Pentatonix Part Deux

It looks like Pentatonix has reconstituted itself. Their prior Base “white guy” is gone, their prior “Baritone?” “white guy” is now singing base, and they have a new Black Guy (in white jacket on the left) singing sort of a Baritone? range?

I”m not that great at the actual typing of voices into ranges, so please forgive me if I have them off by a register or two…

Basically, they had a guy (you may note I’m not real big on proper names either…) who did deep base. He moved on to his own thing… leaving the rest in a lurch. Well, it looks like they are well out of the lurch…

It is also interesting to note that the Tall Blond Guy has moved down register, a lot. (Yeah, I ought to be using proper names… that whole naming thing…) So it is different, but still quite good.

So with that, here’s Pentatonix Part Deux…

IMHO, not quite as perfect, but certainly close enough… Really, how much deep base do you really need? Sandy Base is just as acceptable, if not surprisingly deep….

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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13 Responses to Pentatonix Part Deux

  1. Sorry mate, Not my type of music. Could not get through it. Maybe my age but if one goes for “pop” singers I liked Nana Mouskouri and the two Abba girls in their later years (eg Winner takes all). I like people who can sing (ie classically trained) and have good diction.

  2. H.R. says:

    E.M. – Most male pop singers sing so high it’s like their nuts are in a vise. One of the very few popular bass vocalists was Tennessee Ernie Ford.

    Perhaps the guy who moved on will have widespread success, but if history is any guide it won’t be as a soloist.

  3. E.M.Smith says:


    A cappella isn’t for everyone. Part of what makes them interesting to me is the “beat box” guy (black guy far right) doing percussion and the others filling in what seems to be (at times) strings and such… yet it is really just 5 voices.

    The (now missing) prior bass did a mean Bass Thrumming sound. Really sounded like someone plucking strings on a big ‘ol bass…

    So that’s part of the interest, realizing that all the music you are hearing is just them.

    They do a lot of different styles (as acapella) so maybe something else can suit you:

    FWIW, as I recall it, these folks met up at a music college, so they are in fact trained
    Here’s a more classical one of the original group doing Little Drummer Boy:

    In that one the guy who usually does bass gets to show off his mid range vocal skills

    This was the first one of their bits that I heard, and still my favorite. A cover of Daft Punk stuff. In it the Bass Guy does a very nice bass line.

    They do everything from classical Christmas carols to Daft Punk covers…

    They have some “evolution of” sets too. Evolution of Beyonce, Michael Jackson, and then all of music; starting with 11th Century monks to modern. But it is acapella:

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    Ah, and Bohemian Rhapsody… I still find it amazing that they can do all the musical parts accurately while doing the voicing:

  5. Steven Fraser says:

    @EM & Others.
    I come from a family that sang a cappella & played instruments. My dad was a big fan of one of the top groups of his age… the Hi-Lows. We used to listen to their records all the time while I was growing up. The arranger (and baritone in the group) was Gene Puerling, an absolutely phenomenal musician. Later in his career, he arranged for and sang in a 4-voice a-cap group called the ‘Singers Unlimited’, which made extensive use of recording-studio overdub technique.

    As an undergraduate musician, I sang in multiple a-cap groups.. small , touring ensembles, choirs, the fraternity chorus and even quartet Barbershop. This continued into graduate school, where the top group was 16-20 voices, doing a-cap works from the late middle ages to modern jazz arrangements. My 2nd year, I put together a quartet for the University ‘Barbershop Quartet’ contest, which we won. As a point of reference, this grad work was at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL), which later figured prominently at the collegiate level.

    It as after all that the ‘modern’ a cappella movement arose, and by 2009, Ben Folds produced the ‘University A Cappella’ recording, including 2 of the groups from WUSTL. Both of my sons sang A Cappella in school (both choir and ‘Pop Ensembles’) and my younger one went on to sing, at WUSTL, in the group equivalent to the one I sang in when I was there.

    If you like unaccompanied small vocal ensemble singing, one of the finest groups in the world is the ‘Kings Singers’. The group, with varying membership, has been in existence for 51 years. They tour and record extensively, and some their arrangements are published. If you like the classical side of a cappella, they are a very good place to start. They also include pop favorites as well.

    When it comes to A Cappella, my little survey would be incomplete without mention of the Barbershop Society of America, formerly SPEBQSA. There are hundreds of choruses and quartets doing concerts, tours and competitions every year. Ladies have a similar organization, the Sweet Adelines.

    As to groups like Pentatonix, be aware that some of what they are doing is combining the video of them singing, with audio done in the controlled environment of a sound studio. Generally, if you cannot see the microphones in a recording, what you are hearing is studio audio. The complete clarity of the voices, volume balance, perfect tuning and absolute lack of background (ambient) noise or reverberation are indicators as well.

    Sorry to write so much all at once.

  6. Power Grab says:

    I remember sometime in the 1960s the musical variety shows on TV all went a capella because all the instrumentalists went on strike.

    Sometimes the arrangers were able to simulate an orchestra with only the singers. It was amazing!

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    @Steven F:

    Thanks for the depth of insight! I sang in church events, but never got any formal training and can only barely read music. I have a huge knowledge of a lot of things, but music isn’t one of them; leaving me with great admiration for those who do.

