Vocal About It: Wise Words from Singers

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Many singers and performers have found success on their own terms in today’s music world. They draw from their own influences and their own unique experiences to write, record and perform music and to share their voice. These artists have offered some words of wisdom and advice, as well as some thoughts on choosing suitable microphones for studio and stage.

Sing Out, Sing Loud

Rowen Bridler

Singer-Songwriter Rowen Bridler lives in Prague, where she is also an Actor and Voice Coach. She has written and recorded several albums of her own music, and she trains vocalists in singing, acting and voice work for a multitude of formats and media. She’s also a trained actress and has performed in both international film and theater settings. Rowen draws inspiration for her writing and performing from her former piano and vocal teachers. Rowen finds musical inspiration from artists like Tori Amos, Liz Phair and Lily Allen.

Which song do you wish you had written?

‘Flying Dutchman’ by Tori Amos, ‘The Fear’ by Lily Allen, ‘The Letter’ by Kristin Hersh. There are so many!

What advice could you give someone just starting out in the business?

Try out different styles of music, different types of singing, until you know what style you want to use. Don’t just copy one person you admire. Let go of perfectionism. It’s professional suicide. If you focus on what you want to achieve rather than what you want to eradicate, you’ll make better progress and stay mentally strong.

Shopping for a microphone, what do you suggest?

Get a really good mic, like a RODE NT2A. It pays to have an excellent microphone even if your recording software is quite basic. A good mic and Garageband make a far better combination than a cheap mic and Pro Tools.

Passion and Soul

Tom Heuckendorff of Soatoa

Tom Heuckendorff is the lead singer of the Vancouver-based band, Soatoa. Delivering an eclectic blend of Rock, Reggae, and Soul music, Tom’s passion for music also brings him work on sessions playing piano, bass, and saxophone. Tom has a Bachelor of Music in Jazz performance from St. Francis Xavier.

Who has influenced your career the most?

In my Jazz background, Frank Sinatra has always been a huge influence. He consistently puts simple melodies right on the beat, while still capturing the love and adoration from the masses. I always try to keep that in mind with my vocal phrasing.

What advice could you give someone just starting out in the business?

Take all of your relationships seriously. Be nice, helpful and courteous to everyone you meet. Your work will come from referrals, so make good impressions. Great musicians who are jerks don’t get calls for gigs. Music is a very social business and often involves sitting in a vehicle with your bandmates for months at a time. You better get along.

On shopping for a microphone:

A Shure SM58 is a great starter mic to own. It’s durable, sounds great and pretty much a standard for live performance. Have your own, because you don’t want to sing into some bar mic that reeks of puke, beer and cigarettes. Some great upgrades are the Shure Beta 87, AKG D5 and the Sennheiser E835.

Northern Exposure

Randy Lyght of Mixed Breed and Black Lightning

Randy Lyght has been a staple on the Canadian music scene since for decades.

He has led his own bands, including Mixed Breed and Black Lightning alongside other great bands featuring Rick Lazar and Paul Shaffer. In the mid-70s, he completed a multi-country tour with The World Renowned Platters. He has worked with countless legendary performers, including Jackie Richardson, Tony Gaines and Jason Mack. Randy also recorded a single cover of “Feel Like Making Love”, produced by Hermann Fruhm. His single has received extensive airplay in Canada and the US.

Which song do you wish you would have written?

“Nature Boy” by Eden Ahbez. There aren’t many songs that have that kind of effect on a person’s emotions. The simplicity and purity of the lyrics and melody can be fully orchestrated, or broken down to piano, flute and vocal, as I recorded it on my release, A Return to Romance.

What advice could you give someone just starting out in the business?

You have to be realistic. Make sure you’re having fun. Music has no boundaries. Make music that you want to make.

More than anything, take it one step at a time. If you’ve accomplished something, move on to the next step, or try something new. Don’t ever let your expectations ruin the fun of music. Once it’s not fun anymore, don’t do it.

Any favorite microphones?

For vocals, I suggest the Shure Beta 87a.

