DIGILITY

July 12th, 2013

The Vocalist Studio


I woke up early and started right away with finishing and polishing the backing track of Suite Sister Mary. On to the vocals!

I’ve definitely improved, because I can hit all the notes. After the pretty doable intro verses, the following high verses seem to be the easiest, which is surprising, because they’re so demanding. Pamela Moore’s lines are harder to do, but that’s probably because I’m spreading my vowels way too much. Actually, all my high singing​—​at least in this song​—​seemed to be done with too spreaded vowels. The chorus is more of a pain than any other part of the song. But I’m quite okay with how it went. I think it’s a good way to know where I’m applying correct technique and why some spots are so troubling.

I checked all the audio and video material of Robert Lunte’s The Vocalist Studio. It’s odd that I didn’t really check the book, even though it was quite an investment. I bought the first edition some years earlier, and wasn’t so pleased. It has good stuff in it, but it’s what I already knew. His book seemed a bit clumsily made. Not so professional.
   His second book is better, but still, there are so many things, that if corrected, would make his stuff so much clearer. The book is very small. I understand that he likes it this way because it’s easy to take with you and because it feels as if it’s a personal notebook from him.
   I extracted all the files of the CDs and DVDs to my PC for convenience. It’s well needed because I don’t like the structure, or lack thereof.
   But, Robert Lunte knows his stuff. And the more I read his material, the more I seem to see charm in his clumsiness of writing and presentation. I checked, I think there’s at least 10 hours of audio material. That’s a lot! Now, quality is more important than quantity, but all the examples that I checked out today showed usefulness in each. He seems to combine his experiences with Maestro David Kyle’s teachings, Estill Voice Training, Bel Canto, and his own method. And both his books, as well as his audio and video material show a very enthustiastic, and most certainly passionate singer and teacher. There are some nice excercises which can be very helpful for me as a rock singer. I think there’s a lot more to TVS than it looks, but he really should improve with his structuring, and writing his material.
   I also continued with my vocal transcript of all the EVT lessons with Mony; the lessons for preparation to the test I should pass to be able to proceed to the Certified Master Teaching of Estill Voice Training course. It’s interesting how much you can say in so little time. I’m a decently fast typist, but too slow to keep up on following whoever is talking and keep on typing. It’s definitely helpful, though. I hope I’ll have completed the whole transcript, someday.

July 11th, 2013

Studio Recording


I spend all day on that darn backing track. It’s still not finished, but I’m surprised how it worked out so well. The main guitar line just before the high verse kicks in, sounds pretty similar to the original recording. I still have some trouble with the clean sounding guitars. They seem to have flanger, reverb, and chorus, but I’m not so experienced with polishing sound using effects. I hope I’ll be able to complete the track tomorrow so that I can record my singing, and eventually post it to the forums (see previous blog post). How interested I am about how I’ll do those vocal lines. I know that I can manage to sing so high for a long period of time without any vocal harm, but will it sound good? Will it be nice? We’ll see…

July 10th, 2013

Queensrÿche


There’ a nice topic at the Modern Vocalist World forum: the Official Queensrÿche Cover Thread!!! Obviously, it wouldn’t go unnoticed. I liked the idea of posting some covers of my own. I did a short excerpt of Jet City Woman as part of my lessons with Dave Brooks, so I posted that recording. I also always wanted to sing the masterpiece that is Suite Sister Mary. It’s a really challenging some because of the constant high C’s (C5’s). Geoff Tate is understanding throughout, so that will be one of my priorities​—​long with being able to sing everything. I think I can manage that. The only obstacle is the tone, the way I phonate. But we’ll see. I know where my limits are.

Obviously, there’s no backing track to be found of this song. It’s not a popular song to begin with (by that, I mean mainstream music listeners).

July 9th, 2013

The Foundation of ‘Singing’


I wrote down an article at the Five Eight Forums. It’s a nice forum with a musician section. There’s one guy who is studying classical singing at a conservatory with his own thread. Because I’m far more experienced with modern methods and system, I decided to have my own thread: Modern Vocal Techniques, Methods, and Systems. I wrote a good article in it about the foundation of singing (according to my beliefs and experiences).

Part I - The Foundation of ‘Singing’

What is the difference between singing and talking? There are definitely some clear characteristics with singing:

However, there is pitch control when you talk, otherwise it would sound monotonous. Even monotonous speakers use pitch control, otherwise they wouldn’t be intelligible. You stress certain syllables of words, and you stress certain words more by applying pitch difference. When you sing, you control pitch in a certain tonality, but it doesn’t make a clear difference between singing and talking if you did only that.

You could use more rhythm while controlling pitch more pronounced, but when you talk, you use a set of rules of rhythm to begin with. Want an example?
[IMG]

Obviously there is a fixed meter when singing, but there is a certain sense of meter when talking, as well. So that’s not the main difference.

Lengthening the vowels while changing pitch and using rhythm is getting somewhere, but it still wouldn’t sound like singing.
A great example is how people usually ‘sing’ Happy Birthday to someone. You could consider it singing, but it’s flat. You could easily pick out the singers with that song, because they do something more. They ‘cry’.

Cry
There is some sense of crying if you listen to singers. It’s because the voice is configured similar to when someone is crying.

