Skinny Dipping with Neptune

When I was in my 20s, I played bass in a couple of bands. Sometimes I sang. I enjoy singing, but nobody had ever taught me how to do it. I hit a lot of high G’s, and I did it by tightening my throat rather than with proper diaphragm support.

I basically wrecked my voice.

Getting older hasn’t helped either. What with one thing and another, my singing voice today is an unsteady croak. So I don’t sing. Nor do I bother writing songs, because who would sing them?

This week I’m reviewing Propellerhead Reason/Record for a review in the October issue of Keyboard. And the cool new module in Record 1.5 is Neptune, a pitch correction device that is sure to be of keen interest to vocalists. To test Neptune, I recorded a couple of verses of one of my favorite songs from the ’60s, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” by Bob Dylan. I did five takes in loop mode and then did a little cutting and pasting (a chore that Record handles quite easily) to comp together the least embarrassing performance of each line in the song. I then used Neptune’s built-in vocoder to add some silky harmony behind my voice.

The result is not destined for a major label release, let’s put it that way. But darn, there’s some kind of emotion in the track. For me, anyway — no telling what anyone else might hear, or fail to hear. I think my phrasing is better than okay. I have a way of turning the rhythm around in a vocal phrase, drawing out certain words and adding inflections. But the roughness and instability of the tone pretty much spoil the effect. I mean, Willie Nelson can get away with sounding gravelly because he looks gravelly.

Maybe I ought to buy a leather cowboy hat.

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