Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Sometimes signing can be taken to greater heights when for example the term “extended techniques” is used. This refers to inhaling as a method of producing melodies as opposed to just exhaling and just singing the notes.

In a way, Extended vocal techniques are advanced ways of singing that began around the 20th century, and it’s about exploring the potential of a singer’s voice going beyond just the singing part. Just like there are many techniques to play instruments, there are also techniques for singing.

Inhaling

It may feel very strange at first, but there is a way to sing by inhaling, not just exhaling.

According to Joan La Barbara, a professional singer, talks in an interview with musicguy247, about experimenting with this vocal technique by taking inspiration from how a specific instrument plays.

My piece “Circular Song” for example, was inspired by the circular breathing technique of horn players. Of course as a vocalist you can’t do that, so what I did was to vocalize the inhale as well as the exhale. A piece called “One Note Internal Resonance investigation” explored the myriad possibilities one can make with just a single pitch… putting it in isolated resonance areas in the head… doing reinforced harmonics and multi-phonics. From that point I began to develop a whole vocabulary of extended techniques that were an orchestra of voices in a way. Certain sounds were more percussive… more string like… or woodwind like. When I began creating pieces, I would draw on some of these extended techniques as well as more conventional techniques.

Falsetto

This is one of the most common techniques in singing, it’s popular and it’s not that hard to do it, although it is hard to master. This is a technique that allows to change pitch drastically. Some call this “head voice” because it resonates in the head rather than the chest. It’s a simple technique as it allows to go beyond a singer’s normal range.

Sprechgesang and Sprechstimme

This one is not that complicated but it is important to know about it. It’s basically a combination between speaking and singing, which can be often related to composer Arnold Schoenberg and it was first used in Pierrot Lunaire in 1912.

It’s all about singing in a lowet pitch and clear spoken words.

Yodelling

This is a type of singing that consists in alternating rapidly between chest voice and head voice.

it’s interesting that it’s not always used for music. In many places (mostly mountains) people used yodelling as a way of communicating over great distances. On the other hand others believe that regardless of the mountainous scenery yodelling was a very present vocal technique, Bart Plantenga comments on this by saying that:

“There are tons of yodelers in France and the Netherlands. It’s also in punk and contemporary rock. It’s coming back like crazy. Jewel is a big yodeler. A lot of African musicians use yodeling. That’s what my book tried to dispel, the idea that it’s limited to this one area of the Alps.”

Bart Plantenga

The origin of yodelling is often traced back to Switzerland, but there is no actually proof it originated there, in fact some say it actually originated way back in Africa.

“At the beginning of mankind, when man decided he could do different things with his voice. More practically, it probably began 10,000 years or so ago, when animals first were domesticated, [as] a way to keep the cattle together. It probably also had to do with people amusing themselves. The Pygmies [still] use it for many things, including feasts and playing. They have this method of singing back and forth between two voices, and it’s just pure pleasure at that level.”

Bart Plantenga

Overtone Singing

Harmonics and overtone singing are some of the hardest singing techniques, this can come in the form of overtones, undertones and multiphonics.

This technique involves singing in two different pitches at the same time. Singing in two notes at the same time is achieved by singing with double resonance by merging two resonance frequencies that come from the pharynx and oral cavity.

Distortion

Many singers today use distortion in their voice to have that rock raspy voice that sometimes confuses people, because it sounds like they are putting strain in their voice, but they are not.

There are however different types of distortion, some of them are: screaming, growling and just simple distortion for that slight raspy voice.

For me the term extended adds an extra element to make singers either feel that they have to be specialists to do it, that they need to take care (after all there are lots of yodelling related injuries in A&E) – instead of making it a divide, seeing as it used in most music nowadays except classical music, and it is a sound that a human can make at all – they will be able to do it in a healthy way. So don’t be afraid of the big bad wolf, have some fun and play around with your own voice.

jackiehole.com

These are just a few extended vocal techniques that you can learn, but there are more to be explored with near endless ways of making them your own, so if you’re interested in taking one step further, it’s time to start exploring!

