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Are there tools or techniques around to "benchmark" singers? What I mean is: if I'm not performing up to my goals, I want to know what I'm lacking and what type of training I need to go through.

Also, I'd like to get a grip of my physical limitations so I don't waste my time trying to overcome them, but rather direct my music to work around them.

Suppose that I record my voice while singing and take a look at the spectrum. What does good singing "look like"?

Am I on the right track here? Is there such a thing?

EDIT

I have a voice coach and although he does say when I've performed brightly or not, I don't understand his means to do so. Even if he explains them to me, I'd also like to develop my own references and measures when it comes to singing, because sometimes I don't like the way I sound, I feel it's different from great singers and I don't know exactly what is sounding off to me.

EDIT

I intend to look for a more "scientific" way of measuring progress and comparing to great singers. I'll leave this question open until I've made some progress or someone contributes something in this regard.

  • I've found that recording yourself is a good way to keep track of progress and also see where your shortcomings are. – Charles Oct 7 '14 at 13:33
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To be honest, I think you're on the wrong track. I don't believe that there can be a universal and objective tool that does what you want. What you need is an experienced teacher / vocal coach who will listen to the way you sing, the way you breathe, and who can tell you what you should focus on and which techniques and exercises should be used to achieve your goals.

Singing is also not only about technique, so 'benchmarking' singers will remain a very subjective matter anyway. The only thing I can think of is measuring the pitch to judge whether you sing in tune or not. There are tools for this, but they will not solve your problem because even if you sing in tune, your technique might be wrong, so it won't sound good or you will strain your voice unnecessarily.

  • I've updated the question with info regarding my vocal coach. Things besides measuring pitch is what I'm looking for, but I understand that they might not exist - hence the question! :) – ivarec Oct 7 '14 at 13:36
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Sounds like you have goals you'd like to meet, but art in general, including singing, is utterly subjective so as to whether you're meeting them or not is really up to you.

I guess there are a few technical things which are easy to 'yae/nae', but with caveats:

  • Are you singing in tune ? You can probably decide this for yourself but a second/third opinion might be worth a try just to check you're evaluating yourself well. The caveat is that singing in tune doesn't make you a great singer, and many great singers bend notes or even miss them, and it seems to just add to the character.

  • Vocal range : Can you hit the notes that you want to, convincingly ? Caveat: What's 'convincingly'? eg high notes.. maybe you use falsetta meaning it sounds operatic - fine if that's what you're after, not good if you want Sammy Hagar style vocals.

  • Tonal quality of your voice - operatic? rock screaming ? punky sneer ? hard rap shoutiness? Bluesy smoothness ? Maybe you can get several characters from your voice.. Caveat : What's a great tonal quality? Totally subjective !

  • Lasty.. mojo. Almost undefinable, but I know some vocalists who sing in tune, have a great range and nice tonal quality but somehow still sound like an estate agent singing in the car. That's where you're really stuck with "benchmarking". I'm not sure anyone's really analysed that and nailed it. This question & answer might help though :How to sing with Energy

I'd say your best bet would be to record yourself singing something that you think you're singing well, and get a few opinions- maybe 4 or 5 different people, whose opinion you respect (by which I mean you know they'll be honest) - they don't have to be experts though as music generally appeals to loads of sections of society, but maybe someone who you know has a musical ear, even if they don't play/sing.

  • Be prepared for them saying "you're crap!" - it's part of inviting opinion. But if they do, ask them to define how.

  • Be prepared for them saying "that's absolutely brilliant!" - cos you might be :-)

  • Very nice! Can you elaborate a little about tonal quality? How do I measure it? Don't need to be something scientific haha thanks a lot! – ivarec Oct 7 '14 at 13:37
  • Hi-thats a toughie! about all I can think of is examples: There's that crack in your voice which may be desirable. eg Beyonce has a very clean voice whcih almost never 'breaks' into a rasp, as opposed to Pink who is right on the edge of her voice getting 'furry'. Then there's Tom Waites who sounds like he's recovering from 'flu lol (but it's ace). Also the richness of the voice - Sting and Jon Anderton (sp?) from Yes have a thin kind of high pitched voice as opposed to Nat King Cole whose voice (that tune 'there may be trouble ahead') is so creamy & full it makes you want strawberries with it. – user2808054 Oct 7 '14 at 17:11
  • Regards measuring that: A thinner voice will poke through loud music more easily, whereas a rich full voice might need extra room in the range for it to fill. Eg ACDC 's Bon Scott (v high) prods nicely over the loud harsh guitars, but Michael Buble might struggle unless you turned his vocals up LOUD, in whcih case they could drench the whole sound. And no-one drenches Angus hehee :-D – user2808054 Oct 7 '14 at 17:13
  • Great comments! – ivarec Oct 7 '14 at 17:29
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Obviously being able to hit the right note is key, but you won't need to look at a spectrum analyser for that.

Timbre us a much more complex question. There are successful singers with many different types of voice, so again, looking at the spectrum is unlikely to help you.

You are best served by visiting a voice coach and getting them to instruct you on any weaknesses.

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