Vocal Technique (and/or lack thereof)

One of the hallmarks of vkei is the huge range of vocals you’ll find. Making weird noises is often the goal, as opposed to sounding good or pleasing. One person might love a raw, screechy voice, while another might find it absolutely intolerable.

Because everyone has different tastes and preferences, the only way we can judge a vocalist as objectively “good” is one that SOMEBODY enjoys, because they deliver a message and create a feeling!
SO, I’m not here to talk about that, because we can endlessly argue about that sort of thing.

Vocal technique, on the other hand, is something that can be objectively measured and taught, since it is based on learning how to understand and control the body parts related to producing voice/sound. This includes skills such as

  • breath control (how long can you sing or hold a note without gasping)
  • voice placement (are you singing from behind your nose or in your chest)
  • voice control (holding a stable note and volume)
  • accuracy (hitting the right note cleanly without sliding)

Now! Why is relate 2 vkei? (I’m speaking about vkei because that’s what I have the most knowledge of, but please do chime in with other jmusic!)
Vkei singers are guilty of many vocal sins, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad vocalists! Remember, being a good vocalist is extremely subjective!

HOWEVER!

Correct vocal technique is SUPER helpful in maintaining the health and longevity of your voice, ESPECIALLY for vocalists that do any shouts or screams. Vocal cords are muscles like any other, and using them too much or incorrectly causes strain and injury. Therefore, good vocal technique isn’t just a matter of being a vocal snob, but of keeping your voice functional!

A lot of vkei vocalists do get some vocal training at some point, but there’s certainly quite a bit of, uh, leeway, that’s given when it comes to skill.

For example, THE FAKE VIBRATO OH MY FUCKING GOD. I get excited to hear a voice that DOESN’T have a vibrato because a fake vibrato is so commonplace. If you don’t know how to naturally produce a vibrato, that’s fine!! Artificially induced vibrato puts excess strain on your voice and sounds bad anyway!

Extremely nasal vocals with a forced, pushy quality seem to be the status quo. I think this is definitely a technique problem, because it seems like most vocalists don’t know how to use chest/mixed voice and use only pulled-chest voice moving into head voice, making it super hard to get the proper mix of volume, pitch accuracy, and breath.

Pitch accuracy…so many live videos are pretty rough to watch because the vocalist is horribly off-key, even with the in-ear monitor. Technical difficulties notwithstanding, it’s wild how awful some vocalists sound live due to the hefty amount of processing that goes into the vocal recordings. Singing live is certainly a different challenge than in a recording booth since you can’t hear yourself well, but that’s what practice is for.

I fully admit that my favorite vocalist, Mahiro of Kiryu, is a a godawful vocalist in terms of technique, so this is by no means me being a vocal snob :rofl:

Anyway!
Thoughts? Opinions? Can anyone think of any technically SKILLED vocalists in vkei especially?

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HYDE has to be doing something right to still sound this good into his mid 50s. My personal choices for technically skilled vocalists are:

Ruki (the GazettE)
Yasu (Acid Black Cherry/Janne Da Arc)
Satoshi (girugamesh!! “oh yeah”)
Yoshiatsu (ex. DADAROMA)

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COULDNT AGREE MORE ESPECIALLY WITH HYDE. I CANT BELIEVE HE ALMOST SOUNDS THE SAME EBVEN AFTER SO MANY DECADES. RUKI is definitely one of my favorite vocalists, I love his voice and his range is exceptional! When I first heard Yasu’s voice I was so pleasantly surprised. I honestly think Genki’s vocal range is crazy. Im mainly referring to screaming, he can basically do every scream out there which takes a lot of skill. His singing vocals are also pretty clean.

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Without shouting out anyone in particular, my favorite thing about vkei’s emphasis on the vocalist-frontman position is the fascinating exhibition of amateur vocalists who have developed a lot of skill in one of these areas, but are left sorely lacking in others. It’s one of the endearing things about the scene which keep me going lol

I would also call for anyone to start a list of those… “specialists” shall we say! as for every genuinely talented all-rounder there are a big handful of one-trick-ponies which we may never have had the pleasure of hearing if it weren’t for this particular niche we find ourselves in :smiley:

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Your analysis of vocal technique within the context of visual kei is insightful and well-articulated. Indeed, while subjective preferences play a significant role in how we perceive vocalists, there are objective aspects of vocal technique that can be evaluated and improved upon.

