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Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It

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Well, Andrew, I do occasionally work on less challenging numbers and do have an easier time of it. Been putting together McTell's Searchin' the Desert for the Blues lately and that certainly flows pretty well, with rhytthmic variations following the lyrics easily. Anybody think I can get Farren to sing the female asides? (listen to them before answering)<G>
I often ask myself why I always seem to be attracted to the more difficult songs in any artist's oeuvre, but I guess I need the challenge to keep my focus up for polishing it to performance. But sometimes less demanding tunes can offer a greater opportunity for emotional investment, like George Carter's Risin' River Blues, and that will draw me along. Ah, well. Sometimes I think I am driven to learn the more difficult material before arthritis forces me to lower my sights.
Johnm, it may take me 'til August to feel really comfortable with Avalon, but I'll be there with it. John Hurt really had the most deceptively simple sounding style, yet so hard to really get a grasp of. Having learned later versions of Avalon Blues to some extent, I have always been drawn to the earlier version. It is so fresh and his variance in the number of signature licks between lines really implies the newness of it. He seems to be stalling to remember the next line which he just wrote, eh? Thanks for the "chant" description, I realize I was sort of coming to that view, but hadn't really voiced it to myself. But each line has such a little sort of warble to it (don't know any other way to describe it - a warbling chant - yeah, that works). And the breaks really have a fresh improvisational feel to them, breaking with the form somewhat. It's just really exciting and exhibits his youthful prowess. Hope I can do it justice.
All for now.
John C.

uncle bud:
Yeah, I wasn't saying give up the hard stuff, especially since the ones I've heard you're certainly doing a nice job on, just toss in some easy stuff to work more on the vocal phrasing aspects you mentioned had sometimes given you trouble. And many of the rest of us too, I should add. I'm not trying to single you out ;D, just using your experience to bounce ideas around for people including myself to try, since I think we've all got issues to deal with in this important aspect of the music. Since you've got a powerful voice it might be fun to have the singing take priority once in awhile.

Bounce away, UB. I really do wonder about my struggles and motivations and don't mind, even appreciate, being able to air them here, among friends. Thanks for the kind words, too. Every little bit helps.
All for now.
John C.

i find this to be a pretty interesting topic myself. for my own playing, i am always thinking about how i'm phrasing the vocal over the guitar part. the main activity in my mind boils down to "am i going to pull against the time or try to flow with it?". if i decide to go against it my first act is to avoid downbeats. next is to hold notes across bar lines. i will simplify my guitar part if necessary to keep from messing up the flow of the guitar because without it keeping solid time my syncopation morphs into the dreaded trainwreck. all of these decisions occur with each line of the song as it goes by.
learning how prior artists accomplish this stuff is an interesting exercise, especilly when you discover a consistantcy in what seems to the untrained ear to be inconsistant, as in the case of rwilkins as johnM pointed out. it gives one much more respect for the artistry of these great players and gives the lie to those who characterize country blues as a sort of accidental porch-picking. many of these players were serious artists with a lot of intention in their playing and this type of analysis shows that. thanx for the ideas fellers.

...greetings all ... very, very interesting discussion, thanks johnm for the idea and thanks all for posting personal observations ... I don't have much to add except that this 'phrasing' thing seems to be different from the 'blues voice' thing, and I'd never really overtly thought about it except when I notice my phrasing in certain songs is different from the 'originals' & and even after working on it, still struggle...I think waxwing said it, by saying something about singing 'squarely' above the guitar part and I think I tend to do that ... in other words, I can play some fairly intricate guitar part and sing along w/o much thought, but as soon as I try to tweak the phrasing -- train wreck? ::)? in point:? Blind Lemon's Piney Woods Money Mama, Lemon sings this line:? 'She's been tryin' two years to get me, to be her so-on in law'?w/ a pause after the 'me' and stretching the word 'son' ... well, after listening to Lemon and playing that song hundreds of times, I still struggle to stretch that word 'son' ... the only song in which I'm not able to sing the words is Pure Religion ... I've been playing the guitar part about 6 months, but can't get much of the vocal worked in...anyway, great topic...
regards, tomw


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