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How to Kick Vocal Ass on Rock Band

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In a recent podcast, Hamish & Andy shared a small insight into the male psyche:

Love the Beast” isn’t about a car – it’s a film about how guys need an activity to bond with each other.  It has nothing to do with not being in touch with each other or not being able to communicate properly, it’s just a guy thing that we need something to do so that we can chat to each other when we are doing stuff.

For me, that male-bonding activity is Rock Band.  Every few weeks, a few of my ex-colleagues get together to rock out on plastic instruments, earn fake money and amass a small colony of virtual fans.  From the outside, it just looks like four geeks on toy instruments.  But from the inside, it is pure Rock & Roll – escapism at its finest.

Maybe it’s because the othersare mostly IT types (or maybe I’m just a mic hog), but I tend to be on vocals a lot of the time.  That’s not to say I am a stellar singer –  anyone unlucky enough to have heard me sing before know this (an asthmatic cat is a good analogy).  However, over the years I have learnt a few tips on how to score big as the vocalist:

1. It’s all about Pitch. All that matters is that your voice follows the melody.  If you don’t know the song, just hum it and track your pitch using the indicator.  If the song or a particular section is too high for you, drop an octave. The game won’t know the difference, but your voicebox will thank you for it.

2. You don’t have to hold every note. Watch the clock in the top-left corner under the lyrics. It ticks over when you are singing within the pitch range for each bar. Once it’s full, you can stop – there’s no need to keep going with the rest of the bar. Save your vocal stamina for the rest of the song.  (Note that Guitar Hero World Tour doesn’t have this meter.  Boo!)

3. Save your overdrive. Once your yellow bar under the lyrics is over half full, the game will give you opportunities to kick into overdrive (the score multiplier).  Don’t use it immediately – save it for when your other band members have activated their overdrive for full effect. This normally means waiting for the drummer to activate his overdrive, as he has less opportunities to kick it in than you do.

4. Avoid Metallica. Their songs hurt, and are rediculously un-fun on drums anyway.  If you must get your Hetfield fix, save it for the end of the night when you no longer need your vocal cords.  While you are at it, why not drink more beer just to finish them off for good.

If you’re an amateur like me, you’ll probably find your vocal range and volume gets worse throughout the night.  I asked an old friend, a professional singer for more than a decade, how she manages to gig through the night week after week.  Here’s what she said:

1. Never sing when you’re dehydrated.  If you reckon you’ll be singing at any point in the day, drink lots of water beforehand.

2. Always warm up your voice and warm down. A good exercise is to take a deep breath and pretend you’re blowing raspberries in the air but with one long sustained note. This one takes practice. It forces you to use your diaphragm to release your voice. The longer your raspberry goes, the more engaged your diaphragm is.

3. NEVER EVER sing outside of your range. If you feel like you’re belting a note and it’s ‘hurting’…. stop. Singing should never hurt.

4. Never ever sing out of breath. Always remember to breathe. The number of times I’ve hurt myself coz I forgot to breathe before I sang is incredible. Taking a breath makes all the difference. Make sure you don’t scream from your throat. That’s a sure fire way of losing your voice in a hurry!

5. In between sets, I try NOT to talk. Rest your vocal chords as much as you can.

Sound advice indeed. It works – I drink lots of water during the day and warm up in the car on the way to the gig (despite strange looks from passing motorists).  My voice is still weak at the end of a 6-hour session, but hey, that’s the Rockin’ lifestyle for ya.  Rock And Roll!

Written by Richard

19 March, 2009 at 7:19 pm

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