You’re absolutely correct in emphasizing the importance of proper vocal technique for maintaining vocal health and longevity, particularly in genres like visual kei where vocalists often engage in intense vocalizations, including shouts and screams. The issue of fake vibrato and nasally forced vocals is widespread and can indeed lead to strain and injury if not addressed.

Regarding skilled vocalists in visual kei, while some may lack technical prowess, there are certainly individuals who stand out for their vocal abilities. While preferences vary, some vocalists known for their technical proficiency in visual kei include Hyde from L’Arc~en~Ciel, Tatsuro from MUCC, and Gackt, formerly of Malice Mizer. These vocalists demonstrate a strong command of breath control, voice placement, and accuracy, enhancing their performances and setting them apart within the genre.

It’s important to recognize that while vocal technique is crucial, it’s not the sole determinant of a vocalist’s appeal or success. Emotion, stage presence, and connection with the audience also play significant roles in defining an artist’s impact. As such, the balance between technical skill and artistic expression is a dynamic and multifaceted aspect of vocal performance in visual kei and other music genres.

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The vibrato is usually the first thing someone notices when I share vk with them, which is funny because I’m so desensitized to it after years and years of listening. But it really makes me wonder how it became so ubiquitously used among vk singers. Who was the first to introduce it anyway?

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That is the question! Although i think it won’t be controversial to say that Atsushi and Kiyoharu help popularize the technique among the scene along with Tetsu and Gackt.

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I honestly have wondered if the vibrato half the time is a lack of voice control. In other words, do they struggle to hold a straight note sometimes so feel it safer to vibrato. Im no amazing vocalist for sure, but from my experience vibrato IS easier than holding a straight note.

To nobodies surprise i am going to have to go to Kyo as being one of my favourite vocalists, he has as we all know suffered a bit in the past with his voice but nowadays he is as solid as ever, his range is incredible and I absolutely love his soft clean vocals, not sure if anyone knows what i mean but he sometimes almost has a certain “airyness” about his vocals which sounds more emotive and almost ethereal, best example i can think of off the top of my head is the song he did with Sugizo, the quiet part around 4 and a half minutes in. Sooooo nice!

Not vk but I actually really rate Aya Matsuura as a vocalist as well, more so in her later years, she is just pitch perfect and appears to have extremely good control over her voice, such as switching between falsetto and her normal register extremely effortlessly. Also, you know when she does vibrato its for effect of that part as she can DEFINITELY hold a nice clean straight note. :ok_hand:

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One thing I forgot to mention is that forced vibrato is common everywhere, due to the impression that being able to perform a vibrato signifies vocal talent. A lot of American singers also fake vibrato, but it’s not quite as obvious because they don’t do it nearly as much.

A real, natural vibrato is produced when you’ve really learned how to properly relax your jaw and body and your diaphragm/vocal muscles are vibrating to release tension generated from the strain of singing. This is obviously REALLY HARD TO DO if you’re moving around on stage, excited and tense, etc., so it’s impractical to seek for stage performers that aren’t stationary.

Now, a true vibrato sounds reeeeeally nice, warm, and resonant (think of opera singers: their vibrato doesn’t sound metallic and wobbly, harsh and jackhammer-y, yodel-y or screamy) so people want to achieve that same effect AND give the appearance of virtuosity.

However, most people try to take shortcuts to just replicate the sound by artifically manipulating their vocal systems to simulate a vibration that just doesn’t really sound right. It sounds like someone just unable to hold a straight note (as DirDude astutely noted) or a yodeler being machine-gunned.

Adding some fake vibrato at the end of a note is totally common and generally inoffensive (see most Western pop singers) but vk singers really making if OFFENSIVE lmao

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I will vouch for forced vibrato being much easier to teach yourself than proper voice control. When I was 15 I developed this in a pretty short time while listening to Chemical Pictures, as Tenten was always a great example lol. I STILL have to remind myself where my voice is coming from while singing… which I am of course still overall bad at :slight_smile:

Some examples of singers who use forced vibrato to a point where it comes full circle and actually seems kinda impressive just for how odd it sounds: Jojo, Genki, Natsuki… may come back to add more.

