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Author Topic: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It  (Read 20626 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #60 on: November 20, 2011, 10:16:44 AM »
Hi all,
Tommy McClennan's version of "Bottle It Up And Go" offers a neat variation on the 12-bar chorus blues format.  Tommy lengthened the fourth bar to allow for the vocal pick-ups leading into the chorus, and is short on the instrumental response section at the end of the first phrase of the chorus.  So it is that the first phrase includes the opening two lines and two beats added on to the last bar to accommodate "she got to bottle it up and", for the word "go" arrives on the down beat of the second phrase, simultaneous with the arrival of the IV chord.  The second line of the form, with lyrics inserted, looks like this, then:

| go                |  she had to bottle it up and | go     + 2 beats     Them|

The final line of the form is conventionally phrased, with four measures each of four beats, as follows:

|high-powered women | sure got to bottle it up and | go            |               |

Taken as a whole, then, the form looks like this, assuming four beats per measure unless otherwise indicated:

|                            |                          |                           |          + 2 beats |         

|                            |                          |            + 2 beats   |

|                            |                           |                           |                         |

So you end up with an 11-bar form which has the same number of beats as a 12-bar form of 12 measures each with four beats, but in the instance of "Bottle It Up And Go", the first four-bar phrase has two extra beats, and the second phrase has only three measures and is short two beats.  It must be said, too, that in performance, the phrasing of "Bottle It Up And Go" looks and feels perfectly natural, so it is a textbook instance of the phrasing determining the form rather than the opposite.  Here is Tommy McClennan's performance:




All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: October 04, 2018, 06:35:21 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #61 on: October 25, 2013, 10:10:10 PM »
Hi all,
Charlie Pickett's "Down The Highway" is a very unusual song for its genre in a number of ways.  In his accompaniment, Charlie Pickett practically avoids playing chords at all, choosing instead to track his vocal very closely on his guitar, in the treble.  This sound, taken in combination with a complete absence of any kind of regular time-keeping in the bass, very free vocal phrasing, and a brilliant, almost distracting Flamenco-sounding signature lick makes it really tough to feel fully oriented to the form Charlie Pickett is utilizing (or even to say with certainty where his downbeats are).
Studying the song and the way Pickett set up his vocal phrases, yielded a surprising result.  The song, is, in fact a 12-bar blues, but one in which the first bar of each 4-bar phrase has 6 beats instead of the four beats that all the other measures have.  Each of Charlie Pickett's vocal phrases has a little hesitation or dwell built into the first measure of each 4-bar phrase, and then after sort of picking up new momentum adds a couple of beats to the measure and goes on from there.  Here is where the lyrics to the first verse sit relative to Charlie Pickett's form.  Lengths are not shown to scale

Now, I'm-a leave here walkin', gwine down High-way 61                           Now I'm gonna
                     |                    6 beats              |              |  Signature | Lick                        |


                     leave here walkin', gwine down High-way 61                         Now if I
                   |                     6 Beats                  |              | Signature   |  Lick                   |
                   
                     find my sweet mama, babe and me gon' go have some fun
                    |                    6 Beats                      |                               |  Signature      | Lick                   |

Each of the vocal phrases has a little built-in pause, along about the third or fourth beat in the first measure of each line, after which it re-introduces the pick-ups that opened the phrase.  It is a tribute to Charlie Pickett's skills, both as a singer and as a guitarist, that he could flow through such a rhythmically disjunct  way of phrasing a melody.  And in terms of the mood of the song, Charlie Pickett's choice to have his guitar accompaniment shadow the vocal in the treble, rather than laying down a regular bass line that would sound the pulse, gave the song it's distinctive sound. 
If you've not had an opportunity to hear "Down The Highway", it is well worth seeking out.  It's not that often that you hear something in the style that seems to be so totally without precedent.
All best,
Johnm


 
« Last Edit: October 04, 2018, 06:37:37 AM by Johnm »

Offline Gumbo

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #62 on: October 26, 2013, 03:24:09 AM »
Thanks for opening this one up, Johnm. Puts me in mind of Frank Floyd a bit the way those licks take off.


