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ladyofshalott

Does technique matter to Japanese vocalists?

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So I’m very new to Japanese music (I’ve been delving into it for less than a week), but I’ve started to get the impression that Japanese vocalists place more emphasis on style than technique. I’m not expert on vocal technique by any means, but even I can tell how lacking in technique many of the singers I’ve heard are. However, since I'm new I haven't listened to much (and some of it isn't very recent).

 

The only vocalists who have stood out to me thus far are Gackt, Ruki, and maybe MUCC’s vocalist (have listened to very little at this point). Though I wouldn’t put them in the category of “excellent vocalists,” they’re definitely solid, especially when compared to most of what I’ve heard.

 

Taka is decent, I guess, because at least he doesn’t sound like he’s struggling to hold a note, but he pretty much sounds like a less interesting Gerard Way to me. I suppose that’s not necessarily a bad thing … He did appear to be struggling with his breathing in the one live performance I watched, though. With an n of 1 that could just be a bad day, but given that the comments were praising his vocals (rather than noting that he was off), it seems like it might be the norm.

 

I Googled something along the lines of “best j-rock singers” and came up with a fan-ranked list, which placed Kyo in first place (the funny thing is that none of the comments were about Kyo's voice, rather that he should be ranked higher than Ruki). Obviously this sort of list is a popularity contest that I don’t put much stock in, but I’ve seen other comments praising Kyo as a vocalist. I’ve listened to a few Dir en Grey performances, but didn’t find them memorable (as in I literally have no recollection of them, even though that was two days ago), which is strange given that Dir en Grey’s music is supposedly really weird and experimental (I do remember the PVs, just not the music). Is he better in certain performances than others?

 

I’ve listened to a number of ballad singers, who are pleasant, but if you put them next to someone like Park Hyoshin, they seem extremely lackluster. Honestly, even SM’s roster of idol singers outdoes them by quite a lot.

 

I’m aware other countries have many lousy vocalists, but there also seem to be more very good ones. I've yet to be really WOWed by any Japanese vocalist, though I do enjoy a number of them.

 

tl;dr Am I just listening to the wrong things and missing the good vocalists, or is Japanese vocal talent a bit subpar?

Edited by ladyofshalott

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I'd argue that it is quite important because in my opinion there are two vocal techniques that are staples of most forms of Visual kei, those being Falsetto and Vibrato but obviously not every group employ these and during the years when Oshare Kei and the western inspired metal stylings were popular these techniques weren't nearly as popular. I wouldn't call it subpar but visual kei has a far smaller talent pool and with it having such a high disbandment rate it can hard for vocalists to stay in music consistently and improve their vocals.

 

As for some good vocalists, I really rate Chizuru from the group 'Pentagon' (not the k-pop group) 

 

 

 

 

Debatable but that's one of his best performances in my opinion, good use of techniques

 

Annoyingly I can't find the song I wanted to show you but Akuta from Chanty has the blessings of having a unique voice and good technique

 

You might have to delve quite deep to find some great vocalists (I'd recommend listening to more of Chanty and Pentagon than just the songs I've posted)

 

 

Edited by Manabu
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I understand what you're saying essentially. I used to not really hear it, but nowadays there are a lot of vocalists I can only enjoy when I'm "in the mood".

 

Check out early Janne Da Arc and Rentrer en Soi. After like 12 years of listening to visual kei, Yasu and Satsuki have consistently stuck out to me as some of the best vocalists, and tend to avoid a bit of the excessive vibrato and pitch slurring that a lot of other talented vk vocalists tend to embellish their singing with

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I think i am gonna seperate my stuff into Pop and Rock

 

Pop-wise i can mainly only talk for groups contracted to LDH.

The three Vocals from The Rampage went to the USA to train their vocals, beside the vocal training they also had in Japan. So technique wise i suppose they should be near to what is standard also inside western Pop. 

 

A cut from their apperance at a-nation. You can notice that they are seperated into Singer (Vocal) and Dancer (Performer). You can check out their older "Brother" Groups too, Exile the second, Sandaime J Soul Brothers, Generations from Exile Tribe

adding a sample for Exile

 

 

 

Rock wise, i am a bit rosted, accounting that i didn't really follow up any jrock for some years. 

I remember back in the days a lot of vocals became vocals because no one else wanted to do it, ,or they changed from other position into vocal position. 

Beside that i think two others  factors may make it difficult sometimes to get good quality vocals. 

- Untrained screaming, that can result in damage of the vocal chords

-  and of course smoking 

 

I dont know what examples to put for good singing in the Rock category, also i think i might be to much biased here. Sorry. 