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When you think about art, you think about something beautiful, something enjoyable, entertaining, life changing, full of emotions and something timeless. Yes there are trends and the times change, but art has a special thing that makes it last almost forever.

In music the same applies, and the legacy of thousands of musicians remain even long after they are gone, a legacy that takes many shapes and forms. However a few of them manage to change a little part of the world with their art, in music more specifically rock, one guitarrist took the instrument to new heights and opened an infinite number of possibilities, his name is Eddie Van Halen.

Van Halen passed away on October 6th, 2020, in a long struggle against cancer, and people all over the world reacted with sadness but remembering him for his big mark in the history of music.

The Beginning

Eddie Van Halen was born on January 26, 1955. He was born in Nijmegan, Netherlands. He and his brother Alex began playing after taking piano lessons. Eddie took the drums and Alex the guitar, but they swapped places as Alex was a better drummer, and Eddie started to put a lot effort and time with the guitar, being influenced by some of the greatest such as Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page.

After playing for a while, David Lee Roth and Michael Anthony joined the band and eventually formed Mammoth. This was the moment when Eddie really started to blossom as a hard rock guitarrist, going as far as to getting the most out of tapping in a way nobody could ever think of. Even though he did not invent that way of playing, he did show the world the full potential of tapping. Not only did he managed to play with great speed and precision, he also was able to make some of the greatest guitar riffs ever, the band even changed the name to Van Halen, and while Alex was a great drummer we all know why that was.

Everyone Wants Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen became recognized as one of the greatest guitarrists out there, with his custom made guitars, bold captivating playing and a great band to back him up.

But his succes went even beyon the band as many other artists saw his talent, including Michael Jackson, who had a little song called “Beat It”. This song had some rock in it despite being a song from the king of pop, and who better to make a guitar solo than Eddie Van Halen?

He also collaborated with Brian May from Queen in the album called Star Fleet Project which was an idea from Brian May including many other artists.

Innovation

Eddie Van Halen will forever be in history as one of the most influential and important figures in rock, as he not only carried the torch from all those rock bands from the 70s to the 80s but also composed in a way that changed rock music forever.

From easy but strong power chords, to blues feeling, whammy bar, classical influences and tapping, Eddie Van Halen had everything you could have as a skill and influence when playing the guitar, and it came together beautifully.

The Story of The Frankenstrat Guitar

He was also very interested in experimenting with guitars, which started with his signature Frankenstein.

In a 2016 interview with Stuart Williams from musicradar.com he talked about how it happened.

“Let me start at the beginning. When I first started playing guitar, I was at the local music store, which wasn’t even a music store, it was kind of like a Radio Shack that also sold musical instruments, it was called Lafayette Music.

“I fell in love with this hollowbody 12-string because of the neck, and the first thing I did was I took six strings off, because it was a 12-string, and I didn’t want 12! They didn’t have what I wanted in the store, so it had already started there!

“Then, I got a paper route; we didn’t have any money and my parents couldn’t afford to buy us equipment. So I saved the money from delivering papers for two and a half to three years, and bought my first real guitar, which was a ’68 Goldtop Les Paul with single-coil P-90 pickups.

“So what do I do? I take the chisel to it right away! Because I wanted a humbucking pickup! But in Pasadena, there were no Les Pauls with a humbucker in them. There was one store in northern Pasadena – a Les Paul came in and they called me right away ‘Hey, we’ve got a Les Paul!’ I walk in and I go, ‘Ah, shit! It ain’t the kind Clapton plays!’ It didn’t have humbuckers.

“So, of course, I hunted down a humbucker, took a chisel and made the hole bigger and crammed it in there. I was lucky enough to solder it back properly, then I painted it black and added binding. I did all kinds of crazy shit to it.

“The funny thing is, I only changed the bridge pickup and left the P-90 neck pickup. Since my right hand was covering the bridge pickup, when I played people were going, ‘How the fuck’s he getting that sound out of a P-90?!’ Because that’s all they could see. Little did they know that I’d stuck a humbucker in there!

