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  • Requesting feedback on singing career

    I'm a singer, first and foremost.  I always get compliments for my "great voice".  But I've been unable to take advantage of it.  I've had small gigs here and there, for many years.  I find it much easier to do solo gigs because I don't have to pay the other musicians.  For example, one weekend I had a gig with bass and drums accompaniment at a venue with a big stage meant for bands, and when they "passed the hat" we got only 10 euros.  (This was when I was living in Europe.)  The next week I got $100 euros when I played solo in a nice restaurant in town.  I would like to do really good gigs with excellent session players (which is I think the way solo acts work with bands), but the pro players won't come without the money, and I can't set up the gigs without the band.  So my whole sound is limited to the repertoire that I can work up on guitar or piano.  (I *will not* use backing tracks!). 

     It's very frustrating to keep hearing "great voice" over and over again and not being able to have much success with it.  Of course, I have to balance the music with the tech freelancing, which I find myself going back to so that I can make money... Please have a look at my websites and see if you can give me some good advice on moving forward. Have a listen to the songs, some with bands and some solo.  I would appreciate any honest feedback.


    Many thanks!

    www.davidscottbrown.com

    www.reverbnation.com/davidscottbrown

     


  • #2

    Hard facts...based on the samples I listened to (Blue Suede, Vermont, Skin) your voice is unremarkable. Passable, workable, but nothing to get all het up over. Sorry...true. Check some of the 'competition' here to see what I mean... http://www.harmonycentral.com/t5/Solo-and-Duo-Acts/Post-some-videos-of-your-act/m-p/32461152#M4865


    Potts...Mike McLaughlin...Shaster... Musical Schizo...Stratguy22...Eightstring [covers the same general material as you do, as do I....so although I don't currently have any of my material as a solo posted (I'm still working on some vids), I have over forty years playing places in N.Y. & L.A. like BB Kings, hotel ballrooms and festival stages, and opening for national acts...I know what is great, good, and passable.]


    Don't be discouraged, though, because you certainly have perfomance skills, but you need to decide how you want to present them. Focus on one thing, and I would say that is the solo act. Get that so tight, so 'spot on', that adding a backing band is just that...adding them. You don't use backing tracks? Neither do I. Do you use a harmonizerfor vocals? If not, consider that, since it will add to the overall sound, and challenge your singing chops.


    As far as making money, you should certainly be able to cobble together some coffee house/restaurant/ art show/swap meet type gigs to build a decent following...do you have a 'street team'? I noticed you have a check box for that. Also, your website is, well, unappealing...color choice, layout and that annoying pop-up for free webhosting...marketing is a big part of being a soloist....look at some of the other forumites webpages for some good ideas.


    So stick around, join the community here, plenty of experienced people here to offer help, advice, share exeriences...me, I'm the brutally honest one.

    "We are currently experiencing some technical difficulties due to reality fluctuations. The elves are working tirelessly to patch the correct version of reality. Activities here have been temporarily disabled since the fundamentals of mathematics, physics and reason may be incomprehensible during this indeterminent period of instability. Normal service will be restored once we are certain as to what 'normal' is."

    Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally used up and worn out, shouting '...man, what a ride!'

    Comment


    • dbrowng1
      dbrowng1 commented
      Editing a comment

      Thanks very much with the feedback.  I agree with you on the assessment of those recordings with the jazz band (Blue Suede, Vermont, Skin, and others).  I really don't like my tremelo on those recordings, and I hesitated to use them.  I did this live gig with a jazz trio, and it was after having worked 15 days straight, three different shifts.  The sound quality is good because I had a friend who is a broadcast engineer do the recording. 

      If the recordings from that gig were the only ones you listened to, I can understand your assessment.  Have a listen to this and see if you feel that I am only in the "passable" category.  This is acappella Gospel: http://youtu.be/1SNeQFMYU20   I swear, I have been singing for years and I have never, ever heard that I have a "good voice".  The same words are always used by people from all different backgrounds: "great voice".  I have heard it said last year that my piano playing was "passable", which is better than what it was before.  That I can understand.


