collapse

* Member Info

 
 
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

* Like Us on Facebook

Baby, when I die, put daddy's picture in a frame.... So when daddy's gone you can see him just the same - Papa Harvey Hull & Long Cleve Reed, France Blues

Author Topic: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It  (Read 20727 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline blueshome

  • Member
  • Posts: 1372
  • Step on it!
    • Blueshome
Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #45 on: January 25, 2008, 03:12:26 AM »
John,

I'm not sure which Yazoo as my records are buried in a chest awaiting time to transfer them. It's certainly on one of the Mississipppi anthologies though. I got it off Document.

Offline Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10918
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #46 on: January 30, 2008, 10:32:59 AM »
Hi all,
I found Uncle Bud Walker's "Stand Up Suitcase Blues" on the old Yazoo anthology, "Mississippi Moaners" and gave it a listen, and as Phil surmised, it is a natural for this thread.  Uncle Bud is accompanying himself on a 12-string guitar, playing out of A position in standard tuning here.  Vocally, he sounds to be an oldster.  His phrasing is what I would characterize as "variably short".  What he is doing in a consistent way is shortening the time alloted for instrumental responses at the end of each of the lines in his verses.  His phrasing works out so, assuming four beats per bar unless otherwise indicated.  He makes his first vocal entrance on the IV chord, so the first verse's head is lopped off.  Here is Uncle Bud Walker's performance:



1st verse:
   |    IV    |    IV    |    I    |
   |    V7   |    V7    |    I    |
2nd verse:
   |     I     |     I     |     I + 2 beats   |
   |    IV    |    IV    |    I     |
   |    V7   |    V7    |    I    |
3rd verse:
   |    I     |     I      |    I + 2 beats    |
   |    IV    |    IV    |    I    |
   |    V7   |    V7    |    I    |
4th verse:
   |    I     |     I     |     I + 2 beats    |
   |    IV    |    IV    |    I    |
   |    V7    |    V7   |    I    |
5th verse:
   |    I     |    I      |    I     |
   |    IV    |    IV    |    I    |
   |    V7   |    V7    |    I    |
6th verse:
   |    I    |    I      |      I    |
   |    IV    |    IV    |    I    |
   |    V7   |    V7    |    I    |
7th verse:
   |    I     |    I      |    I + 2 beats    |
   |    IV    |    IV    |    I    |
   |    V7   |    V7    |    I    |
8th verse:
   |    I     |    I      |    I + 2 beats    |
   |    IV    |    IV    |    I     |
   |    V7   |    V7    |    I     |
9th verse:
   |    I     |     I     |    I + 2 beats    |
   |    IV    |    IV    |    I     |
   |    V7   |    V7    |    I     |
10th verse:
   |    I     |    I     |    I     |
   |    IV   |    IV     |    I    |
   |    V7   |    V7    |    I    |
A couple of notes on Uncle Bud Walker's phrasing:
   *  In the entire course of the song, Uncle Bud never once allots two bars for instrumental response at the conclusion of a vocal phrase.  In his first vocal phrase responses, he most often is "short, but long", in that he does one bar of instrumental response, but adds two beats to it, as in the second, third, fourth, seventh, eighth and ninth verses.  The two extra beats are not add-ons to accommodate vocal pick-ups to the next phrase, as such beats most often are in the music of Robert Wilkins or Ed Bell in such an instance.  Rather, with Uncle Bud Walker, the two extra beats in the third bar seem more designed to allow for instrumental perseveration, or thriving on a riff.
   *  Uncle Bud is perfectly consistent in his shortness at the conclusion of the second and third vocal phrases, in every instance allowing one bar for instrumental response where two bars would be the customary amount.
   *  Uncle Bud achieves a cool effect in the last bar of most of his verses by hitting a ringing stop on the third beat of the measure, letting the instrumental momentum wane, and then striking a treble pick-up on the + of the fourth beat to lead into the next verse.  It's not flashy, but it's really a nice touch.
   *  By shortening his instrumental responses, Uncle Bud is able to sing far more verses than normally fit on a 12-bar Country Blues recording in 1928.  Many of Texas Alexander's performances, for instance, have only three or four verses, because of Alexander's penchant for repeating the tag line of his verses.
For the present-day performer of this music, the question may be, "How carefully do you choose to preserve Uncle Bud Walker's phrasing if you play this song yourself?"  If you straighten out the phrasing by regularizing the time alloted for instrumental responses to fit a "normal" 12-bar with four beats per bar format, you've eliminated the most distinctive aspect of the original performance.  If you assiduously reproduce the exact phrase lengths as recorded by Uncle Bud, though, there's a good chance that you are giving more thought to the varied phrase lengths than he did, for there's no obvious reason pertaining to the song's lyrics to explain why his third bar is sometimes four beats long and sometimes six beats long.  On the recording, he really sounds in the moment, and that's probably the best thing to shoot for--to be able to phrase short, short but long, or regularly, as you're feeling it in the moment yourself.  And if you find a lick you like, why not go really long in a way Uncle Bud Walker never did in his rendition?
All best,
Johnm
 