Online Slack

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #63 on: October 26, 2013, 07:22:21 AM »
Hauntingly beautiful Johnm, thanks for breaking it down and posting it!

Offline Johnm

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #64 on: October 26, 2013, 07:58:14 AM »
Thanks John D., it's an amazing tune, isn't it?  And thanks, Gumbo, for posting the video of it--I usually forget to do that and it makes all the difference for folks who have never heard the performance before.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #65 on: November 04, 2013, 01:08:46 PM »
Hi all,
I've had occasion recently to work on and study Henry Spaulding's "Cairo Blues" towards the end of really understanding it, after loving the song and Spaulding's performance of it for more than forty years.  For the song, Henry Spaulding accompanied himself out of the EAEGBE tuning, pitched at F#, so he either capoed to the second fret, did the whole tuning a step lower and capoed to the fourth fret, or least likely, went to the tuning a whole step high (unlikely because doing that would require him to raise the fourth string two whole steps).  Capos were in common use among St. Louis players of Spaulding's era like Charley Jordan and Clifford Gibson, so there's no strong reason to assume he did not use one.
The song is a bit reminiscent of Teddy Darby's "Lawdy, Lawdy Worried Blues", not musically, but in as much as it has an unusual, "one-off" form that it adheres to consistently through-out Henry Spaulding's rendition (apart from the third verse, where he goes long).  The song is a 9-bar blues that breaks out as follows.  Assume four beats per measure unless otherwise indicated.

   |       I      |      I (6beats)  |      I (6 beats)    |

   |       I      |      I (6 beats) |      I (6 beats)    |

   |       I       | I    IV           I| I  IV    I            |

Every measure in the form with the exception of the seventh and eight measures concludes with a little two beat instrumental lick that has you ending up at the fourth fret of the first and third strings.  In the last two measures of the form, Henry Spaulding rocks between a I chord and a IV7 chord before finally resolving back to his ascending lick that leads to the next verse.  In the 6 beat measures that conclude the first two phrases, the two extra beats are to accommodate that ascending signature lick.  In the first measure of the first two phrases, the vocal is shorter, so that the two additional beats are not needed to create the space for the lick.
An interesting thing about the vocal on "Cairo Blues" is that it enters on the upbeat of the first beat in the the first and second measures of the first two vocal phrase,  This gives it a strong counter-punching quality, coming in right after the downbeat hits.  Only in the final vocal phrase does the vocal anticipate the downbeat of the last phrase, entering instead on the tail end of the last measure of the second vocal phrase.
Henry Spaulding engages in some V chord avoidance in "Cairo Blues", never hitting anything that could be construed as a V or V7 chord in his verses.  In the third verse, Spaulding goes long, and plays a little solo in which he goes to a IV7 chord with its root in the bass for the first time in his rendition, following this with a brief syncopated passage that hints at a V7 chord (though with no root of the V chord in the bass).
I think "Cairo Blues" must rank, along with "Last Kind Words", "Motherless Child Blues" and a few other songs as one of the most beautiful and remarkable Country Blues set piece performances.  I can't even imagine how it could be any better, it's just perfect.  Here is Spaulding's performance of it, for those of you have not heard it before.



All best,
Johnm   
« Last Edit: November 04, 2013, 02:25:36 PM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #66 on: February 26, 2014, 09:53:00 PM »
Hi all,




I've been working recently on Ed Bell's "Mamlish Blues", and as so often seems to happen when you really study something, noticed some aspects about the the song, and particular its phrasing that I had never noticed before.  Put in brief, "Mamlish Blues" turns out to be a 12-bar blues, but one in which the vocal phrases work out to be three bars, four bars and five bars long, like so, assuming 4-beat measures unless otherwise indicated:

You used to   be my sugar but   you ain't sweet no,   mamlish more, used to
                  |     E/A                |        E/A                |          E/A                      |                 

                     be my sugar,        you ain't sweet no more                                                     'Cause you
                   |       A                |          A                     |     E, sig. lick              |   E, sig. Lick + 2 beats     |

       mistreated me and you  drove me from your door                                                                 Mama
      |      E/B                       |           E/B                   |   E, sig. lick        |    E, sig. lick     |   E transition     |

