90's he used a mixed voice for the note, nowadays he uses reinforced falsetto, similar to how vocalists like Brian Johnson and Axl Rose use it to disguise their head voice into sounding chesty.
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Offline MirrorMask

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #57 on: May 04, 2018, 04:58:43 AM »
Well, usually vocal coach / trainers actually can sing and know how to sing (correctly).  Not knowing how to sing is the exception, not the rule.
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Offline mikeyd23

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #58 on: May 04, 2018, 08:15:38 AM »
Thanks for posting Zach, I was the one that mentioned the auto-tune vs. pitch correction comment... Just a little constructive criticism/observation, no big deal. Like I said before, overall I really enjoyed the video, and I think you shared some really good insight.

Question for you - would you consider doing a video where you played clips of James singing either live (concert CD or DVD) or in the studio and broke down the different things he was doing or not doing and how that was changing his delivery? Just a thought. Thanks again for posting.

Offline ZachAnsley

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #59 on: May 04, 2018, 10:00:22 AM »
In the 90's he used a mixed voice for the note, nowadays he uses reinforced falsetto, similar to how vocalists like Brian Johnson and Axl Rose use it to disguise their head voice into sounding chesty.

Can you show me some examples?  Maybe I haven't seen the right videos to demonstrate this.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2018, 10:11:51 AM by ZachAnsley »

Offline ZachAnsley

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #60 on: May 04, 2018, 10:04:45 AM »
Thanks for posting, Zach.  Glad to have you here to answer questions and for us to get info directly from the horse's--er...vocal instructor's--mouth.  :)

I do confess that I bristle a bit at statements like "there are undeniable truisms with regard to the larynx, various methods of resonance, and the effect of tension and strain of the mechanism over time."  I am not saying you are wrong.  I wouldn't presume to do so.  But--hopefully I am saying this well enough to not be misinterpreted--I guess I just resist the idea that, when it comes to the human body and how it works, that we can say such things with such seeming absolute certainty.  I mean, yeah, we understand a lot in this day and age.  But we don't understand everything.  And well-established experts still can disagree with one another, and can get things absolutely wrong.  Not directly related to this discussion, but in my lifetime, experts swore that, after extensive, peer-reviewed research, it was indisputable that margarine is a healthy choice that is MUCH better for the human body than butter.  Nowadays, we know that it is one of the worst things you can put in your body.  :lol  Knowledge changes.  And things that are indisputable one day are proven wrong or inconclusive the next. 

I see where you're coming from, and I want to stress that I am not suggesting that our understanding of the voice will never change.  If some new, better analysis develops about the voice and the way that it works, I will catch up on it and adjust my views accordingly.    I would be remiss as an educator if I didn't do that.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2018, 10:19:17 AM by bosk1 »

Offline bosk1

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #61 on: May 04, 2018, 10:17:28 AM »
Zach, I'm curious about your take on something related to passages like the one you reference above in Learning To Live.  Actually, as I am typing and thinking my point through, it is more about how other things take a toll on being able to execute passages like those, but still.  Let me get there...  :)

So, when I think about passages like the buildup to the F# in Learning To Live, it strikes me how simultaneously difficult and impressively vocal-friendly that passage is.  The F# is extremely challenging for most vocalists, especially since, when sung properly, the singer not only hits it, but sustains the note.  At the same time, as you have pointed out, it is such a well-constructed passage that allows such a nice buildup that is actually quite friendly to the singer and helps with the transition you mention.  But still, it is a challenging passage.

To me, there is an additional challenge in a live setting of that song, and consequently, that passage, coming toward the end of an already very challenging set.

Part of the challenge lies not only with the fact that the sets are long, but also with the fact that they are filled with plenty of other VERY challenging vocal passages, many of which are NOT well-written from a standpoint of being "singer-friendly."  Take Metropolis, pt. I, for example.  It is a great song.  And one that was a fantastic vocal performance one the album, where James had the luxury of multiple takes, rests, and being able to punch in isolated lines (as all singers do in the studio environment).  But the entire second verse/bridge leading up to the instrumental can be EXTREMELY hard to deliver.  Even making some of the changes James typically makes in a live setting, there is little space to breathe and get proper breath support to sing well.  This leads James to push and do other things that are probably bad for his voice (as I think just about any singer would in that passage).  I believe this tires his voice significantly, which can then lead to other less favorable techniques later in the set, which then impacts passages like the F# buildup in LTL.  On the LSFNY set and the recent I&W tour, James has had to deal with that very challenge.  And even on other tours with completely different sets, there are similar passage that have vocal passages that, even with James trying to adjust them in a live setting, just aren't not singer-friendly and cause him to tire.

