Voice: The "Natural & the Trained". Various thoughts on preparation of the use of Voice.

Before anything else (as far as voice is concerned) was the developement of vocal expression through sound to speech, and how the "voice" is used to convey our feelings and thoughts. In time, depending upon our social upbringing, music is introduced into the equation. From lullabys to simple "sing-song" ditties, a child learns to respond to and engage in this simple form of communication. Later, that development becomes more complex.

At an early age, with a good ear and the ability to mimic what is heard, a child soon learns to use their voice in a variety of ways. As far as singing (everyone can sing, not all become accomplished), there is something that happens that is acknowledged by listeners and qualified as "pleasant to the ear". Most of us learned to sing by what was available for us to listen to. We learned to develop our voice by the positive reinforcemnt given by listeners, and, to a lesser extent, what we, ourselves, found pleasing. Of course, older or adult singers, radio, songs sung in school or church, etc. have an impact in this development. There are "natural singers" that have the ability to produce sound that place them above others. At some point, a "training" comes into play, either self taught (through mimicry) or by an individual that may wish to provide the guidance. My brother and I sang at an early age. We were able to produce harmonies that were pleasing. Later, in school, someone took it upon themselves to provide direction for our talent. Later still, when we were old enough to have our own likes and dislikes in music, we sang the songs we liked with our own style. Mimicry (as a means of self training) plays an important role, with us wishing to sound like a favorite singer, or style of music (classical, rock, blues, jazz, traditional/regional, etc.). Then there's also the "established trained way"/"formal training" which incorporates breathing, projection, balance, scales, development of "one's ear", practice for perfection, etc.

The gist of this discussion is: how did you, as a singer, develop? What influences can you cite as meaningful and having an impact on how you use your voice?


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Hey Jim,

What's going on??? I expected three part harmony, a gospel choir clapping time as your backup singers, orchestration by the Ohio Philharmonic Orchestra, guest celebrity musicians???? What happened???

Nawwww!!!! Just kidding 'cause I know you can take it. Anyone that can post that picture of "themself" as their icon (look at that smile and beaming face,....compared to mine that looks constipated or in desparate need of Imodium,.....my wife chose it for me: her fault!!!) has got to have a sense of humour and be alot of fun to hang out with!!!

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed your posted MP3 recording,....smiled all the way through it. I will admit to a few things (don't worry,...not overly critical): ye kinda zipped through it; I wondered why ye didn't back ye-self up on a guitar or zouk; ye seemed a little nervous,....ya know, to get through it quickly like a third grade book report in front of the whole class: "CAN"T STOP NOW!!!!"; what's with the lip smacking???? and was that a belch I heard in there??? (See,...not overly critical!!!) All in all, it was alot of fun to listen to. I wouldn't mind doing a few songs with ye me-self. I'm ready for more!!!! Looking forward to your next musical posting. Cheers, my friend. Well done!!!


I first heard that song from Malcolm Dalgleish, the hammer dulcimer virtuoso, at the Augusta workshops in 1977.  (It was our first vacation as a married couple.)  Malcolm  did it as unaccompanied vocal, so I do too.  I am working on some tunes accompanying myself on the bouzouki, but it's a bit trickier.  Like you, I haven't blown a big wad of cash for decent mixing software; I don't even have a microphone, just my little Sony mp3 recorder.  Getting a decent mix has been tricky, but I'm workin' on it.  I'm already using a thin pick.  It's kind of difficult to try to get less volume from your instrument, usually I want more!  Oh well. to be continued...

The other thing goes back to what I said in the first place.  I have a hard time singing to an empty room.  It's particularly hard doing a comic song; with no audience for feedback it's especially hard to get good pace and timing (Hmmm.  Are they different?)

And I did say, right at the beginning, it was Take One! 

Good Health to you, Jim!!

I was a bit worried that you took offense to my silly comment. "Take One" was fine!!!! POST MORE, DAGNABBIT!!!! POST MORE!!! Cheers,


"Post more"?  Well, I could make some snarky wisecrack about having a life, but that would be unkind, wouldn't it?  (heeheehee!) Really, thanks for your interest and the energy you put into TC; it's been much more interesting since you joined. 

Ach!!! Yera cruel and bedevilled man, Jimmy-Boyo!! 'Cause I have "NO LIFE" doesna give ye the right to plague me with harsh and unkind observations,....no matter how true they are!!! Now git ta work on more postings and enuf of these snarky, left-handed wisecracks. HEEHEEHEE indeed!! };^)   LOL!!!!!

Cheers, mate,



Oh all right, since you insist, :-)  (Is that more modern, up-to-date?)  Actually, I'm working on "She moves through the Fair" accompanying myself on bouzouki, but it'll take another week or two.

