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Thread: Did Elvis have a vocal coach?

  1. #1
    Cadillac King mozzarella's Avatar
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    Did Elvis have a vocal coach?

    I have heard that Gordon Stoker was teaching him how to sing properly you know belting out, reaching high notes and so fort. Besides him did he have a personal vocal coach or anyone else helping him in technical things or giving him advice?
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    Elvis Presley Blvd Unchained Melody's Avatar
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    Charlie Hodge of course.

    "How do I get placed in situations like this? Ah hell, I guess it's all part of showbusiness "~ Elvis in his limo on his way to perform in Omaha, NE on June 19th 1977


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    International Level Cliff's Avatar
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    I read somewhere that it was rumoured that he had coaching while stationed in Germany. His voice certainly changed later on. Plus he never suffered from throat nodules.
    Even the great Roy Orbison had training in breathing techniques.
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    Backstage Pass President Presley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mozzarella View Post
    did he have a personal vocal coach or anyone else helping him in technical things or giving him advice?

    No, do you think he needed one
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    International Level SeeSeeRider777's Avatar
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    I heard form GK on the radio that Elvis didnt have one because a vocal coach teaches you how to sing properly. Elvis had his own style and if you sing properly you sound like all the rest. Thats what GK said.
    "When I was a child, ladies and gentlemen, I was a dreamer. I read comic books, and I was a hero in the movie. So every dream that I ever dreamed has come true a hundred times. I learned very early in life that without a song, the day would never end; without a song, a man ain't got a friend; without a song, the road would never bend; without a song. So I keep singing a song." - Elvis Presley

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    TCB Mafia Teddy's Avatar
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    If he had one in the formal sense I haven't heard about it.
    I would think Elvis had more to teach others about singing than he could learn from any vocal instructor.
    'Taking Care of Beaulieu'.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by mozzarella View Post
    I have heard that Gordon Stoker was teaching him how to sing properly you know belting out, reaching high notes and so fort. Besides him did he have a personal vocal coach or anyone else helping him in technical things or giving him advice?
    I heard That Tom Jones gave him lessons. From direct soursses...

  8. #8
    TCB Mafia ehollier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Teddy View Post
    If he had one in the formal sense I haven't heard about it.
    I would think Elvis had more to teach others about singing than he could learn from any vocal instructor.
    Very very true!!!
    "More people today should see him not simply as a performer, but as an artist with a great soul."

    John Bakke, professor emeritus
    University of Memphis

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    PeacockLady Diane's Avatar
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    Ditto!

    Diane

  10. #10
    Elvis Presley Blvd Unchained Melody's Avatar
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    Don't think he needed one. JMO
    "How do I get placed in situations like this? Ah hell, I guess it's all part of showbusiness "~ Elvis in his limo on his way to perform in Omaha, NE on June 19th 1977


  11. #11
    Backstage Pass 1100ccRider's Avatar
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    I tend to disagree with those who said Elvis didn't need a vocal coach. He had an incredible voice, right from the start, and his range grew to monumental proportions over the years (range isn't the whole story -- he also had great control of his voice and capability for nuance, for example), but I think everyone who uses their voice for a career, or to any other great extent, could use some vocal coaching.

    For one thing, having a great voice doesn't mean that you're going to keep it. Many singers and others have blown their voices through harmful singing practices. Tom Jones has certainly had trouble with that, no matter how incredible his voice was (and still is...saw him live here in Vegas a couple of years back and the man was phenomenal), and Wayne Newton's voice is so thrashed that he can barely sing now (saw him live, too, soon after Tom Jones...not something I'd rush out to do but it was comped and I have to say that the man is a consummate showman and very talented musician, but his voice is absolutely decimated). A good vocal coach can help a singer (speaker, too) not only do things like work on extending their range, or assist with breath control, but preserve the integrity of their voice and their vocal health.

