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Author Topic: Dennis’ contributions to L.A.  (Read 4592 times)
SaltyMarshmallow
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« Reply #25 on: April 21, 2021, 08:28:34 AM »

Head voice or mixed voice and falsetto are distinguishable vocal techniques above the break. The signature high sound of the Beach Boys, especially in Brian's case, is head voice. Falsetto was hardly ever within Brian's musical vernacular. He just didn't develop his voice in that way. Al, Bruce, and occasionally Dennis did in the odd specific circumstances.

Brian reminds me a little bit of some prominent countertenors who sang high as kids, and then never stopped singing high even after their voices broke.  Cenčić comes to mind.  They immediately figured out how to sing with more or less complete chord closure as high as they needed to go.  I actually would posit that Brian never sang without complete chord closure until the 70s.  Carl was similar, but his voice was even lighter than Brian's.

It's an interesting topic, but I agree that the Beach Boys signature sound is distinguished by the fact that their high singer never needed to rely on falsetto (unlike Bee Gees, 4 Seasons, etc)

Y'know, I think there's one whole example I can remember off the top of my head where Brian's singing something that'd be best described as falsetto in the 60s: the 'tinkling' backing part in the Smiley Wind Chimes fades. Really weird and uncharacteristic for him. Next one... end of the 70s In the Back of My Mind? Then jump to She's Got Rhythm. That's about it.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2021, 08:29:04 AM by SaltyMarshmallow » Logged
sloopjohnb72
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« Reply #26 on: April 21, 2021, 08:49:59 AM »

Head voice or mixed voice and falsetto are distinguishable vocal techniques above the break. The signature high sound of the Beach Boys, especially in Brian's case, is head voice. Falsetto was hardly ever within Brian's musical vernacular. He just didn't develop his voice in that way. Al, Bruce, and occasionally Dennis did in the odd specific circumstances.

Brian reminds me a little bit of some prominent countertenors who sang high as kids, and then never stopped singing high even after their voices broke.  Cenčić comes to mind.  They immediately figured out how to sing with more or less complete chord closure as high as they needed to go.  I actually would posit that Brian never sang without complete chord closure until the 70s.  Carl was similar, but his voice was even lighter than Brian's.

It's an interesting topic, but I agree that the Beach Boys signature sound is distinguished by the fact that their high singer never needed to rely on falsetto (unlike Bee Gees, 4 Seasons, etc)
Well said. "Falsetto" is a confusing term, and it's mostly wrong when used in reference to the beach boys' vocals. I think it's counterproductive to refer to any part in a song with many high parts, and no discernible falsetto as "the falsetto."

And, as Alan Boyd, Craig, and some others have said, the high vocal in the background of the bridge here is most certainly Carl.
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HeyJude
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« Reply #27 on: April 21, 2021, 09:31:01 AM »

I know it was established long ago that using "falsetto" in the BB world was largely an incorrect application of the term.

It has become generic shorthand for "the high part" for fans. I'm not sure it can really be undone at this stage. A lot of even avid music listeners that have never tried singing themselves can't always easily comprehend the idea of "head voice" versus mixed versus from the chest, etc. I'm not saying we shouldn't use correct terms whenever possible. But much like we're probably never going to see the word "Tannerin" used in a USA Today article noting the anniversary of "Good Vibrations", we have to be realistic about these things. When a fan uses the term "falsetto" in the most broad sense (e.g. "Matt Jardine is singing the falsetto parts at this show"), we all know what that means. Having said *that*, this is actually an area where I think fans and scholars and those with specialized knowledge have done a really good job of both not being pedantic about the issue every time someone uses the word, but discussing it (and educating us in the process). I'm fascinated by all of this, less by the semantics of the actual word choice, but more by the concept that Brian is using such a different mechanism/method for singing those high parts compared to many other contemporaries doing high parts (not to mention a plethora of people covering Brian's actual songs).

Less to defend its usage and more to help explain its proliferation, I do think part of that proliferation has come from surrogate touring band singers and their place in the vocal stack. Foskett, Matt Jardine, Adrian Baker, etc. have often been referred to as the "falsetto" guys, mostly as shorthand for explaining that they aren't literally "replacing Brian" in the band, but are assuming Brian's high part on certain songs (mainly early era material obviously).