      I'm not saying you're assessment is wrong. I need to know what the perception is from my recordings as opposed to live performance. I've never been happy with any of my demos and I'm afraid to use them.  I've never gotten all the stars in aligment (session players, good production,etc) to create the sound I'm looking for.  If I can't create a good impression online, then I'm in trouble.

      Even if I do have a great voice, maybe that is not enough.  I do feel the spirit of poet, a troubadour, and I'm able to have these wonderful musical moments with like-minded people.  I think there are a lot of gimmicks and other things that attract attention.  If Rover the Dog could play the guitar, he would be a big hit.  I could imagine the cameras circling around him, then doing a close-up of his paw-fingering technique.  It wouldn't even have to be good.  Or passable, for that matter.


      regards,

      David


  • #3

    It always takes guts to ask for others opinions, and so I applaud you for that.

    Judging from where your voice is at (currently) I would suggest finding like minded people to back you up. I'm thinking folks that are pretty good, but not on the pro session level. 

    As an example of your competition.... I had a rehearsal today with this singer http://www.amandapwood.com/ Quite talented. She just got back from China and will be settling in to do some lounges and so on - probably the kind of gigs you're looking to do. Then there's another fellow I work with in the piano lounges... here's a sample http://www.siegelent.com/siegelent_profile/clyde-harvey-2 He's worked all over the world, can say a few words in quite a few languages, and can also play a variety of styles as well as his lounge stuff - and can fake almost any request. So based on the two above examples you have to wonder... who's going to get "the gig" if it's based on musical presentation, bio,  and total package.

    The other point I'd like to mention is that, some might say I am one of those "session" guys, and I get people saying to me that they would love to get together and rehearse for a few months and blah, blah blah, and my eyes start to glaze over. Not because I'm jaded, but because that means I would be losing money if I'm sitting in a rehearsal. I often try to convince them to find people with less talent (subjective of course) and more time, and often the project works out better because everyone puts the work in, and is committed to the cause. Seriously, you want people to believe in you and not be there just for the money.

    There is almost always a niche for what one does, the hard part is finding it.

    BTW we got paid for the rehearsal today - you've got to like that!

     

    Comment


    • dbrowng1
      dbrowng1 commented
      Editing a comment

      "The a capella piece has way too much reverb on it for my taste."


      That song was done in a church with big acoustics.  And it was recorded flat.

       

       


  • #4
    More accurately, you might be selling your voice, but that might be the problem. The market for voices pales in comparison to the market for people.
    Free prog-related metal from Michigan.

    http://www.silentlapse.com

    Comment


    • daddymack
      daddymack commented
      Editing a comment

      SLScott86 wrote:
      More accurately, you might be selling your voice, but that might be the problem. The market for voices pales in comparison to the market for people.

      Which opens another avenue...the voice may get him backing gigs with better known people, rather than struggling to book himself, maybe he could take a backing gig. No gear to haul, no heavy lifting...


  • #5
    I don't know if you actually are. I could only guess based on the exchanges here that put you on the defensive right away. I wasn't accusing you or assuming, just giving you something to take a look at and evaluate yourself. I'm in a prog metal band. I know a thing or two about snobbery. It won't come across in audio. Without delving into cargo shorts and music stands, I am just saying that a great, pure voice shouldn't be expected to translate to success.
    Free prog-related metal from Michigan.

    http://www.silentlapse.com

    Comment


    • #6

      While we're at it, Musical Schizo did a great rendition of that song. I would have no problem listening to him in a bar - and I don't even like that stuff.  The melody was hovering around G's and A's and he was belting it out without going into Michael Bolton mode Well done. You see, IMHO he nails that genre.

      So... whatever bag you're going for, you need to nail it in one way or other - either by dress, a good attitude, a good voice or whatever.  I've had the pleasure of working with Denny Clark, who did the American song book thing for years and years.  He had the total package and is still a real character. As an aside, Linton's keyboard patch is pretty weird, but he was pretty old at the time of this recording and was just getting into the electric. Heck of a player on acoustic though.

      So if you can raise yor bar to where Denny is, you might start to see more action. It's hard to say how far away you are. Maybe a small paradigm shift, maybe a lot of work. But if you're committed, then keep on truckin'.

