Wednesday, May 29, 2013

For the Longest Time

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There is no doubt at all in my mind that Billy Joel's "For the Longest Time" is one of the best songs ever written. There is also no doubt in my mind that the aforementioned song is also one of the most difficult songs to pull off live.

That's because the song's a barbershop quartet number, one of the most difficult forms of vocal music ever made. A slight quiver on one singer's tone is tantamount to failure, thus the difficulty, the loss of the encompassing "barbershop's seventh" chord, and an overall failure to heterodyne (!).

A friend introduced me to the song way way back, and since then, we've continuously tried - and failed - to reproduce at least 2 / 5 of the harmony. This is mostly my fault, since I often try to sing a mix of the baritone and bass parts of the song; I'd often get lost, and drag his lead down with me, kicking and screaming.

It also doesn't help that we'd often try this while drinking, but that's another story altogether.

Yesterday, whilst trying to keep myself awake, I ran across Julien Neel's Youtube channel, and found a veritable host of barbershop-arranged songs. Needless to say, the first thing I looked for was "For the Longest Time", and I was not disappointed. While I appreciate that the songs are recorded via multitrack, it doesn't take anything away from the reality that getting that harmony down pat is hard work.

But don't take my word for it. Give them a listen:

What's my takeaway from all this? The discovery that the only non-lead portion of the song I can sing is the tenor part. No, I do not have the vocal range of a tenor. But staying several notes above the lead melody is the only way I can efficiently sing "For the Longest Time".

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