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ladyofshalott

Does technique matter to Japanese vocalists?

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It's not really the matter of a vocalist skill.. 

It's more does a vocalist sing along to the music which fits his voice?

 

You can take KLACK's vocalist U for an example

That dude, well he is unskilled, truly bad singer.

But....the way KLACK's music fits his bad singing is just perfect and amazing :D

 

 

 

 

 

Well there is more.... these songs are maybe his best anyway

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2 hours ago, Elazmus said:

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

 

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!

 

 

When singers have vocal technique, it simply means that they know how to sing correctly; usually, you have to undergo some vocal training in order to acquire that. Singers that have vocal technique can be more or less "skilled", but they should be able to sing in a correct and healthy manner (stuff like support, breathing, pitch, switching between registers, lack of strain etc.) 

Edited by Nighttime Jae

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7 minutes ago, Nighttime Jae said:

 

 

When singers have vocal technique, it simply means that they know how to sing correctly; usually, you have to undergo some vocal training in order to acquire that. Singers that have vocal technique can be more or less "skilled", but they should be able to sing in a correct and healthy manner (stuff like support, breathing, pitch, switching between registers, lack of strain etc.) 

Ahh see I've just understood these by a different definition sorry :( no music education from me either lol!

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2 hours ago, BrenGun said:

It's not really the matter of a vocalist skill.. 

It's more does a vocalist sing along to the music which fits his voice?

I actually really agree with this. But I also don't think there's really a downside to having more skill, which will just expand the tools the singer has to express the music. (How effectively they use those tools is a matter of the musicianship/artistry.)

 

There's also a big element of personal taste. I remember listening so some "indie" playlist on Spotify a few years ago and every single vocalist was using the same style breathy/whiny vocals. I'm sure some people love that style and I can acknowledge that it's an intentional stylistic choice the singers were making that did work with their music, but that doesn't mean I would ever listen to it again. Maybe in very small doses I could appreciate that style, but it very quickly became grating for me.

 

U sounds like a lot of pop punk/emo vocalists to me, but a bit more nasally. I agree it works with the music style, and it's more listenable to me the breathy indie vocals (but that's just my personal opinion).

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So I'm about to leave on a trip and won't have internet, but I just want to say I really appreciate all the recommendations! I'll finish listening to them when I get back. I didn't expect to get so many responses and you all have definitely made me feel a bit more hopeful about finding singers that I like!

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To bring up some newer stuff, if you want to hear a vocalist improving from "uh, that's aweful" to "wow, he got pretty good" you should try out Royz. Subaru started as teenager, who had to learn the basics during the bands early days.

 

A singer I can recommant is Hikarito from Aiolin, he's got the technique, cause he studied music (violin, composing etc.).

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Maybe something like JAM Project? I don't know anything about vocal technique, but they all seem to sound pretty good singing into their 50s, so I'm assuming they're doing something right.
 

 

I'm not the biggest Galneryus fan, but I've always found YAMA-B's voice really striking as well. I think there's just something so charming about the way it pairs with the nerdy dad energy of his stage moves.

 

 

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For an older band: Singer Haine of Luis~Mary, who later became T.M.Revolution, has a very particular type of voice. I would say, as a listener, that he is doing well. Obviously, I am not a vocal coach so I can't comment on his actual technique.

 

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When it comes to trying to discuss these things about Japanese music is that majority of the online western communities that will engage the discussion are into alternative genres and will be incredibly biased. That's how you often get lists of "best voices in Japan" that'll top out with the Gazette or Dir en grey if not completely filled with just VK bands.

Even just going through this topic, I mostly skimmed it and saw two posts that discussed artists I wouldn't put into alternative genres and even then, Daoko is kind of her own thing.