Here is an image of what is happening:
[IMG]

The thyroid cartilage is tilted forward, causing the vocal folds to stretch and thin. This formation creates a warmth and smoothness, which is not possible if the thyroid cartilage isn’t tilted. Vibrato is achieved if one has the ability to tense the muscles just as much to tilt the thyroid cartilage and nothing more so that it is still flexible. This causes pulsations of the thyroid cartilage when phonating, which gives a ‘natural’ effect of vibrato.

This formation can be done in the complete vocal range and thus the complete modal range. Notice that thyroid tilt has nothing to do with a low larynx. The thyroid is part of the larynx.

Examples of Cry

Les pêcheurs de perles - Je crois entendre encore by Alain Vanzo
Notice that Alain is singing too round and connected for it to be falsetto. It’s very, very light, yes. And it most certainly sounds like crying.

Miss Saigon - Last Night of the World by Simon Bowman (notice there’s no applause for the female singer. How sad.)
Listen to Simon. Hear how from 1:31 onward, he goes high in pitch​—​up to G♯4​—​but it’s clearly not falsetto, because it’s connected and pure, neither is it chest voice, because it’s way too light to be chest voice. You could say it’s head voice or mix, but technically he is just staying in cry mode all through.
From 4:20 onwards, he is doing more, something I’ll explain in another article.

Queensrÿche - En Force by Geoff Tate
Again, way too warm and connected to be falsetto and too light to be chest voice. This is the reason why terms chest voice and head voice are only getting problematic.
If you listen him singing the word ‘had’ in, ‘Once, long ago we had’, he sounds very much like he’s yawning. Yawning is similar to crying, but with yawning, the larynx is lowered, along with a tilter thyroid cartilage. In Estillian terms, this is called: sobbing.

Dio - Don’t Talk to Strangers by Ronnie James Dio up until 1:05

This is a good example of slowly adding more stuff to the crying:

[IMG]

Mind that he already has quite a present twang,also a term I’ll talk thoroughly about later along with cricoid tilt. I will give you a brief explanation, now:

The cricoid cartilage is underneath the thyroid cartilage which can tilt, as well. It makes the mass of the vocal folds thicker, causing a more powerful, shouty sound. You can combine it with thyroid tilt so that the folds are stretched, but thick, so that vibrato is also possible.

Twang is a term usually meant that the epiglottis sphincter is narrowed down, resulting the phonated sound to be very sharp. Technically this would be called Aryepiglottic Sphincter, or AES, but Twang is the popular term. You can both have Nasal Twang as well as Oral Twang, the only difference is that with Nasal Twang the velum is not closing the nasal passage so the sound escapes both out of the mouth as well as out of the nose. Nasal Twang is a bit muffled, compared to Oral Twang, which is sharp, present, metallic.

By aspiration, I mean that the sound is airy. In Estillian terms, this is called falsetto, but I find it to be a very bad term, because many would immediately respond: Wow, Dio never sang in falsetto!!! And it certainly has a certain presence, but notice the difference when he’s singing aspiration and when he’s in cry. I call it aspiration, just so I wouldn’t get into trouble.

Actually, the Dio example may be too soon to give as an example because of all the extra things he’s doing, but I hope that I can point out that even he is using Cry as a fundamental part of his singing.

Summary

Cry (Thyroid Tilt)
The difference between singing and talking is mainly the tilting of the thyroid cartilage causing the vocal folds to be streched and thinned.

Sob
Sob is the same as cry, only the larynx is lowered, as well.

Cricoid Tilt
Tilting the crycoid cartilage causes the vocal folds to thicken, resulting in a shouty sound when phonating. It can be combined with Cry for vibrato and possibly adding more smoothness and warmth to the voice.

Twang (AES)
With twang, the aryepliggotic sphincter is narrowed causing the phonating sound to be sharp and ringy.
Amount of nasality can be regulated by adjusting the closure of the nasal passage by the velum.

Aspiration (Falsetto)
The vocal folds are stiff and only the edges of the folds are pulsating. The sound will be airy.

July 8th, 2013

The British Dialect


Today, I’ve been quite tired. I didn’t do a whole lot of singing. I went to the dentist, went back home to practice my pronunciation. I bought the book The Standard British English Dialect by Paul Meier as a digital copy (for my iPad). I already had his New York Dialect book, which was very informative and helpful. Yes, it’s like a 360 degree turn to something else, but since it was affordable, and since I still have time to experiment and realized that I sing much better in a British configuration of phonetics, I decided to check it out, anyway.

   I listened to every example of the book and afterward read something out of a magazine and book. As always, I sound a lot better when I’m talking British than when I talk American English. Americans intonate way less than the British, but in a way that it doesn’t sound monotonous, while I still do. So yeah, some experimenting with that.
   Other things I’ve been doing: Debating with Systolic, a forum member of the Five Eight Forums. He’s a Bel Canto student who can’t believe that harsh singing can be done in a healthy way. It was fun to discuss with him. It made me think of what I’ve learned the last couple of many years.
   I did some flute playing. It seems, I have better stamina, and I have better control over pitch, as well.

July 7th, 2013

A Chill Out


I relaxed some more. I was invited by the group of dancers of the school I’m at to go to the beach. The weather was pretty good, and I needed some fresh air and some nice socializing, so I went. Unfortunately, only one of the group​—​the one who came up with the idea​—​could show up, and eventually she couldn’t even come because of a traffic accident where she was a witness of.

