Voice teacher reacts to ......
September 14, 2018 10:02 PM   Subscribe

Voice teacher, Sam Johnson has a YouTube channel where he reacts* to ( analyzes) compilations of singers on youtube including:
"worst" contestants on American Idol,
pop singers who can't reach those high notes anymore,
k-pop best and worst,
k-pop high notes

* note: reactions are caring, kind and informative!
posted by vespabelle (27 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think just watching these videos will improve my karaoke singing but I'm inspired to try!
posted by vespabelle at 10:03 PM on September 14, 2018

First three links are the same...but good stuff!
posted by Gorgik at 10:14 PM on September 14, 2018

Youtube actually recommended these to me but I skipped over them because (1) youtube recommendations are like an anti-recommendation and (2) they seemed like the type of video where they'd make fun of the singers which is really Not My Thing. Glad to see I was wrong; these are really informative!
posted by perplexion at 10:18 PM on September 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I kind of wish he hadn't confined himself to the obvious train wreck auditions; there's a lot of bad technique that makes it through the first cut.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:32 PM on September 14, 2018

Mod note: Fixed links!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 10:40 PM on September 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

I watched his comments on the first bad American Idol singer. Dude goes well beyond "kind" and into utterly delusional. Unlike some other aspects of a critique, whether or not a singer is on pitch is not a matter of personal taste, and there were some really off pitches there.
posted by nirblegee at 10:46 PM on September 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I love this guy!!! This is someone who is clearly invested in improving people’s skill. And you do that by showing what they are doing well, as well as what they can work on. How refreshing!
posted by greermahoney at 11:07 PM on September 14, 2018

Dude goes well beyond "kind" and into utterly delusional

Even great singers hit wrong pitches sometimes. And these singers are obviously very nervous. He’s assessing them to see that they are hitting the correct pitches most of the time. People who aren’t tone deaf can improve. If I hit 95% of the right notes on American idol I’d be thrilled, because I’d be sweating bullets, and I’ve taken years of voice lessons.
posted by greermahoney at 11:12 PM on September 14, 2018 [5 favorites]

wait I

I think I just got good advice on how to up my crooner karaoke game
posted by The Whelk at 11:19 PM on September 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I liked the pop singer high notes one a lot. He reacts to the poster a bit too much, but all in all it's informative and interesting. I couldn't get through the Idol one past the Lady Marmalade cowgirl, just for the Idol parts.

I thought his thing about the first Idol was alright, but the rhythm was a problem and he said it was fine. I too heard the relative pitches about 80-90% fine.

Kpop high notes was a little too long and his prescriptions reach in some places, but man, dem's some pipes.
posted by rhizome at 11:21 PM on September 14, 2018

How weird, I've been watching these all week and suddenly here they are on the blue. He is very gentle and constructive. If I ever wanted to sing, I'd like a voice coach like that.
posted by greenhornet at 11:39 PM on September 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

What actually bothers me is the original video for the pop stars one. It seems really gendered. Maybe it was just the clips I saw, but it was all women. It left me feeling like that person thinks that women degrade over the years and that’s something that had to be pointed out, publicly. Would’ve loved seeing some male singers 10 and 15 years later. We all know Axl Rose couldn’t hit those notes a decade later. He was canceling shows left and right. Yes, singing can get harder as you age, and your voice can suffer with constant (mis) use. But only pointing out the women this happens to is shitty.
posted by greermahoney at 11:50 PM on September 14, 2018

I don't hate this, especially since he seems to be picking apart the sort of existing "why x is terrible" videos that I despise and are why I skip most recommended videos and even search results ...

I mean, is "You're doing great, honey." a genre? Because I think I need to just have a playlist of it going in the background while I decompress.

Every day.
posted by seraphine at 12:54 AM on September 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

I've also been getting YOutube recommendations for him and watching him all week, and he's awesome. There's a whole Youtube genre of 'people who offer vocal coaching by Skype react to X'- his are actually very very informative.

I've liked (and, as a result, improved my ear for vocal placement stuff) these videos of his:

and... oh god, he talks about Dimash. I promptly fell down a three-day youtube rabbit hole of countertenors after listening to this:

posted by twoplussix at 2:01 AM on September 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Weirdly I discovered this guy on my own this past weekend, and I've been enjoying his vids ever since. I took voice lessons in high school, and he definitely knows what he's talking about. I also love his kind reactions. He gives gentle constructive criticism, and his appalled reaction to the meanness of American Idol really resonated with me.
posted by katyggls at 2:02 AM on September 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

This guy is wonderful. His explanations are so clear. If I’d had a coach like him I would have never quit lessons!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 3:10 AM on September 15, 2018

I have disliked American Idol from the very beginning. It doesn't surprise me that mean spirited people would like these shows that seek out people to mock and embarrass. It surprises me that I have seen so little critique of them. The arts are for the people. All people. They are not an elitist activity. Definitely, no one should feel forced to listen to other people's singing, but so too, if you don't like someone else's singing there is no need to be cruel about it. Singling people out to say they are uniquely the worst is simply untrue. Probably most people without musical training sing badly, they just have the self awareness not to go on American Idol to be publicly humiliated about it. Personally I would like to see more karaoke nights, we all have fun, we laugh, many of us sing badly, some quite well. Have fun. Feel the music. Love your fellow humans.
posted by xarnop at 5:20 AM on September 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Xarnop, did you watch the videos?
posted by argybarg at 7:32 AM on September 15, 2018

I love this so much!

I love that he expressed disgust at the cruel American Idol comments, and that he seemed to feel particularly bad that some of these people would likely never sing again. Singing and making music brings such joy to so many people, and to take that away from them really is cruel.