           
« Last Edit: October 04, 2018, 06:42:30 AM by Johnm »

Offline waxwing

  • Member
  • Posts: 2543
    • Wax's YouTube Channel
Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #47 on: January 30, 2008, 10:51:40 AM »
So, are all of his response licks improvisational and different, altho' chosen to be specifically shorter to get more verses, or is there a set 4 beat response and a set 6 beat response that he switches between, improvisationally? I guess I'm wondering if you think he normally sang it as a 12 bar blues but shortened up the phrases to get those verses in, altho' how you could really tell that I don't know.

Can anyone post an mp3?

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Offline Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10918
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #48 on: January 30, 2008, 10:58:41 AM »
Hi John C.,
He did not normally phrase the song as a 12-bar blues--I would bet anything on that.  I would say he did it as he recorded it, but I would be amazed if he did it the same way with regard to details.  In fact there is no way of knowing, but nothing in his playing would seem to indicate that 12-bars was a norm for him.  I think a two-bar instrumental response would seem unconscionably long to Uncle Bud Walker, based on what he did here.
All best,
Johnm

Offline uncle bud

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • Posts: 8314
  • Rank amateur
Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #49 on: January 30, 2008, 11:04:54 AM »
Uncle Bud - a curious fellow...  :P

Wax, here's Stand Up Suitcase.

I think you're right, John, the only way to play it would be to be "in the moment". Otherwise you'd drive yourself nuts! Or I would anyway...

[attachment deleted by admin]

Offline waxwing

  • Member
  • Posts: 2543
    • Wax's YouTube Channel
Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #50 on: January 30, 2008, 11:32:33 AM »
Well, now that I have heard the simplicity of the accompaniment, I can see how easy it is to start the next vocal phrase at any point after the previous. I was imagining that he was truncating more complex licks, which, to me, would be far easier to memorize than to "decide" each time, in the middle of a lick up the neck or something, to just cut it short here or there.

Thanks, Andrew.

I really do think people have two entirely different ways that their minds work on these kinds of things. For instance, I might be playing a song in which there are 4 or 5 different response licks in the I chord. It's fairly easy for me to memorize which one to play after which verse, even if they have varying lengths, but if I decide to just choose "improvisationally" which one I'll play after each vocal line, I usually end up playing the same damn one every time ('cause, to be honest, I'm usually too caught up in the vocal) with no variation at all, driving me crazy. Whereas, as Andrew states, for others it is easier to chose in the moment 'cause memorizing drives them crazy.

All for now.
John C.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2008, 12:35:20 PM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Offline blueshome

  • Member
  • Posts: 1372
  • Step on it!
    • Blueshome
Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #51 on: January 30, 2008, 02:17:37 PM »
Thanks for this John, all is now crystal clear.  I think your suggestion for performing this "in the moment" has to be the way to go. I think I'll make an attempt at this number - I'll either post something in a few weeks or we can look at it at EBA Bluesweek perhaps. I'm a little busy preparing for more recording sessions at the moment.