Each verse begins with pick-up lyrics which fall in a transitional measure that Ed Bell inserts between the two signature licks he plays at the end of the third vocal phrase and the downbeat of the beginning of the next verse.  The form starts with some real tension in the accompaniment, for he is bending an E figure up the neck (the song is in E) but with a non-chord tone A in the bass, droning away.  He sings the opening lyric idea, which is essentially a 2-bar phrase, but then extends it an additional bar with the "mamlish measure", going from there immediately into the second vocal phrase.  The second vocal phrase continues to have the A note droning in the bass, but since it now has an A figure over it in the treble, it's as though the other shoe dropped, harmonically, and the tension has been resolved.  In the second phrase, there is no mamlish measure, and the vocal phrase is followed by two repetitions of the song's signature lick, the second of which has two beats added after its completion to accommodate the vocal pick-ups to the tagline of the verse.  Ed Bell delivers the tagline in the first two bars of the third phrase, under which he plays a nifty little call-and-response lick in E, but with a B note in the bass.  He follows the tagline with two signature licks, each a bar in duration, but then tags on an additional bar to make the transition into the next verse.
Ed Bell adheres to this phrasing model very strictly in the course of his rendition; it is very much a set piece.  The EAEGBE tuning which uncle bud suggested that Ed Bell used for "Mamlish Blues" and many of his other songs works like a charm.  The great majority of the song can be played with no more than two fingers in the left hand fretting strings at any given time.  Ed Bell's phrasing model that he utilized in the song is the kind of thing that if someone were instructed to write as an exercise would probably end up sounding just like that--an exercise.  Ed Bell makes the whole thing sound so masterful and seamless that you might know the song really well without ever being aware of how unusual its phrasing model is.  That is artistry.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: November 14, 2014, 10:47:16 PM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #67 on: December 08, 2014, 03:18:30 PM »
Hi all,
I purchased a 2-CD set, "Essential Detroit Blues" on Not Now, NOT2CD445, when I was in the Orkney Islands this past summer, and have been listening to it a lot.  There is a very strong cover of "Bumble Bee", "Bumble Bee Blues", by John Lee Hooker on the set, and I thought it would be interesting to look at how John Lee Hooker phrased the song.  He does it in a small ensemble with his own guitar, piano, bass and drums, and it's fascinating to hear the musicians in his band go right with him as he diverges from the 12-bar blues form as it is most often played today.  Below is a representation of how he negotiates the rendition from his first verse to the end.  I will attach an .mp3 of the recording so you can listen to it and get the effect of his phrasing in musical time.  Assume measures of 4 beats except where a greater length occurs, indicated by a + of the number of beats added to the measure.  NOTE:  Relative lengths of measures are not shown accurately due to having to fit lyrics in and keep phrases on one line each rather than scrolling.  For the piano solo, only the final phrase is shown, since it includes John Lee's vocal entrance for the last verse.  The first two phrases of the piano solo are the conventional first 8 bars of a 12-bar blues with four beats per measure throughout.
VERSE 1:
Bumble bee, bumble bee, bumble bee              Bumble bee, please come back to me                  Bumble
             |        I                             + 2, IV7 |                   IV7                                 |    I      |     I         |
Bee, bumble bee, bumble bee            Bumble bee, please come back to me                        Bring me my
|               IV7                       + 2 |                       IV7                                  |     I              + 2            |
granulated sugar, bumble bee,  and try to ease my baby to me                                 She stung me this
|              V7                          |              IV7                             |        I               |      I                         |
VERSE 2:
Morning                               I been lookin' for her all day long                                                 Yes, she
|              I                      |                     IV7                      |                 I            |                I               |
Stung me this mornin', yes, yes   I been lookin' for her all day long                                Carry me to the
|            IV7                +2         |            IV7                                  |             I                      + 2          |
Place, one time            Hate to see my bumble bee leave home                              My bumble bee got a
|          V7                 |                          IV7                             |        I          |          I                           |
VERSE 3:
Stinger                                 Just as long as her right arm                                                         Yes, my
|            I                  |                                |           I                          |                 I                             |
Bumble bee got a stinger      Just as long as her right arm                                                Yes, time she
|           IV7                 +2 |                IV7                        |                 I                                + 2          |
Sting me                       Hate to see my bumble bee leave home
|           V7                |                       IV7                                    |               I           |            I             |
LAST PHRASE, PIANO SOLO:
                                                                                                                                            Yes, buzz
|           V7                |                     IV7                           |                   I                               +2          |
VERSE 4:
me, buzz me, buzz me 'til I don't want no more  buzz me, buzz me, bumble bee, buzz me all night long,
                                                                                                                                           now I say
|              I                 |           IV7                    |          I                                    |             I                   |                             
buzz me                   buzz me all night long                                                                I say, buzz
|          IV7             |              IV7                      |                           I                        +2           |
me, buzz me             I don't want no more
|          V7               |              IV7                   |                       I                     |                I                  |

