EDITED 11/2 - Vocal Commentaries: Terminology, how I look at voices

Edited with more examples and a few new terms that popped up while I was writing some of the commentaries. Re-read to refresh yourself before the Big Bang commentary tomorrow! Hahah.

So before we go full speed ahead with the rest of the vocal commentaries, I think you guys need to know what the crap I'm talking about when I say certain things. There are certain things I look for in a voice and certain general qualities voices have that I tend to ramble on about. So, here's a sort of 'glossary' and a short explanation.

Timbre (good) - It's the tone, the color and the 'feel' of a voice. This is one of the most important qualities in a voice for me. The timbre pretty much decides how the rest of your voice goes but a nice timbre doesn't automatically mean you sing well. Examples of people with good voices and extraordinarily nice timbres are Junsu DBSK, Onew SHINee, Kyuhyun Super Junior, Luna and Amber (yes, AMBER! The girl can sing.) f(x), Pixie Lott, Vanessa The Saturdays, Nadine Girls Aloud and Tiffany SNSD.

Smoothness (good) - A smooth voice is nice on the ears and delivers the notes smoothly (duh). I don't think there's a term for it but a smooth voice doesn't deliver notes chopped up or yeah. A lot of smooth voices I've encountered are also most often thinner (except for Shane Westlife). Notable examples are Shane Westlife (as mentioned), Taemin SHINee, Donghae Super Junior, Jaejoong DBSK, and Daesung Big Bang, JoJo, Jordin Sparks, Wooyoung 2PM, Narsha Brown Eyed Girls and Frankie The Saturdays.

Thinness (bad) - No power, no conviction - they sound bored and their vocals are weak. As much as I don't like voices that are too big, they should at least have some sense of body. Don't have any solid examples, sorry!

Shrillness (bad) - This is different from being able to hit high notes left and right. A shrill voice hurts the ears especially during high notes but a very shrill voice hurts the ears even during normal range notes. Notable shrill voices I've encountered are Jessica SNSD, Krystal f(x) (sorry, I just had to say it), sometimes Changmin DBSK, Nicole Kara, Ashley Tisdale, Seo In Young Jewelry, Eric Dill and Cheryl Cole GA when she hits high notes in her normal voice.

Excessiveness (bad) - I don't like excessively big voices, it's more of a personal preference that this quality is bad. Excessive is when you either sound too old for your age or push your voice too much you're practically screaming. For some people a voice is good when it can hit extremely high notes with a normal voice but for me yeah, it's great and all but sometimes it can be too much. Notable examples of voices with this quality are Charice Pempengco, Yesung Super Junior, Jonghyun SHINee, sometimes Junsu DBSK (but not always) and sometimes Vanessa The Sats.

Airy (bad/good) - By the word itself, you know what this means. Notable examples are Eoghan Quigg (sometimes), Britt Nicole (but in a good way, surprisingly), James Morrison (on purpose), Jea Brown Eyed Girls and Hyun Joong SS501.

Ability to sing live (good) - It's proof that you can actually sing. Anything 98 - 100% live will do - TV shows, concert tours, impromptu a capella sessions, etc. Your live voice must sound at least 90% like your recorded voice because otherwise it means your voice was processed more than usual. If your voice becomes a lot thinner, if you can't hit those notes, if you try and push too much but end up screaming or at worse you can't even sing the song then all those recordings don't represent your voice. Notable people who sound the same, almost the same or sometimes better recorded and live are most of DBSK, Shane Westlife, Kyuhyun Super Junior, Jewelry's leader, IU, pretty much all of SHINee and Lina CSJH. Notable people who sound very little or nothing like their recorded voices are Donghae Super Junior, Mark Westlife, Sunny SNSD, all of Kara, Sandara 2NE1 (but then again the girl can't sing) and Lee Hyori.

Sound good when auto-tuned (bad) - If you only sound good obviously auto-tuned then we have a problem - you can't sing. Studio tricks won't do in the real world and although you can auto-tune live performances, people know when you're doing that. Big concerts have huge sound tents that they say are for transmission and recording but what no one tells you is that they put 'live' vocals through some not so obvious cleaning. Concert DVDs are worse - they get put through post production! So actually, the best videos that gauge if you can actually sing are fan videos and impromtu singing. However no one really gets professionally-shot and recorded impromptu singing because then it wouldn't be impromptu! There are producers though who don't do anything to live stuff. AND most often nasal voices sound good auto-tuned so most of the people on either list fit well either way. Notable examples are Taeyang Big Bang, Ashley Tisdale and uh, Taeyang Big Bang.

Additional terms:

Fullness (good) - Full voices are most often instantly nice-timbred ones. When I say full I don't necessarily mean deep but there are a lot of full voices that are deep. I can't accurately explain exactly what a full voice is but notable examples are Key SHINee, Hwayobi, Nadine Girls Aloud, JoJo, Jesse McCartney, Pixie Lott and Vanessa Amorosi.

Attention to Technique (good) - Singing is a sport - you use your voice a lot and if you don't use it properly you will most likely destroy it. No matter how beautiful your voice is, the minute I notice that you don't have technique will spell the end of your singing career in a few years. You have to know when to breathe, how to push your voice, how to use a falsetto or a head tone, not to 'growl' or scratch your voice all the time, what kind of sounds work for which letters and so on and so forth. You can have technique but not be formally trained, it's all about knowing how to treat your voice. From what I've observed, people with good technique are Taeyeon SNSD, Key SHINee, Kimberly Girls Aloud, Jaejoong DBSK, and Pixie Lott.