What is your take on that?  (sorry if the question is vague and/or broad; hopefully, you see where I am going)


EDIT:  And I edited the quote tags on your previous post for you, since they made the quotes appear incorrectly.  Forum coding can be a pain.  :)
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Offline ZachAnsley

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #62 on: May 04, 2018, 12:38:34 PM »
Zach, I'm curious about your take on something related to passages like the one you reference above in Learning To Live.  Actually, as I am typing and thinking my point through, it is more about how other things take a toll on being able to execute passages like those, but still.  Let me get there...  :)

So, when I think about passages like the buildup to the F# in Learning To Live, it strikes me how simultaneously difficult and impressively vocal-friendly that passage is.  The F# is extremely challenging for most vocalists, especially since, when sung properly, the singer not only hits it, but sustains the note.  At the same time, as you have pointed out, it is such a well-constructed passage that allows such a nice buildup that is actually quite friendly to the singer and helps with the transition you mention.  But still, it is a challenging passage.

To me, there is an additional challenge in a live setting of that song, and consequently, that passage, coming toward the end of an already very challenging set.

Part of the challenge lies not only with the fact that the sets are long, but also with the fact that they are filled with plenty of other VERY challenging vocal passages, many of which are NOT well-written from a standpoint of being "singer-friendly."  Take Metropolis, pt. I, for example.  It is a great song.  And one that was a fantastic vocal performance one the album, where James had the luxury of multiple takes, rests, and being able to punch in isolated lines (as all singers do in the studio environment).  But the entire second verse/bridge leading up to the instrumental can be EXTREMELY hard to deliver.  Even making some of the changes James typically makes in a live setting, there is little space to breathe and get proper breath support to sing well.  This leads James to push and do other things that are probably bad for his voice (as I think just about any singer would in that passage).  I believe this tires his voice significantly, which can then lead to other less favorable techniques later in the set, which then impacts passages like the F# buildup in LTL.  On the LSFNY set and the recent I&W tour, James has had to deal with that very challenge.  And even on other tours with completely different sets, there are similar passage that have vocal passages that, even with James trying to adjust them in a live setting, just aren't not singer-friendly and cause him to tire.

What is your take on that?  (sorry if the question is vague and/or broad; hopefully, you see where I am going)


EDIT:  And I edited the quote tags on your previous post for you, since they made the quotes appear incorrectly.  Forum coding can be a pain.  :)

I completely understand the question, and I am going to offer a response that you probably wouldn't expect if you aren't a singer yourself:

NEVER, and I mean NEVER, let an instrumentalist write your vocal lines for you.  There is historical precedence for this answer.  It comes in the form of one of the greatest musical minds that the world has ever seen:  Johann Sebastian Bach.  While being a prodigious genius, and while being able to play 20 or so instruments fluently, he couldn't sing.  At all.  As a result, he had no idea how to write vocal lines for his singers that took into account things like feasible intervals, registration changes, proper ranges for voice types, and ESPECIALLY giving singers a chance to breathe.  His music is rife with melismas (strings of notes on one syllable, pop singers call them 'riffs' and 'runs') that are essentially impossible to be sung in one breath.  He also treated the voice like an instrument that can be manipulated in the same way that, for example, a violin could.

As a personal anecdote, I had the distinct displeasure of performing his Quia Fecit Mihi Magna, and that is one recording that will never see the light of day, because I am certain that I butchered it.  It felt practically impossible to sing, and I never quite got a grasp on how to just freaking figure out where to breathe.  This is about as good of a performance of the piece you are going to find, and even in this he took some shortcuts on breathing to make it easier (The orchestra adjusted tempos to give him time to breathe in places that the music doesn't allow for):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZEUjC53upA Classical singers everywhere share my sentiments toward his music, and studying his pieces is a great way to learn why the singer should ALWAYS be in control of the process of writing vocal lines.  Metropolis was written before JLB joined the band, and Charlie Dominici effectively sung the song with a similar melodic approach to James, which suggests that it wasn't written by either of them, and rather one of the other members of the band, who, lets face it, aren't exactly concert caliber singers.  I think that any time a singer is forced to sing something that wasn't written with the singer in mind it is easy to run into problems.

I hope that answers the question a bit.  Just think about the inverse.  If you play an instrument, imagine a singer who had no knowledge of your instrument essentially pushing a part on you that took no consideration of the capabilities of you or your instrument.  Singers run into that a lot, actually.

Offline MirrorMask

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #63 on: May 04, 2018, 12:43:10 PM »
I think we can see many examples of that with Iron Maiden. There are so many Steve Harris songs where the singer is supposed to spit out a thousand words per second that it's borderline annoying  :lol

Really, James should be the one writing all of his vocal lines, or making any change he deems necessary.
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Offline rumborak

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #64 on: May 04, 2018, 01:36:32 PM »
IIRC, when you take the composer career track at Berklee, you have to take all these classes on the different instruments, to know what comes naturally to them and what is unplayable, so you can write good lines for them.
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Offline bosk1

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #65 on: May 04, 2018, 02:29:13 PM »
I completely understand the question, and I am going to offer a response that you probably wouldn't expect if you aren't a singer yourself:

NEVER, and I mean NEVER, let an instrumentalist write your vocal lines for you. 

