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Neil Finn's voice has gone from strength to strength since the new millenium. I was listening to a mid 90's fan club Finn Brothers 'Playing By Ear' CD version of 'Where Is My Soul' and he could barely hit the song's high notes (Note his normal tone singing voice has always been pleasant, this post is more a celebration of Neil singing the high notes, a NEW skill he has added to his repetroire)
I saw Neil with Tim performing on OZ TV last night and he hit the high notes like an Opera Singer in 'Edible Flowers'.
I have a theory since 2001's 'Cold Live At The Chapel' TV apperance on Channel 10 OZ, Neil's voice has gone from strength to strength. Has he had some further vocal training and/or realised to keep himself healthy at the realisation his vocal chords are a $$million dollar body$$ part Big Grin ?
Original Post
I dont know, but I did notice that in Vancouver last month, both Neil and Tim were in absolute TOP vocal form. I was so impressed and thrilled. They pulled off every song fantastically......every note. Whatever they're doing, I hope they keep it up.

Both voices have such emotion and character, but Tim's voice in particular had seen a decline in quality over the years. Even Neil has been known to have his voice crack on occasion, though overall, it has matured and developed such a warm tone over the years. Like a fine wine.....
(He sounds like such a kid on some of his early stuff!)

But both sounded so darn good on this tour! It was so great to hear!
quote:
Originally posted by Half-Full:
Both voices have such emotion and character, but Tim's voice in particular had seen a decline in quality over the years. Even Neil has been known to have his voice crack on occasion, though overall, it has matured and developed such a warm tone over the years. Like a fine wine.....
(He sounds like such a kid on some of his early stuff!)
If we had Tim's voice of Big Canoe & Before And After solo album says, skies the limit that could've been achieved with the new EIH bros album. But with limits/restrictions, better dimension/revelations/musical routes are brought out of personal struggle. This is the case for Tim.

Sometimes on 'Edible Flowers' you can hear the difference in Tim's voice. Other times in 'Luckiest Man Alive', 'All God's Children' it's like the Tim of old. Though without doubt Tim can consistently hit the high notes better than Neil, now and throughout his 30 years in music. 'EF' wouldn't be half the song it would be without Tim's constant high notes during the beginning of the chorus!

It's note to mention there are many 'coarse' voices in the music industry, the worst (disgracefull?) culprits being Macy Gray, Rod Stewert but on the other hand their's the Beatlesque triumphs of Per Gessle (Roxette) who specialises in that rough, crackly style. So it's just a matter of getting accustomed to to many who complain about Tim.

It's strange because on Tim's recent solo albums SIIS and FTG's you don't notice it at all. I suppose when you are harmonising with Neil you tend to pick out faults more, because Neil's voice is so PERFECT and IMHO has gotten better, even after all these years. Further yes I agree Half Full! Big Grin Smiler Cool , Neil sounds like a Split Enz kid in songs in particular like 'Don't Ask Why' and modern day versions of 'I Got You' and 'Take A Walk'.
I wonder if they are playing stuff in a lower key? I remember an interview with Neil a few years ago talking about how you lose the top end as your voice matures, so he was talking about transposing a lot of stuff down so it was more comfortable for him, even so I have noticed that there is a power back in his voice that the constant touring of Ch cannot have helped?
quote:
Originally posted by uxter:
[qb] I wonder if they are playing stuff in a lower key?[/qb]
Yes 'Edible Flowers' and the verses Tim sings is very low key. So yes you are right. Tim struggles with low key notes. But anything higher he sounds consistently like vintage SE, Big Canoe, Before & After gold/old; as shown in EIH and his last 2 solo albums.
To these ears, Neil's voice has improved significantly over the years. This could be a function of a warranted increase in his confidence, for one thing. Or....he could just be one of the lucky ones. Paul McCartney, just to name an example - though he probably isn't human Wink - hasn't lost a single step and could be argued, has actually improved as well. Could this be more of Neil channeling Paul's spirit Wink ?
As for Tim, in his early career, he set the bar so astoundingly high for himself that it's small wonder that his multi-octave tunes, with their drastic leaps around the scale; coupled with his frenetic performance style might not be consistently available during the second quarter-century of his incomparable career.
PL
definitely haven't started changing keys....in fact the brothers have always seems to write in fairly high keys. And yes you're right Neil's voice is definitely better than ever. I forget what the name of the vocal technique is, but he's gotten very good at holding the high notes and then altering their pitch continuously (again sorry I don't know the name - all I know is that is' VERY hard to do properly).
Neil is right, your voice usually drops range the older you get. I don't think the keys have changed, though: Neil and Tim are both tenors (Tim's a 1st, Neil's a 2nd), and I can usually sing their songs in my 1st alto range. I can sing an octave higher than Tim when he sings, and then drop down to a 2nd alto range to sing Neil's parts.
Meli,

