Singers' musical knowledge

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Piggy8692, Nov 3, 2012.

  1. Piggy8692


    Oct 2, 2010
    Northern Utah
    Never thought of this before... How much musical knowledge should a singer have? Do your singers understand timing? I wouldn't expect any theory, but what should a good singer know?
  2. monti2889


    Jul 19, 2012
    they should know enough to competently play their instrument.
  3. Disclaimer: I'm not much of a singer.

    I would expect a good singer to know something about theory - they should be able to hear and reproduce the appropriate intervals to a root. That would be easier if you know what you're hearing and why. If you've taken lessons chances are you've learned to sing via sight reading - just like learning any instrument.

    I'm not saying all my singers know their theory as I'm sure some don't at all. Some of them are still good singers. But it's in spite of not knowing theory. Just about anyone I know who can sight read singing melodies is solid even if they don't have great pipes.
  4. I think singers should be held up to the same standards as any other instrument concerning knowledge and theory. However for some people like Tom Waits harmony isn't that important compared to rhythm layers and arrangements. For someone like Mike Patton a deep understanding of electronic gear, effects, samplers, and harmony is needed. Even if studied organically through trial and error. So I guess it depends on the style of music and if the lack of knowledge becomes a hindrance to the overall progress of the project.
  5. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Well, my singer is also a church choir director, so she knows plenty about music theory... But I would say that for your typical bar band, if they can produce the song with some charisma and without going out of tune or being otherwise awful, I won't worry too much if they can tell intervals by ear or whatever.
  6. It depends on the style of music and the level of accomplishment one is aiming for... however for me this is the musical knowledge I want in a singer:

    - know about note names, chords, chord tones and keys.
    - be able to play some instrument well enough that they can key up songs on their own, and fix their own intonation problems. (ie piano, guitar, ukelele ..)
    - know about time signatures, rhythm, measures.
    - can count beats and bars
    - know enough about form that they can keep their place in the song and not get lost in the song's forms, even if we decide to extend things or play it in a manner that isn't exactly like some specific recording they are used to.
    - know their own vocal range / registers. Where their low notes are, their high notes, where their voice crosses over from one register to the next.
    - (bonus) if they can write out music charts for the band for any original / obscure songs we'd be doing, or any specific arrangements they would want us to do that are not like the typical ways of playing a specific tune.

    Basically I want a "musician whose instrument is voice."

    If the style of music is an amplified one, then I also want a singer who knows the basics of using a microphone, a mixer, and a PA. They should be able to plug in their own mic, set the levels/knobs at the mixer, not point it at the PA to create feedback, be able to adjust their own microphone stand, and if they insist on some reverb for their voice, then they have bought, and brought, their own equipment to ensure that it happens as they want it.
  7. pflash4001


    Dec 2, 2011
    I feel they should have a good grasp on the technical end as mentioned above (mic placement, using the mic as part of his or her instrument) and know about harmony and staying on their own part and working within the structure of the music just like i expect the drummer to know about time and the rest to know about staying in time/key.
  8. pflash4001


    Dec 2, 2011
    Like just now...I just got back to the console from telling a singer not to swing her mic right in front of her monitor wedge...grrr...
  9. nutdog

    nutdog when I'm a good dog they sometimes throw me a bone Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2009
    In the dog house.
    The words.
  10. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    +1 Although our singer is very good at faking the words :D
  11. almightycrunch


    Apr 21, 2011
    They just need to know how to sing, all the theory in the world isnt going to help if you cant sing in tune or have a sense of timing.
  12. almightycrunch


    Apr 21, 2011
    wow, cant find a singer can you????? LOL
  13. tmdazed


    Sep 29, 2012
    been with too many singers that forget words and put gibberish in , bugs me to no end
  14. Richland123


    Apr 17, 2009
    We don't have this problem since we are a 3 piece band and we are all lead (and harmony) singers.
  15. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are.

    You're talking about singing in a rock band, right? Show up on time, little drama, sing in tune, remember the words. and be a good front man. Everything else is a bonus.
  16. BassChuck


    Nov 15, 2005
    As long as you aren't handing them a piece of sheet music and expecting they learn the part on their own, they really only need to know enough theory to converse intelligently (read: don't waste time having things explained) during rehearsal. Key sigs will mean little to them, but they should know what keys are best for their voice... and they should know their range by note name.

    But more than the theory knowledge of music, they should have an extensive experience in listening to many different styles of music and all kinds of different singers. And they should know how to take care of their voice so that they are ready to sing and they should have enough control of their sound so they can communicate whatever is needed. They are the link between the band and the audience.
  17. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    Timing, most would be singers have no idea about timing and easily
    get lost in the form of the tunes.