Country Crooning

James Robert Webb

James Robert Webb hails from the small, rural Oklahoma town of Kellyville. He began teaching himself piano when he was a boy, and picked up the guitar while in his teens. His ability to play by ear has served him well as he pursued Jazz and later Western Swing.

Webb started recording music as a way to study his favorite songwriters. Through this process, he has been able to significantly develop his vocal skills in addition to bolstering his piano and guitar chops.

Which song do you wish you would have written?

If I had to choose on, it would be The Dance by Garth Brooks. It’s simple yet perfectly crafted. The melody is beautiful, and the instrumentation is haunting. It inspires the listener to leave nothing on the table, to live without regret.

What advice could you give someone just starting out in the business?

It takes time to build a brand and it takes time to perfect your craft. Those are two different things. Have patience and let your voice develop. It takes hard work and persistence.

Your brand as a singer will come later. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not an overnight success. Most of them have been working professionally for over 10 years.

Be kind to everyone you meet. It’s all about who you know, so make as many connections as you can.

Shopping for a microphone, what do you suggest?

Right now I’m in love with the old Elvis-style Shure Super55. Anytime you have a chance - at a club, studio or store - try out different kinds of mics. Ask other singers and musicians as well. Your guitar player might have been singing background vocals for 20 years, and may know a lot about vocal microphones.

Not a Spring Chicken

Jiggley Jones International Music and Entertainment Associate Songwriter of the Year

Currently residing in Pennsylvania, Jiggley Jones has lived his life with music as the theme running through each chapter. He is the 2013 International Music and Entertainment Association Songwriter of the Year. His album No Spring Chicken has been in the Roots Music Report Top 5 for several months. Jones has also won the Graffiti Radio Songwriting Contest. He has performed at The Bitter End in New York City, CMA Fest in Nashville, Hard Rock Cafe in Philadelphia, and World Cafe in Wilmington, Delaware, among countless other performances. Jiggley counts Led Zeppelin as a major influence growing up, due to their diverse blues sound.

Which song do you wish you would have written?

That would probably be "Old Man" by Neil Young.

What advice could you give someone just starting out in the business?

You have to stay at it non-stop and continue on through the ups and downs that are guaranteed to come your way.

What microphone do you suggest?

For a live mic, go with the Shure SM58. It’s been the standard live vocal mic for a very long time, for a reason. I find it to be a solid performer and fairly priced. It has stood the test of time.

Best Practice

Nikki English of Western Avenue

Nikki English writes and sings contemporary country music in a band called Western Avenue, based in central Ontario. The band formed in 2007, and they have since embarked on a journey to follow their dreams. The band performs songs and wins over it’s audience with new, original music, including their first single ‘Highway Heading out of Town’. Nikki draws influence from artists from Merle Haggard to Def Leppard.

Which song do you wish you would have written?

’Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey. That song is timeless, one of my favorites! It’s one of those songs that everyone wants to sing along to, and you can recognize it instantly from that opening piano riff.

What advice could you give someone just starting out in the business?

Practice. Make sure you know your songs inside out and backwards. Then get out and play as much as you can. It’s good not just for exposure, but for more practice in front of an audience. We played a regular gig at a pub for 2 years and it was the best thing for us. It brought us together and gave us the chemistry that we have today.

Shopping for a microphone, what do you suggest?

We use the Sennheiser e835 for our live gigs. It’s a great mic and super affordable! For recording, my favorite is the Avantone CV-12. It has a clarity and tone that I love!

Share Your Song

A great microphone can make your sound. It can define your voice. Whether performing live with a e835 or an SM58, or recording with a NT1A, your microphone is as important as your guitar, piano, or any other instrument.

Have you found any pearls of wisdom for up and coming musicians? Got a favorite microphone? Tell us about it. Whether it’s tips for surviving a road trip with your band or how to get the best vocal sound for your next recording, we’d love to hear it. Tell us what your favorite microphone is, and why. Let your voice be heard!

For part one of this series, please visit Mic Check.

Learn more about microphones of all types with our Microphone Buying Guide.

Tags: Singer-Songwriter


# Nikki 2014-01-21 17:42
Hey! thanks for including me in the article! :)

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