When it comes to vocals, my mind always goes to one of the singers of EXILE, Atsushi. A couple years back he left and went to America, putting the group on hold solely so he could get experience and grow as a vocalist outside of Japan.
aramajapan.com-67e95706149c148c9687174e0


EXILE would probably be my go to if I wanted to put forward an artist that I thought could contend for at least having acceptable vocal ability on a global stage, but I'll be honest and say that's only because my first pick you already cut in your opening post.

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I'm not Japanese, but I always have this kind of weird ethnic betrayal feeling when I notice Japanese artists looking for the West to get better in any feature of their projects. Absurd feeling, but lol.

 

Anyway, 2020 and still Japan has less developed theory and technology musicwise? I'm surprised.

 

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It's not even so much the West but more so just the US, and it's a pervasive mentality that manifests in every corner of entertainment(and probably everything else as well). Can't help but compare yourself to the big dogs, especially when it's your competition.

I mean, Japan is the only place on the planet with a majority speaking Japanese so most of the entertainment they consume is produced by themselves for themselves. However an absolute metric fuck-tonne of US content is produced and then almost forced upon the rest of the world. As an Australian, aside from the cornerstones of Australian dramas(Neighbours and Home&Away) I couldn't tell you a single other Australian drama series, but I sure as damn hell could tell you US ones. Even our stars when they get big fuck off to Hollywood because it's viewed as the end goal. (Margot Robbie, of Wolves of Wall Street and Harley Quinn fame, left Neighbours to go to the US.)

You'd think that Japan, by nature of it not speaking English as a major language would be exempt from this mentality but they are still susceptible to it. From the Western acts that tour and sell out the Tokyo Dome repeatedly all the way down to just the immense budgets thrown at CG in movies, you can't compete with Hollywood and it becomes the yardstick we're all measured by. 

I've shown people Japanese dramas and also read comments online that consistently call it out for either being bad or over the top, the music for being simple and generic, especially when it comes to following Western trends they seem to get it way after the fad's gone and apparently only tap into it's surface level.(Or at least that was the impression I got from being eviscerated online sharing a SiM song to an acquaintance.)

When you go and watch the Japanese Godzilla movies and see the man in the rubber suit but then go watch the American ones and it's this gargantuan CGI beast then you can clearly see the different playing fields. Japan's just gotta deal with Japan, and in all honesty it's amazing just for that, but Hollywood and the States has the world's entertainment market by the balls, no doubt.

(Anime's probably the one category where Japan dominates everywhere else and I imagine that's why they're pumping it with so much garbage material because the fans will always lap it up. Western animated materials are mainly kids shows and that comes with a lot of condescending design mentalities so it's never worth the comparison. I was also considering video games as another one that Japan dominates but I'm changing my mind on that. There was an interview with the translator for the GBA FFIV where he said that he gave presentation(s) to the studio on Western video game design. FFXIV also has been wanting Western blood in it's development for a while now, especially in it's raid series where they say they're having immense trouble finding raid designers from the West that can also speak Japanese.)

 

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8 hours ago, NICKT said:

When it comes to trying to discuss these things about Japanese music is that majority of the online western communities that will engage the discussion are into alternative genres and will be incredibly biased. That's how you often get lists of "best voices in Japan" that'll top out with the Gazette or Dir en grey if not completely filled with just VK bands.

Even just going through this topic, I mostly skimmed it and saw two posts that discussed artists I wouldn't put into alternative genres and even then, Daoko is kind of her own thing.

That is actually very true. I suppose it's the side effect of asking this question in a visual kei forum. As for Japanese vocalists in general, I find that they in general are just as technical as their Western counterparts. (Most) "objectively" good singers train, no matter where they are from. 

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@NICKT

I think my original post might come off as rather pejorative. This was not my intention. I’m just the sort of person who tends to say many critical or negative-sounding things even when I really like something. It’s a personal flaw that I’m aware of, but clearly still need to work on. In any case. If I thought Japanese music was terrible I wouldn’t have bothered to join a forum to learn about it.