And this of course brings us to another point worth mentioning: The Beach Boys and touring band members have often used the term "falsetto", seemingly usually incorrectly as well. Who coined the term for Foskett of "CEO of Falsetto?"

It would be interesting to trace the usage of "falsetto" in reference to Brian's (or whomever) high parts in BB songs; did the band members (or record label, or music press, etc.) start using the term more regularly before fans did?
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nts and the drum
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« Reply #28 on: April 21, 2021, 09:35:11 AM »

Well said. Nice to meet you too!  Cheesy

I agree, it’s been a common misconception for years, and admittedly I can’t help it myself. Wink
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Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #29 on: April 21, 2021, 09:45:02 AM »

It would be interesting to trace the usage of "falsetto" in reference to Brian's (or whomever) high parts in BB songs; did the band members (or record label, or music press, etc.) start using the term more regularly before fans did?

That would actually be really interesting.  Brian certainly has what can be called a small child's understanding of music terminology at best, and whenever he talks about what he's doing it's usually in very negative terms.  "Too shrill" or "like a girl" and what not.
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nts and the drum
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« Reply #30 on: April 21, 2021, 09:46:56 AM »

It would be interesting to trace the usage of "falsetto" in reference to Brian's (or whomever) high parts in BB songs; did the band members (or record label, or music press, etc.) start using the term more regularly before fans did?

That would actually be really interesting.  Brian certainly has what can be called a small child's understanding of music terminology at best, and whenever he talks about what he's doing it's usually in very negative terms.  "Too shrill" or "like a girl" and what not.

Like he criticizes himself for his vocal on When I Grow Up & Let Him Run Wild.
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sloopjohnb72
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« Reply #31 on: April 21, 2021, 09:58:38 AM »

A large part of the problem is that "falsetto" has two different meanings in the music world - range, and voice type. So one can be singing falsetto without singing falsetto, if that makes any sense. But when Brian Wilson is listed on the wikipedia page for the voice type, it's clear that most people completely misunderstand the term and what it really means, physically.
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Jim Curtis
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« Reply #32 on: April 21, 2021, 04:00:51 PM »

I apologize I called it a falsetto.  I was not referring to the high background on the bridge.  What I was trying to convey is that I always thought Dennis was the lead and only lead vocal on this song where he sang the first and second verse in a high vocal and did the bridge in his normal  vocal for that era.  I al2ays thought that it was cool and rare to hear Dennis singing the high part.  I went back and listened again and I still hear Dennis as the lead.  You have to admit that the high vocal on the first and second voice is not a high part that you usually hear?
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sloopjohnb72
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« Reply #33 on: April 21, 2021, 09:36:21 PM »

I apologize I called it a falsetto.  I was not referring to the high background on the bridge.  What I was trying to convey is that I always thought Dennis was the lead and only lead vocal on this song where he sang the first and second verse in a high vocal and did the bridge in his normal  vocal for that era.  I al2ays thought that it was cool and rare to hear Dennis singing the high part.  I went back and listened again and I still hear Dennis as the lead.  You have to admit that the high vocal on the first and second voice is not a high part that you usually hear?
That is Carl, who is the lead vocalist on most of the song outside of that Dennis bridge. It sounds a bit raspier than the typical Carl vocal, sure, but nothing like Dennis to my ears.
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Jim Curtis
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« Reply #34 on: April 22, 2021, 04:52:35 AM »

Well for the last 42 years I always thought it was Dennis.  Carl had a much sweeter high voice although he sounded a little nasal on Goin South so maybe he had a cold or something.  The album came out in the fall semester of my senior year of college and I remember catching 2 shows at Radio City when they were promoting the album.  They were booed when they performed “Here Comes The Night” disco version.  I think I’m going to continue to believe that it is Dennis not Carl on lead. My visual is Dennis singing the high part with that classic hand to the ear.  Just my opinion.
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SaltyMarshmallow
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« Reply #35 on: April 22, 2021, 05:12:15 AM »

I think I’m going to continue to believe that it is Dennis not Carl on lead. My visual is Dennis singing the high part with that classic hand to the ear.  Just my opinion.