    Almost a year ago, when I was out of the country, the person I was visiting got me a great Christmas present, that was a session with a local voice coach. This dude not only knows his stuff but has an extensive background in chi kung, tai chi, yoga, etc and so we were able to communicate in terms related to my decades of involvement in Chinese martial arts. He also knew enough about Elvis that he knew the vocal range the man had and was able to work with me to push my voice to its limits and try to extend them. He gave me vocal exercises to do, along with tips on how to avoid damaging my voice and how to care for it, and perhaps the single most important thing was that he pointed out to me how I was able to hit very high notes but did not do so reliably or sustain them strongly because I wasn't putting enough breath behind them. I concentrated on pushing the breath out when way up there and, what do you know, I hit and held higher notes than ever before. I'm not too up on the theory here but I think it was a G that I got with no real problem, an A that I reached more reliably with his help, and a B-flat that I flirted with and sometimes struck but still wavered on. I think B-flat is about as high as Elvis sang, and I think it's as much the idea of it that erodes my confidence now, because I can sometimes hit it but I remember the times when it just wasn't there...as with all things, practice will one day move me to a point at which I can strike this elusive and scary-as-hell note with consistency, just as I now can reliably hit and hold notes that were a stretch for me two years or so ago (in great part thanks to this one short session with the vocal coach). All of this helped incredibly and, amazingly, it was all done within a single hour's session. It's hard to believe that I could have benefited so much from one hour with him, but I did. Granted, my martial arts background (as Elvis pointed out in his 1974 talks about karate, breath control is integral to both singing and martial arts) not only made my usage of breath easier to focus on but I spoke the same language as the instructor and that probably helped me catch on a little more readily to what he was saying and what I needed to do. Regardless, a session or two with such a person would work wonders for any speaker or singer. And, yes, that includes Elvis.

    But the point's kind of moot because Elvis did benefit from vocal instruction. At minimum, we know that both Gordon Stoker and Charlie Hodge worked with Elvis and I'm sure that he picked up tips from reading, from talking with other performers, and from other quarters. My own experience suggests that it can take just a tiny bit of guidance to make a vast difference in the way a person uses their voice, and even with a few hours' input from Gordon, Carlie, or whoever else Elvis was way ahead of the game. He had a great voice, naturally, but there's always more potential to realize -- witness the transformation in my voice while he was in the Army and thereabouts, with songs like "It's Now Or Never" and "Surrender" entering his catalog.

    In the '70s, Elvis also had a pre-concert ritual that I wish I could recall, involving honey-lemon tea (I think...something like that), among other things, and there's a very clear view in Elvis On Tour of Elvis using an inhaler, probably taking in a bronchial dilator steroid to help open up his lungs maximally. In all, I think Elvis was not only blessed with a magnificent voice but gained a fair bit of knowledge on how to improve it and to preserve it, including with input from informal vocal coaches in his retinue.
    I'm a roving roustabout...

  12. #12
    Resident SP! Tony Trout's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Col Jon Burrows View Post
    Charlie Hodge of course.


    Correct. Charlie supposedly helped him tremendously as far as teaching him how to extend his vocal range and practice proper breathing techniques.



    Quote Originally Posted by 1100ccRider View Post
    ......and there's a very clear view in Elvis On Tour of Elvis using an inhaler, probably taking in a bronchial dilator steroid to help open up his lungs maximally.

    Sorry, but the consensus is that what he was doing was using breath freshener in that scene.

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    TCB Mafia EnigmaticSun's Avatar
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    Singing, like playing sports, demands diligent preparation and a warming-up. A lot of voices are ruined by those who want to belt out high and powerful notes instantly. In general "belting" seems to have been invented by the musical scene and it's not without risk.

    If you listen to a rehearsal or studio work you can hear Elvis gradually getting loose - the songs usually start out relatively "weak", but as his voice gets flexible he gains more confidence and a master take or a successful rehearsal is born.

    This is how I perceived these rarer outtakes, although the picture one gets from watching the movies is somehow troubled by the idea of a perfect version at command and of course it looks just like that.

