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Popular music is dominated by high singers. Most male singers are tenors, followed by baritones. There's Johnny Cash who belted out low notes but I consider him to be an average singer, however legendary he may be as an overall artist. But I can't name any really good pop bass singer. Bass doesn't necessarily mean low notes. In opera many parts for bass are quite high, they just require a heavy and deep voice. Where are they in pop? Is there a reason for this absence?
In the 70s, bass player Larry Graham (from "Sly and The Family Stone" and "Graham Central Station") had a few solo hits. He naturally sang in the tenor and bass range.
and, of course, "Chef" :
The 90s popular radio was chock full of singers that didnt believe in the upper register....especially all the post-grunge bandz that were coming out in assembly-line fashion like Mcdonalds cheeseburgers.........
the guy from Crash Test Dummies comes to mind
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Smash Mouth's lead singer would probably also fall in the bass category; more a bass-baritone.
The classical definitions between bass and baritone really don't vary that much in range. If you compare bass to bass-baritone, the ranges have a lot in common (bass: E2-C4, baritone: F2-F4), and a bass-baritone will be most comfortable with much the same range as the bass. The classical baritone has the range of a bass-baritone but a moderately higher comfortable range. Most composers of contemporary four-part harmony are actually writing SABB; the "tenor" part is often nothing difficult for a practiced baritone voice, and nowhere close to the dizzy heights of an operatic tenor.
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There are two types of basses IMO, from close observation: Those who, in pitch and range, meet all the criteria for singing classical bass range. This only means that your voice is placed in a naturally low frequency range. This is what I would call a bass. Think J.D. sumner for example.
The other kind of bass is a profundo, or basso produndo, usually seen in people who are abnormally large in height, and have a naturally low resonant tone. Profundo's can't necessarily go as low as basses in all cases, but they do have a very 'boomy' sound that cannot be replicated by most humans. Many quote unquote 'giants' speak in this way.
Larry Graham From Sly and Grahm Central Station Lou Rawls was a baritone / Bass singer Melvin from the Temptations Isaac Hayes sand Baritone / bass bass singer from Orleans (Still the One) Most singing groups of the 50s and 60s had a bass singer but they were usually singing harmonies.
I don't know how famous outside of Canada these guys are, but how about Crash Test Dummies' Brad Roberts ...
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1. Many low basses -- even those who are very good ensemble singers -- don't have solo-quality voices. They typically lack a true vibrato, don't have much variety of register, and often have not only a low range, but a low tessitura. None of these qualities is a deal-breaker, but it's often discouraging to the singer. The average voice teacher isn't equipped to train the low bass voice, IMO. It's requirements are significantly different from other voice classifications.
2. Even those who are good soloists find it difficult to make a living on their own. Most are going to be a part of a group (who hopefully will let them take a turn at singing lead from time to time).
3. Many basses, when singing as soloists, seldom sing in the lower half of the register -- they mostly sing from A2 to D4...might as well be baritones. One conspicuous exception is Tukka Haapaniemi from Club for Five. He includes the bottom portion of his compass when singing melodies. An Ab1 seems to be no problem for him in this beautiful arrangement of "Brothers in Arms." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g55JlxWYo8Q. He's easily one of the more exciting basses in pop music today.
J. D. Summers of the Stamps Quartet. JD had befrended Elvis when he was a small boy and Elvis repayed him in 1961 by making J.D. Sumners and the Stamps as backup on all of this trous. J. D. was famous in Gospel music and was the only man ever listed in the Genisus record book until after his death in 1988 at the age if 80.
Morrison was probably a baritone, he could get pretty screechy. Don't know if he is techinically a bass, but Andrew Eldritch of Sisters of Mercy sings in a pretty low voice. More of a pop gothic rock sound.
I'm so tired of tenors. Like you said it's almost 100 % tenors in live music today, try to name a man who made it into IDOL without being a tenor for example.
I agree with you for the most part. But really I don't mind tenors that much, it's just the same tenor with the same voice that has no attitude whatsoever. Just that radio friendly, nice guy singing. Its also that certain kind of pop punk voice that I can't stand either.