It gives me a kick to see that someone else uses the 1st/2nd tenor labels for N&T--I was thinking the exact same thing the other day. All those years of singing in choruses have left their mark... Wink

As for transposing songs, the only time I've noticed that was actually on an old recording. It sounds to me like BBHS on the KCRW 1988 broadcast is a full step lower than than on the studio cut. Maybe the key wasn't finalized, since that performance preceded TOLM's release.

Oddly, it isn't blindingly obvious to me that Neil is losing range, though I would expect him to at this point. Maybe the high end of his range is just less sturdy and comfortable now.

Evvie
Well I must admit I can't really tell the difference between Neil now and Neil 15 years ago. Neil does have one of best voices going. I have to say that I feel Edible Flowers cd version is too perfect. I just loved Neils voice in the live version.

Tim's voice is an aquired taste. I agree with the comment that you don't really question his voice when you hear just his solo stuff. But with Finn Brothers Tim is singing with a near perfect vocalist so its always going to draw unfavourable comparisons. I actually love their blend of voices. Tim gives the Finn records a touch of rough that complements Neil's voice.

One of my favourite vocalists of all time is Sir Paul Mccartney. I have to disagree and say that I think his voice really has declined. He really cannot rock out like he did in the Bealles. His new songs also reflect his loss of range. Some of the vocals Paul Mccartney did with the Beatles is just amazing. He just can't sing like that now.

I just can't see a decline in Neils voice though. He's one of the few vocalists that sound like they aren't singing live as the voice is so pefect. There are very few people live I have seen who you can say that about. One of the other people I have seen (I was very very young, do please forgive me) who was also brilliant was Sir Cliff Richard!!
Evvie--

You figured me out, I'm a choral singer. I've learned to pay attention to 1st and 2nd range in the different voice parts.

There can be a lot of reasons for vocal quality to change, such as age or not taking care of your voice properly. I'm not sure if the guys are doing better at warming up or if because of age they're just taking better care of themselves, but both sound really good together.

One thing I've noticed over the past few years from Neil is an improvement in his ability to sing gently. He's always had a great voice, but he's usually rocking out in full-throttle or he's singing in open-throated glory. But I've noticed both on 'Lullaby Requiem' and on both 'Won't Give In' and 'Gentle Hum' on the new CD that he's actually singing lighter. He's actually sounding very relaxed on these tracks and I think that improves his tonal quality.
Slightly off-topic, strictly speaking, but Flower Singing Man: check out Sir Paul's live televised work to promote the Run Devil Run album - it's ferocious. Also, the man does 30+ songs - very difficult songs - in concert without even taking a sip of water! I'm still putting Neil squarely in the Sir Paul bionic voice tradition. Neil seems always dead on when I see him live, within bounds of reason, natch.
PL
IMHO, Neil's skill at singing gently isn't new; "Together Alone" and "Into Temptation" are two amazing examples. I think I know what you mean, though. There's a particular kind of airy, delicate singing that he's done more of in recent years (and yes, the chorus of "Gentle Hum" is incredible!). During his Crowded House days, his voice often sounded very solid and "glossy," with a lot of ring, especially on live recordings. On his solo albums and EIH, his timbre is different, more suede than satin now. The voice is breathier and there's a lot less vibrato. For a while I thought these changes were signs of a weakened voice, but seeing him live this tour showed me otherwise--his vocal power about knocked me sideways. I guess he simply likes to use the lighter, straighter tone in studio recordings these days. And though I miss his old sound, his new vocal approach has produced some of the most emotionally powerful singing he's ever done. Whatever the state of his vocal cords, I think his skill at *using* his voice has never been greater.