Other than that, I didn’t really do so much. Not productive, that’s for sure.

July 6th, 2013

The American Accent


Today was a surprising day: I received the new edition of Ann Cook’s American Accent Training within a week​—​I ordered in from the US. It’s a very solid system of improving the American accent.

I have the idea that in order to improve my singing, I should improve my talking. Thanks to having carefully studied the (2nd edition of the) book, my ears have improved with listening to clear American sounds.
   I had the habit of pronouncing every word separately, while I should connect them. That has improved tremendously. Interestingly, I already did this when I was singing, so I was just being lazy with really listening what one is saying when he or she is talking (in American English).
   I recorded myself singing both Children of the Damned and Pull Me Under.
Children of the Damned is such a fun and cool song to sing. It has a whole lot of B’s, some which I sing with ease, others which are a little strained. It’s one of the few songs where I’m okay with my accent. Pull Me Under on the other hand…. I still have this very tiny voice when singing the high B’s there. I’m quite pitchy, too, unlike Iron Maiden’s song.

July 5th, 2013

E V T


I did nothing more than practicing some main songs of mine: Harv’s Confusion and Europe’s Carrie with the Dave Brooks approach. The reason: I had a 6-hour final session with Mony Wouters’s Estill Voice Traing Certified Master Teacher (EVT CMT) course. We walked through everything we did with the system, which took about 90 minutes. Then we did the new stuff: Opera and Belting, which took about 90 minutes, as well. Then, we took a break. Finally, we did apply all the stuff to a song, checked some examples again and worked on a computer program (VoicePrint) so that we can make a interesting graph of our own voices.

It didn’t feel like a long day at all. It was fun and very interesting. My goal is to pass the test, so I can continue with the CMT course.

July 4th, 2013

A Day Off…


Thirty plus hours awake. Yes, that’s pretty wicked. I think I’ve never been awake for so long, until now, that is.I took a nap at around 14:30 p.m. and I woke up at 19:30 p.m.. I seemed fully awake, but I still felt strange. I went to the living room and just lazied out on the couch, watching some television. There was a nice movie starring Reese Witherspoon. Though the movie seemed to be meant as nothing more than a nice feel good chick flick, I appreciated the story. I felt it had some strong things to it. Hard to explain, it were the little things. Reese is just not some ordinary actress, so she could be the reason why it went a little deeper

There was another movie afterward: Mr Deeds, a film with Adam Sandler. His humour is hit and miss to me. In this case I didn’t care. I just wanted to chill.
   That seems to be what I’ve been doing today, too: chilling out. I didn’t sing. I didn’t play the flute. I didn’t compose. I did go to the gym, and exercise quite hard, though.
   I’m thinking about my future. It’s been so long that I’m working on my singing, my guitar playing, my everything music. Recently, there are moments that I’m thinking I should just quit. Quit with the singing, with the guitar playing. Maybe continuing with the dancing only, since that is the one thing that gives me fun and enjoyment, something I seem to be lacking with my singing, and my other musical stuff.
   I still have this thought of being able of becoming big. To be able to live with my music, my art.
   What do I want? I met some sweet, beautiful girls recently, and though I had a nice chat, and one of them seemed interested in the me, I feel I’ve still got so much to learn. I’m so very different from a ‘usual’ guy. That makes me special, but for the better or for the worse? What if one would like to hook up with me and I really like her, both her personality and her looks?
   Things like going out, going to the movies. I have done that with friends, so I think that would work. But things like traveling, going to clubs, parties, etc. Those’re things I hardly do. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs. I find it hard to chit chat. Even when talking about music, it always usually ends up with the academic, technical stuff. I really liked that one girl I got to know recently, who seemed to enjoy this talk and even responded as interested toward the subject. Another girl seems to have no problems at all to how I am as a person. So in that regard, I shouldn’t be trying to change who I am, how I am.
   I seem to know that it eventually will happen, no worries there. There were many moments that it could’ve happened, anyway, but I sabotaged the whole happening, probably because I was scared for the next step. I sometimes wish I could go back 10 plus years in time and do the things I just recently was strong enough to do. I know it can’t be done. I even read a lot of books about time traveling, just to see if something like that would ever be possible. How desperate…
   This is more a rambling session about me, than a log about my vocal progress. But my voice, well, that’s me. I am my voice. It’s like a puzzle I try to complete, knowing, or having the feeling that I know, that I’m capable of doing just that.

July 3nd, 2013

24+ Hours


Either this wouldn’t have mattered or it was just plain dumb to do: I was awake for over 24 hours and I took a singing lesson, a classical one. I seem to have sung every song I prepared like I would normally do. My voice did feel a bit tired, but nothing to worry about. I never had a lesson by a male classical vocal coach. It was quite exciting, actually.

