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Question For Matthew About Your Singing

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If you see this and want to answer:


Vibrato has been more prevalent in your singing in later years.  My question is, is it an intentional increase/change or just natural in your voice and more apparent now?  Sorry if this is a dumb question.

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Guest Idioteque

That's actually a good question, I don't mean to butt in but if he reads this maybe he can answer a vocal question I've been too shy to ask him at meet & greets.

Looking back now, do you like what you did (Vocally) in MGB? The aggressiveness you had, are you impressed/proud of what you did? (The studio version of Apparitions & Everything Is Automatic are good examples but pretty much anything heavy during the 90's you barked most of your lyrics).

I know the surgeries and life in general caught up so you had to take a different approach to singing, which you made up for it with the vocal ranges you were able to hit during Avalanche, White Light Rock & Roll Review and so forth.

Over 20 years you've been able to do things with your vocals that most singers couldn't do in a life time.

Btw did anyone else ever notice Matt's vibrato at 1:39-1:40 during the line "Said it's all in how you disappear me" on Great Whales Of The Sea. Blake mimics the vibrato by tapping on the hi-hat and I never knew if it was a coincidence or pure genius. 

Edited by Idioteque
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from his previous posts, I would chalk it up partially to natural wear and tear on his voice, BUT it has always been there. if you listen to the audio of being onward (post-surgery and learning to sing properly form that UBC voice specialist) there is definitely vibrato there. IIRC, he mentioned it was partially caused by skull/nasal cavity shape, which is why we all have different voices. One of the key reasons it is heard less on everything before audio of being was the way in which matt sang, using his throat a lot more to squeeze out those power notes, while it sounds raw and agressive, it REALLY takes a toll on the vocal chords. If you want to see what NOT relearning how to sing does, take a look at liam gallagher, that guy's live voice is destroyed because of the way he sang/abused his voice for years.

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if you listen to Underdogs it's full of his vibrato, it's just less noticeable. i haven't verified this but i'm pretty sure you can find it in every song since last of the ghetto astronauts. it's just the way he sings.


go listen to Via Dolorosa and then listen to Vermilion, it's only slightly more noticeable in Via Dolorosa, and I want to say that it's just because the quality of the audio is better.

Edited by IamNick
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I was looking though old archives and stumbled upon this blog post Matt made between 2000 and 2004. Maybe that can answer your question:


Over the past few months there have been questions posed both here and in e-mails about proper vocalization. I have responded to a few and mentioned the speech pathologist that helped me learn to talk and sing again after my surgery in early 2000. Anyway, I mentioned it to her and she was nice enough to pass along some information for those of you that are curious.

Shelagh Davies is a private consultant that takes referrals from ENT’s for the assessment and treatment of voice disorders. Such disorders range from muscle misuse problems to vocal pathologies. She is one of the few speech pathologists in North America that specializes in working with singers and singing voice issues. She is a consultant to the Pacific Voice Clinic which is a leading clinic specializing in the voice and its disorders. Shelagh is the pathologist referred by the clinic for performers requiring voice therapy. She is also a clinical instructor, School of Audiology and Speech Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, UBC.

· Diploma in Speech Arts, Royal Conservatory of Toronto
· 1st classHonours BA, English and Drama, Queen's University
· Master of Science, Audiology and Speech Sciences, UBC
· Certified Speech-Language Pathologist, Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists
· Registered Speech-Language Pathologist, BC Assn.of SLP's and Aud's.

Over the past 15 years in private practice Shelagh has worked with all kinds of singers, obviously myself included. So if you’re one of the people that was curious to learn, this is for you.



Matt asked me to write a piece for his website because he has been getting a lot of questions about learning to sing. What follows is some advice based on both voice science and on my experience helping singers unravel the mysteries of their own voices. I am not going to give specific exercises - that is not a good idea in a general setting like this. Instead I want to tell you two fundamental principles about the voice - and one well kept secret. You can take it from there.

Principle # 1:
You sing with your whole body not just your larynx.
The mind, heart, lungs, breathing muscles, larynx, mouth - they are play a role in singing. (In fact, of all the parts involved, the larynx is probably the smallest.) When the whole voice producing mechanism is working as it should the voice sounds great, feels good and lasts well.

Producing the voice requires the coordination of 3 separate systems. Let's have a brief look at them.

1. The breath is the power of the voice. You have a reservoir of strength in your breathing muscles. Feel their power - say "zzzzzzzzzzzzz" and hold it as long as you can. Do you feel the muscles in your abdomen and ribs working to keep the sound going? Those muscles will provide you with all the vocal power you need - you don't need to squeeze your throat muscles to sing high or loudly. In fact, when you are singing you never need - or want - to squeeze the throat muscles at all.

