What Makes a Vocal Performance Iconic and Memorable?

Themes and variation
Themes and variation

Here’s something to get vocal about…

What sort of vocal performances are most memorable or iconic to you?

There are those that are noteworthy because they showcase the undeniable virtuosity of accomplished vocalists. Then, there are those that highlight the passion and sincerity of artists who are storytellers as much as they are singers. Then of course, there are cases when musicians have owed a great deal to the topliners and arrangers who so carefully paved their pathways. Might there also be room for performances marked by the intertwining of technology and man?

In the latest episode of our podcast, “Themes and Variation,” our trusty three-headed panel discusses songs with vocal performances deemed “memorable” for a variety of reasons. And today, I’m joined by the astoundingly talented and accomplished artist, SIRMA (vocalist, songwriter, Soundfly Mentor) and my frequent podcast companion, Mahea Lee (composer, arranger, educator).

You can listen to “Themes and Variation” Episode 7 in its entirety right here in the player above, or click over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or anywhere else you get your podcasts to subscribe and download. *Bonus points if you want to hit us with a five star rating on Apple!

Want to dig a bit deeper? Check out the companion course on Soundfly.

episode grid

If you’re enjoying this episode, and you’d like to learn more about some of the musical topics we touched on, go ahead and visit Soundfly’s free companion course for songwriting prompts and additional resources. From scale modes to melody-writing and even audio production tips and tricks, we’ve curated some extra resources for listeners who want to go the extra creative mile and put stuff from the episode into action.

And since SIRMA is a Soundfly Mentor, you can actually learn from her and work with her 1:1 toward your musical goals, with a customized Soundfly coaching session. Learn more about what that entails here!

Episode 7 Highlights

1. Mahea dives into The Singers Unlimited’s process.

Mahea: They never actually performed live because so much of their process was reliant on this sort of you know, studio process. There’s one female singer in the whole group, her name is Bonnie Herman, she’s also the original voice of the “like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” jingle. Another member of this group was actually the voice of of the “Jolly Green Giant” for a very long time, Len Dressler. But yeah, so she would come in and she would sing the melody for most of the songs and then, just like as a scratch track, and then Gene Puerling would have everybody else sing their parts and then she’d come back at the end and kind of do a more embellished version.

2. Sırma on the importance of vocal rest.

Sırma: I think talking hurts your voice more than singing. So, if I’m singing I know that I’m gonna be ok. There have been times when I sang for seven hours some days and it can be totally ok. Like you can rehearse, you can record, it will be fine you’ll be tired at the end of the day but if you’re using your voice correctly, its just not going to be a problem but talking… When we talk we get emotional, we don’t think about our technique at all so, it just, it hurts our voice more than we realize. 

3.  Transcribing vocal phrases can give your playing a more natural feel.

Carter: I think transcribing vocalists and horn players, but we’re talking vocals today so let’s say vocalists, but instruments where you have to breathe, is such an essential thing when you’re an instrumental player. As a bass player, I can play non-stop without taking a breath and that will get you fired. Learning from, like to transcribe vocal parts on your instrument, you’re going to get such a more natural phrasing.

Collaborative Playlist

We’ve created a collaborative Spotify playlist in order to share every song talked about and mentioned on this episode, and explore others that fit the topic. Feel free to add your favorite songs with memorable vocal performances to the playlist below!

Note: Please don’t just add your own songs that don’t match the theme. While we love hearing your music, this is not a playlist for self-promotions, and we will remove them. 

We’ll see you in two weeks with a new theme, new guests, and some new songs to break down. If you have any comments, questions, or theme suggestions, drops us a line at [email protected]!

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