Power (good) - There's a fine line between power and loudness/screaming and I hate when that line gets blurred. You can have power if your voice is soft but the minute you mistake it for loudness and scream your head off instead of sing it off - I'm sorry but you're not a very good singer. Power is when you push your voice but don't scream and high notes sound very natural but not excessive. Did you get that? I hope you did. Examples from my point of view are Key SHINee, Jaejoong DBSK, Tiffany and/or Taeyeon SNSD and maybe Seungri Big Bang.

Throaty-ness (VERY BAD) - A throaty voice means that you're singing from your throat and not your diaphragm, or at least it sounds like that - either way it's horrid. I separated this from attention to technique because for crap's sake, isn't it a given that you're not supposed to sing from your throat because that sounds crap? Most often throaty voices sound like they're being strangled but some voices that sound like they're being strangled aren't throaty. OK. Why is it very bad? Well not only are you destroying people's eardrums, you're also destroying your voice. I'd give you 4 years max and that voice of yours is gone. Notable examples are 2 of the girls from Secret (don't know their names, not the rapper and not the one with bangs in the music video of I Want You Back. Hahah.) and a few of the guys from Beast (don't know their names either but they're there - will get back to you when I find out. hahah).

Dimension (good) - I said this when I commented on SHINee but to tell you the truth dimension can be anything. You can have any kind of voice and have dimension - it's all a matter of how you use your voice and what the listener likes. Dimension is when a voice has more than one predominant quality, it's when you have more and use it to your advantage, but it's also a personal preference. Dimensional voices to me are Key SHINee, Junsu and/or Yoochun DBSK, Hwayobi, Guy Sebastian and Blake Lewis.

Note that this is still incomplete after an edit and that there are a ton of other terms I use - these are just the ones you'll encounter the most.

Got it? OK. Catchy my Big Bang commentary TOMORROW!


  1. Wow, I learned a lot today, Thanks. And for a moment I thought you are gonna put a whole list on the Autotune part. LOL. Sadly, TaeYang is there for sure. LOL. Still love him though.
    I seriously can't believe that you are gonna do the SNSD's vocal commentary. LOL. Can't wait to read what you think! GO GO GO!

  2. Hahah. Glad I could be of service! Lapse of judgement - I completely forgot! But the list would be a little too long (and yes, Taeyang would surely be on that list).

    It's done and will be published Thursday morning! hahah.

  3. That IS fast. =.="
    Very efficient and professional I see. LOL.

  4. Hahah. Only when it comes to the blog - don't ask me about how I get my schoolwork done! (the day itself? a few minutes before the period? People in our school all cram like hell. hahah.)

  5. :) I love this. Call me delirious -- I just worked for ten hours straight, so forgive me -- but without some kind of standard terminology, it's difficult to truly express what you mean, because music in itself can be so subjective. :)

  6. Printed out and will use as reference when judging this year's X Factor finalists! Thanks :)

  7. Fantastic post! Great information!

  8. I didn't know you'd all respond so warmly to this! hahah.

    Mel - Glad you like it! Yeah, it's really hard to describe (had the most difficult time with smoothness - I mean really, how do you describe it even more!)

    Paul - WHOA. Hahah.

    Aaron - Thanks!

  9. May I add on an suggestion?
    I have noticed that you have not paid much attention to the vocals of SS501. Heo Youngsaeng, their lead vocal is amazing as well
    Here's a clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fa-P5s9Cg5Q

    [I believe this song was also covered by DBSK]

    Also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKqEMqWD8GI

    If you can spare some time, please do check these do. Thank you.

  10. My previous post was written without the intention to advertise or promote SS501 in any form. It was written from the opinions of how SS501 vocals were overlooked and their presence underrated in Korea. All of the group members have memorable voices with a nice range. That's it.

  11. No need to defend your suggestion - I'm very open to them as long as you present it in a civilized and orderly manner!

    On the subject of their vocals, I personally don't think they're strong without studio tricks and I don't think they're versatile singers either. But it's an opinion and the post above is basically what I think is good and bad and who I think embodies those qualities the best. SS501 members may have some of the qualities listed above but they're not obvious to the untrained ear. What I'm trying to do with this post is brief you, the readers, on what I personally think about voices so my personal opinions on the vocals are clear and easier to understand - it's in no way a 'definitive' enumeration of good or bad voices.

  12. I guess we will have to agree to disagree. Truce?

    I personally think that Youngsaeng's voice is very versatile. If you would just take the time to listen to Youngsaeng's rendition of Magic Castle and SS501's Find, you might some truth in my otherwise forsaken madness.

  13. truce.

    Youngsaeng. From what I've already heard live and recorded, I find his voice a little like he's being strangled. But I will try and listen to 'Magic Castle' sometime in the near future - haven't heard it yet.

    And no, you're not mad! If you are then what does that make me?!? Hahah.

  14. Thank you so much! i really learned a lot, and i'll definitely be on the look out for these qualities when i come across a new group/singer/or song. Just one question, how can you tell if the airiness in someone's voice is good?

  15. thank you so much for explaining this, thank youuuu :D
    i always feel like i know which singer has good voice but never understand why i said so and how i know that they have good voice. thank you again :D

  16. THROATYNESS => and a few of the guys from Beast (don't know their names either but they're there - will get back to you when I find out. hahah).



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