Meli, as long as I'm being a choir geek: When Neil breathes in the middle of phrases--even words!--does it drive you nuts? I can almost hear my high school chorus teacher groaning. Big Grin

Evvie
quote:
I think his skill at *using* his voice has never been greater
I suspect he's worked on that, just as he has on his guitar playing. I think he wants to be as good as he can be, which I admire.

I'm no expert on such things, but I have always thought there was a different quality to Neil's voice around the Together Alone period - not just on the album, but live too. I can't really describe it, but has anyone else ever thought the same?
Evvie--Well, I don't have very large lungs so I often have to breathe in the middle of phrases or very long notes. Some people just don't have the lung capacity to sing for long periods without stagger-breathing. You have to pick your spots and hopefully you don't interrupt a word or important phrase too much by having to do that.

Something else that impresses the choral singer in me is his singing of R's, or lack thereof. Many of us are taught in choral singing not to sing R's too hard because it closes the phrase off and it makes the sound very harsh. It's supposed to come out as an "UH" or "EH" sound, and he's done that for as long as I can remember. I'm not sure if that's from training, a good vocal producer, or that maybe Kiwi R's aren't sounded that hard to begin with.
quote:
Originally posted by meli:
[qb] Something else that impresses the choral singer in me is his singing of R's, or lack thereof. Many of us are taught in choral singing not to sing R's too hard because it closes the phrase off and it makes the sound very harsh. It's supposed to come out as an "UH" or "EH" sound, and he's done that for as long as I can remember. I'm not sure if that's from training, a good vocal producer, or that maybe Kiwi R's aren't sounded that hard to begin with. [/qb]
They aren't. I'm Australian, and when I'm speaking to people here in the US I have to concentrate on how I pronounce words ending in an "r" sound. The first time I arrived in the US on my own, I asked the taxi driver to take me to the Carlton Hotel, in Sutter St (San Francisco), and it wasn't until I spelled the name of the hotel and the street it was in that he understood me. "Oh, you mean the Carrrrlton Hotel, in Sutterrrr St. You have to pronounce your r's!"

It seems the forum is well-populated with choral singers! I'm one too (second soprano)... I'm far more comfortable in a choir than I am doing solo work. And I agree that the ranges that Neil and Tim both use are well reachable for a moderate voice.
One spot that's i find myself struggling to find a really good place to breathe in is 'the finger of blame has turned upon itself and Im more than willing to offer myself, do you want my presence or need my help (GASP!) who knows where that might lead' I really gotta work on my lung capacity! Too many years of no REAL singing!

I've done choral as well. Took it in highschool for credit for one year and don't even remember what the heck i am......was it that long ago? I doubt I could sight sing anymore, but i guess I'd remember if I tried. My final exam song was The Sound of Music. My choral teacher would cringe now if she heard how I've abandoned all that technique. She never was much of a fan of my 'personal style' and managed to train it out of me enough to get a pretty good mark on my final exam. My how I've strayed..... But hey, thats' my style Wink

My sister used to be a sweet adeline.....gateway chorus in edmonton. They won the big international competition in Salt Lake City eons ago. I always kind of thought I'd be following in her footsteps, but didn't. But I still catch myself singing the songs she used to sing, like today in the grocery store he he he

And, yes, i suppose in songs like Together Alone, Neil does sing softly, but there's something much more effortless sounding about it now, i find.
Pharmgirl--hehehe...yep, Americans have a very hard R sound. Southerners in particular have R issues, especially in singing when you need a nice, open sound.

The other issue Southerners have is the ability to sing twelve vowels at a time in a word that has only ONE vowel! so a word like "now" becomes "naahhohhhoooohh". Don't know if that's a problem in other English-speaking parts of the world.