       

      Comment


      • #7
        Pretty nice voice, could be better. Now for a critique! You have no phrasing on "Moonlight in Vermont". Crooners don't sing right on the beat and that's what you're doing. Listen to Willie, Nat King Cole, Sinatra, Buble etc. and work on phrasing.

        Next, your pitch goes a little off on all of the examples. That works for Bob Dylan, but since you have a pretty voice, you need to be closer to perfect with your pitch. You have great potential and your getting there. With a little work you may become exceptional.
        Winner of best guitarist in the house. (my house)!

        Comment


        • dbrowng1
          dbrowng1 commented
          Editing a comment

          I agree with you on both counts.  I know that I have pitch and intonation problems on all my recordings.  I would like to go back for voice lessons or coaching (I know I should), but I've never found the right teacher for me.  Plus it costs money.  And sometimes I wonder if it detracts from a more natural sound -- but that's really probably a cop out. 

           

          As for the phrasing, I think there is a danger of imitating the phrasings of others and then just becoming an imitator. One of my voice teacher friends just advised me to go back to the written notes and firm those up, and then you can go off on your own.  In live performance I do lots of phrasing and crucifixtion of the original melody.  Sometimes I wonder how much of that is good.  Many of these songs come from Broadway, and it could be if you go back to the original notes and then do it your own way, you will have a more distinct sound.  I've listened to Sinatra's Moonlight in Vermont, and I was quite surprised at how "incorrect" it was.  I think it would be wrong to use his phrasing just as I remember it.  Of course, I can't help but imitate Elvis and Cash when I do their songs.  Oh well.  I was definitely imitating Sinatra on "Under My Skin". (I've already deleted it.) But the phrasings and inflections should really be my own. 


      • #8

        I agree. I've tried sounding like others, and playing this losing game trying to "give people what they want" by trying to sing music and styles that I don't even like. If I try to sound like everyone else just because "that's the way it is", then I am sacrificing the very originality that defines art. I won't be happy and I won't be successful.. And it goes contrary to the originality that defines art itself.

        Comment


        • daddymack
          daddymack commented
          Editing a comment

          dbrowng1 wrote:

          I agree. I've tried sounding like others, and playing this losing game trying to "give people what they want" by trying to sing music and styles that I don't even like. If I try to sound like everyone else just because "that's the way it is", then I am sacrificing the very originality that defines art. I won't be happy and I won't be successful.. And it goes contrary to the originality that defines art itself.




          so, now comes the next crucial question...[wait for it...]


          are you an entertainer, or an artist, or both. We have this discussion periodically, and in your case, I think it is germane to the issue at hand.  Performing is multifaceted, and IMHO artists approach it differently than entertainers do.


          I spent decades trying to be 'an artist', and wound up an entertainer. I spent a large part of those same decades backing other people until the late 90s, when I finally felt I could be 'out front', and stand on my own, both as an instrumentalist, a singer, and a front person... but the good part was I observed those people and took away what I could use from all of them, in one way or another, and incorporated those things into my 'style'. Now I am treading the thin ice of being a solo, with no foils to rely on, and it has opened my eyes to many weaknesses, but many strengths as well. I'm in the process[still] of retraining my voice away from the down and dirty blues style that put me on the big stages here, and wondering if I can balance the two. But in the back of my mind, I do need both abilities, because I am an entertainer, and I need to give the people what they want, not just what I am willing to give.


      • #9

        Comment


        • #10
          I propose a third option. I see music as a spiritual ministry, not in a strict religious sense, but in that music can minister to our spirit or soul in ethereal ways. I picked up a 60s songbook today and found myself singing and learning "Abraham, Martin, and John". I heard this song millions of times growing up, an never though of it being about the deaths of Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and John and Bobby Kennedy. I had tears in my eyes before I finished singing it through. I didn't consciously think of the collective sorrow and anguish of our troubled nation, or the moving speech of Bobby after hearing of King's death, or the whole tumultuous 60's. But I felt it, I experienced it -- all because of that one short song.

          This may be art, and if so, it may be more of a storytelling art that I am thinking of. I love the way the Irish do it. They just vet up and sing! Sometimes the best songs I have heard have been from untrained voices, and sometimes the most trained voices have bored me to death.