 

 

 

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It's a very mixed bag. In my opinion, the only way to find out about the real ability of a vocalist is live. Often, some guys that are really great on record can't deliver live: often out of tune and/or don't have enough vocal tecnique to last throughout a whole live. Sometimes sound can also affect the performance, e.g: obviously bigger bands have better sound, so they're gonna sound better live. Sometimes with smaller bands I find if the instruments are not balanced in sound, they can barely hear themselves, leading to issues with their pitch etc. But I think there are some really great live vocalists, and those who are most definitely have had vocal lessons: I know Yuu, one of CLACK inc.'s guitarist, works as a  vocal coach with other vk singers as well, and obviously he's a very skilled singer with his own project Ultimate Sonic as well as the previous bands he's been singing in. Takeru, the vocalist of CLACK inc., has also great tecnique and he's been improving a lot live as well, so I assume he's been working with Yuu recently. This is just an example, I'm sure there's plenty vk vocalists that have singing tecnique and have underwent vocal training.

Edited by Nighttime Jae

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Punk is in visual kei's DNA and that's why the vocals in vk are often if not always at least in part stylised and the emphasis isn't on technical ability but in the performance. The genre itself is long and storied at this point with fads coming and going, so sometimes when it takes influence from different genres it adapt to its new needs in the way its performed, so some dudes sing "better" like the people trying to do X power ballads or anthemic metalcore choruses, and some sing "worse" like idk the most obvious hardcore punk influenced examples like Piass and ANTI FEMINISM or something. They're trying to do different things. 

 

The reason why guys like Ruki and Kyo* sound, or sounded in Ruki's case, rough and stylised is because they're from a different era when the emphasis on technical ability wasn't what it is and was in metal in the west around that time, while guys from newer metalcore bands from a completely different era like Jiluka, Dexcore, Nokubura that are influenced by different bands are at the very least on par if not better than many of their American colleagues from the bands very successful in their style like BMTH, Of Mice and Men, Chealsea Grin etc. because the emphasis is now on the vocalist's technical ability like it is in the rest of the genre in the west. Basically tl;dr vk does what it wants to do and it performs at the level of an American Idol finalist, Kpop schlager belter or some other circus bear on an unicycle trying to woo the masses to consume more product by jumping through fiery hoops at the crack of the corporate whip when it wants to, but more often than not it doesn't because it's main objective as music isn't to do that. 

 

Then of course there's legions and legions of music from all genres in Japan with exceptionally skilled people involved, but the people still using the Jrock tag pretty much ignore everything that isn't vk and ONE OK ROCK. Even if you go searching for vk as a newbie you'll be encountered by a pretty significant bias for newer bands and especially a bias for the more vaguely metal sounding bands from western vk boom years in favor of bands that are really new like the ones I mentioned prior or the older classics. In the early vk scene more than a few bands have very skilled vocalists like La'Cryma Christi, Luna Sea and even L'arc. 

 

* Personally I'll never forget the time when they were trying to make it in the west and all the paid mainstream reviewers started ooing and aaing about the Japanese Mike Patton. Kyo sounds and always sounded, vk as fuck. 

Edited by Karma’s Hat

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Japanese vocal talent is not subpar, but there does seem to be a preference for artists who don't really have outstanding characteristics. For example, DAOKO's popularity when all she does is cry on the microphone, etc. (I still listen to her sometimes)

 

Does technique matter within visual kei? I wouldn't think so. The focus is style and charisma in some cases. There are a lot of unmemorable or subpar vocalist that get carried by the band. 

 

For every other j-music movement/genre I'd say it's different, apart from idol groups. Anyone who can make noises gets accepted even if they can't sing to save their lives.

 

The reason Kyo and Ruki get brought up is because Kyo, especially nowadays, does a lot of vocal acrobatics that others fail to replicate. Try his band sukekiyo. As for Ruki, he was one of the most memorable vk vocalist level-ups. There was one point in Gazette's career where everyone just went 'Yup, Ruki is spending good coin on singing lessons'. You can clearly divide gazette's discography as pre-vocal-coaching Ruki and post-vocal-coaching Ruki.

 

Don't forget to check out DIMLIM for another memorable vocalist

 

 

 

 

I would also recommend 9GOATS BLACK OUT. 

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Kyo's technical abilities are really amazing, if you are actually a pro musician it is easy to recognize that he does some things that not really anyone else can in the scene. 

 

You have mostly people who do not really try to learn technique and those few who actually make the effort, same with most positions. 

 

Kagrra's Ishi was someone I know who actively studied theory, Jui from vidoll also. 

Ryuichi from Luna Sea really studied hard, hide once made a comment about how he was amazed how much he progressed. Hide also made a big effort with the same Vocal trainer Toshi used. Toshi still trains with international and japan based vocal teachers. 

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 This lady does a really good job of explaining what Kyo is doing technically. 

Maybe it can be perceived as "he does not have control." At face value but he is really pushing the boundaries on himself all the time so. 