I actually had to stop myself from posting last night.  I saw the "To thrash or not" discussion, and didn't trust myself not to antagonize people with my flaming first response.  I'll compose a calmer, more reasonable response to that ... well, never mind.  Not calm enough yet.  L8r.

Forgot to mention.  Since we found out that our younger son is left-handed,  I now call them "back-handed" wisecracks.  The quality is the same, only the label is different.  And if you think you've seen the end of them, you little know your man! 

Hiya Jim,

"She Moved Through The Fair" is one of my first favorite folk songs (going back years). I've re-introduced it into my repertoire of Bouzouki-accompaniment songs, doing it in D (or capoed, in G),....depending on my voice comfort. I love the drone effect and think it adds to the melancholy mood that I'm after. I love Loreena McKennitt's version (accapella with church bells and bird song). I do not keep time with the song but deliver it with flourish and abandonment, Trad singing style of sorts. I do the same with some other songs as well, accompanied by either bouzouki or with my double flute ("Factory Girl"; "Are Ye Sleeping Maggie?" - I do a slow version (bouzouki) and a faster version (12 string guitar, more keeping in time) of this song; "Betsy Bell and Mary Gray"; "Sean-Dun Na Ngall" & others).

I'm anxious to see your comment to the "To Thrash or Not To Thrash" discussion. That should be entertaining to see how you won't/don't antagonize anyone };^0

LOL. Cheers, Jim!!


Speaking of ornamentation and mimicry....

I have a problem..I wish I could sound like Paul Brady...(if only I was chosen by the Almighty)

but no matter how much I practice, I think I sound more like Ronnie Drew...

not bad, but not what I'm aiming for....I'm probably exagerating a little and Brady's stuff is beyond my range anyway.  I truely can't sing that high, but Brady's ornamentation and control are top notch on the "Irvine/Brady" and  "Welcome Here Kind Stranger" CDs...

Is it possible to attain that level of control and emotion with simple practice?  OR am I dreaming?

Oh and anybody have any tips on playing while singing?  I can play nice lines on Guitar and zouk when I keep my mouth shut, but usually revert to chording the moment I start singing...I practice as much as time will allow (need to keep the balance w/ family, work, and band).   Any suggestions? 

Hey Liam,

Your first question: "Is it possible to attain that level of control and emotion with simple practice?" For myself, yes,....as best as my voice will allow. I've commented somewhere in here how I'm now using headphones during practice. You'd be surprized with the difference of what you think you hear (ambient singing) and what's really projected (listening with headphones). Every little nuance can be heard and perfected,....again, as best as your voice will allow. And recording a "mic-ed" voice will allow you to hear it again on replay. As far as the Brady/Drew thing????,......well, as best as your voice will allow. Embrace what ya got!!!

The "playing while singing tip"??? I used to have that problem (in practice), and alot of/most of the times still do (in performance). When practicing (alone) I can do pretty well with doing some riffs while singing/playing. The more familiar the piece of music, the easier to do it. But something kinda happens in a performance setting. I don't know,....lack of confidence???,....fear of messing up and throwing everything off???,....the differences in timing between voice and instrument??? In practice, there's an abandoned effort going on and a different energy level. In performance mode there's the "wanting to please your audience", "please like me", "don't wanna disappoint 'em", thing happening. I try to make my fingerpicking as natural as my strumming so I don't distract myself,...with more ornamentation between verses. All in all, it's all in your (my) head. Other folks can do it, so keep practicing until you can do it also. At some point the comfort level gets in sync with the "familiarity" of the piece and it just happens,......I think. Cheers, Liam!!! Always a pleasure.


Danny...I think you're right on regarding performing...I notice it more when performing with my band (even at practice)..I seem to get some pretty nice things happening when I play by myself, but when I get into the moment with my group on stage or at rehearsal, I keep reverting to very simple chord progressions, which is what my guitarist does (and I try like hell not to be playing the same lines on guitar and zouk...getts too muddy). 

I just need to take more time in the evenings and nail the zouk and guitar parts into my head so I don/t have to think about it when I'm singing....

Never had to deal with this issue before this group was formed because I was always the guitar/back-up singer, not the center of attention...maybe it is confidence i need to work on....more technique wouldn't hurt either I suppose.



In re-reading these discussion comments six months after the last, I wonder if there are any other singers that would care to add their views. Many of the comments still hold true and I hunger for more,..especially from new TradConnect (or Sean Nos & Trad Singer) members. Also, I'm sure readers would be interested in how others prepare (or prepared) their voice to participate in this unique form of music. Cheers,


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