SHINee’s Vocal Analysis: Onew

Vocal Range

F#2 ~ Bb5 (3 octaves and 2 notes)

Supported Range

B2 ~ G4/G#4

B2 ~ E5 (With head voice)

Voice Type

Tenor

Strengths/Achievements

  • Lowest range amongst tenors in SHINee
  • Able to produce well placed fuller notes in the lowest part of his range, down to B2’s
  • Achieved resonance at times up to G#4
  • Able to change the tone of his voice to a fuller one or a lighter, brighter and headier tone at will
  • Uses head voice more frequently than most male idols
  • Tends to stay supported most of the time up until G4/G#4, occasionally A4
  • Able to use falsetto, head voice and a more mixed head voice for effect

Weaknesses

  • Tendency to push notes on G#4/A4 at times and above frequently
  • Not consistent with his placement, tends to get nasal
  • Tone production is at times shallow and unsupported
  • Occasional pitch issues with vocal runs mostly and falsetto
  • Tendency to, although having a stable larynx, use a very breathy tone production even in his lower B2 ~ D3 range, even though he’s able to produce it well and having shown it
  • Very breathy and unsupported, airy lower range below B2
  • Occasional problems in the bridging area of his voice, when switching into falsetto
  • Any head notes above E5/F5 are completely pushed

Registers

  • Lower register: Anything below B2 is very airy and unsupported. Notes in the lower register at times can be too airy, and yet very well produced and supported at other times. B2’s and C3’s are comfortable notes for him.
  • Mixed register: Able to mix correctly and healthily most of the time, producing a heavier fuller tone when desired, or a lighter headier mix when desired. At times notes can be produced with resonance, at others nasality will come in, which is a problem. The voice is generally stable in his mixed register from chest up.
  • Upper register: Mostly well produced head notes, but with the tendency to get nasal. Falsetto notes at times come out through sloppy transitions which often sound slightly pitchy. When switching into head voice however, the bridging is much better produced with a much cleaner transition and better production of tone and pitch. Anything above E5/F5 is just basically yelling with head voice, usually a rockier pushed sound done wrong.

Agility

Onew’s voice is generally very light, so it finds itself more easily inclined to vocal runs and ornaments, very simple and not that quick though. His voice lacks any real agility and isn’t very precise in runs, but can handle simple melodic runs during songs he’s given. At other times he may get a bit pitchy.

Overall analysis

Onew possesses an unique caramel-like tone, very distinguishable from many other k-pop vocalists. Unlike many other SM idols, his voice doesn’t have that “trained by Yoo Youngjin” trademark sound. His voice has always been very light and clean, often leaning more towards softer pop and ballads. His range is quite considerably wide, possessing the lowest range amongst the tenors in SHINee. His voice in tone is darker than the other members, possessing a slightly bigger sound in the lower register due to its slight extra weight. Onew is completely capable of producing notes well in the B2 ~ E3 range, with full and very clear vocal lines hitting such notes, such as in “Drunken Truth“. His lower notes tend to be much breathier and lack any real vocal tone, whereas the higher ones can at times be breathy for effect, which isn’t always well executed.

Onew possesses a lighter voice which shines more in his upper mix register. He’s able to switch into a lighter mix, producing a much more relaxed and softer tone, such as his G4’s in “Lucifer”, in contrast to his more fuller, well placed resonant G4’s in songs such as “Day” and “Life”, where a truer rounder sound is produced, with a more balanced to slightly chesty mix. He doesn’t generally try and strain his voice, often choosing to sing songs that will mostly only go up to G#4’s and A4’s. He’s been able to show resonance in his upper mixed register but tends to lose tone production in A4’s and above, having his larynx go up and straining his voice. Although being able to produce a breathier tone for effect, Onew has the bad tendency to instead vocalize with a shallow tone, lacking the proper support at times, as mentioned earlier in his lower range, mix register and even in falsetto, his breathier tone tends to be generally less controlled and less focused in tone. Even if the intention is there, the result isn’t always 100% desirable due to a lack of true understanding of soft and breathy against shallow and breathy.

His control is generally good, with minor pitch problems, often caused more because of a shallower tone (less supported), than truly because of any lack of skill in controlling the voice. His upper mixed notes tend to be much more pushed, lose vocal focus and color, and his tongue tends to get tense and get in the way of his tone production. His vibrato however in the lower mixed register is generally healthy and well produced showing that he’s a smart vocalist and knows how to use his voice, instead of trying to belt out notes way above his range. His highest belt to date is C5, done in 2 SHINee songs, with a very strained sound, but mostly he stays in his comfortable supported range. Another inconsistency problem in his mixed register is that at times his voice will slip into is nose due to not lifting his soft palate, however this issue was much more prominent earlier in his career, something he seems to have mostly fixed and is able to produce a more forward fuller sound more often in his mix.

Onew’s falsetto register is again, often shallow and lacks in control, but more often than not, Onew uses a truer sounding head voice, which actually carries more of his natural vocal tone into it and is very easily identifiable as his voice. He is able to produce it well and stay relaxed, even as high as Eb5/E5. Onew at times however will produce nasal notes with a more closed sound, instead of keeping his soft palate lifted, like in his mixed register. Anything above E5/F5 is often just pushed and very strained.