What conclusions can be made about the way John Lee Hooker phrased "Bumble Bee Blues" on this particular day in the studio? 
  * It seems like John Lee heard/felt a little 2-beat dwell or time for an instrumental response at the end of the first measure of his first and second vocal phrases.  He's less consistent about leaving that 2-beat space between the first two bars of the opening line of each verse, leaving the space in the first verse, and in the third verse, though in the third verse he gets caught by the pianist and bass player not acknowledging the dwell, and going right back to the I chord after four beats of the IV7 chord in the second bar of the phrase.  John Lee is more consistent going long in the second line of each verse, putting in two beats between the two halves of the vocal phrase over the IV7 chord.  Only in the final verse, does John Lee sing over the two bars of IV7 in the second vocal phrase without adding the two beats. 
   * John Lee is perfectly consistent in shortening the instrumental response to the second vocal phrase of each verse, giving it 4 beats + 2 extra beats to accommodate his vocal pick-ups to the tagline of each verse.  This shortening of the instrumental response to the second vocal phrase is not as uncommon as you might think it to be.  Bukka White did that very thing in his instrumental responses to both the first and second lines of almost every song he recorded in his amazing 17-song session with Washboard Sam, and Walter Davis did it in his great recording of "Sloppy Drunk Again", with Henry Townsend and Big Joe Williams.
   * I think the ways that John Lee inserts some dwells and shortens the instrumental response elsewhere are not jarring at all--in fact, if you're not listening carefully, the changes in the form as it is normally played might not even register to you.  On the other hand, though, I think that a great deal of what is distinctive and personal to John Lee Hooker, apart from his vocal tone, is imbedded in these subtle changes he felt and made to the 12-bar form.  And in fact, if you're primarily a solo player, there's absolutely no reason not to take similar liberties with phrase lengths if the sound and feel that results please you.  Even in an ensemble, such changes need not be considered taboo.  John Lee's group here sounds just fine, and Sleepy John Estes' ensemble work with Jab Jones and Yank Rachell was able to work with idiosyncratic phrasing without any big problems.  I think it's something that is definitely worth thinking about and even working towards, in the interest of expanded phrasing options and a bigger vocabulary of sounds.

All best,
Johnm   

« Last Edit: December 08, 2014, 06:09:50 PM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #68 on: March 22, 2016, 12:33:57 PM »
Hi all,
I have had occasion to figure out Bobby Grant's "Lonesome Atlanta Blues" in order to do a lesson on it, and was surprised to find that it used a phrasing archetype I had never encountered before in a 12-bar blues, breaking each verse down into one 8-bar phrase and one four-bar phrase.  Here is his performance of the song:



The phrasing works out that way because Bobby Grant perseverates in his lyrics over his first melodic idea, making his vocal statement there 6 bars followed by a two-bar instrumental fill.  He then follows with a 2-bar vocal phrase which is followed by the same instrumental fill as followed the first vocal phrase.  So it is that his phrasing works out as follows, imagining the first 8-bars in one line and the last four bars in a second line:

I'm so lonesome, gosh I's lonesome, hear me crying, baby, I ain't lying, I'm so lonesome, 
|                       |                            |                        |                          |                          |
Got those lonesome Atlanta blues                                     I'm so
|                                            |   (fill)                |     (fill)              |
Sad and lonesome mama, I don't know what to do                                    When you
|                          |                                             |   (fill)              |   (fill)                    |