It's objectively Carl, whether or not you choose to believe it.
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c-man
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« Reply #36 on: April 22, 2021, 05:34:27 AM »

It would be interesting to trace the usage of "falsetto" in reference to Brian's (or whomever) high parts in BB songs; did the band members (or record label, or music press, etc.) start using the term more regularly before fans did?

That would actually be really interesting.  Brian certainly has what can be called a small child's understanding of music terminology at best, and whenever he talks about what he's doing it's usually in very negative terms.  "Too shrill" or "like a girl" and what not.

I remember an interview with Bruce Johnston from 1979, promoting the Light Album, where he mentioned that both he and Brian would be on the upcoming tour. He said that Brian would be singing more than he had (which didn't really pan out, except for adding "Hawaii" later on in the tour), and that with the two of them in the band, "We'll have a battle of the falsettos" (I think they both did alternate the high part on "Hawaii").
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c-man
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« Reply #37 on: April 22, 2021, 05:46:17 AM »

On a related note...I once read (in an in-depth musical analyses article from the pages of long-ago fanzine "Add Some Music") that the Beach Boys technically did not use the "bass voice"...that the low range Mike frequently sang in is actually within the baritone range, compared to the Statler Brothers or Oak Ridge Boys, for instance, who did employ actual "bass vocals". Interesting. Normally, I think of a lot of Dennis background parts as being in the baritone range, and Mike parts as being in the bass range.
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SaltyMarshmallow
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« Reply #38 on: April 22, 2021, 06:12:31 AM »

'Bass' can mean a few different things, really. There are voice types, which can be sort of vague and don't definitively describe everyone, but Mike sits quite comfortably as a baritone. That's where his voice naturally is. He was great at singing parts in a bass range (again, sort of vague), although he couldn't project very well down low and that's usually he was put on his own mic, and why those parts tended to work better for him in a studio environment. In the right conditions he could be a bass vocalist and do it beautifully.

Then there's the idea of bass singing as a role in a vocal stack, which doesn't necessarily need to be super low. If he's singing a part in a chord that's best represented by Brian's left hand on the piano, fulfilling a bass function, that's a bass vocal. The terminology can diverge in a whole lot of ways.
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Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #39 on: April 22, 2021, 07:52:59 AM »

Couldn't Al actually sing a lot lower than Mike, if there was a contest?

The nomenclature is an interesting discussion, in any case.  There's words that describe more what role the singer plays than the range, and then there's words that describe the actual range, then there's words that describe the quality of the voice.

I know a lot of men in choirs who sing one part, but when they do solo literature, it's not that part -- they sing in choir because it makes sense for that choir.  When I was in choirs, I sang "alto" in one, but anything from Soprano, Canto, Alto, Tenor, discantus, quintus, contratenor, and a number of other descriptions.  None of that changed my range, though!

Mike was the bass singer in the sense that he usually took the lowest part.
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sloopjohnb72
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« Reply #40 on: April 22, 2021, 08:20:59 AM »

Couldn't Al actually sing a lot lower than Mike, if there was a contest?

The nomenclature is an interesting discussion, in any case.  There's words that describe more what role the singer plays than the range, and then there's words that describe the actual range, then there's words that describe the quality of the voice.

I know a lot of men in choirs who sing one part, but when they do solo literature, it's not that part -- they sing in choir because it makes sense for that choir.  When I was in choirs, I sang "alto" in one, but anything from Soprano, Canto, Alto, Tenor, discantus, quintus, contratenor, and a number of other descriptions.  None of that changed my range, though!

Mike was the bass singer in the sense that he usually took the lowest part.
The lowest I've heard Al sing is a D2 on an alternate version of Don't Go Near the Water, and it's a rather weak D2 compared to those that Mike has hit (I'm thinkin the intro to Hot Fun in the Summertime). I've never heard either go lower than that.
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Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #41 on: April 22, 2021, 08:38:27 AM »

Couldn't Al actually sing a lot lower than Mike, if there was a contest?

The nomenclature is an interesting discussion, in any case.  There's words that describe more what role the singer plays than the range, and then there's words that describe the actual range, then there's words that describe the quality of the voice.