His support is, as mentioned above, at times good, or at times shallow. Onew knows how to support his voice to make it full, but at other times isn’t able to truly support his voice to produce a softer breathier tone, mostly in his lower register. In rare cases, Onew will push even in his lower mix due to fatigue and lack of good placement, most notably in the performance of Nessum Dorma, where in attempt to create a fuller sound without the necessary support, he pushed many G4’s and sustained an A4 with a very tense and tight throat. That case being very notable because it was completely out of his comfort zone in terms of vocal styling, since mostly Onew has those notes below G#4 consistently supported. A big contrast to Nessum Dorma would be his solo performance of “I Won’t Give Up”, staying in a range between B2 ~ G#4, he produces much better notes, supporting with resonance and a forward placement, cleaner one sounding voice. One of his best vocal performances.

Onew is only a notch down from Jonghyun, being classified one level below him. He’s a very determined vocalist and musician, able to play piano and accompany himself. Over the years he has learned to produce a fuller sound and control his support voice and eliminate nasality. He is also a smart vocalist and will mostly sing in a range he knows he can handle. He is able to produce resonance, but isn’t consistent enough within one performance with his tone production and support, though having individually somewhat developed registers, as a whole the voice needs more connecting and bridging to stay more solid as one throughout every register. Onew isn’t as risky as Jonghyun, not trying to do crazy things with his voice in terms of grit, raspiness or onsets, mostly staying clean and healthy.  He’s got a lot of potential to grow as a vocalist, possessing some understanding of music and playing with his voice at times, he should be able to control his voice much better as it matures over the years.

Musicianship

Onew doesn’t try to show off generally and will attempt occasional changes in melodies with some made up melodies and adlibs. Not always well executed, he can get a bit pitchy at times. Mostly however, he doesn’t try to do anything risky and will mostly add simple changes to melodies or oftentimes no change at all.

Rating

Above Average to Proficient Vocalist

Vocal Range Video(s)

Video by: kitsunemale

Best Vocal Performance(s)

Analyzed by Ahmin (Kitsunemale)

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About ahmin3

kitsunemale from YouTube, AhMin33 from Twitter and Ahmin from OneHallyu! https://www.youtube.com/user/KitsuneMale

336 thoughts on “SHINee’s Vocal Analysis: Onew

  1. Hi Ahmin! In the analysis it’s mentioned that Onew occasionally brings support up to A4. Do you happen to know of any specific examples of him doing that, preferably a sustained A4? (Though seeing how he usually sounds on A4 I’m not hopeful that he’s ever supported a sustained one lol I’m just curious).

    Like

    1. Just answered this question the other day:
      “Oh you see, Yoo Youngjin doesn’t necessarily train idols to sing at SM but however way he was trained and the others at SM kind of follow a pattern where they mix in a similar way and end up sounding kind of similar.”

      Like

  2. Thank you..but have you listened to Onew. Your analysis was harsh. His vouce…even if you tear it apart . technique and pitch. Hes not a robot. His voice makes me cry. So thanks for you said about him ( your idea) but to me he is so much more. He sings opera..you know

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    1. Yes, the only way we could analyze these vocalists is by listening to them. I think you’re not understanding the point of our analyses correctly. These are vocal technique analyses, not analyses about how their voices make us feel. You’re free to feel emotion and feel touched by his singing and nobody can say you’re wrong, but that’s subjective and can’t be used as an objective assessment of his singing. Also “he sings opera..you know” no, he does not. He’s a pop singer who likes to sing nessum dorma but he’s not a classically trained vocalist and when he tries to sing opera, you can hear he’s untrained and does not have the proper technique for classical singing. Trust me, if you knew me, you’d know I hold Onew dear to me but that’s irrelevant to a vocal analysis.

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  3. Hi! I was wondering what you think of Onew’s run at 2:14? It sounds kinda weird to me.

    And if you have time, could you please analyze how the rest of the members did too? This is a recent performance of one of their really old songs (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEQqIqFCZUs), so it’s interesting seeing how much their voices have changed since then.
    Do you hear much of an improvement?

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    1. 2:14 the run is how he usually does it in studio, if anything I would say that this sounds like it’s lip synched from the studio version. That run is kind of one of his highest belted phrased notes from that time, so he was pushing quite a bit and then using air on each individual note, with random H’s that shouldn’t be there. It’s not a very smooth run. I know this song haha I know a lot of SHINee songs, don’t worry. Which is why I think this is lip synched.

      Like

  4. So like i saw that you said onew is a pop star that likes to sing nessun dorma. How does he do trying to sing it since he’s a contemporarily trained vocalist and not a classical vocalist, and what are some differences between classical and contemporary styles of singing?

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    1. As I’ve mentioned many times, he’s not classically trained so he is not trained to sing it properly. In classical singing, one must sing with a low larynx position, an open throat, a relaxed tongue and for males a much more chest dominant usage of the muscles in the vocal cords while keeping a much more developed expansion of the intercostal muscles and the diaphragm. Onew does not have that, so he ends up pushing his larynx down with his tongue, tightening his throat and pulling chest voice up with a lot of tension and so in Nessum Dorma he sounds uncharacteristically throaty and pushed throughout.

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