About recording primal vocals

I am attempting with these music tracks to explore what I am calling primal vocals.

This may not be a good name for what I am trying to get but this is what I have been calling the results.

What I mean by primal here is singing without words and where there is some emotional content.

I am suggesting that some of the sounds that (for instance) a baby or an animal makes have a primal content which communicates something even though there are no words. I am hoping to make some of these types of sound myself and keep the less ugly examples for use as music.

I would also claim that adult humans who HAVE learned speech also sometimes make primal sounds. Pain, grief, bloodlust, sexual arousal etc etc.

All effective vocal music relies on the primal element. I just want to try to isolate the primal.

My method so far has been to get some chords going in a minimal backing. Then to improvise some non-lexical vocals for about 20 minutes. Then I spend hours and hours editing and auditioning any snippets that I think may be usable.

I do that editing in stages. First I break the long parts down into ‘possibles’ then I mess with those over the backing track until again choosing a shortlist of about 30 or 40 snippets. After messing around with these it quickly becomes obvious which are the 3 or 4 final choices.

This editing bit needs to be intuitive really. I may claim that I am looking for some emotional content in the snippets but it also at the end comes down to the snippets I can’t live without. The ones I like. The ones that I think sound good, because I just do.

Very often these final takes have a melancholy feel and also (possibly importantly) they usually have reached a place where I no longer think it is me singing. I want them, where possible, to also be slightly unusual or experimental sounding.

By that I mean that they could be in some foreign tongue or be an animal’s cry or whatever.

When doing the actual improvised original takes I set the loop going and then without thinking too much or preparing very much I start singing anything at all. And I mean here that I have to let go and let out any sound or noise that comes. This can be difficult and it can be embarassing and during the singing I always think that what is coming out is completely unusable. But amazingly after the editing there is always something in there.

You really do have to make sounds that are awful in order to find accidentally great snippets.

This is totally different to writing a line and then applying learned musical techniques to get the best rendition.

I do have, believe it or not, some proper singing technique (I’m in a choir) but in this ‘primal’ context I need to let things happen automatically. I am full also of bad habits but these can produce some of the happy accidents also.

I am not saying here that good technique is a bad thing I am saying that a combination of automatic elements (both learned and unlearned) may produce some gold amongst all the dust.

The important thing is to let go when improvising and you should know that this is best done with nobody listening. I will never release those unedited takes. In fact they are erased usually.



To a Toshiba

Bye Toshiba! You were long my friend
Plus twenty years you’ve shone no part to mend

From Surrey Quays I brought you home with Sue
Saw N Y P D Blue pour out of you

Cath from Richmond also shared your glow
Then you and Stace and I watched baby grow

It’s Stace who was your second biggest fan
You soothed her off to sleep legs cross her man

And when the signals changed we loved you still
Your freeview wife delayed the digi-chill

What do I gain to lose your cathode rays?
Will your warmth live in sharp and bright displays?

(I like the fuller figure anyways)

It may be that your next friends love you too
They cannot have the years you took me through

P.S. I’m sorry I threw your remote at the wall that time.


Get a good picture on your HDTV

This weekend I have grasped 2 new ideas which are:

1 HDTVs are set up to look striking in the showroom rather than watchable in the home.

2 Brightness, Contrast and Colour are all you really need….almost.

To get your attention in the showroom the TV sellers make the picture far too bright.

They have the colour much too high.

They have the blacks too deep.

They turn up the new-fangled sharpness controls beyond all reality.


1 Start by setting all the “extra” controls to have no effect.
(by “extra” I mean gimmicky stuff like: Backlight, Crispness, Sharpness etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.)

2 Using only Brightness, Contrast and Colour set a picture which is in fact slightly dull but nice enough. (I set Brite 57, Cont 90, Col 52).

3. Then you only need to subtly add any of the “extra” settings to your taste. (tiny bit of backlight, little bit of sharpness, an atom of flesh tone).

This works well. Something to remember is that a lot of stuff on TV isn’t shot to look that great anyway. You see the best results on movies and good quality stuff like The Bridge etc. because these are finished to higher standards.