I knew of this classical teacher here in The Hague, because of his daughter, whom I met during a finals exam by a good friend of mine. I told her (the daughter) about my passion for singing, and she mentioned that her father gives singing lessons. Even though, currently, I have two fantastic teachers, I was curious to meet him. Since it would be his last week of teaching for this season, I thought it wouldn’t be so bad an idea to just check him out.
I knew of the party prior to his lesson quite unexpectedly, so I didn’t know I would be up for so long. I still decided to go for the first singing lesson with him.
I sang the same songs I did with my main classical voice teacher (Pur dicesti, o bocca bella and Where I Want to Be). He commented that my breathing was high, my pitch issues were not physical, but rather mental: laziness. Not having the proper notes in my head. In some ways I feel he’s right, but I wouldn’t say it’s laziness, more something to do with something else, I still don’t know. Because I pretty much prepare my notes​—​maybe a little too much. To my defense, his piano was quite out of tune.
He also let me sing Cario mio ben, an aria I did some time ago. There, I was a bit lazy in the rhythm department, indeed. I was more careful about my pitch, and used my memory for the rhythm, so I forgot that some parts of the melody had a different rhythm than other parts.
There is this sense of trust I seem to have to this man. He seems pretty experienced and confronts me correctly with the problems I have. I didn’t agree with his opinion that someone like Freddie Mercury just had an easy upper range, and that it’s not something technical going on that makes it so easy for him to do, or his talk about how bad belting is. I agree that it can be very dangerous, but with the correct configuration of the body when belting, one will be fine. It’s not something I would do, because I just don’t like the sound of it, not because of its possible dangers.
He also said a classical technique won’t work if one wants to be a rock singer. Although I agree that in a purely classical approach, singing a rock song wouldn’t work, the many teachers I had to give me rock lessons hardly helped me out. Dave Brooks is like the only exception, and a huge exception, because he’s really amazing. And I don’t think my powerful vibrato and my round warm sound would’ve been there if I wouldn’t have had any classical singing lessons. Back when I was a student at the conservatory of Rotterdam, many singing students of the Pop Academy, but also of the Latin Academy​—​even the Classical Academy commented how unique my voice was. Very metallic, strong, yet warm and classical-like. I would easily be mistaken for a Musical Theater student.

Anyway, I guess I’ll stay with my current classical teacher​—​unless I have a better income or something else happens. I might not even have so much time for so many lessons to begin with. I might be starting studying Musical Science, that’s why.

July 2nd, 2013

My Jaw


I had my final lesson for this season with my current classical singing teacher. She’s pretty awesome. For the last couple of weeks, we worked on releasing tension of my jaw. When I think back, I notice that I had some jaw issues before. I remember, back when I had to perform for a project at the conservatory​—​with a vocal line written for a female singer, which I sang anyway in a sort of metal voice​—​that another vocal student mentioned that I seemed to lock my jaw. I know that there is this bite formation/position, which can be beneficial for belting, but I had tension, unnecessary tension. There was also a tongue issue, but that seems to have been resolved or to not be as problematic as it were. It’s really my jaw.

I sang Pur dicesti, o bocca bella, a song we worked on for the last couple of months and I took a new song with me, Where I Want to Be off the musical Chess. I sang the song back in 2006, when I had musical theater audition training by the conservatory of Rotterdam. It’s such a great song. Very basic, very lyrical (long notes), and it can really work with a classical approach. The song even sounds quite classical. I was wondering how I would sound now, with my current technique.
   After I did my first take, the teacher said I was using my previous habits of technique. I belted, I had a different projection, it was all different. It did sounded pretty decent, however, but I definitely could need work. So then, I sang the song as classical as possible. As you might’ve read, I’m trying to do that with all my non-classical repertoire, but here clearly, I did less than I thought I did. I kept on locking my jaw, was nasal at times, had less warm and open vowels, and just didn’t sing smoothly. But, with the help of my great teacher, I did sing it so much better. How I could have recorded this session. It would’ve been nice.

July 1st, 2013

The Project Starts…


Logbook

Singing: 120m → DB; Heaven and Hell; Carrie; Pur dicesti, o bocca bella
Flute Playing: 30m

THE SINGING
I started to warm up with Dave Brooks’s scales. I’m improving with his most recent 1.5 octave, [ I V⁷ ]-scale (1-3-5-1'-3'-5'-4'-2'-7-5-4-2-1).
Still, my accent is so strange. I started singing Black Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell. It’s a song where the late Ronnie James Dio sang the lyrics on a large amount of high B♭’s (B♭4’ s). I don’t seem to have any problem with the range, and honestly, it sounds pretty okay. As of yet, I’m not able to sing with all these attitude-powerful effects. Again, I was mainly focused on a good accent and a nice tone.
   Then, I focused on the next Dave Brooks song, Carrie. I’m much more balanced. Still it feels as if I’m so … mechanical and lifeless. It all sounds still like a lazy sort of Manuel. Pretty strange. I can do all the phrasings, though. The B4’s are pretty easy to do, now. Some notes sound good, accentwise. They sound close to Joey Tempest, which is both a very good thing, as well as a not so good thing. My identity is still hard to find.
   Eventually, I went with a Dream Theater song again: Lifting Shadows off a Dream. No problems, whatsoever​—​well, I could improve my accent (where have I heard that before?).
   Then, I did some Queensrÿcheched again (Jet City Woman), and unfortunately, I’m still sounding so awkward. My accent is just so out of place. It seems that I talk like this, too&hellip. What the hell can I do about it?

THE FLUTE PLAYING
The flute playing is pretty demaning on my breathing. I think it’s good to keep on learning the instrument​—​mainly for better breath management. I can play the following notes:

D4, E4, F4, F♯4, G4, G♯4, A4, B♭4, B4, C5, C♯5, D5, and E5.

My posture is pretty bad, because my arms are getting very tired holding the instrument into place.

