I have always had a passion for music. From the age of 5, my mother started sending me to a music school to be trained to read sheet music and play piano. By the time I was in year 7, I was being dragged along to these weekly lessons, and although I am now grateful for the knowledge I picked up over these years, at this time in my music career, piano wasn’t something I wanted to play again. Despite acquiring a music education which amassed to that of year 12 music 1 standard before the age of 13, I didn’t want to look at sheet music and play the piano for my musical life thereafter. Although my approach to playing the piano has since changed, this experience offered me an outlet to expand on my skills with another musical instrument: the voice.
When I talk about myself as a musician, I list my main instrument as vocals. Yes, I have experience on other instruments, but my strongest, and definitely my favourite instrument is my voice. This has lead me to some interesting places in the past. In 2009, I discovered YouTube and uploaded videos to my channel on an irregular basis, mainly covers of songs using vocals, occasionally accompanying myself with the piano or guitar. Every now and then I’d have a friend over and do something with them, but for the most part, I worked solo.
I have been a prominent member of a few MMOCC games for a number of years, starting with Habbo Hotel and moving through similar games from there. Over the years, I discovered that this area was a great place to promote my YouTube channel, and to this day, I still have subscribers who I met on these games. In 2013 however, I realised that these platforms could be used to build more than just a connection to promote my music and build my audience, but act as a gateway to a collaborative space. At this point in time, I really wanted to cover the song Baby It’s Cold Outside, however could not find a duet partner who was willing to split the song with me… That is until I mentioned it to an online friend called Josh while playing a game called Lasuni, and thus was born our duet compilation. Josh lived in Queensland, making it an interesting challenge to approach the duet. We ended up recording our parts separately, mixing them to our liking, before sharing them with each other to create a collaborative mix. My final video, did not include Josh at all, as he was not local to my area, so instead I enlisted the help of a friend to create a stylised video to accompany the backing track. With about 1 month of back and forth editing between Josh and I, then 2 days of intense filming and editing, I was able to release the cover just in time for Christmas Day.
I have not collaborated with anyone in such a way since, however when we were offered free range to explore a part of Asia, I figured that this could be a great way to explore the music culture in a part of Asia. My friend Kariann, whom I met on a Habbo fansite through online DJing also has a talent and passion for singing. Living in the Philippines made her the perfect person to partner up with to explore the possibilities for duets across the globe through our collective music taste. We set up a perm show for our Habbo Fansite called KarEly, and decided to release a new cover each week during the show, to be available to download/relisten to after the show. The songs chosen are based off artists which we enjoy and feel would create an interesting dynamic for a duet styled cover, while also working within a broader genre for the week.
The first week was based off a musical theatre theme. This was partly because it is often easier to locate duet styled songs in this medium, but also because we felt it would be a fun and varied musical presence on the DJ slot we had booked. This was our first test week as a group, because although I had done it once before, this idea required a shorter time frame and less back and forth collaboration and editing in the process. With a week to record our individual parts, I found that we both had trouble finding the time. Kari is still in high school and often has large amounts of homework, while I was also juggling a high load of university assessments in the week. As such, we recorded parts over Sunday/Monday, of which I then collated and mixed Tuesday. I also found that Kari had a very different approach to recording than I did. I personally like to organise all parts across a Garageband track, while she preferred to record each section live using Quicktime. Although there is nothing wrong with varying programs, it was interesting to look at the intent behind our recording choices. While mine was set up for easy correction editing over small areas within the whole recording, her approach meant that it was a 1 take opportunity, and if it was not perfect, a brand new take would have to be done, rather than finding the area of the mistake and re-recording that small part.
The final recording of Take Me or Leave Me (1995) is interesting in itself. Kari starts off with high, bright and breathy vocals. Her voice is suited towards mid-high range musical singing and it works well. She begins the song with distinct pronunciations, before starting to get more comfortable with the piece and glossing over the specific sounds like ‘t’s and ‘r’s etc. Her part is quite interesting compared to the original, although it still has a confident air about it, she sort of carries a different approach to the character Maureen. She oozes confidence, to the point where her lyrics “No way can I be what I’m not, but hey, don’t you want your girl hot” becomes less of a question and more of a matter of fact statement in her own unique approach.
My part offers a very different voice tonality in comparison. I have a lot more vibrato in my voice, to the point where I resort to jazz slides quite a bit, especially when it comes to the higher segments of the song as high vocals are not my forte (pun intended). I have quite a strong, projected nasal-ey sound also, which helps the responding verse come across as matter of fact also, delivering the response which essentially says that my character (Joanne) is equally as important as Maureen, as demonstrated in the line “You’ve got a prize, so don’t compromise, you’re one lucky baby!”. This tonality changes at the end of the song however, and turns into a louder, breathier, yet lighter tone for the final seconds.
The fact that as vocalists covering the song, we have both sought to emulate the mood and style of the piece within our own frame of understanding creates for an interesting result which mimics the song in style, yet sounds completely different to the original.
The second week we covered the emo/punk/rock genre, with My Chemical Romance’s Welcome to the Black Parade (2006). The band was chosen by Kari, and I selected the song, which we both ended up being very passionate about. Although we were excited in the previous week to begin our Global Duet experiments, we were much more excited about this week as we are both obsessed with MCR. One of the distinct differences between this song choice was that it was not set out for a duet, so to combat this, we split it up to make the story within the song appear as though it was one and the same from both of us, despite the fact that we were singing different sections. This meant that we alternated parts every two lines or so. We both focused a lot more on pronunciation of words this week which created a very firm and rigid approach that suited the march style drum sequence in the background. With a week to improve upon our approaches to recording our individual parts, I feel like this one created a much more cohesive and tight knit piece, which we were both really happy with (despite some mixing issues for the final track).
We have asked the audience who tuned in for the initial airing of the song for theme suggestions for next Tuesday, and the verdict was Indie music, so we are both very excited to see if we can refine our skills further and possibly even take the next song to a whole new level!