    Yeah, I did figure they (like everyone) dub studio over outdoors screnes and likely on sets too. While there are mics for sets (boom, shotgun, etc.), they are more movie gear than music… though there are some very good very small ones you can wear (but I’ve not seen them in their videos).

    @Power Grab:

    It really is an amazing skill.

  8. cdquarles says:

    Musically trained here, formally learned two instruments and less so for a third. I sang also prior to age 17. I still do it, but not as a public performance. My voice is too nasal now.

  9. Steven Fraser says:

    @EM: putting aside all the history of the art for a moment, since you know how to think algorithmically (programming that is), I will give you some encouragement: the structures and textures of music have very, very close parallels with programming, especially in how they are described and analyzed, and how tthey are experienced in the mind while doing, at least in my experience.

    So, if you have any interest in it I can point you to some resources to get you started on the path to understanding what you are hearing, and how you might make music more enjoyably yourself.

  10. Steven Fraser says:

    @cdq: I used to teach voice full-time, and still take the occasional student. If you want to reduce the nasality of your voice, there are easily-learned, language-based sounds you can make that will help with your situation. They can be done in private, do not require a piano ( I do them while driving) and feel pretty good, too. If you are interested, I will post them here, with our host’s permission.

    [Reply: Officially Permitted. -E.M.Smith]

  11. Ossqss says:

    I am still partial to this version of the posted song ;-)

  12. E.M.Smith says:

    @Steven F:

    Probably not worth it at this point. I’m partially deaf and no longer hear much over 4 kHz, plus have tinnitus after exposure to much over 80 db, so using most instruments not helpful, nor too much loud speaking or singing. Essentially, I have to ration my time with sounds over 80 db.

  13. Steven Fraser says:

    @cdquarles: Seeing that I got the go ahead, here is what I was alluding to in my comment about ‘language-based’ approaches to remediation of vocal ‘nasality’.

    As background (for other readers), what is most often referred to as nasality is the pronunciation of vowels with the nasopharyngeal port (at the upper back of the mouth cavity) open so that sound and air can pass into the space above the soft and hard palate. Opening this port couples the nasal passages acoustically into the vocal tract, and moves the vowel resonances to different frequencies than where they are when the vowels are not nasal, that is, when the port is closed. That is how the listener identfies the nasality, the presence of the modified resonances.

    Some languages, especially Portuguese and French, use nasal vowels as a part of the pronunciation pattern. In spoken French, an e, i or o before an n or an m is very often nasalized. Similarly, in Portuguese, a vowel marked as ã is pronounced nasally, as is found in the name of São Paulo.

    So, how to reduce nasality? Re-learn what it feels like to pronounce non-nasal vowels. Unless there is a uvular insufficiency, the rare inability to raise the soft palate to close the port, the nasality is simply a speech habit, which will respond to re-training, by re-acquainted the affected individual with what it feels like to make these sounds.

    With all that intro to set the stage, in all spoken languages there are groups of consonants that resist air flow when pronounced. To do any of them clearly requires the port to be shut. P (unvoiced) and B (voiced) resist the pressure with the lips. T (unvoiced, as in Toe), T (voiced ,as in Thee), D (voiced, as in Dodo), Z (voiced, as in Zoo) and S (unvoiced, as in Suite), Sh (unvoiced, as in she) F (unvoiced, as in Fill) and V (voiced, as in victory) resist the pressure by narrowing the airspace at the teeth by intruding the tongue on the front of the hard palate, or between the teeth directly. There are other consonants in English and other languages that operate similarly.

    There are many ways that these sounds can be aproached therapeutically. I prefer the fun ones: Tongue Twisters, which introduce transitions between certain of the sounds, in combination with vowels. Phrases such as ‘Susie sells sea shells at the sea shore’, are simply not possible to pronounce clearly if the soft palate does not rise. With that one line, or any other of similar construction, it can be determined if the soft palate can rise to close the port. If it can, then the rest of the therapeutic approach is worthwhile.

    Of that consonant list is a subset I find very useful for connecting the consonant sound with vowel sounds before and after it. Those consonants are the semi-occluded voiced consonants V, Z, and the voiced Th as in Thee. Any word which uses them, when pronounced slowly, has a high liklihood of maintaining the high palate position (where it goes automajically for the consonant) into the vowel sound. Saying the V sound for 5 counts, and then letting the jaw loosly drop in the front (separating the teeth) will immediately turn into a syllable such as Vu, Vo, Va, Vee, Vay. In a manner of speaking (pun intended) this approach allows the individual to discover the proper palate positioning. The same syllable pattern can be done with all the vowels, and all the voiced consonants, in whatever varied combinations may be useful.

    Just to mention them, there are other (non-language) things that can be done to coax the palate up: Blow up a balloon, or blow on a candle from a foot away, enough to make the flame flicker, but not enough to extinguish it.

    That’s the basics of the approach. If it seems of interest, play around with it for a while, and then apply the principle to a song you like. The slow pronunciation of these consonants, in combination with the varied vowels of the text, will help in the discovery of less-or-non nasal vowels.

    I hope this is helpful.

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