REPERTOIRE
Contemporary Commercial Music
Ain’t That the Way — Adam Lopez
Breaking the Silence — Queensrÿche
Carrie — Europe
Children of the Damned — Iron Maiden
Confusion — Harv
The Dolphin’s Cry — Live
Dreamer Deceiver — Judas Priest
Dust in the Wind — Kansas
Emotions — Mariah Carey
Eyes of a Stranger — Queensrÿche
Falling — Lacuna Coil
The Final Countdown — Europe
Flight of Icarus — Iron Maiden
Heaven and Hell — Black Sabbath
I Will Remember — Queensrÿche
I Dream in Infrared — Queensrÿche
Jet City Woman — Queensrÿche
The Killing Words — Queensrÿche
Lifting Shadows off a Dream — Dream Theater
Misunderstood — Dream Theater
My Immortal - Evanescence
Revolution Calling — Queensrÿche
Road Salt — Pain of Salvation
Silent Crying — Conception
The Show Must Go On — Queen
Someone Else? — Queensrÿche
Sometimes — Les Rythmes Digitales
Stairway to Heaven — Led Zeppelin
A Progressive Mind — Digility
Pull Me Under — Dream Theater
Take Hold of the Flame — Queensrÿche
You Take My Breath Away — Queen
We All Die Young — Steelheart
Welcome Home (Sanitarium) — Metallica

Musical Theater
Feeling Good — The Roar of the Greasepaint — The Smell of the Crowd
Gethsemane — Jesus Christ Superstar
The Music of the Night — The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera — The Phantom of the Opera
Where I Want to Be — Chess
Why, God, Why? — Miss Saigon

Classical Music
Ave Maria — Schübert
Konigin der Nacht — Mozart

June 30th, 2013

A Vocal Transformation


For over a decade I’ve been struggling with my singing. I had intonation, pronunciation, and tone issues. I was never really satisfied, even though I did improve ever so slightly.

   It all started with my first year of high school back in 1998. For music class, every pupil had to sing a song.
I never really sang a lot back then, though I had an easy voice, high-pitched and pure. I chose the song De Bestemming (The Destiny) by Marco Borsato, A Dutch singer.
   Unfortunately, around the time I had to perform the song at school, my voice cracked. I didn’t understand what was going on. A whole part of my usual easy range was just gone. I rehearsed the song, but noticed I struggled quite hard.
   The performance really didn’t go so well. I did become interested in becoming a musician, though. I liked the subject and since my brother played piano for several years, already, I thought it to be a good idea to learn an instrument, as well.
   I really liked to play drums at school, so I asked if I could get a drumkit and drum lessons. I did notice the problem with lack of room at home and the noise (my ears were and still are pretty sensitive). I decided to check a lesson from my brother and maybe take a piano lesson, as well. The teacher said that I should play guitar. I had no idea why he said that, but so I did.
   I practiced hard. Three hours a day. I wanted to level up fast, so that I could play along with my brother, and perform at school.
   A year later, I​—​like any other beginner​—​played a lot of Metallica​—​especially Nothing Else Matters. I had the ambition to write down the symphony off the S&M version so that I could play the song with my brother playing the symphony on his then new Roland keyboard. We performed it once for a music school. But then, I got the idea of performing it at school. I wanted to sing the part and I needed a second guitarist. It was then, that I started studying my voice. I didn’t take singing lessons yet, though.
   Yet another year later, I got the lead for the school musical. The songs, though basic, were quite demanding. I remember that I had to sing high A’s (A4’s). I practiced every day. I really wasn’t any good, but because I did the best I could with especially my acting, I got away with it. I wasn’t so much out of tune, anyway, but pretty sqeaky, because of my lack of proper technique. I decided to take singing lessons.

I was introduced to Dream Theater by the band who did the music of the musical. I really liked Dream Theater. Just a bit prior to that, I discovered Queensrÿche, also a fantastic band. I really got into progressive metal. I became a member of the Dream Theater forums. This forum had a vocalist section. There, I learned a lot about vocal technique and methods. I learned about Bel Canto and Speech Level Singing. One member had created his own articles about the voice (The Singing Realm).
   I discovered great singers of the progressive metal world: James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Geoff Tate (Queensrÿche), Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden), Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Michael Kiske (Helloween), Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery), Ronnie James Dio (Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio), Ian Gillan (Jesus Christ Superstar, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath), etc. Knowing that it would be pretty hard to study by reading and trial-and-erroring alone, I found a teacher nearby and had my first singing lesson.

Unfortunately, I was incredibly skeptical. Marieke van Dinteren was my very first teacher. Thinking back to her lessons, I guess I could’ve learned so much from her, because her approach was proper, but I was just way too locked. I wanted to start off with technique, and technique only. Though, Marieke wanted me to sing a song. That’s where it got difficult for me. I was afraid to tell her I didn’t want to sing just yet. I chose a Dream Theater song, a doable one: Wait for Sleep, but I didn’t prepare the lyrics, I was afraid to do any of that stuff. It sounds strange, but I really was like that back then (and for many years after). She couldn’t give lessons for a while because she was moving to the city. Then I was thinking if it was working out. I was too chicken to call her and tell her about my problems or to even say, ‘Bye, I’m going to move on’.
   I went with another teacher, she was a classical trained teacher. Pretty expensive, too. She was able to remove the many walls around me and just sing with power. I can’t remember if she gave me any repertoire, but I did bring my guitar once and showed her The Silent Man. I remember I was getting off pitch pretty easily, something which wasn’t the case with the exercises, but she liked that I did improve. At school, teachers and students noticed improvement, as well. I can’t remember how, but I ended my lessons with her, too. She was pretty expensive, that was one thing.
   Then I started lessons with a trainee tutor from the Royal Conservatory. She was a jazz student. Though the first lesson sounded promising for both of us, eventually I had a hard time improving, and she had a hard time teaching. I was so out of tune, and dull-sounding. My guitar-accompanying wasn’t so jazz-suiting, either. Halfway, she had to stop with teaching, because she was leaving the Netherlands to finish her study elsewhere. I got a replacement trainee and I did learn a whole lot more from her….