          Maybe it's plain entertainment, but I think common songs can be good for the spirit. A sad and lonely person can hear "Heartbreak Hotel" or "50 Ways" and have their sorrow turned to joy.

          I don't think I have to be rich or famous to be a successful singer in this role. I plan to start singing in the nursing homes,and I think I know how I will do it. I love the old songs and I've found great joy working with old folks in the past. And I won't mind trying to use my music in positive ways. I was at an open mic recently, and I was to follow a fellow who sang what I call music porn. I mean, it was really language you would read in a porn mag (so I hear). I had planned to do my sappy romantic songs, and almost backed out. But I did it. I sang about the beauty of love and "Nancy With the Smiling Face". I have never seen such contrast on stage.

          Point i is, I approach singing as more than pursuing artistic perfection or dazzling the crowds. I see it as a potential force for good.

          Comment


          • #11
            Can't argue with that!

            One more question- how hard are you looking for work? Decent/good/great, not real crucial. You're clearly good enough to find steady work. I'm no good really ( you'd especially hate me and my belting), but when I stop questioning and start trying to work, I get it. Then, through my self-deprecating humor, or each other's company, or maybe even my music, people have fun and the bar makes money. The approach is totally different, but the bottom line is the same.
            Free prog-related metal from Michigan.

            http://www.silentlapse.com

            Comment


            • dbrowng1
              dbrowng1 commented
              Editing a comment

              SLScott86 wrote:
              One more question- how hard are you looking for work? Decent/good/great, not real crucial. You're clearly good enough to find steady work.

              I've been giving some thought to this question.  Why can't I find steady work?  I wrote down a long list over lunch, and I'm going to throw these out in a rambling fashion. 

              I don't know how to make the right contacts, or how to do it well.  I go into a bar or restaurant and ask to speak to the manager.  (This is my current practice.) If they are not there, I ask when they will be back, and maybe I leave them my brochure. If the manager is there, I tell them that I would like to offer live music.  I don't have a particular pitch line, so I don't see myself as a very good salesman.  If it's a live music venue, I get the feeling they will immediately compare me to what they've currently have, what they have had in the past, and how I would size up.  It it is a place that doesn't normally have live music or has it very rarely, they will normally be hesitant and will be thinking about how it affects their bottom line. 

              I have the idea to offer music at $25/hr.  I've never offered music on an hourly basis before, but when I compare it to the band gigs, I don't think it's far off.  In my area, a band might make $250-$300 in a club on a Saturday night.  Divide that by four, and you're talking $62.50 - $75.00 per person per night.  For a four-hour gig, they would make $15.62 - $18.75 per hour.  For a three-hour gig they would make $20.83 - $25.00 per hour.  So bands are making $25/hr at best for normal gigs.  If I pop into a restaurant for $25 plus tips, I could possibly do a one-hour set and then go to the next place. Setup is very easy for me.  Of course, any parties, weddings, or other events coming out of that would get a much higher rate.  I am thinking of doing this to try to fill up my schedule.

              Back to the issues about why I am not booked steadily..... I am not happy with my online presence or my demos.  We discussed this earlier.  I am considering recording a live gig and using material from that.  But so far I'm not pleased with my current recordings, and I don't see how they fit well into any marketing/sales plan.

              I don't play rock or blues, and I don't do instrumental solos.  My instrument skills are "passable", but I've been told that my performances are clearly about my singing and that I shouldn't worry about it. My song interpretation and communication with the audience takes center stage.  But I'm self-conscious sometimes because people see me with a guitar or piano and I've been called the "guitarist" or "pianist".  That's not what I'm about.  I did take about 20 Bossa Nova lessons from my excellent Brazilian guitarist friend, but that repertoire is not complete yet -- I only have about three songs ready.  I only added the Great American Songbook over the past 14 months.  I never could add them to my songlist because I never could play them.  So I took two piano lessons in Jan 2012, and that helped me to learn how to spell and play the crunchy chords, and how to do some inversions, and put many, many hours into getting over 100 songs ready.  I'm proud of my progress so far, and I would say that I am only now able to perform these songs in public confidently.  I want to go back for more lessons in both piano and guitar.  I would like to be an excellent instrumentalist some day, but it seems I find myself working to expand the quantity of my repertoire rather than the quality of the playing.