 

Metal techniques are harder to grasp at face and can seem easier than they actually are. Just the breathing aspect of it can be so hard. 

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@ghostpepper Sorry I should have clarified, I was talking 100% about clean vocals. I don't really know anything about metal screaming and other extreme vocals (don't particularly enjoy it either). I'm sure it's difficult to do right and requires technique, but as explained in the video you posted, it's a different set of techniques from standard singing. After watching that video I realize that when people praised Kyo's vocals they were more commenting on these types of extreme vocals, rather than standard singing, thus I was probably looking for the wrong things when I listened to him. I can certainly see why people would be impressed by his ability to make such bizarre sounds.

 

1 hour ago, ghostpepper said:

Kagrra's Ishi was someone I know who actively studied theory, Jui from vidoll also. 

Ryuichi from Luna Sea really studied hard, hide once made a comment about how he was amazed how much he progressed. Hide also made a big effort with the same Vocal trainer Toshi used. Toshi still trains with international and japan based vocal teachers. 

 

I'll try to listen to Ishi, Jui, and Hide. Thanks for the recommendations! I have listened to a few things by Luna Sea and while I thought the vocals sounded better than most, they didn't stand out as being particularly strong. However, I think those were all very old, so I will check out some more recent performances. I have listened to a couple relatively recent Japan X performances and was not particularly impressed by Toshi. Do you have a favorite performance to recommend? 

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10 hours ago, Manabu said:

I'd argue that it is quite important because in my opinion there are two vocal techniques that are staples of most forms of Visual kei, those being Falsetto and Vibrato

I'm actually really curious how these visual kei guys get the sound that they do, because I've never heard anything quite like it. The vibrato doesn't really sound like a normal vibrato, but it doesn't sound completely forced or unnatural either, and the singers who do have some technical ability seem to be able to manipulate it pretty freely. It also kinda sounds like they are singing out of the back of their nose or something like that. Like there is a slightly nasal sound, but it's more "dark" than "bright" sounding. (This is probably a bad description.) Anyway, it's quite interesting and a pretty cool style.

 

I will definitely listen to more by those singers. Thanks for the recommendation!

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3 hours ago, Komorebi said:

I wouldn’t rank Ruki among the best vocalists, he has the same vocal tone and range than half of the scene. 

 

I think he's a good vocalist, but yeah never found him to be outstanding. He's good at what he does, but he's no vocal virtuoso.

Edited by Nighttime Jae

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4 hours ago, Komorebi said:

I wouldn’t rank Ruki among the best vocalists, he has the same vocal tone and range than half of the scene. 

There's a difference between things like tone, style, and technique. Stylistically, Ruki is very similar to many other visual kei vocalists. Technically, however, he is certainly better than most I've heard (of course I've indicated that that's limited). I agree that he doesn't have a particularly wide range, but he does have control over the range he uses. In the past few days, I have heard A LOT of singers completely lacking in the basics (who run out of breath, are pitchy, strain, can't hold a note, etc.). Ruki doesn't seem to have these issues, at least not consistently. I've listened to a handful of live performances (so I'm certainly no expert on his singing) and come across maybe one pitch issue, but the rest was pretty solid. My point was not to praise Ruki (or Gackt), rather to say that after a few days of listening to Japanese music, I feel the bar for technical proficiency has been set pretty low. Listening to the recommendations on this thread has certainly pointed out many people I hadn't heard that are good/competent, but I'm still not sure I would call any of them "excellent." I will keep listening to see.

 

I certainly don't think technique is the end-all-be-all of singing. Really a singer just needs sufficient technique to make the sounds necessary for their music without damaging their voice. I certainly can see why people would prefer a more unique vocalist without much technique to a technically proficient one. I don't particularly enjoy Beyoncé, though I recognize her skill. However, sometimes I do personally find it hard to listen to someone who is struggling with the basics, and I have to say that most (though not all) of my favorite singers are a least decent (if not very good) technicians.

Edited by ladyofshalott

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I have no idea about technique whatsoever, but a vocalist/pianist friend of mine who studied music for 10+ years really praised Kaya for his vocal abilities. He emphasized how hard it probably is (at least from his own experience) for Kaya to keep his voice controlled and stay in tune, because for example most of the verse parts in his songs have very little "background" for the vocals to "fall back upon", i.e. it's usually just a drumbeat and random bass synth and he still pretty much nails all the right notes. Plus his voice is pretty powerful and cool, but that's just my personal preference/observation. :D 

 

Here's a random cool live clip:

 

 

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1 hour ago, ladyofshalott said:

@ghostpepper Sorry I should have clarified, I was talking 100% about clean vocals. I don't really know anything about metal screaming and other extreme vocals (don't particularly enjoy it either). I'm sure it's difficult to do right and requires technique, but as explained in the video you posted, it's a different set of techniques from standard singing. After watching that video I realize that when people praised Kyo's vocals they were more commenting on these types of extreme vocals, rather than standard singing, thus I was probably looking for the wrong things when I listened to him. I can certainly see why people would be impressed by his ability to make such bizarre sounds.