 

I should also clarify that I don’t think superior vocal technique necessarily equals a better singer. Vocal technique is just one of a number of elements that go into singing and how important it is depends on what the singer is trying to do. There are certainly a lot of singers who fail to get the sound they are looking for (or damage their voice trying) because they don’t have the technical ability. On the other hand, there are also singers who may not need much technique for the sound they are going for. Personally, I have to say I tend to be biased towards singers that have some technical proficiency, probably because I come from a more classical background and it can be a little hard to go from Philippe Jaroussky to Bon Iver wannabe #5, but considering how unpopular opera is I’d say most people probably feel the opposite.

 

I agree that the Ameri-centrism of not only the cultural sphere, but pretty much everything, is pretty ridiculous.

 

I think you also raise a good point regarding whether Japanese singers should be held to American (or Western) standards. But I think you should also consider to what extent they are participating in a Western art form. I would never think to look for Western techniques in a traditional Japanese art form. Coming out from a Noh play and saying, “Hmm, the lead wasn’t as really as good as Edward Norton,” is completely ridiculous. But all the things you mention (TV, film, popular music) are the result of American (or Western) forms being adopted (imposed? adopted under duress?) due to Westernization. Thus, some mastery of Western techniques (filmography, Western instruments, etc.) is necessary.

 

Of course, countries will come up with their own versions of these art forms different from Hollywood and judging them based on the expectations you have of a Hollywood production is not always appropriate. For example, something like Hana kimi is clearly a highly stylized manga adaptation (I’ve never picked up a manga in my life, but even I can tell they’re not going for realism and I can recognize elements of that style in other shoujo manga adaptations). I don’t think it could be judged from the same perspective as a serious American show, or even an American comedy, since the acting styles and comedic sense is quite different. Similarly, Korean dramas tend to use a lot of slow-mo. I think this seems quite cheesy from a Western perspective, but after watching quite a few Korean shows you realize that it’s a rather standard element of the style and get used to it. On the music side of things, the visual kei singing is definitely not something you would hear from an American band, even though they are making rock music. In this sense, I would find it hard to compare one of these singers directly to an American singer, since they seem to be trying to do something different. Do I think you can still consider Western vocal technique as one element when evaluating them? Yes, because 1) there are clearly Western influences to their singing style as well 2) some of the singers in the genre (if visual kei is a genre?) do use these techniques and it clearly affects their sound (based on some of the responses here I went and looked up an old performance by Ruki and the difference is very obvious). I’d say something similar about the handful of enka singers that I’ve heard. There’s clearly a combination of Western and Japanese influences.

 

On the other hand, when it comes to someone like Taka, is there anything non-Western about his singing style? I feel that he would pretty much sound like an American pop punk vocalist if he was singing completely in English, hence my comparison to Gerard Way (though the “less interesting” comment is a judgement on artistry, which admittedly does not belong in a discussion of technique). One thing I don’t think I stated clearly is that I don’t think Taka is actually technically subpar to his American counterparts, since pop punk is generally not where you go to look for stellar vocal technique. Rather, it is the fact that so many people seem to think he’s a great vocalist that led me to include him. Basically, I just think his skills are overrated.

 

The last thing I would say is that the “standard” does not necessarily have to be American. For example, when listening to Japanese ballads some of the comparisons that came to mind most were people like Lara Fabian (Belgian) or Park Hyoshin (Korean). Unlike singers in some genres, I tend to expect people singing ballads to have more technical skill, since belting/soaring vocals are some of the hallmark features of ballads (especially modern pop ballads). Though the way I wrote it (almost as an after thought) didn’t make this evident, hearing a number of lackluster ballad performances was actually one of the main things that led me to write this post. (My opinion of Japanese ballads has improved somewhat after I finding a Quora post with some good recommendations.)

Edited by ladyofshalott

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On 7/3/2020 at 9:18 PM, saiko said:

I'm not Japanese, but I always have this kind of weird ethnic betrayal feeling when I notice Japanese artists looking for the West to get better in any feature of their projects. Absurd feeling, but lol.