As you might understand now, this is how it went. From the one to the other. Good results, not so good results. Currently, since 2012 I’ve stayed with one teacher, because I trust her, I get good results, and I really like to work with her. She’s a classical singer with jazz experience, too.
   Pop singing is a different matter, so I started having lessons with Dave Brooks, as well. We have done 3 lessons and he is amazing, too. Tomorrow, it’ll be the first of July​—​a good way to start with full dedication on my craft. I already documented my practicing, this month. I’m really getting somewhere, now. I still feel that I can become someone, I’ve always wanted to be. Singing is not just something, it’s a special thing.

Regards,

Manuel

Dec. 18th, 2012

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past


It’s been a while. I haven’t touched this html file for quite some time. I was so into this all and all of a sudden I quit blogging.Let me tell you what I’ve been up to.
   I have done a lot of transcribing music and arranging pieces for guitar. This YouTube Artist thing came back up. Suddenly I wanted to record myself performing video game music, putting it on YouTube and showing it to the world, like I did back many years ago.
   I wanted to complete something, this time round. Koji Kondo’s A Link to the Past score is probably my favorite VGM score. I wanted to transcribe every piece by ear—every channel, every single note.
Here it is: the full score of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past! It took me many hours of listening and writing down and listening and writing down… Enjoy!!!

This is the file: Click Me!

Regards,

Manuel

images by me

Oct. 17th, 2012

GoldenEye 007


GoldenEye is my favorite Bond movie. It’s the first one I saw in theatres and I remember the excitement I had back then: The new computer-generated gun-barrel scene with Eric Serra’s eletronic soundtrack, and the new Bond, Pierce Brosnan, promised tenfold that this would be good!
   The story was great, the casting was fantastic with excellent Bond Girls (Izabella Scorupco was such a beauty as Natalya), the action scenes were iconic (the dam infiltration and the tank chase). It’s a high-quality Bond picture. Too bad, the following Bond movies got progressively worse, until Martin Campbell, who directed GoldenEye saved the series with Casino Royale.
   Rare, Nintendo’ second-party developer, which was known for technology groundbreaking games like the Donkey Kong Country series and Killer Instinct 1 & 2, bought licensing rights to make a GoldenEye game. Their ambition was unbelievable. If you look at how they recreated the sets from the movie for the game (just check the images!), it was and still is pretty impressive.
   Many movie to video game adaptations didn’t include the movie’s OST. Rare on the other hand, was smart enough to get the rights to use the James Bond theme, as well. Although that didn’t include Eric Serra’s OST, they clearly took a lot of inspiration from his score.
   In 2010, Eurocom wanted to do a reimagining of Rare’s game and made GoldenEye 007 (GE) for the Wii and updated it to GoldenEye 007: Reloaded for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. While it’s a fun game and while Eurocom’s team definitely worked hard for this game to be fun and fresh, they don’t have that quality Rare had that could make the game stand out.


GE 2010 did a lot of things right. They had:

Yet, it’s really not so magical as Rare’s original. There is a certain lack of freedom, somehow. Controls aren’t as tight. It tries too hard to be a stealth game, as well. Because of the flawed controls, however, you can’t sneak with as much excitement as you can in Metal Gear Solid or any other good stealth game. And, the music is forgettable.
   I’m off. Imma play GoldenEye on my Nintendo 64…


Dam - Remember that the game was released in 1997. If you look at the scale, it’s all pretty convincing. The main thing the game is lacking is lighting.



Facility - This is probably my favorite level. Everytime I (re)watch the movie, it feels as if I’ve visited the set.



Frigate - They’ve changed the helicopter’s name from Eurocopter’s The Tiger, to Euro Chopper’s The Pirate.



Severnaya - I was amazed by the scale of the satellite. Unfortunately, no huskies are to be found in the game. Inside the bunker, the detail of the control room is a bit strange. Rare spend a huge amount of time to create all those wall-hanging television sets​—​each with animated frames​—​and a great looking huge main screen just like in the movie, but there is hardly any computer present.



Archives - As far as I can remember, Archives was the first level shown to public when the game was in its very early stages of development. Back then, you could only control your aiming like you can in Sega’s Virtua Cop.



Statue - This is a very odd level. It’s very dark, with dramatic and creepy​—​almost Doom-like​—​music. I know of a guy who just kept failing this level, until he saw the movie, and knew how it had to be done.



Streets - Although the tank in the game is very slow and far less powerful​—​you can’t break walls with it​—​it’s very satisfactory to be able to squash your enemies. The sound effect that it makes when you do that is priceless.