 

 

I'll try to listen to Ishi, Jui, and Hide. Thanks for the recommendations! I have listened to a few things by Luna Sea and while I thought the vocals sounded better than most, they didn't stand out as being particularly strong. However, I think those were all very old, so I will check out some more recent performances. I have listened to a couple relatively recent Japan X performances and was not particularly impressed by Toshi. Do you have a favorite performance to recommend? 

For Luna Sea look up Image live should see their recent performance of it. Really amazing. For X Japan tears is amazing. If you are not impressed by Toshi I do not know what will impress you. He is like the steve perry of Japan haha. 

 

Hide is not really amazing technique wise, just he studied was all. 

Ishii of kagrra has really great falsetto. Was a soprano from jr.high. ❤️

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10 hours ago, KrumpingChihuahua said:

So technique wise i suppose they should be near to what is standard also inside western Pop. 

I would agree. I don't actual listen to/like much pop music (though there are a few k-idols' more ballad-y or mellow-jazzy-pop solo work I like). I think the thing with Western pop (and really most genres) is that there's a very wide range. You have Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift types, but you also have vocal powerhouses like Beyoncé. Then there are the Ariana Grandes and Demi Lovatos that fall somewhere in between. This thread is certainly showing me a lot more mid-range proficiency singers than I had previously found. These groups do seem relatively on par with Western boyband standards (though I don't really listen to any).

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"Technique" is  what most VK singers are leaning too heavily on - it's SKILL that very few of them put time into developing. The scene is very derivative, so most of them get the idea of said technique from someone(or everyone) popularizing it's overuse. It's more important to just DO it than to do it right lol.

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Just now, Elazmus said:

"Technique" is  what most VK singers are leaning too heavily on - it's SKILL that very few of them put time into developing. The scene is very derivative, so most of them get the idea of said technique from someone(or everyone) popularizing it's overuse. It's more important to just DO it than to do it right lol.

 

I would say that style may be what may make them sound derivative, but tecnique in terms of knowing how vocals work?? That's not that common in my opinion lol

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3 minutes ago, Nighttime Jae said:

I would say that style may be what may make them sound derivative, but tecnique in terms of knowing how vocals work?? That's not that common in my opinion lol

I agree. I think this is a semantic argument. Technique = skill. Everyone using the same style is what makes them sound the same. A singer with very good technique will have excellent control over their voice, thus the potential for more stylistic versatility, including the ability to drop their technique to get a sound that can't be made with those techniques (such as a singer who knows how to support their voice singing breathily for style in places).

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4 hours ago, nekkichi said:

for a kpop stanbait thread you're doing amazing sweetie x

I don't quite get what you are implying. Are you trying to say I started this topic to cause fan wars? This was really a genuine question. Perhaps I didn't phrase things well? I don't hate (or love) any of these singers. I guess I was a bit mean to Taka.

 

I agree Asagi (I got that from the Youtube description, so correct me if I'm wrong) is good. I'm not so sure what you mean by "operatic range," though. If you are trying to say that he sings like an opera singer, I disagree. As someone who listens to opera, I'd say he sings exactly like a visual kei singer and not much like an opera singer.

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3 minutes ago, Nighttime Jae said:

 

I would say that style may be what may make them sound derivative, but tecnique in terms of knowing how vocals work?? That's not that common in my opinion lol

For example, vibrato is a common vocal technique in VK at this point because everyone who is able to use it consistently does so as much as they can without developing much skill with it (think of how much forced vibrato we've been exposed to over the years) lol

 

2 minutes ago, ladyofshalott said:

I agree. I think this is a semantic argument. Technique = skill. Everyone using the same style is what makes them sound the same. A singer with very good technique will have excellent control over their voice, thus the potential for more stylistic versatility, including the ability to drop their technique to get a sound that can't be made with those techniques (such as a singer who knows how to support their voice singing breathily for style in places).

I disagree that technique = skill, based on the definitions of these terms used in that example and I don't really see style as a good descriptive term in this case but you're right it's certainly a semantic argument! Most of my appreciation of singers doesn't come from this anyway, it's all personal on some level at least lol!

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I'd add Itu who's been in FeaDior (2nd vocal, the 1st one sounded pretty different) but especially for when he was vocal for ANUBIS. I'm sure he once put it on his blog that he also had some musical education (not just singing lessons) but that's so many years ago and I think that blog doesn't exist anymore. And there's been a huge step from FeaDior to ANUBIS' 'MYTH ~Kamigami no shirabe~'.

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