Phil

Offline Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10918
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #52 on: January 30, 2008, 08:26:07 PM »
I will look forward to hearing your version, Phil.  You make a good point, John C., with regard to different players either wanting to know which fill goes where in the song or preferring to hang loose and stick in what seems right at any given time.  It makes me think that the first preference indicates a greater trust of memory and the second preference indicates a greater trust of reflexes.  It is probably one of those areas where it would pay off to try and work in the less comfortable realm to build up that approach.
All best,
Johnm   

Offline Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10918
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #53 on: March 26, 2008, 11:00:05 PM »
Hi all,
From the very first of this thread, it has been noted that often when a singer is "long" in a phrase, it is a result of treating the beats needed to sing the pick-up notes to the next vocal phrases as add-ons to a four beat measure, rather than utilizing the last two beats of the measure prior to the downbeat of the next vocal entrance to sing the pick-ups.  Instances of this practice abound.  Robert Wilkins, Furry Lewis, and Ed Bell all used this phrasing treatment with great regularity. 
I've been listening a lot to Lottie Kimbrough lately, and on her very early recording, "Regular Man Blues", take 1, from 1924, she is accompanied by the Pruitt twins, with one of them taking the guitar part and the other the tenor banjo accompaniment.  I noticed some odd lengths in the song's phrasing, particularly when going to the V chord in the 9th bar of the form.  What I figured out is that in Lottie's singing, when the final vocal phrase is preceded by pick-up notes, she is treating them as add-ons to the 8th bar, and allowing two extra beats for them, exactly as Wilkins and the other singers listed earlier would have in the same musical context.  What creates the musical rub in this instance is that the Pruitts are not hanging around in the I chord at the end of the 8th bar for two extra beats to allow for the vocal pick-ups; rather they are going to the V chord right on schedule, after four beats of I in the 8th bar.  As a result, you end up with a very unusual and odd-sounding phrasing where Lottie's taglines to her verses with vocal pick-ups wind up being long, but in the front end, because of the Pruitts' haste to go the V chord.  Of the six verses in the song, only the second verse has no pick-ups into the tagline.  As a result, it is the only verse where the phrasing, when listened to closely, sounds relatively normal.  For the other five verses, the final four-bar phrase conforms to the following, very unusual structure:

   |      V (6 beats)    |        V (four beats)    |        I   (four beats)   |     I (four beats)   |

I would suspect this peculiar effect resulted from the Pruitts being more citified in their notions of phrasing and Lottie being more country.  What this instance illustrates, though, I think, is that it sounds much more natural to treat vocal pick-ups as add-ons and to extend the length of a measure to accommodate them prior to landing on the downbeat of the next vocal phrase than it is to use the "correct" number of beats in a measure in such a context, and thus wind up landing in the next chord before the downbeat of the phrase.  Here is the song so you can listen to the effect:




If you would like to listen to this song to hear the effect I've described, it can be found on "Kansas City Blues 1924--1929", Document DOCD-5152, the first track.  I'm sure this must have happened elsewhere, but I've never noticed it before, and it really is an odd sound.  It is only Lottie Kimbrough's great singing and the Pruitts' stellar musicianship that keeps it from sounding much stranger than it does.
All best,
Johnm   
« Last Edit: October 04, 2018, 06:45:15 AM by Johnm »

Offline blueshome

  • Member
  • Posts: 1372
  • Step on it!
    • Blueshome
Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #54 on: May 30, 2009, 12:35:17 AM »
The Birthday Fairy (Amazon) brought me the Frank Hovington cd yesterday. I noticed that his version of Red River is a good candidate for this thread. He interjects bars in the manner of Willie Trice but more flexibly, drawing out the underlying 8-bar form.

Offline Mr.OMuck

  • Member
  • Posts: 2605
    • MuckOVision
Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #55 on: May 30, 2009, 05:57:04 AM »
I can't believe I just came upon this great thread. Well much of it was written before my Weeniefication.
What is the extent to which the narrative content and the choice of words, their particular phonetic structures, determine or influence the decisions singers make? I know for my own singing its as  important a determinant as any other factor. What vocal emphasis or sound will parallel or illustrate the narrative?
What is the best dramatic moment to begin a phrase? When does it serve the music & lyric to truncate a phrase?
Then there's the feeling thing. How the song makes the singer feel and how that influences their decisions, consciously or not. Perhaps we should conduct a neuro-psychological study complete with brain scans! I'm only half joking here, it might reveal surprising things about the process of how and why certain musical choices are made. I
wouldn't be at all surprised if its been done already. I'll ask my neuro-psych friend.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10918
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #56 on: May 30, 2009, 03:34:55 PM »
You are right, Phil, Frank Hovington's "Blood Red River" is a good candidate for this thread.  After re-acquainting myself with it, it sounds to me as though he had more to say instrumentally than the form, as it is most often played, has space to accomodate.  On this rendition, Frank Hovington has so many instrumental ideas that he ends up doing what amount to vocal fills around his instrumental licks.  Normally in an 8-bar blues, one would go to the I7 chord, as in "How Long" or the V7 chord, as in "Key To The Highway" in the second bar of the form.  For several of his verses, Frank Hovington goes to the I7 chord, late, and then goes to the V7 chord for good measure.  His abundance of ideas on guitar prevents the vocal rendition from having the flow we're most accustomed to hearing.