But aren't they looking to the West just by making pop/rock music and playing pianos, electric guitars, etc.? I sort of get it though. It would be sad it everything became super Americanized.

 

On 7/3/2020 at 9:18 PM, saiko said:

Anyway, 2020 and still Japan has less developed theory and technology musicwise? I'm surprised.

I don't think my impression was that Japan was "less developed," rather that Japanese vocalists choose to focus less on technique, because so many of the vocalists I heard seemed to be trying to make their voice "interesting" or achieve a certain style (such as cutesy girl group vocals). Basically, I had that sense that there was a preponderance of "stylistic" rather than "technical" vocalists in Japan. I'm starting to think my first impression may have been a result of the selection of what I had listened to. 

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On 7/4/2020 at 4:35 AM, Laurence02 said:

I suppose it's the side effect of asking this question in a visual kei forum.

I didn't actually realize this forum was so dominated by visual kei. The topic I posted under just says "Japanese Music." I feel like I've learned quite a bit about the Western fandom here though.

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3 hours ago, ladyofshalott said:

I didn't actually realize this forum was so dominated by visual kei. The topic I posted under just says "Japanese Music." I feel like I've learned quite a bit about the Western fandom here though.

I'm not musically articulate enough to actually discuss this stuff outside of surface level observations so I'll just respond to this in particular, this board started as a visual-kei board a long, long time ago but, like me, a lot of older name stays have grown dissatisfied with current visual-kei outputs or needed more and branched out, so you'll get some general Japanese music discussion but still with a major focus on the visual-kei genre in particular.

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On 6/30/2020 at 11:57 AM, Jigsaw9 said:

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.

That makes sense, because most people find it easier to tune to a relative pitch, like a guitar or piano playing in a similar octave, rather than pull a note out of thin air. Basically it requires a good ear. That's something I think I'd generally expect of a professional musician. (A violinist shouldn't need an accompaniment to stay in tune and the same goes for a vocalist, whose voice is their instrument). However, considering the technical ability of popular musicians is often much lower than the classical counterparts, it is actually likely that many have not developed a very good ear. I think Kaya hits a few notes flat in this performance, but he also notices and corrects some of them, so I'd say I generally agree with your friend's assessment. 

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On 6/30/2020 at 11:29 AM, Nighttime Jae said:

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.

I agree with your statement regarding Ruki, but I’m curious if you think any of these singers are virtuosos? Because I’ve now listened to most of the singers in this discussion, and I think you could make the same statement about pretty much all of them.

 

As @Manabu pointed out, the vocal parts in most of these songs (obviously I’m taking about the visual kei ones) are primarily built on vibrato-heavy low-mid range singing (though some groups, like Royz, seem to have less low singing) with falsetto high notes (+ metal screaming in some cases). I haven’t seen much head voice or smooth modal-high register transitions (they usually flip into falsetto). The songs don’t have particularly complicated vocal runs or much else that would demonstrate a high degree of vocal agility. And since they pretty much stay in the same stylistic wheelhouse, the singers don’t really show too much versatility (at least when discounting the metal vocals).

 

I’m not saying they should change their music and add a bunch of crazy vocal runs just to show off, because making things difficult for the sake of being difficult is generally not the best artistic move, just that none of this is particularly virtuosic. I suppose you could ask whether they would write their music differently if they had more technical ability, but that may be a pointless hypothetical.

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On 6/30/2020 at 12:33 PM, ghostpepper said:

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. 

I may have gotten Toshi confused with someone else, since my recollection was very different from how his voice actually is. I can kinda see the Steve Perry comparison because they're both tenors with a slightly husky tone, but stylistically they're quite different aren't they? Toshi's tone more nasally and he actually sings much higher, while Steve Perry has a more relaxed(?) feeling to how he sings.

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