Train - The Omega Seamaster watch’s laser!



Control - This is one of the hardest levels to complete​—​especially if you’re time challenging it to get the Infinite Ammo cheat. It’s also one of the most entertaining levels because you’ve got to infiltrate the base, protect Natalya while she’s hacking into the mainframe, and destroy armed mainframes with remote mines.



Cradle - The game cheats with this level: Enemies keep respawning and Alec can only be shot at certain spots of the level, otherwise he’s invincible. The level itself looks pretty much like how it did in the movies, though. Also, the music is pretty similar to Eric Serra’s cue of the film.

images by me

Oct. 14th, 2012

Movies Shown Shorter in Europe


Have you ever noticed something odd when you bought the soundtrack of your favorite movie and it sounded ‘different’? You can’t really put your finger on it, but it doesn’t sound the same.
   You check IMDBb.com, because you like the movie and want to know some trivia. However, you noticed that the movie duration is longer than what your DVD back-cover says. So, they might’ve cut some footage, might they not? You want to make sure, so you check for the description of the DVD on Amazon.com. To your astonishment, the movie duration is the same as what IMDb said. The only difference is that it’s the US NTSC version, while you’re from Europe and bought the PAL version. Does it have to do with that, and only that? … Why yes, it does.


James Cameron’s Titanic. The NTSC version is 194 minutes long.



The PAL version is approximately 186 minutes long (which is 4% shorter).



There were three television system:

Most countries in Europe (except France) used PAL, while the USA used NTSC. The main differences between the two were picture quality, color quality, and frame-rate speed.

Film Conversion

Back in the day when PAL and NTSC were in development, televisions couldn’t fill a screen fully in one instant. It was decided to use an interlaced system: first the even frames are drawn and then the uneven ones. It would take 2 steps to show the viewer one picture. Essentially NTSC is 30fps (30 pairs of two steps = 60 steps total = 60i (60 interlaced)), PAL is 25fps (25 pairs of two steps = 50 steps total = 50i). The more fps a video has, the more fluid it is for our eyes.
   However, movies have another fps standard: 24 full frames per second. This means that it can’t fit either PAL’s or NTSC’s system, interlaced or not; a workaround was needed:

Audio will get affected, too. If you speed up the movie (PAL), the audio track should be sped up along with it, otherwise they wouln’t be in sync. The same goes for NTSC.
   If you speed up sound, the pitch will go higher. If you slow it down, the pitch will go lower. So, not only does music in movies sound faster on PAL, the main pitch will be higher as well.


24fps Defines Film

You may have heard of the soap-opera effect. Because of time constraints and and a far lower budget, the filming medium used for soap operas is usually videotape, instead of film. If you compare The Bold and the Beautiful with Homeland, you’ll get the picture. Detail is far lower in the soap, but motion is pretty fluid. The benefit of tape is a higher fps: 60fps (interlaced) compared to film’s 24fps.
   Some of us (I’m one of ’em) relate fps value to it being a film, a soap, a sitcom, etc. In sitcoms (this might be true for soaps as well, but I haven’t seen one), outdoor scenes (outside of sets) are sometimes filmed using film. Because of this, the whole mood of the sitcom being a sitcom has changed to that being a movie. HDTVs have the option of smoothening out a movie, where, using a complex algorithm, newly fitting frames are added. Even though it makes the picture of a movie smooth, it also makes it feel like a soap/sitcom.


Off-Topic, But Related

Back in the analog days, when music artists (or their producers) decided that their song recording was too slow, the only thing that could be done was to speed up the whole recording, which resulted in a higher pitch (or record everything again, which would be very costly). Some good examples are:


NTSC & PAL Examples


h = hours, m = minutes, s = seconds
MOVIE = M, NTSC = N, PAL = P

- Example 1 -
A movie of 3 hours will be 10.8 seconds longer in NTSC format:

1h = 60m, 1m = 60s, 1h = 3600s

M = 3h = 10800s
N = 100.1% of M = 1.001 x M = 1.001 x 10800s = 10810.8s
N - M = 10810.8s - 10800s = +10.8 seconds



- Example 2 -
A movie of 3 hours will be 7.2 minutes shorter in PAL format:

P = 96% of M = 0.96 x M = 0.96 x 10800s = 10368s
P - M = 10368s - 10800s = -432s = -7.2m



-Example 3 -
A film score will sound higher in PAL format:

Hz = cycles per second
Song example = The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest Theme
Key of song = E minor (we will use E2 as a reference point)
E2 = 82.407Hz, F2 = 87.307Hz

E2PAL = E2 x 1.04% = 82.407Hz x 1.04% = 85.70328Hz
E2 < E2PAL < F2

creation by me


Oct. 13th, 2012

My First Passion of Music


Tomorrow … No, today​—​is it that late/early?​—​Andy McKee would give a clinic at the conservatory of Amsterdam. Unfortunately, he became ill. Wim den Herder, a good friend of mine, who organized the clinic, has come with an alternative: We are all welcome to come to the conservatory to play along and learn from each other.
   It’s been a long while ago that I’ve seen him. We both have quite some similarities in studies and passion. The main difference is that he has more of a jazz approach, while mine is more classical, when it comes to music.
   Anyway, I started my passion for music with the guitar in 1999-something. It was as if I opened a door with something completely new inside for me to love. I started listening to pop music, really liking Queen. After I watched their Live Aid show, I discovered Extreme and Metallica. I became quite a big Metallica fan and wanted to play their songs on guitar. I practiced many hours a day​—​so much that my, then, teacher couldn’t cope with my drive and dedication, that he sent me to another teacher.
   The idea of being different, new, and fresh has never changed. It’s the main reason why I decided to study flamenco guitar at the conservatory: There are enough pop, jazz, and classical guitarists. That’s what I thought back then. Now, I know better, even though I still believe I’ll be capable of adding a genre I’ll have created myself.