2. The larynx (voice box) is the sound generator. The larynx sits on top of the windpipe and houses the vocal folds (also called vocal cords.) When you speak or sing, the air from the lungs flows between the vocal folds, causing them to vibrate. This vibration creates a sound wave - the raw material of your voice.

Now I want you to think about some issues of relative size here. You know
approximately how big your lungs are. They and the breathing muscles take up a lot of room in your torso. The larynx, on the other hand, is relatively tiny. The whole inside of the larynx would fit neatly inside a postage stamp. So which muscles are stronger? Which ones are going to wear out faster from misuse? Which ones need your respect and protection?

3. The mouth and throat are the voice amplification system. The body of a guitar amplifies and shapes the sound coming from the strings. In the same way the mouth and throat amplify, tune and shape the voice. You can do amazing things with this amplification system. Some singers can produce phenomenally loud sounds - up to 115 to 120 decibels - by increasing their breath power and tuning the resonance system.

When you sing well, you magnify these resonance effects and can literally feel your voice in your face. The voice rings in the cavities, tissues and bones of the head. With the resonance system engaged, you feel your voice as you are producing it and it feels good.

To recap: You know you are singing well and are using your whole body when:
· you feel the breathing muscles round the middle of your body supplying the power for your voice
· you feel nothing in your throat. No sensation whatever, except maybe a gentle, pleasant vibration. But no work.
· You feel the effects of the resonance system - your voice buzzes in your mouth, nose, cheekbones, sinuses. In fact you can feel your voice practically anywhere but your throat.

Principle #2: Respect your voice.
As a singer you literally are your instrument. This gives you the potential to reach deep inside the hearts of your audience in a way that no other musician can. But this amazing instrument comes with a high price tag - and if you want to be a singer you have to pay. The price is this: you and only you can look after your voice, and you have to do it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your voice is affected not only by how you sing but how you talk, what you put into your body in the way of food, drink and drugs, how you live your life, even what you think and feel. If a pianist smokes, the piano won't care; if a singer smokes, the voice will.

What it boils down to is respecting your voice as the fine instrument that it is. If you listen, your voice will tell you what you need to do.
How does your voice feel if you:
· scream all night over the music in a bar?
· sing so hard you can't talk afterwards?
· smoke? (The heat, dryness and pollution from pot or cigarettes directly damage the tissues that produce your voice.)

How does your voice feel if you:
· give it and yourself enough rest?
· warm it up before you sing?
· keep well hydrated, especially when you sing?

The choice is yours.

Best Kept Secret: All good singers produce their voices in basically the same way.
This may surprise you. You probably thought that a good opera singer produces his voice is a totally different way from a good rock singer. (By "good" I mean vocally- technically "good" not a "good" overall performer - that is a different thing.)

Matthew is a case in point. He sings technically well and the sensations he reports during singing are exactly the same as opera singers describe:
- feelings of the voice resonating and buzzing in the head
- sensations of power from the mid-body breathing muscles
- a relaxed, uninvolved feeling in the throat

He also has a big range, good vocal flexibility and good stamina. After a tour of 30-plus shows his voice is the same as when he started.

Now I am not saying Matt and an opera singer sound the same. They don't and thank goodness for that. One of the joys of the human voice is its almost infinite capacity for variety. But good singing feels the same even though the sound varies with the style of singing. There are good country singers, good rock singers, good jazz singers, good musical theatre singers … you get the point.

Where do you go from here?
As I said at the beginning, this is meant to be an overall guide to singing well. Follow these general principles and you won't go wrong.

Getting help is also a good idea, and you can use this guide when you are choosing a singing teacher. For example, does the teacher help you sing without squeezing the sound from your throat, or does he/she just want loudness at any price?

Covering Matt's songs:
Two final pieces of advice if you are covering Matthew's songs:

1. It's OK to change the key. Matt has a high voice and a big range, as you will have noticed if you have sung his material. It is absolutely fine to change the key to suit your own voice. Singers do it all the time. It always sounds better and definitely feels better when you sing where it is comfortable - and that varies naturally from singer to singer.
2. Listen to what he does with the consonants. I am not going to tell you. You have to listen.

Shelagh Davies, M.Sc., S-LP©
Registered Speech-Language Pathologist
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Iirc from a previous thread we determined he pushes them into vowels, the best example was deep six.


"And I don't know" which is sung with a lot of power becomes "an DIE don't know" so the consenant pushes to the front of the vowel sound. I'm guessing this helps with keeping the throat more open, vowel sounds like E and I can constrict the shape of the throat; and are much more challenging to push out higher notes.

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