Danger! Safety! Vocals!

Performing artists, unlike any others, teeter constantly on the razor-thin edge between safety and danger.

Practice develops skill, and skill develops confidence; however, perform with technical perfection and you run the risk of being sterile.

To be powerful, you have to stretch beyond technicality to find passion and energy, without abandoning your moorings in technique.

In order to develop, to explore, and to innovate, you must live dangerously!

But you must have an environment of safety to be dangerous in—a place where you are free to fail, free to work out the bugs, without repercussions.

Practice, rehearsal, composing, creating should be in an environment where you feel liberated.

For your art to be true art it has to be expressed outwardly, and that means sending it out into the cruel, critical world to be judged.

You must leave your safe environment to share your work, which means exposing yourself to all kinds of feedback—that’s why VoiceCouncil’s Peer Review is such a great forum for singers.

Are You Vulnerable?

Some lucky people are invulnerable to negativity, so they are safe wherever they go.

Most of us, however, are affected by other people’s responses to our performance, imbuing any performance experience with anxiety.

Other lucky people have found an encouraging community, the auspicious company of others who understand the potential pain of what we are doing.

Luckier still are those who have friends and colleagues who can be simultaneously honest and encouraging.

Golden souls are those who love and support us regardless of what we do, who do not expect us to be perfect, and yet still warmly assume that perfection will come along eventually.

Maxims A Vocalist Can Live By

To reach your full potential, you must feel comfortable to push beyond your current state.

To understand where you must improve, you must have outside input.

To improve you must hear the truth, and the truth is not always gentle.

To succeed you must have your safe place, but you must also learn to not worry about safety.

My Reactions to This Week’s Peer Reviews

Bashly – Dollhouse (original)

Good voice, really nice pitch, nice style. Wonderful poise and controlled playing and singing. You have a solid sense of what you are singing, the style you want, and seem to have the full writing-performing-presentation package. Kudos!

Words, words, words! I can’t understand what you’re saying, and I want to, because it sounds like it will be fascinating! Don’t be afraid to just sing simply and clearly. You’ve got all the pieces to be a powerful performer, and you have powerful moments. I want to understand you, and to hear that power ALL THE TIME.

Chris Davies – Stay This Way (original)

Great work, Chris! A sweet message, delivered solidly and sincerely. Generally, good vocal control. Particularly when you are singing higher (like 1:48-2:15) it’s a great, free sound. Sweet tone and warm emotion. And I love that I can understand all your words. Very skillful. Be genuine with the pitch. If you are going to scoop into notes, make it deliberate, not lazy, and make sure you get up to the center of the pitch. In your middle down to low range, the pitch has a tendency to waver and droop a little bit. You want to sound relaxed, yes, but the airstream still has to be energized to keep the pitch up.

You can be nitpicky with your performance and set-up. Is your monitoring system giving you the best chance to be in the middle of the pitch? If your monitors are too soft, or too loud, that can affect your pitch. Do you have reverb in the monitors? That can affect the way you hear yourself. Start tweaking the tiny details and your overall performance will go to another level.

Alfy & Ago – Micro Cuts (cover)

I applaud your ambition! I took the liberty of watching several more of your videos, and you’ve got some good stuff going on! You’ve got a great baritone/tenor2 lyrical tone, and wonderful falsetto.

I am not one to ever discourage anyone from singing songs they love, or trying things that stretch them. So, not as words of discouragement, but for you to consider: Matt Bellamy is, as you put it, a “vocal god” for a reason—he does things that us mere mortals cannot. This song in particular goes places and does things that are orders of magnitude beyond what most of us ever can, should, or will even dream of. This song might be one that you can someday pull off like Sir Bellamy, but right now it’s not working: words are unintelligible, pitch is all over the place, and the tone in your high belting range is shrill.

What could you do to make this song your own? You can sing the song because you live it without parroting the Muse version. Sing parts down an octave? Down two octaves? Instead of going for the loud, high wail from the original, could you sing that soft and subtle? Play with it! Change it! Make it your own!

(P.S. I really like ‘Medula’)

-Mister Tim

See Mister Tim’s Exclusive Interview for VoiceCouncil Magazine

Mister Tim is the mastermind behind more than a dozen award-winning a cappella groups, including 2010 Harmony Sweepstakes champions Plumbers of Rome, internet sensations moosebutter, beatbox quartet Mouth Beats, and all-original vocal bands VoxBom and THROAT. He is a published composer and arranger, a dedicated teacher, and a solo artist, most recently with his solo vocal live looping show “Vocal Magic.” He was a headline performer in the Las Vegas Strip production of “Toxic Audio,” is in demand for speciality corporate music projects, and is an active educator, coach, and clinician. mistertimdotcom.com