Manuel Photo

image by Menno Westerkamp


Oct. 11th, 2012

CRT TVs and Widescreen


Do you remember the time we had these huge and heavy TVs in our living room? I could barely carry the 28” Sony Widescreen television we had. I remember there was a sale from a mail-order company during the ’98 World Cup. Our​—​then​—​4:3 TV couldn’t do its job so well, anymore, so our parents bought the ‘new’ widescreen.
   How frustrating it was that most TV channels didn’t support widescreen. The channels that did, had a letterboxed source, which meant that the picture resolution suffered from it. We bought the special Titanic Widescreen Collector’s Edition VHS, but here, the image was also letterboxed and the subtitles were too lowly put, which meant that you couldn’t fill the image without sacrificing part of the subtitles (which became huge, because of the zoom). I can remember only one rented movie which, though letterboxed, worked perfectly on widescreens.
   Enter ‘Rare’! Also in ’98, us siblings had a Nintendo 64. GoldenEye 007 was the first console game that I know of, that supported a true widescreen source. Rare went overboard with the additional letterbox widescreen option, and even cinema widescreen, which you could combine with the widescreen source. This meant that you could make a very wide, widescreen image. Bond / the player would get a wider viewing angle, too, which could be helpful (underneath are some images of GoldenEye 007’s several screen options).
   The only other games that I remember playing in widescreen was Acclaim’s Turok 2: Seeds of Evil (letterboxed) and two other Rare games: Perfect Dark (without the letterbox options) and Get Force Gemini.


1.33:1 (Fullscreen)1.77:1 (Widescreen)
GoldenEye 007 normal normal GoldenEye 007 wide normal

1.77:1 (Widescreen Letterboxed)2.37:1 (practically Panavision Letterboxed)
GoldenEye 007 normal wide GoldenEye 007 wide wide

2.39:1 (Panavision Letterboxed)3.18:1 (pretty close to Panoramavision)
GoldenEye 007 normal cinema GoldenEye 007 wide cinema

images by me


Oct. 10th, 2012

Mistakes, the Portals of Discovery


Some embrace them; others repulse them. Fact is: We make them. I’m one of those who repulse making mistakes. It can take me days, weeks, sometimes even months, before I've overcome something I consider a mistake.
   I’m a perfectionist. Every part of a moment I could’ve achieved better, but didn’t, I consider a mistake. No matter how much I keep reminding myself that I’m human, and that it’s very natural to be flawed, to make mistakes, my ideals can sometimes drive me mad.
   Luckily, I found quotations about mistakes, that, indeed, they’re part of life, and that you can only see them as precious life lessons. Quotations by accomplished men and women. I do get a different idea of the world if I allow myself to make mistakes. It’s pitiful, however, to spend time thinking about them. Learn from them, let go, and move forward. It’s the only way.
   I’m not saying that it’s a bad to be so careful. But when it’s done, it’s done, you can’t change it, so don’t keep reminding yourself how bad a mistake that has been.
Okay, so you’ve made a mistake, huh? Too bad. Done. Forget about it and move on.


I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Thomas A. Edison

 


Oct. 9th, 2012

The Perfume of the City


Notice this nice and cool navigation bar above this text. I’m such an elitist, that I wanted it to be pixel perfect​—​then again, in the digital world every odd pixel is one too many. It took me two days to get it to work. Two days! Even though it could’ve been better, I’ll let it rest and continue with the typography. Currently, you’re reading either Helvetica or Arial style, which is nice, but … boring. Both are being used to death! I want something else, something special, something … new!
   As for other stuff. I’ve been working on my singing, again. I’m working hard on finding my voice, in finding my sound. I’m quite close, or so it seems. And, I’m going to have a test for my EVT Certified Master Course. You could call it a license to be able to teach a vocal system. Wish me luck!


Helvetica Photo

image by burn4


Oct. 8th, 2012

Let’s Rock!


Finally, I’m ready to launch my website! There are still some quirks here and there, but it looks pretty decent already. This time, my approach was to progress while experimenting, instead of learning everything there is to learn before starting a project.
   My goal with this site is to unleash my talents​—​all there is inside​—​so that I can keep on going with the flow. I’ve got so many thoughts and ideas moving round my head, that it’s best to park it somewhere​—​like on this site!
   The broad spectrum of interests I have, can have a place in this virtual dimension. Mostly, I’ll include music related material, because I’m mainly a musical artist: singing, playing guitar, composing, acting, and playing piano. However, I’m also very much into mathematics, drawing, dancing, programming, gaming, you name it.
   So, sit down, relax, and enjoy this website. Feel free to e-mail me for any question, comment, or even critique. Most of all, enjoy!

- Manuel Gutierrez Rojas -


Conservatory Photo

image by me