    What I'm trying to say is that singing "properly" is not only a matter of technique, but also or rather a way of life. For Elvis it was what he had enjoyed since his childhood and the greatest potential lies in the work one loves.

    I think some are pushing it a bit too far with their "protectionism". It wouldn't have been an insult to Elvis' abilities had he taken some lessons as the greatest artists have had a teacher and no shame has been noticed.
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    Backstage Pass waymore44's Avatar
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    There's nothing wrong with having a vocal coach as long as that coach is just showing you techniques to help you expand your range and not blow your voice out..etc ..and not trying to tell you how to sing. What I mean is, how to pronounce words..etc. You can EASILY tell those who have been TAUGHT to sing.
    "I always liked that hillbilly."

    -Waymore

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    TCB Mafia KPM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Trout View Post
    Correct. Charlie supposedly helped him tremendously as far as teaching him how to extend his vocal range and practice proper breathing techniques.






    Sorry, but the consensus is that what he was doing was using breath freshener in that scene.

    I always thought it was a inhaler similar to one my daughter had to use for asthma.
    By the shape of the dispenser, and the way he turned it upside down when he used it, it looks like the same one she used -the type of medicine in my daughters was called Albuterol and it did indeed open the bronchial tubes for easier breathing. Dr. Nick says he did use antihistimines and bronchial medicines to open and relax his throat especially in Vegas.

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    TCB Mafia EnigmaticSun's Avatar
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    restring it..?

    Quote Originally Posted by waymore44 View Post
    to help you expand your range and not blow your voice out..
    You'll find it happens all the time.

    Being misguided vocally is one of the worst things that can happen, since one can't simply restring it. The worst cases are typically schoolteachers and drill instructors in the army.

    For a lot of teachers it's hard to imagine how a pupil might develop. A clever one will develop his own methods over time and there's no ultimate human standard.
    Last edited by EnigmaticSun; 10-08-2008 at 04:55 PM. Reason: more info
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  17. #17
    Cadillac King mozzarella's Avatar
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    Yeah, I also think that he must have had some advisors and it does not change a millimeter on being a genius. Elvis was a genius but as every singer he had to learn how to sing properly so his vocal chords could sustain for a very long time. Otherwise some incorrect ways of singing can do very big harm. And I think the technique he sang with in the '50s was obviously not the technique he could use on later songs to be as good as he became in the '60s and '70s. (Just notice the difference between Hound Dog 1956 and Hound Dog 1970). He understood that so he took lessons to bring the most out of his voice. Remember: in the '50 he only gave 20/30-minute shows and in the '70 his songs required much much more ability. So I accept that he had been guided and it only made him better. Charlie Hodge? Never thought about that tho...
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  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Trout View Post
    Sorry, but the consensus is that what he was doing was using breath freshener in that scene.
    Ah, no, TT.

    It was not breath freshener. The consensus, supported by the MM and the musicians, is that it was an inhaler to help with his breathing and his lungs.
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  19. #19
    International Level Leroy's Avatar
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    Elvis was surrounded by many people. But only one friend in his troops was a professional musician and singer and that was Charlie Hodge. Charlie's role in Elvis' life has always been underestimated. Partly because Charlie himself who made the choice to dedicate his life and skills to Elvis. Charlie already coached him during the militairy service. During his army time Elvis' voice made a big change even without recording and performing the way he did in the 50's.

    This period shows us that Elvis had a powerful voice but he needed coaching to get control of it. To get rid of the sharp edges. Voice control and breath control. Elvis recognized quality in other people..... that's why he trusted Charlie in these matters.
    To a lot of people Charlie was just a mascotte, the goof who handed Elvis his water and scarfs. But on that stage and during Elvis musical career in the 60's and 70's Charlie was one of the most important figures in Elvis' entourage.....

  20. #20
    PeacockLady Diane's Avatar
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    Thank you for the great post Leroy! I always felt that Charlie was very underrated both in his professional and personal role with Elvis.

    Diane

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