I've also noticed that the people (in my life, at least) who make the harshest, most sweeping negative comments about musical performances are the least musically skilled themselves. So many people without much music knowledge love to talk about someone's "bad pitch" or "off-notes" or just "being flat", the latter of which they seem to use as a general term for "something was wrong sometimes, I think". Imagine if we regularly made fun of people playing pick-up basketball in the same way, and told them their playing was terrible and that they probably shouldn't play anymore?!

It was great to see this guy articulate specific skills that the singers needed to learn, and specific changes they could make to their technique to improve. So constructive and positive... and it was also clear that he understood exactly what was going on better than most of the rest of us. What a delight to watch!
posted by MangoNews at 7:39 AM on September 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Not only did Sam Johnson explain what was mechanically happening to produce the sound James Lewis is making, he explains why James is doing it, how James hears it, and gives great advice about what should be done to change it. If you don't watch the American Idol one in full, maybe just try this one, #5 in the countdown.
posted by Pig Tail Orchestra at 8:10 AM on September 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

This guy is great. He tells it like it is but isn't mean/harsh about it and generally positive. His criticisms are basically more about the choice of technique that prevented some of the singers from achieving a better performance, and sometimes explaining why that choice was the right one for the moment, because there are deceptively hard notes in the middle of a singer's range right where they have to transition between head/chest voice, low/high air flow, etc.
posted by tclark at 8:55 AM on September 15, 2018

"Xarnop, did you watch the videos?" Yes and I liked them quite well for having someone mention how exploitative American Idol is and how it can destroy a persons sense that they should sing at all, and their pain is held up for the entertainment value of others. And it creates a sense of people who can sing vs those who can't and should stop trying vs giving people the option to A: feel encouraged to have fun singing on their own however they want, or at karaoke nights or B: have supportive feedback on how to make their singing sound better for an audience if they want to sing for an audience. I'm not sure why you would have assumed I hadn't seen the videos but I hope that clarifies any confusion.
posted by xarnop at 9:30 AM on September 15, 2018

I'm really enjoying these videos, vespabelle! Thank you for posting.

greermahoney: Yes, singing can get harder as you age, and your voice can suffer with constant (mis) use.

Y'all, please enjoy videos of octogenarian and nonagenarian classical singers producing great sound, linked at the blog of a voice teacher who is obsessive about the physiology of excellent un-miked technique:
To what degree one maintains the voice has everything to do with understanding the physiological functions of the voice and how the respective musculature and tissues need to be maintained relative to the aging process. One needs to consciously do more to maintain the body and the voice over time. . . . A healthy voice does get older and with extreme age, it is understandable that one will lose some muscle strength both in the laryngeal and breathing musculature. However the degree of strength loss depends greatly on the person and how well they keep in shape. Regular practice of balanced singing can keep one in great vocal shape for many years beyond what was considered possible.
An easy thing that can help optimal vocal fold function is what professionals call Semi-Occluded Vocal Tract exercises (SOVT). Eg, singing notes (scales or other exercises, or your song) while blowing a raspberry (they call these "tongue trills"). "Semi-Occluded" means that your lips and tongue are partially closing the vocal tract by flapping away, which equalizes the pressure above and below your vocal folds, which encourages your vocal folds to close gently instead of slamming together, which means that they'll be healthier and happier in both short and long term. You don't have to develop a wobble as you age, and if you have developed one, some singers have been able to rehabilitate their voices away from wobbling.

Also, to produce sound this way forces you to engage core muscles (front, back, sides) that maybe you didn't know you had. Engaging those muscles properly and consistently takes the stress off of your throat and larynx muscles, which feels and sounds better and is healthier for the vocal folds.

(Uh, not that I have been able to internalize this in myself yet. It takes lots and lots of practice. I do tongue and lip trills while I'm driving, which I'm sure has resulted in many other drivers thinking I'm nuts when they observe my flapping lips/tongue in their rearview mirrors. Also if I've told any of the science wrong, somebody who knows better please feel free to correct me.)
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:34 AM on September 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

Here's a good video on vocal warm-ups to illustrate what coitus interruptus just posted (also this guy has many other awesome singing instructional videos as well :

posted by twoplussix at 11:55 AM on September 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

I love that he expressed disgust at the cruel American Idol comments, and that he seemed to feel particularly bad that some of these people would likely never sing again.

Yes, that was my favourite thing as well. I feel like he wishes he could rescue the singers from the American Idol judges so they could benefit from his gentle, constructive advice and not have their self confidence ripped to shreds.

I watched a whole lot of these videos in a row and was so charmed by his lovely personality. His students must be very lucky.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:12 PM on September 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

Kindness and compassion FTW. Loved his righteous anger at the mean American Idol comments. There is something so powerful about being serious, intelligent, and kind in the face of that kind of idiocy. It just rips it to shreds.
posted by HotToddy at 1:38 PM on September 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Like many others, YouTube also started recommending these to me; I watched the one about the high notes and I found myself just as charmed as others by Sam's gentle compassion. I started watching the Idol one but the meanness of the judges kind of killed it for me. As far as Idol shows go I've found The Voice to do this "let's have a bad singer audition" shtick a little less; I used to keep the French version of The Voice on while grading papers, and I don't remember anyone who I thought didn't belong on that blind audition stage. That said, Mika is the kindest judge I've ever seen; he always seems to have an encouraging comment for a contestant.

I really look up to the kindness of these two men and hope to spread some of it in my own life.
posted by invokeuse at 2:55 PM on September 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

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