IF there is one thing that can drive me batty sometimes about Neil's singing, it has to do with the way he shapes his vowels. Again, the choral singer in me, there are moments when I hear Neil singing and I can almost hear my director's voice in my head saying, "remember, the mouth should be shaped like a keyhole, not a mailslot". He doesn't do it often, but I can hear it when he hasn't placed the vowel well.
quote:
Originally posted by Evvie:
[qb]
Meli, as long as I'm being a choir geek: When Neil breathes in the middle of phrases--even words!--does it drive you nuts? I can almost hear my high school chorus teacher groaning. Big Grin
[/qb]
ROFL! I'm glad I'm not the only one who does this! Well, at least I know that after all those years of voice training, I still remember some of the rules...lol.
quote:
Originally posted by pharmgirl:
[qb] I'm Australian, and when I'm speaking to people here in the US I have to concentrate on how I pronounce words ending in an "r" sound.
[/qb]
Hehehehehe, you should come to Boston then, you'd fit right in with us, as we don't have any R's eithah!

quote:
[qb]
It seems the forum is well-populated with choral singers! I'm one too (second soprano)... I'm far more comfortable in a choir than I am doing solo work. And I agree that the ranges that Neil and Tim both use are well reachable for a moderate voice. [/qb]
I'm an alto, and I find that the Finn's songs are really comfortable in range, which makes me love singing along even more...lol. I think the only one I can't reach is Tim's part in "Edible Flowers". I was actually at a Karaoke bar the other night, and I was going to attempt "Distant Sun", which is probably just bordering on being too low for me on some verses, but unfortunately my friends and I had to leave before my turn was called. Oh well, more time to practice for the next time 'round.
Yes, de.FIN.e, I too feel like Neil's voice is better than ever. Especially live (as I've said before on one or two of the US finnbros show review threads), it's like you can FEEL Neil's voice more than before. His voice really comes from his spirit, feels like, and his "techinque" gets less and less in the way of that... which I guess is the real meaning of art. Pure and true. Puts you in touch with God. ( and all that jazz... Razzer )

Now, as for Tim's voice, I noticed that live, he ALSO sounded better than I've heard him. Sounds less often like he's "trying too hard"--e.g. how he sounded on the song Conflicting Emotions-- there's something too round, kind of pinched and "honky" in some of those lines..."conflicting emotions, making everything so hard for hmneee" etc. But when I saw the Finn bros shows this past tour, I felt like now that he's older Tim's got "nothing to prove" anymore. His voice is more clear and bell-like than ever. Lovely and powerful. (I got to hear him sing Stuff and Nonsense live!!? Wow, that really blew my hair back... ! *sigh*)

Now, I feel differently about Tim's voice on the album. After seeing those shows, it just doesn't sound like Tim's best voice for some reason. Perhaps he hit his stride a bit more due to all the vocal exercise involved in touring? Wish he could go back now and record the voice I heard him use live... especially on Edible Flowers... Oh well, that will ALWAYS live on in my memory!!! Big Grin

Incidentally, I was a choir geek too, for a year or two. A soprano. Wasn't that fun? Thanks for bringing up that great memory too!

love.
quote:
Originally posted by Sweet Secret Peace:
[qb] Now, I feel differently about Tim's voice on the album. After seeing those shows, it just doesn't sound like Tim's best voice for some reason. [/qb]
Sweet - perhaps I should re-post here the message I put up in the Tim board asking whether I was imagining the difference in Tim's voice on this album! I'd noticed it, too but can't quite put my finger on it. Part, I think, is singing much lower notes than I'm used to hearing him sing and part of it is also that he, too, seems to be singing more softly and expressively (on his older works it often sounded as if he were standing back more from the mike and really belting it out whereas now it seems as if he is right up on the mike singing more softly). I dunno. I was hoping to get some other perspectives on it, but thought it wasn't appropriate for a 'finn bros' board post... but, there, now you've taken care of that!