Your questions are good ones, O'Muck.  Without being able to talk to the various musicians and ask them, it's really difficult to say to what extent their divergence from metric regularity is a function of the text they were singing.  I suspect it may be more a result of their personal feel for phrasing, which tends to be, with tone, a musician's most individualistic quality.  Thinking of two musicians mentioned in this thread, Sleepy John Estes and Lil' Son Jackson, I feel as though I can make sense of their phrasing on a case-by-case basis, but I'm not at all confident that their own sense of their phrasing, as they felt it, is anything like the sense of their phrasing, as I am able to parse it.  (I would be amazed if it were so.)  Lil' Son Jackson, in particular, is a very thorny singer and player to grasp, for his playing and singing are strongly rhythmic with a powerful pulse, at whatever tempo he chooses, but with, at the same time, very irregular phrase lengths and metric shifts all over the place.  Despite all this, he manages to sound simple, and is easy to hear and grasp.  Maybe, it's just a function of how strong his pulse is, it pulls everything together, as in Robert Belfour's music.
All best,
Johnm        
« Last Edit: May 30, 2009, 10:54:12 PM by Johnm »

Offline blueshome

  • Member
  • Posts: 1372
  • Step on it!
    • Blueshome
Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #57 on: April 10, 2010, 10:45:56 AM »
Following John's comments on his brother Willy Trice being a candidate for this thread in his review of Willie's Trix cd, I was  listening to Rich Trice's recording of Blood Red River Blues. In this there is a long wait between verses while he picks away, as well as a few eccentricities in the verses.
There must be something about this song, what with the Frank Hovington version mentioned above.

Offline Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10918
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #58 on: January 20, 2011, 06:33:31 PM »
Hi all,
In listening to Booker White so much lately, I got to thinking about his phrasing on what I think of as his most characteristic sound, his cross-note slide pieces like "Parchman Farm Blues" and "Aberdeen Mississippi Blues".  It is such a distinctive sound, the way he comes running out of the repetition of his opening lines into the taglines of his verses.  I wondered what the degree of freedom was with which he phrased his songs that employed that basic sound.  What I found in checking "Parchman Farm Blues" and "Aberdeen Mississippi Blues" is that his phrasing for those two tunes at least was perfectly consistent, interrupted only by his solo, which is not a solo on the form but more like a vamp.  Here is how the phrasing works out for a verse of "Aberdeen Mississippi Blues", assuming four beats per measure unless otherwise indicated:
T h e r e' s      two little  women that I ain't      never seen                   they has
     ||                          |                         |                       |                          |
      two little  women       that I ain't never seen,  these 
     |                           |                     + 2 beats         |
    two  little women       just from New Orleans                                           I'--------m
     |                          |                        |                        |                   + 2 beats|

Booker phrased his form, then, with his his vocal entrance usually coming at the upbeat of the fifth beat of the last measure of the form, and holding that note across the downbeat of the form, through the second beat of the first measure of the form.  For the remainder of the first line of each verse, his phrasing has a tremendous counter-punching sort of feel, entering on upbeats for the most part.  His phrasing tends to square up in the repetition of the opening line and in the tagline.  You can see how Booker achieves his sort of run-on sentence effect in the transition of his repetition of the opening line into the tagline; instead of allowing some space for an instrumental response after singing the repetition of the opening line, Booker just tags on two extra beats to accommodate the vocal pick-ups for the tagline and launches right into it.  At the end of the form he concludes with essentially two four-beat measures in which to play his instrumental signature lick.  In the second off those measures, he adds two extra beats to accommodate the entry of the held note that will begin the next verse.  He does maintain this phrasing model with great consistency throughout the course of his renditions of these songs.  Here is Booker White's performance:




I've never heard this particular phrasing model used prior to Booker's use of it, and you have to give him credit, first of all for devising it, and secondly and perhaps more significantly, for having such utter mastery of such an unusual form that he was able to sound completely loose and natural singing to it.  He is obviously perfectly well oriented to his musical surroundings on these songs and it's a treat to hear the strength with which he delivers them.
All best,
Johnm
 