[...and lots of other really cool stuff]

Ha!  Yeah, I totally get that.  That was basically my point behind the question.  As a singer myself (although a very amateur one with very little formal training), I completely get what you are saying.  As you trace the band's evolution, it is interesting to observe how prevalent those types of problematic vocal passages are on the first two albums (Only a Matter of Time, Light Fuse and Get Away, Metropolis, Take the Time, just to name a few), and how we see the band apparently gradually start to "get it" that those types of passages aren't sustainable for a singer and to move away from them down the road.

My question was actually a bit more specific though, but my fault for not wording it more clearly.  What you posted was a lot of awesome detail behind what I was assuming as the backdrop for my question.  Taking what you said above as a given, what is your take on how having those types of songs, even if only a few, in an already-challenging set can wear out his voice in a live setting, and then basically force him into using not-so-good-for-you technique on passages that aren't so challenging, just because his voice is already too tired to sing them properly (like the F# buildup in LTL)?
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Offline ZachAnsley

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #66 on: May 04, 2018, 03:45:43 PM »
I completely understand the question, and I am going to offer a response that you probably wouldn't expect if you aren't a singer yourself:

NEVER, and I mean NEVER, let an instrumentalist write your vocal lines for you. 

[...and lots of other really cool stuff]

Ha!  Yeah, I totally get that.  That was basically my point behind the question.  As a singer myself (although a very amateur one with very little formal training), I completely get what you are saying.  As you trace the band's evolution, it is interesting to observe how prevalent those types of problematic vocal passages are on the first two albums (Only a Matter of Time, Light Fuse and Get Away, Metropolis, Take the Time, just to name a few), and how we see the band apparently gradually start to "get it" that those types of passages aren't sustainable for a singer and to move away from them down the road.

My question was actually a bit more specific though, but my fault for not wording it more clearly.  What you posted was a lot of awesome detail behind what I was assuming as the backdrop for my question.  Taking what you said above as a given, what is your take on how having those types of songs, even if only a few, in an already-challenging set can wear out his voice in a live setting, and then basically force him into using not-so-good-for-you technique on passages that aren't so challenging, just because his voice is already too tired to sing them properly (like the F# buildup in LTL)?

There is a famous anecdote that should answer this question pretty well.

Placido Domingo was one week away from performing Di Quella Pira in Verdi's Il Travtore.  The cast had practiced the opera many many times, but Domingo would always stop before the infamous high C in the piece.

Finally, 6 days before the performance, the conductor, upon Domingo stopping at the note, threw his baton and yelled angrily "Placido!  When will we get your C?", to which he responded:

"Maestro.  I will give you a high C.  You can choose if you want it now or on opening night."

The moral of the story is that no practice is worth a performance.  Taking care of your instrument is more important than using it at the whim of other people.  The truth is that the voice simply isn't built to do what James does, and there is no way to mitigate it without a)holding back, which will result in a subpar performance, or b) performing less frequently.

I actually think that their most vocally demanding song is Another Day because the tessitura of the song is just consistently in the stratosphere, and the lower parts are sung with a heavily covered or breathy sound.  I've never seen a performance of it where I felt like he was managing the demand of it particularly efficiently.  After a certain period of time, if I were his voice coach I would tell him to either remove that song from his repertoire entirely or drastically lower the key.  Those are really the only options that are feasible to keep his voice intact for an entire show.  Possibly moving them to the back of the setlist could help, but even then it will still cause the same, or possibly even more strain than it would otherwise.

If Placido only has one good high C, do you want it when he is fresh, and possibly hurt the performance as a whole, or do you want it after hours of practice, when it may not be as strong, but the rest of the performance won't be affected?

Offline bosk1

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #67 on: May 04, 2018, 03:51:27 PM »
I actually think that their most vocally demanding song is Another Day because the tessitura of the song is just consistently in the stratosphere, and the lower parts are sung with a heavily covered or breathy sound.  I've never seen a performance of it where I felt like he was managing the demand of it particularly efficiently.  After a certain period of time, if I were his voice coach I woild tell him to either remove that song from his repertoire entirely lr drastically lower the key.

You are not the only one on this forum to have said that very thing.  But you are now one of two people.  ;) 

...well, except for the fact that I have never in my life uttered the term "tessitura," because if not for the context of what we are talking about, I wouldn't have the first clue what it means.  :lol
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Offline krands85

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #68 on: May 04, 2018, 05:18:10 PM »
1992.04.10 - Dream Theater - Another Day (Long Island) - this is the best live performance of Another Day I've ever heard. Whether it sounding great also equates to him handling it 'efficiently', as a layman - I don't know  :biggrin: What I do know is, if I had a time machine I'd be going back to this particular show, it's an absolutely incredible vocal performance the whole night!
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Offline rumborak

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Re: The Curious Case of JLB (analysis of JLB's vocals)
« Reply #69 on: May 04, 2018, 05:34:33 PM »
To me, Take The Time is the one where I feel they should have sat down before the tour and discussed what they do about it. It had already been retired for good reason from the setlists, and James was left to invent new lines while being on tour, on the fly. I think an equally as good set of lines, much more in his current range, could have been found before the beginning of the tour. I mean, James must have known what would happen live trying to sing that song.
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