At first I thought Bobby Grant phrased his 12-bar blues in two 6-bar phrase, a scheme I've only encountered in Robert Wilkins' "I'll Go With Her", but no, Bobby Grant did an 8-bar phrase followed by a 4-bar phrase.  There were a lot of things done outside of the normal formal conventions in this music--I have to remind myself to stay alert to them and note them when I encounter them.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: October 04, 2018, 06:39:56 AM by Johnm »

Offline blueshome

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #69 on: October 22, 2016, 07:10:39 AM »
This appeared on the RBF forum.
Really unusual structure plus Sam Chatman on slide.


Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #70 on: October 22, 2016, 09:22:55 AM »
Great performance!


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Offline Johnm

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #71 on: October 24, 2016, 06:32:10 AM »
Thanks for posting that, Phil.  Boy, Sam was such a great singer!

Offline Johnm

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #72 on: November 14, 2016, 09:46:53 AM »
Hi all,
I returned recently to Sam Chatmon's recording of "I Stand And Wonder", and was so struck by the simultaneous novelty and naturalness of Sam's phrasing of the song that I decided to figure it out--and it took a while. One of the amazing things about Sam's phrasing of the song (or perhaps not so amazing) is that he phrases the song perfectly consistently, from beginning to end of his rendition.  Here is his form, with only chords and meter of each measure indicated:

| 4/4    I    | 6/4    I    | 4/4    I    | 3/4    I    | 4/4    I    | 6/4    I    |

| 4/4   IV   | 4/4  IV    | 4/4    I    | 6/4  I     |

| 4/4  V7   | 4/4  IV    | 4/4    I    | 6/4    I    |

Characteristically, Sam has a rush of vocal pick-up notes on the fifth and sixth beats of the final measure of the form, following the completion of his signature lick.  He plays his signature lick in the third and fourth bars of the second and third lines of the form, and true to Country Blues phrasing, he does not interrupt the signature lick with singing; rather he tacks on two extra beats at the end of those lines to accommodate the vocal pick-ups that lead into the next vocal phrase.  Here is how the first verse phrases out over the form:

Says, I hate that train, baby,          runs out Easter day,      runs out Easter day, Lord
                            | 4/4                 | 6/4                            | 4/4                     | 3/4         |

                               I hate that train that    runs out Easter day, Good Lordy
                            |  4/4                             | 6/4                                           |
                     
                               Same old train that        carried my baby away      (signature lick)    (signature lick)  Oh                           
                            | 4/4                              | 4/4                              | 4/4                    | 6/4                        |

                                Hate that train that        runs out Easter day        (signature lick)    (signature lick)Says, my babe's in     
                             | 4/4                              | 4/4                              | 4/4                    | 6/4                                           |
                                             
Listening through Sam's rendition, it becomes apparent that what makes the phrasing work, to a great extent, are the little interstitial interjections:  the "Lord" in the fourth bar, the "Good Lordy" in the sixth bar, and the "Oh" at the end of the tenth bar.  And I find myself taking away the idea from this song that there are so many possible ways to vary the blues form and yet have it end up still being very recognizably a blues.  For those of you out there who write your own songs, that's a good thing to remember, and if you end up with something that phrases out as punchily and rhythmically exciting as what Sam Chatmon did with "I Stand And Wonder" you will really have accomplished something.

All best,
Johnm                       
« Last Edit: November 22, 2016, 06:46:16 AM by Johnm »

Offline blueshome

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #73 on: November 14, 2016, 11:53:19 AM »
Thanks for the analysis John.

I'm trying to work up a version of this song. I'm finding the dynamics of the vocal especially during the descending phrases the most difficult part.

Offline harriet

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #74 on: November 14, 2016, 02:27:34 PM »
Thats pretty interesting, at leat to me, the break down of the form, thanks for the presentation. I like seeing the different meters noted down. Some of slide that I listen to and attempt is never even in tempo, the lyric, dialect and singing dictate the tempo in an intuitive manner and interweave with a supporting vocal almost as if the lyric is the form

 


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