Hey Dave, did you do formal training for your voice or did it all just come naturally?
I didn't really have much in the way of formal voice training We all took voice lessons in 1974 when we started, & it helped me to know how to sing correctly & not lose my voice, but not much in the way of ongoing instruction. That was a series of 4 2-hour session we did with all 4 of us, many years ago! I would say that years of on-the-job-training & me kicking myself in the ass, was what made me a "much" improved singer. During the mid 80's things started to really kick in & in the last decade it's been so much more natural to just have that tone & so much easier to sing consistently than ever before. Wish I had this skill back in the mid 70's, but I'll take what I can get. Lot's of work usually helps. It's a muscle & you have to work it out, do
excercises & train it to get it where you want it.
I remember when I first heard Y&T when I was just a lad and at first thinking it was Sammy Hagar singing but after a few verses realizing it wasn't. (Have you heard that comparison before?)
DAVE: Yes, I have had quite a few people mention that I sound like Sammy at times. Doesn't bother me, he knows what he's doing! Playing & singing is somewhat natural, but playing difficult parts while singing difficult vocals has never been easy at first. Just a lot of practicing makes it happen.
Garage Sale Man: Dave,Noticed such a big difference in your voice strength and technique when earthshaker came out vs. previous 2 records. I just noticed so much diiference in fullness of voice/guitars and overall quality of the music
and production. If you think so also, what things do you attribute to your growth from '77 to '81.
Also, what would you suggest for voice strengthening, any voice exercises ?
Lot's of practice ? Lessons? Any tricks of the trade ? empty stomach vs. full stomach.
How can you get the most out of what you have ? When you record, do you do/drink anything special? Do you have more strength in your voice at certain time more than others, and are there reasons for that? What are the main things you need to focus on, to get your voice stronger, keep it there, and not ruin it in the meantime?
DAVE: OK - here's some singing info about me.
When I first started singing in Y&T it was out of necessity. In the early days I saw myself as a guitar player that happened to sing. Later on I came to this realization that I was the lead singer in the band & I should work on being better at it. I know this sounds stupid, but it's true. I started to pay closer attention to my singing & work more on my vocal technique. I also took some tips from others along the way as far as vocal excercises & the like. I finally reached a point that I was feeling like a confident singer in the mid 80's. Here's some things that I do for my voice & can recommend to others to try: Sing constantly. For me, the more I sing, the better my tone gets & the easier it is to manipulate my voice. Singing is akin to any other exercise routine - if you can keep singing on a regular basis & do your warm-ups, you'll be much better off & have a lower risk of blowing your voice out. I usually get my power from my wind, not my vocal chords. I try to summon that wind to move the vocal chords in a relaxed manner. I've found this allows me to be more in control of my tone & pitch & makes it easier to not blow my voice out. Tensing up & trying to be too gritty at the vocal chords is not usually a good thing to do on a regular basis. Relaxing & breathing correctly is a key factor to control & tone. I never go on stage with a full stomach, or a completely empty one. I usually eat 2 to 3 hours before performances so I can get the power from
my stomach (diaphragm). It needs to be able to expand & contract freely, which can't be done on a full stomach (for me). By not having a completely empty stomach, this usually gives me enough energy to get through a set without running out of air (it takes a lot of energy to move that much air for 90+ minutes).
Very important - especially when touring - get lots of sleep! I always try to get 8 hours on nights that I have gigs. This sometimes made me an unpopular guy on the road, but I really have to force myself to sleep when I have the opportunity. It's like running a marathon on no sleep - you can't do it day after day without straining or injuring yourself. It's amazing sometimes how much a good nights sleep can make the difference between a natural easy performance & a strained, fight to stay alive when singing every night. Actually this works whether it's 5 gigs a week or just one gig a month. I usually warm up for a minimum of 5 minutes before gigs or studio performances with vocal exercises. 15 to 30 minutes if I'm really concerned about my voice on "iffy" nights. These are mostly just scales & patterns done with different voice inflections & sounds. If you ever hear a vocalist doing warm-ups, it sounds very funny & weird. There are proven sounds that you make that help relax & ready your voice for the performance. Humming in a relaxed manner, up & down the scales, is a good place to start, for example. I've been fortunate to only completely lose my voice on 2 occasions in my carreer. Both times it was on tour & my vocal chords swelled up & wouldn't let air through correctly & vibrate. Both times I received steroid shots to reduce the swelling & I was able to sing again, gently, within hours. As far as anything I drink. I usually keep liquids away from me before a show, because it can add to bloating & burping, which makes it hard to summon the air from my stomach. This just might be me because of my screwed up stomach. However, it's important for your voice to stay moist. Mine usually doesn't dry up that often, so I don't have to worry about that very much. Others will chew gum & move it to the side of their mouth when they sing. This can help keep your mouth moist if you have a problem. I sometimes take a swig of water, then swallow very little & spit out the rest when onstage. I also try to avoid talking too much before a show. There's nothing worse than talking over loud music, or talking incorrectly for a long period of time before a peformance. It can strain your voice & dry you out before you sing a note. So these are a few of my standard vocal eccentricities & tips. As always, there's more to this, but these are my basics.
We all here know how you grew up listening to Jimi Hendrix and how you took to the guitar; but, how did becoming lead singer for Yesterday and Today, and later Y&T come about. Did you realize your vocal talents at the time, or did Phil, Leonard and Joey just say- You can sing.
Sort of the latter. The band needed someone to sing & I had the best prospects at the time. I still couldn't sing very well, but eventually I
turned that around. Sort of on-the-job training. To be honest, it's hard for me to listen to some of those early records.
Good stuff about singing techniques, etc, going on here. I know what works for me & I mostly stick to it. As I mentioned in that earlier post
& "Student of Dave" mentioned also - it's a good idea to try to get your sound without trying too hard. There are all kinds of voice instructors that teach this "speech level singing" technique nowadays. I don't exactly prescribe to that approach in whole, but I have found my best control of pitch, expression & tone comes while singing relaxed, as opposed to trying to belt real hard. However, it's just natural for me to really pump it out at times when I'm doing a lead vocal for a record. I get so into the song & the intensity that I just go there. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. As far as gaps in someone's range. It's pretty usual for most of the singers I know to have places in their range that they just don't feel too comfortable. I did a bit more in my lower range on this new record, than I've done before & that wa always a sticky thing for me in the 80's. My power range is somewhere between the b string on the guitar & the high d over high c. I can hit high E over high c in full voice, but choose not to, unless I need a background part to go there on a record. To me, range is fun to talk about & hear occasionally, but like many things measured, doesn't add up to much when it comes to expression. Just give me a soulful performance that tears your heart out - it can be done with 2 notes. But then, I'm not a schooled musician, just a flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants performer.
Difficult songs to sing -
DAVE: Don't Stop Running is very difficult to sing. It's one of those "many" Y&T songs that has absolutely no space to catch your breath and damn near every line is in the stratosphere. And if your drummer plays any of these too fast, man it's nightmare time. I could name many songs that are like that for catching your breath but won't bore you with the details. I try nowadays to think about stuff like that when I construct melodies for new tunes, though occasionally I will write a difficult part because it just "has" to be there. Now - what is one of the hardest Y&T tunes to play live? One I remember being a bit more difficult "for me" was when we first started working on "Quicksand". This was tough because the off time guitar lick was completely different timing than the vocal phrasing. That took me about a week to get that tight enough to play without cocking it up. Hard Times can be difficult to play at times. That one has many tricks along the way to screw up getting a great live feel with. Those are a few. There are others to be sure.