This as opposed to natural vibrato which, as @gilnyangi described, sounds effortless and relaxed, can be slowed or sped up, stopped and started at will - without the extra breath or tack-on syllable like you sometimes hear.

I could honestly get into a thread just discussing this one technique and its many uses… misuse… “abuse”? Can we accuse some of these individuals (technical or otherwise) of being “vibrato-abusers”? lmao

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I think Sono from Matenrou Opera is one of the best singers in the scene. His technique and control are amazing

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Your paragraph on the “true vibrato” there is exactly what i meant but worded 1000x better so thank you for that. :grinning:

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Thank you for elaborating on the phenomenon of forced vibrato and its prevalence across various music genres. Indeed, the desire to achieve a perceived level of vocal talent often leads singers to attempt to emulate vibrato artificially, resulting in a less natural and pleasing sound.

As you mentioned, true vibrato is a result of proper relaxation and control of the vocal mechanism, and it produces a warm, resonant quality to the voice. However, many singers opt for shortcuts, leading to a strained or artificial vibrato that can detract from the overall quality of their performance.

The challenge of maintaining proper vocal technique while performing on stage, where factors like excitement and movement can introduce tension, further complicates the quest for authentic vibrato. It’s essential for vocalists to strike a balance between technical proficiency and expressive delivery, understanding that artificial vibrato may not always achieve the desired effect and can sometimes detract from the authenticity of their performance.

By recognizing the difference between genuine vibrato and forced vibrato, singers can strive to develop their vocal skills in a way that enhances their artistry and resonates with their audience.

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How to we know fake vibrato is harmful? To me the styles aren’t interchangeable and fake vibrato isn’t just a way for untalented people to mimic vibrato but a different effect for use in different situations (I’m not even sure it’s easier). It feels more anxious and works for giving that mood to a song that regular vibrato wouldn’t have.

I love Tetsu’s voice so much. Idk why people hate on his voice

Fake vibrato itself isn’t necessarily harmful, but singing/shouting with incorrect technique at the frequency that bands do IS harmful, and this is objective fact. That’s how singers end up with vocal cord nodules and other ailments.

Natural vibrato happens when the correct amount of relaxation in your body happens while singing. Some people can just do it naturally because they just have a natural talent for using their voice effectively, but most people have to learn to consciously do it (kind of like how some people have super good hand-eye coordination but the rest of us need practice).

The point is that correct technique is not just a matter of sound to an audience, but a way of using the body in a way that minimizes harm when you’re going to be using it heavily. It’s similar to how there’s a “proper” technique or posture when doing other physical activities such as weightlifting or cycling, because they have the potential to damage your body when done improperly.

Doing it wrong a few times probably won’t matter much, but when you’re doing it for multiple hours every couple of days, that damage adds up. That’s why artists have to cancel shows while touring sometimes, because their voice is just not in good condition after heavy use for days even if they are careful about it.

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No argument that certain things are more harmful than others - although I would argue that in the case of artistic expression risks or sacrifices need to be made if certain sounds are the sound you want. Weightlifting isn’t art so same rules don’t apply. Just in the case of vibratos - alternating between both I just don’t see any discomfort arrising. And I’ve seen differing opinions on what actually will cause damage so I was wondering if there was any evidence of this in particular causing damage. Same with weightlifting actually (there are things that are obviously harmful and then things that people have differing opinions on if they are or not and without studies or at least really good personal experience it’s hard to say).

Tbh idk anything about vocal technique but one of my favorite Japanese vocalists is the harsh vocalist from Hysteric Panic:

Don’t know for sure but I’d imagine it takes a lot of talent to do such vocals, in this video he went so hard that a bit after halfway through he became something that is no longer human:

Also think Rib:Yuhki with all the different vocal styles he does throughout his various projects is pretty talented:

Kyoka’s shrieks were amazing but they’re also why he can no longer be a vocalist :pensive::

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