Homely
Sevenworlds: First off, I think I might be coming across in a way I didn't intend. I don't think that every singer should use classical vocal technique, and I don't intend my comments as a schoolmarmish critique of Neil's singing. I think he's a brilliant singer. He does have habits that make me roll my eyes sometimes. But half of what I've been doing here is laughing at myself for being such a geek after so many years away from serious choral singing.

I agree with you that "making a song believable," conveying feeling with the voice, is a vital skill for a rock singer (or any other singer). I don't agree that technique isn�t an issue. By technique I mean the nitty-gritty details of how you make your voice do what you want it to do. How and where you breathe, how you shape your vowels, what you do with the notes around your register breaks, and dozens more details are the foundation of how you put a song across; they're the craft that makes art possible.

There are a great many things about Neil's technique that I admire tremendously. One of them is the way he uses initial consonants. Sounds very dull, but the effects he creates with it are not. My favorite example is "There Is a Light." In the first section of the song, he creates a vocal portrait of someone who's half numb and half trying to act like he doesn't give a damn. The effect is hypnotic, almost lulling. The first time he sings, "I don't care, I don't care," he lets the character's anguish and frustration slam through, only for a moment, but with great force. It still gives me shivers. And the whipcrack "k" sounds on the word "care" are vital to the way he conveys the character's desperation.

Let me go back for a moment to something I picked on earlier, Neil's breathing patterns. Probably the single example that used to drive me craziest is "Lullaby Requiem," where he constantly breaks up phrases and even words ("angels," "another") with unusually placed breaths. After I'd listened enough times for my knee-jerk exasperation to subside, I realized that he was breathing that way for a reason, though I don't know that he thought about it consciously. The choppy, short-breathed feel evokes the sound of a person laboring to say something painful, or fighting tears, or both. For instance, every time he sings the line, "Not meant to last like a mother's love," he breathes before "mother's," as if he has to steel himself to get the word out. Also, though "Lullaby Requiem" is ultimately a song of acceptance, the frequent pauses for breath emphasize how much effort that acceptance costs. The times when Neil does sing smoothly connected notes stand out powerfully and sound like moments of strength and resolution. That's especially true of the phrase "leave us."

Enough rambling. All I mean to say is that I see technique as a singer�s toolbox. Two skilled people might use those tools very differently, but how you use them is tremendously important to what you can build.

Meli: I have small lungs too; more than that, I have rotten breath control. I often had to sneak breaths in the middle of phrases, but thankfully, one can get away with that safely in a choir. Big Grin I don�t think that Neil�s breathing in the middle of a phrase is usually the result of being short-winded, though. He can sing long phrases without a breath when he cares to (for instance, the vocalizing at the end of "There Is a Light"). I suspect that for him it�s mostly a kind of nervous habit.

About the R�s, I agree. Every now and then he�ll unexpectedly close hard on an "R," though, and I�ll wonder where the hell that came from. It�s funny, but I�ve never noticed much about how he shapes his vowels; I guess I didn�t get lectured about that often enough. Wink I know what you mean about the "twelve vowels for the price of one" thing, but I do love that Kiwi long-A diphthong: "In the paiiiiiper todaaiiiiiy..."

I�ve really been enjoying this discussion.

Evvie
quote:
Originally posted by Evvie:
[qb] By technique I mean...the craft that makes art possible.
[/qb]
Evvie, I really appreciate your explanation, and especially the examples you gave in your post. Very moving analysis. I too get a strong feeling of "artful grief" in Lullaby Requiem, it is one of my favorite songs ever. I couldn't put my finger on it before, but you're right: but there is something in the breathing that is very much like weeping, or trying not to, or maybe it's something like that upper lung, reflexive gasping a child does when she's almost done crying. I wouldn't have noticed that it was breathing that factored so much into the power of that song, but it definitely does.

Along with you, I doubt that Neil learned or planned on or even analyzed this or any of the techniques you mentioned, and for that reason I find them all the more effective--art over craft. As for the analysis, thank you so much for it, Evvie, I love what you wrote and appreciate the new perspective.