I know a lot of men in choirs who sing one part, but when they do solo literature, it's not that part -- they sing in choir because it makes sense for that choir.  When I was in choirs, I sang "alto" in one, but anything from Soprano, Canto, Alto, Tenor, discantus, quintus, contratenor, and a number of other descriptions.  None of that changed my range, though!

Mike was the bass singer in the sense that he usually took the lowest part.
The lowest I've heard Al sing is a D2 on an alternate version of Don't Go Near the Water, and it's a rather weak D2 compared to those that Mike has hit (I'm thinkin the intro to Hot Fun in the Summertime). I've never heard either go lower than that.

Fair point.  I guess we'll really have to hold a low note contest.  Hey! That's what we'll use cameo for!
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guitarfool2002
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« Reply #42 on: April 22, 2021, 10:10:28 AM »

Saying certain vocals are falsetto or bass or whatever else are just musical shorthand terms. The lowest voice in a group is called the bass voice out of convenience, no matter what the actual range of the singer is, and the highest is labeled the falsetto when it sounds anything like Brian on "I Get Around", Barry Gibb, or Frankie Valli. When pop music takes the musical elements that existed in classical forms for centuries and reshapes them into something workable, it's not as necessary to be as formal when analyzing it or even trying to communicate it to other musicians in the creative process.

The Beach Boys' harmonies and vocal arrangements more or less follow the standard Soprano-Alto-Tenor-Bass 4-part layout that has existed since chorale writing was the standard, yet does anyone call the highest voice in a male vocal group the "soprano"? No, because that has a gender-specific definition more specific to other genres of music, and the relatively small number of male sopranos that exist are essentially singing in falsetto above the standard countertenor range.

It just becomes easier for all involved to shorthand the terminology and say the highest male voice in a smaller male vocal harmony group (not a choir, for example, but a group like the Freshmen or the Beach Boys) is singing the falsetto part when they reach as high as Brian or Bob Flanigan did on some of those arrangements, even though Flanigan technically is a tenor.

I'm now interested to hear opinions on who among well-known pop singers (or which recordings from those singers) would legitimately be termed a "falsetto singer", and why they would be versus others singing in similar ranges.
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Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #43 on: April 22, 2021, 10:23:16 AM »

Saying certain vocals are falsetto or bass or whatever else are just musical shorthand terms. The lowest voice in a group is called the bass voice out of convenience, no matter what the actual range of the singer is, and the highest is labeled the falsetto when it sounds anything like Brian on "I Get Around", Barry Gibb, or Frankie Valli. When pop music takes the musical elements that existed in classical forms for centuries and reshapes them into something workable, it's not as necessary to be as formal when analyzing it or even trying to communicate it to other musicians in the creative process.

The Beach Boys' harmonies and vocal arrangements more or less follow the standard Soprano-Alto-Tenor-Bass 4-part layout that has existed since chorale writing was the standard, yet does anyone call the highest voice in a male vocal group the "soprano"? No, because that has a gender-specific definition more specific to other genres of music, and the relatively small number of male sopranos that exist are essentially singing in falsetto above the standard countertenor range.

It just becomes easier for all involved to shorthand the terminology and say the highest male voice in a smaller male vocal harmony group (not a choir, for example, but a group like the Freshmen or the Beach Boys) is singing the falsetto part when they reach as high as Brian or Bob Flanigan did on some of those arrangements, even though Flanigan technically is a tenor.

I'm now interested to hear opinions on who among well-known pop singers (or which recordings from those singers) would legitimately be termed a "falsetto singer", and why they would be versus others singing in similar ranges.

I actually call the highest part in the traditional Beach Boys stack the treble line.  Less dependent on defining the means of vocal production as the defining characteristic when what we really care about is the role the voice is playing.
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Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #44 on: April 22, 2021, 10:25:45 AM »

Perhaps interesting to note that in barbershop harmony, the roles are called Bass, Baritone, Lead, and Tenor -- and that's true regardless of the genders of the participants.
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« Reply #45 on: April 22, 2021, 10:46:34 AM »

Perhaps interesting to note that in barbershop harmony, the roles are called Bass, Baritone, Lead, and Tenor -- and that's true regardless of the genders of the participants.

