How exactly did Frank Sinatra revolutionize singing?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by sgtmono, Dec 13, 2013.

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  1. mpayan

    mpayan Forum Resident

    Miles Davis, Dylan..quiet a few other artists emulated Mr Sinatras singing. They understood his influence and abilities. Revolutionizing the way voicings are done instrumentally and vocally. Try singing along with the man sometime..its a revolution and revelation.
    paulmock likes this.
  2. TLMusic

    TLMusic Musician & record collector

    I believe Sammy Davis Junior was also a significant influence on Frank Sinatra's timing and phrasing. Sammy was doing the "behind the beat" floating vocal on top of an uptempo swing band well before Frank. If I recall correctly, Sinatra learned that technique directly from him. It certainly was a change from the more strictly timed Bing Crosby crooner stylings that Sinatra practiced during the 'Bobby Soxer' years, IMO.
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  3. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Lodi, New Jersey
    In 1960, Frank overloaded his mic on "River, Stay 'Way From My Door". There's your distortion. ;)
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  4. brew ziggins

    brew ziggins Forum Prisoner

    The Village
    People have mentioned his microphone technique. Frank and Bing and their contemporaries pioneered the art of singing into a microphone for the purpose of making a record. They were the first generation of singers who didn't have to fill a hall with their unamplified voice and thus could explore nuance and character that was previously not feasible for someone trying to sing for large audiences.

    Frank wasn't the only one, and he wasn't the very first, but he took the microphone and recorded vocals to a very different place than his predecessors, and one nique among his contemporaries.

    I simplify, but I think the gist is correct. Ring a ding ding!
  5. sgtmono

    sgtmono Seasoned Member Thread Starter

    Wow, this thread has been very educational so far. Thanks, everyone!
  6. EasterEverywhere

    EasterEverywhere Forum Resident

    This guy explains it pretty well.Here is a short excerpt.Read the whole thing here

    Watching the meters and Blakin’s hand, we were both astonished. Sinatra was able to increase his volume and intensity, while the needle hardly moved. How could he do that?
    With most singers, one needed to be deft with the “pot” or potentiometer, the knob with which we controlled the recording volume. If the singer got loud, you needed to turn the knob down so the tape wouldn’t be saturated and you’d get distortion. If the singer got too soft, you needed to turn the knob up, so the signal on tape would not be too scant, and buried in the floor-level of noise that was on all analog recording tape. If we did not trust our hands to do the job well enough, we would patch in that technical device called a limiter, or a compressor, which electrically narrowed a signal’s dynamic range. This device would lower the highest volumes and, in the case of the compressor, increase the lowest ones. But with Sinatra, Blakin barely needed to nudge the dial at all.
    We watched Sinatra to figure out how he did it. Listening to his own vocals through the headphones, he carefully and subtly moved toward the mic during the softer passages and moved away from the mic during the louder parts. He “rode” his own levels, by how close or far he was from the microphone. In this way, his intensity would increase, but the recording volume stayed within the narrow range that the equipment liked best. This is called good mic technique, and I’ve never seen anyone use it as effectively as Frank.
    Watching Sinatra sing, I thought about what he meant in the history of music. There were many factors, I mused, about what made him such a phenomenon, but now I realized that one of them was how he used recordings and the microphone.
    Until just a few years before Sinatra, most singers learned, as central to their technique, projection. They needed to be able to be heard without amplification by a large audience. That’s what singing was. There were no mics, amplifiers, sound systems, or recordings.
    You can hear what I mean by listening to opera. That kind of singing seems so false to us today, but at the time it was what was necessary to reach the back row of the great concert halls so everyone could hear the words over the clangorous orchestra.
    Remnants of that style can be discerned even in early recording stars, like belter Al Jolson, or crooner Rudy Vallee, who preceded Sinatra. You can hear the style changing and becoming more real with a guy like Bing Crosby. Recording made it possible for people to sing in a more natural style because they didn’t have to project in the same way. The vocal was amplified electronically on stage, and, at home, we listened with our ears by the speakers and turned up the music as loud as we wanted.
    Sinatra perfected this possibility. By using impeccable mic technique, and taking full advantage of the recording medium, Sinatra created an intimate effect where it sounded like he was singing only to you, whispering directly into your ear. It is incredibly sexy. In this sense, Sinatra was the ultimate modern vocalist. He changed our sensibility of what vocals were meant to sound like. His emotional directness made everything that came before it seem overwrought. He was an everyman, a kid from the street, the son of immigrants, a hot, skinny Italian guy laying next to you in bed, seducing you. That is, he embodied the American male of the World War II generation, the guy you hoped would come home alive from the war and make a baby with you.
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  7. Rose River Bear