“From there, I bought a Strat, and the rest of the guys in the band hated the way it sounded! And I couldn’t really handle the hum, so it was just a logical marriage to – with the humbucker – cross a Gibson with a Fender. Because I loved the vibrato bar, and that was probably the most difficult thing; trying to figure out how to keep that thing in tune. This might take a while, but I’ll try to explain…

“Everything from the bridge to the tuning peg had to be perfectly straight. The only reason a tremolo goes out of tune is because of friction. When you bring the vibrato bar down and if the string angle is wrong then it’s not gonna slide back to its original position.

“So, I would do things like take the string and put it through the tuning peg hole and wind it up instead of down, so there would be no tension on the nut to the tuning peg. I had a brass nut that I cut larger grooves into, and I put oil in it all to eliminate any friction that could cause the string to hang up.

“Another problem is Fender Strats always have the string retainers, I removed them. Again, to eliminate any other factor that would cause the string to not slide back and forth smoothly. As a result if I hit an open string too hard it would pop out of the nut.

“So, I’d have to keep my index finger on the other side of the nut to keep it from popping out! I got away with that – in the club days, through the whole first record and live on tour. That’s how I used the stock Fender tremolo until the locking tremolo was introduced.”

RIP Eddie Van Halen, a real guitar hero.

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Music always pays homage to artists that made history in many ways, one of them is covers, but sometimes covers reinvent the original in creative ways without altering the feeling that was intended to have. These covers are mostly associated with people that post in social media and just do it for fun, the interesting part of this is that there are succesful artists out there that want to do the same, just have fun while remembering music history.

One supergroup/cover band that has been showing up a lot lately is the Jaded Hearts Club Band, which initially focused in covering the Beatles, but now expanded their horizons to soul and other rock classics.

The members are all musicians with well known careers in the industry. The band consists of Jamie Davies, Miles Kane, Sean Payne, Graham Coxon, Nic Cester and Matt Bellamy.

One of the greatest things about this is that is just simple pure fun, this is an idea that came from playing at a birthday party, and they had so much fun that it was impossible to just leave it at that, so they decided to make it a project, a cool little side project.

NME Interview

In an interview with NME the band discusses how they handle the fact that they are a supergroup and how they got into the project.

Guitarrist Jamie Davis said:

Supergroups have got a bad reputation for massive egos and not sticking it out. We try to treat The Jaded Hearts Club like a new band who will continue. We are officially what a supergroup is, but we’re trying to stay away from those associations as much as possible, by playing gigs and making music as often as we can.

One of the things that keeps them away from all of that ego fighting drama is the fact that they are just having fun, drummer Sean Payne says: “There’s no bullshit or head games. It’s simple: Turn up, play, have a laugh.”

On how they got together as a band, Jamie says:

“I wanted to hire a Beatles band for my birthday. But then I saw how much they cost, plus they were all a bit naff. Then I thought, ‘Hold on, I know a few musicians…’ It was a eureka moment. I’d thought, ‘They’ll do me this one favour and it’ll be this one gig’. But, after the party, everyone was going, ‘That was really good, we should do this again’.

Just a Cover Band?

Jaded

During the NME interview they all gave their opinions on making original music in the future (with the exception of Matt Bellamy who wasn’t present at the interview).

Nic: “Everyone’s tastes are more or less aligned, so I’m sure it’s possible.”

Miles: “At this point, the next album will probably be more covers.”

Jamie: “Matt and I text each other every day with suggestions for other great lost songs, and we’ve easily got enough for volume two.”

Sean: “The way we’re doing it keeps any songwriting egos out of it. But I’m sure new songs will naturally fall into place. We need to watch The Traveling Wilburys documentary to see how they did it. Everyone wrote in that band, and they managed to kick the doors down straight away.”

Their Debut album “You’ve Always Been Here” is out today and while it doesn’t cover any new ground in music, it’s hard not to enjoy the talent from each one of the members through classics.

Even more than just enjoying, one of the ideas behind the band is to bring old musical gems to everyone’s attention. There are hundreds if not thousands of songs that are all over stream services but don’t get enough plays. Maybe with this fun project, we can go back in music history and enjoy some of the classics in soul, blues and more.

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