The "high voice wail" part that is sung by Brian and is featured on a lot of BV on Beach Boys records in the 60's is falsetto, but on lead vocals in the early years of the Beach Boys Brian was (in most cases) mainly attempting to replicate Bob Flanagan's part in the Four Freshmen, which was a jazzy barbershop tenor or even high tenor, not falsetto.
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« Reply #46 on: April 22, 2021, 10:49:24 AM »

That is an interesting comparison with barbershop harmony terminology, because it fits in with what I said about different genres and the terminology applied for those genres. In barbershop, as the second voice from the top is labeled the "lead", it suggests that voice is the one carrying the lead melody of the song with the higher "tenor" voice supporting with harmony. Yet when Brian sang the lead melody on a Beach Boys harmony, or when Flanigan sang lead with the Freshmen, their highest voice was usually the "lead" carrying the melody with the voices underneath filling in the harmony. It could be a case of the "standard" - and I hate to use that term - barbershop arrangement adjusting the parameters to fit the genre, where that upper voice would not be the one with the main melody but rather one of the middle voices being supported by both the higher and lower parts.

When I've done arrangements in the past for string quartet or brass quintet...and it's been a LONG time since I've done that LOL...I always reverted back to the melody most often being in that highest part as the standard, then sometimes swapping it out and back-and-forth to the cello or whatever was the case for various effects, but the barbershop terminology would suggest the 2nd violin in a quartet would be the standard part carrying the main melody while that is usually the supporting part along with the viola in a quartet. Interesting! It seems like another case of the genre and expected standards within that genre dictating which terminology to use.

I have to suggest again that perhaps the terminology applied to popular male vocal harmony groups like the Beach Boys and even the Freshmen may have come from the accepted terms used in genres like earlier R&B, doo-wop, etc where the highest male voice was just labeled falsetto when the part was higher than normal in the song. Same with "bass", although that one seems more applicable to the lowest voice heard across the board.
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Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #47 on: April 22, 2021, 10:51:24 AM »

Perhaps interesting to note that in barbershop harmony, the roles are called Bass, Baritone, Lead, and Tenor -- and that's true regardless of the genders of the participants.

The "high voice wail" part that is sung by Brian and is featured on a lot of BV on Beach Boys records in the 60's is falsetto, but on lead vocals in the early years of the Beach Boys Brian was (in most cases) mainly attempting to replicate Bob Flanagan's part in the Four Freshmen, which was a jazzy barbershop tenor or even high tenor, not falsetto.

See, that's where I disagree.  I think Brian was a sort of leggiero tenor type voice that mixed a lot of head voice into the timbre pretty low in his range and never needed to open his vocal folds to produce falsetto.
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« Reply #48 on: April 22, 2021, 10:52:28 AM »

It just occurred to me how even the definition of a male "tenor" can be as specific to a genre as to label the difference between a tenor and an "Irish Tenor". It's interesting what differences there were, and it seems more specific to the type of songs being sung rather than anything purely technical, to call someone an "Irish Tenor" versus a standard tenor vocalist. Again it seems to be the genre defining the terms.
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sloopjohnb72
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« Reply #49 on: April 22, 2021, 10:55:00 AM »

Perhaps interesting to note that in barbershop harmony, the roles are called Bass, Baritone, Lead, and Tenor -- and that's true regardless of the genders of the participants.

The "high voice wail" part that is sung by Brian and is featured on a lot of BV on Beach Boys records in the 60's is falsetto, but on lead vocals in the early years of the Beach Boys Brian was (in most cases) mainly attempting to replicate Bob Flanagan's part in the Four Freshmen, which was a jazzy barbershop tenor or even high tenor, not falsetto.

See, that's where I disagree.  I think Brian was a sort of leggiero tenor type voice that mixed a lot of head voice into the timbre pretty low in his range and never needed to open his vocal folds to produce falsetto.
I agree. Can't think of any moments outside of 2 or 3 very specific vocals in the 70s (and on Wind Chimes like Salty noted) that Brian actually uses a "falsetto." And I also think that generally using that term creates a lot of misconception, and many people will point to Brian Wilson as an example when describing the voice type, when that technique was really not something that he used.
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