« Last Edit: October 04, 2018, 06:47:02 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10918
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #59 on: April 27, 2011, 06:38:01 PM »
Hi all,
There's been a lot of talk around here recently of Shirley Griffith, and he deserves every bit of attention that comes his way.  I recently figured out his "Shaggy Hound Blues", the first track on his Blue Goose album, "Mississippi Blues", my favorite of all his tunes, though closely rivaled by "River Line Blues", both of which were posted in performance recently by bayrum78 to the Back Porch.  Shirley's versions of the songs can be heard and requested on the Weenie Juke, too.  Here is Shirley's performance of "Shaggy Hound Blues":




"Shaggy Hound Blues" has haunted me for years.  It starts with an eerie signature lick, in E position in standard tuning, and the phrases have unusual lengths, in addition to which the rhythmic emphasis seems to flip when Shirley goes to the tag line at the end of each verse.  After much listening, I discovered that the song employs the following form.  The vocal phrasing follows a three-line AAB format like most twelve bar blues, but it is phrase as follows:
     V-------O-----C-----A----------L  SIGNATURE-------- LICKS Voc. pick-ups
   |   A7   |    A7   |   A7   |   A7   |   E   |   E   |   E   |   E   |   A             |

     V-------O------C------A--------L  SIG.  LICK   V. P-U
   |   A7   |    A7   |   A7   |   A7   |   E   |   E   |   A   |
     V-------O------C------A--------L  SIGNATURE----------------LICKS  V.P-U
   |    E    |    E     |    E    |    E    |    E    |    E    |    E    |    E    |    A    |

So it is that Shirley starts each verse's opening vocal phrase over the IV chord, sings over the IV chord for four bars, follows that with four bars of his signature lick (two bars repeated) and then goes to A for one bar to get the vocal pick-ups for his next phrase.  Once that phrase lands, he again sings four bars over his IV chord, but upon returning to the I chord, does his signature only once (two bars), then adding on a bar of A for the vocal pick-ups to his tagline.  He anticipates the downbeat of the tagline on the fourth beat of the vocal pick-up measure at the end of the second phrase, and for the remainder of the sung tag line phrases in front of the pulse by one beat, which is what gives that effect of having the beat flip, or turn over on itself.  After four bars to sing the tag line, he returns to his signature lick for four bars, and then as with the previous phrases, adds an extra bar to accommodate the vocal pick-ups for the next verse.  What keeps the form from being altogether symmetrical is the fact that he plays his signature lick only once in the second phrase, instead of twice as he does in the other phrases.  It should be noted that he added a measure to accommodate the vocal pick-ups to the first verse at the end of his intro, too.
I had always assumed that "Shaggy Hound Blues" was Shirley's composition, but uncle bud recently pointed out to me that Teddy Williams, who was recorded by George Mitchell in Mississippi and has some cuts on the "George Mitchell Collection" (though not "Shaggy Hound Blues") also recorded a "Shaggy Hound Blues", which upon listening proved to be the same song as Shirley's, though in a much simplified, one-chord version.  What's interesting about Teddy Williams' version is that he clearly sings the notes to a IV chord over his first two vocal phrases, despite playing the whole song in I. 
The fact that Teddy Williams also played the song would seem to make it implausible that Shirley wrote the tune, for he left Mississippi for Indianapolis as a young man and lived the remainder of his adult life there, I believe.  Who then, might be the source for the the "Shaggy Hound Blues" that both Shirley Griffith and Teddy Williams played?  My suspicion would be Ishmon Bracey.  Shirley played other covers of Bracey songs, notably "Saturday Blues", and Bracey demonstrated in his "Four Day Blues" a very complicated compositional sense in dealing with the musical materials of the blues, winding up with an altogether unique 17-bar form.  I think Bracey, rather than Tommy Johnson, Shirley's other primary Mississippi influence from early in his life, is the more plausible source for "Shaggy Hound Blues".  I don't know if we'll ever know for sure where the song came from, but I would rank "Shaggy Hound Blues", as performed by Shirley Griffith in the absolute top tier of recorded Country Blues performances.
All best,
Johnm 
« Last Edit: October 04, 2018, 06:48:51 AM by Johnm »

 


SimplePortal 2.3.7 © 2008-2020, SimplePortal