    Rose River Bear Forum Resident

    I did not say you said that he invented jazz and blues. Read my post again. You said he "incorporated jazz and blues"as if to mean he did something revolutionary by that incorporation. I said that his singing of jazz and blues was a by product of the music scores he was presented by the composer and was nothing revolutionary in that sense. You assumed right regarding my familiarity with musical arrangement having studied and playing jazz for over 20 years.
    BTW-Of course we all know the argument that Frank was not a jazz singer unless of course the term "jazz" is given a very broad definition. Some jazz musicians considered him a jazz singer but not in the traditional sense.
  8. ROLO46

    ROLO46 Forum Resident

    Singing live with a big band could not have been easy
    PA was rudimentary, the bands very loud
    Im sure he learnt technique very quickly from the old hands
    He certainly was a great listener and could spot any fault at a drop of a hat
    Difficult when you are performing.
    Even now
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  9. Bob F

    Bob F Forum Resident

    More than just "some" jazz musicians: Frank Sinatra was voted Male Vocalist of the Year in the Playboy Jazz All-Star Poll for seven consecutive years, from 1957 to 1963. (That's the musicians' poll, not the readers' poll.)
  10. Rose River Bear

    Rose River Bear Forum Resident

    I realize there were many jazz musicians that considered him somewhat of a jazz singer but he really was not a jazz singer in the traditional sense for obvious reasons. "Some" does not mean "few" or imply anything else. It appears you assumed I meant something other than what the term is defined as.
  11. Ronald Sarbo

    Ronald Sarbo Forum Resident

    NY, NY, USA
    Some are jazzier than Frank and some are not. However that is the point. Everyone else is judged relative to him.
  12. Bob F

    Bob F Forum Resident

    I think you may have taken that the wrong way. I thought I was reinforcing your point. :)

    Coincidentally, there's another recent related thread here: Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald...are they jazz?
  13. Rose River Bear

    Rose River Bear Forum Resident

    My mistake. Frank had a fabulous jazz "sensibility" in his timing and phrasing as you probably already know quite well given your avatar. :) He could take songs that were far removed from jazz but still make them jazzy through his sense of swing feel.
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  14. DLant

    DLant The Dap-Gort Staff

    Upstate New York
    Ohhhh yeah. He ate his Wheaties that day.
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  15. rockledge

    rockledge Forum Resident

    right here
    This is a very significant point.
    Singing into a mike most definitely is something that takes some technique and it likely took singers a while to get use to volume control that recording requires. Those early mikes were no doubt far easier to overdrive than modern ones, and those guys probably spent quite some time altering their technique to get it right.
    And they had to learn it good enough to be able to do it live on the radio.
    rangerjohn likes this.
  16. ROLO46

    ROLO46 Forum Resident

    Ribbon mikes being dynamic do not distort, they naturaly limit to a degree, they were the first fidelity transducers
    However when hi output German condensor mikes arrived they could put out near line level
    This distorted mixers designed for low output ribbons, it took some time in the 50s to sort this out in America.
    The Germans had already designed mic pre amps for Neumann mics, they were gradually adopted.
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  17. art

    art Forum Resident

    Made thugism high art. Oh, and his (un)holy combo of phrasing and rhythm and sexuality was heretofore unmatched.
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  18. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    How ? He opened his month and genius sprang forth.
    frankfan1 likes this.
  19. rangerjohn

    rangerjohn Forum Resident

    chicago, il
    There's a story out there (Bob will know the source) that goes something like this. Miles Davis and FS are standing at a bar somewhere, sharing drinks and engaged in a very intense conversation, just the two of them. Folks in the crowd around them were transfixed watching them, and no one dared interject, intervene or interrupt. One observer said to another, "What do you think they're talking about? Women?" The other answered, "No. They're talking about their instruments."
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  20. Bob F

    Bob F Forum Resident

    I'd not heard that particular quote, but there's a similar story by Monty Alexander which appeared in Jazz Times Magazine after Sinatra's death in May 1998. Lots of comments by other jazz musicians (e.g. Oscar Peterson, Sonny Rollins, James Moody, Marian McPartland, Joe Williams, etc.) in that article. Worth reading:

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  21. Bob F

    Bob F Forum Resident

  22. JL6161

    JL6161 Forum Resident

    Michigan, USA
    He approached it from a Trotskyite perspective, of course, as opposed to the Leninist crooners.
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  23. Bob F

    Bob F Forum Resident

    Not to mention the Lennon-ists who followed him. ;)

    (Not trying to threadcrap about the Beatles, mind you.)
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    GLYNSTYLER Forum Resident

    A lot of music scholars point to Louis Armstrong as the progenitor of pop singing. Bing and Frank both cited Louis Armstrong as a major influence.
    dumangl and rangerjohn like this.
  25. rangerjohn

    rangerjohn Forum Resident

    chicago, il
    MY two favorite, respective, male rock and pop vocalists!
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