              I don't know where I fit in the market.  I think I do best for an audience over 45 years old.  I do well in fine dining situations.  I do well in laid back birthday party kind of situations where it's just me and guitar.  I don't play 80's classic rock and I don't play music that I don't like.  I get frustrated when people say something about playing upbeat or something, and I feel like they may as well ask me to stand on my head.  I'm not going to pull a full band sound out of a nylon-string guitar (that's what I play, believe it or not), and I don't like the idea of a one-man band.  I do what I do.  I think a lot of this market talk is about playing the songlist that people want to hear.  I could probably make myself learn "Wonderwall" (a song that I really don't understand and can't relate to) to try to appeal to a certain audience.  But I'd rather go back to my day job. And I just don't get this infatuation people have with "Brown-Eyed Girl" and "Free Falling".  Again, I do what I do.

              My musical tastes just don't match the broad swath of the popular audience.  I love the music on NPR "Prairie Home Companion", I love Inga Swearingen and Judy Collins, I think the King's Singers are cool.  I love singing and hear classical and sacred choral music, I love jazz and bluegrass (oldtime) and music from the 20s-60s.  I love to hear and sing 50s rock n roll (a la Buddy Hollis, Elvis, Cash, Everly Brothers), as well as Simon and Garfunkel.  And my favorite CD right now is of a French duet I heard in Paris, and beautiful young girl singer and a funny male guitarist, who played and sang songs in French and Portuguese, especially Bossa Nova.  (I should go to Brazil and work on this repertoire with my guitar teacher!)

              All that said, I have recently found a market that might work for me:  the veterans


          • #12
            Sorry, I think we were thinking of different targets. I think the VFW Moose Lodge American Legion crowd could be a perfect spot for you. I think the question is really about making an actual living, which Lord knows I don't know the answer to. But man, $25 would take a lot of American Legions.
            Free prog-related metal from Michigan.

            http://www.silentlapse.com

            Comment


            • #13
              I'm talking about $25 base hourly rate. Maybe I should just keep that to myself. There are whole bands out there playing for free. At the Legion in town a country band plays every Mon and Wed for "practice" and tips.

              Comment


              • #14
                To hire them would the cost would be prohibitive. But I figure with $25 tips I could do alright to work myself into the business.

                Comment


                • #15
                  Interesting-- my Realbook Vocal Book II Hal Leonard) shows straight quarters for the first measure of "Moonlight in Vermont". I do appreciate your critique, and all the comments here, very much. How to interpret a song and how much freedom to take are open questions. And as in this case sometimes you just don't know what the "correct" version is anymore.

                  Comment


                  • pogo97
                    pogo97 commented
                    Editing a comment

                    dbrowng1 wrote:
                    Interesting-- my Realbook Vocal Book II Hal Leonard) shows straight quarters for the first measure of "Moonlight in Vermont". I do appreciate your critique, and all the comments here, very much. How to interpret a song and how much freedom to take are open questions. And as in this case sometimes you just don't know what the "correct" version is anymore.

                    I played with a violinist who took the "the way it's written is the correct and only way" route. She also played only the melody and all the time. We didn't last. Which is a pity because her husband was a really good drummer.

                    There are two general purposes for notation: descriptive and prescriptive. Descriptive notation attempts to show fairly exactly how a given performance went--it's used mostly by academics to support whatever point they're making. It is rather difficult to read.

                    Prescriptive notation is there to indicate to a knowledgeable musician, what they should be doing. That would be the realbook/fakebook. Prescriptive notation assumes a great deal. For example, a fakebook contains no information about dynamics and only a general indication of tempo. It also contains a minimal indication of the accompaniment and only a sketch of the actual melody. No experienced player or singer would take those quarter notes as an indication that variation is not allowed or desirable.

                    If you're looking for the 'original' version of "Moonlight in Vermont," it was first recorded by Margaret Whiting in 1944. In her recording, the first bar is most definitely not straight quarters. So, is she wrong or is the fakebook wrong? Neither, actually, because a performance is not notation and notation is not a performance.



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