Thanks also to Meli for bringing up the dipthong question, I love the way you spelled that pronunciation of "now" (naahhohhhoooohh). Being that I too live in the South ("the S-ay-ahhh-uh-th"), I could actually "hear" what you meant as I read it. I've heard it often, and SPOKEN too, not just sung. TFF! And "In the paiiiiiper todaaiiiiiy..." I've always thought that was SOOO cute! *sigh* What an accent can do to a girl!

Homely, wow, here we are again on the "same page"...great minds think alike, eh? I can't wait to see what other people think of Tim's voice changes/differences... Anyone? Or, wait. Would that be off topic? (Damn tangents; always getting me into trouble!)

**Editing now to add this link to a specific discussion of changes in Tim's voice**

https://www.frenzforum.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=ge...;f=5;t=000357#000004

How's that for self moderation?!? Big Grin
Evvie, I agree with most of what you said in your last post. I wasn't saying technique isn't an issue but I felt focussing on how Neil pronounces his r's and shapes vowels was getting away from what his voice is all about.

In rock/pop music I would say Neil sits somewhere in the middle in terms of technique. There are a lot better technical singers than him out there. As far as I know, I don't think he's ever had singing lessons. He's one of the lucky, gifted ones who seems to be able to sing well instinctively. Therefore, I don't believe he thinks too much about the technicalities of singing. Shaping vowels correctly doesn't sound natural in the context of a rock song. It's like the way he sings "In the paper today..." on the album version of DDIO. It sounds more like "piper" but it doesn't matter because the emotion is there.

The downside of not being trained is occasionally his voice can crack and break quite harshly when he sings live these days (something I'm sure wouldn't happen if he took lessons) but we overlook the deficiencies because he sings like he means it.

All the examples you mentioned I agree with but I don't believe Neil thinks about these things or knows he's doing it at the time. Of course, you have to have some technical ability to be able to express the art but often simply feeling the song you're singing leads you to a more human place and I think Neil excels at this. It's in the areas that are difficult to put a finger on that his voice shines... the things he does technically wrong that give it character.
Well, while a well trained, technically correct voice is an admirable thing to possess, personally, I'd take character over technique in a heartbeat. Besides, sometimes training a voice means training the character and individuality right out of it. (Case in point, my high school music teacher who'd faint if she heard me now Wink )

I've always been of the opinion that nobody can dictate the 'proper' way to use the human voice musically. Sure, someone can say there is a proper technique to a certain style of singing, but I don't buy this whole theory that there is only one proper way to sing. Somebody invented the piano, the guitar, the drums.....so somebody can dictate what is the proper way to play those instruments. Nobody invented the human voice.

That's how I see it anyway.
I certainly haven't been here to crack on Neil's singing. Quite the opposite. And I wouldn't claim that Neil's handling of R's is crucial to appreciating his voice. It's just a pleasure to discuss his voice with people who are aware of and care about such things.

Martine, you may not be able to buy a diphthong in Intimate Apparel, but I encourage you to walk into the fanciest store in town and ask for one. Something interesting might happen. Big Grin

Evvie
quote:
Originally posted by Evvie:
[qb] It's just a pleasure to discuss his voice with people who are aware of and care about such things. [/qb]
Yes, I must say it has been a pleasure. It's funny I picked up a slight "argument" vibe on this thread, yet rereading it I think everyone pretty much agrees... just a question of whether or not it's kosher to apply certain terms to try and describe aspects of Neil's voice--which at the end of the day is in fact indescribable (and therein lies it's beauty!)--but damned if it ain't fun trying!

As for me, even if we were to use car engine mechanical terms to try and pin down "what it is" about Neil's voice, as long as it gives me different/new things to listen to/for in the songs I already love then I'm totally down with that!!

Wink
Just thought I'd pipe in at this point of this thread (which is very interesting!) and put in the thought:

"Has anyone considered Neil's quitting smoking as a factor in the resurgence of his voice?"

ie increased lung capacity ... less muck in his wind pipe. This may have had some effect on his increased vocal strength. From a (casual) singing teacher, who doesn't smoke and sings Neil and Tim's songs almost daily. :-)

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