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Found 117 results

  1. So what does a student need? They need to be able to do all of the physical tasks that constitute the singing activity required by their goals. This requires training, even if no trainer is available. In addition, their goals will require them to develop the musicianship and experience to handle styles, inflection, and ornamentation appropriate for the music they want to do. This requires learning, even if no teacher is available. In school and at home, we were told many times to "Think about what you are doing!" That approach is almost completely counter-productive for musicians and high wire walkers. Imagine the effect of yelling "Think about what you're doing!" to a person walking a wire across the Grand Canyon. The free-flow execution of skills is managed by a part of the brain that is totally different from the part of the brain where knowledge and understanding are applied to currently executing skills. Once a performer starts thinking about what they are doing, the analytical part of the brain begins to interfere with the free-flow part of the brain. If you as a teacher explain everything, you are implying that singing skills can be managed by the intellect, which is actually impossible beyond a beginner level. I'm not saying that teaching about the subject of singing technique has no value. A voice teacher needs to really know and understand the subject. However, I am suggesting that you carefully consider how much and when to teach a student "about" singing technique. My friend, Robert Lunte, says that singers need to train as "vocal athletes," and I totally agree. The great athletes don't become great by approaching their skills analytically. Their trainers focus on the physical and mental demands of specific skills, and they train the muscles to do the job. The great trainers also train the athlete's mind to concentrate in ways that don't interfere with the fluency of their physical skills. Princeton says that "training refers to the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies." I like that definition, but I would boil it down a bit and say that personal voice training is leading someone through exercises and experiences that develop the skills to achieve specific goals and acquire the knowledge required to execute those skills in the required styles. For more information about The Performing Mind, go to http://www.pfco.com. Michael Kysar The Performing Mind http://www.pfco.com
  2. For the starting out vocalist, or even for the professional at anything, I don't think there is one bestanyone. Vocalists, Performers, Teachers/Coaches, and most anyone I know has had their dreams. In our youth the dreams are, for the most part, grandiose. For a very small few, they aren't. For whatever reasons, those people hit it big. I like to think it's destiny, but who knows? Ego deflation has taken its time on me. I don't know about anyone else, but I am one of those people who had to be brought down to what I call "right size." Yes, okay, it wasn't pretty, but I came to accept something that made me very happy. I am THE BEST teacher for those who find their way to me. It's that simple. For those singers who come to learn from me in my 'lab,' I invest everything I have to give. For myself, I've learned I really can't afford to take students on just for money. I want to be teaching those who are sincerely hungry to learn. In my practice, I've noticed many 'a confused' student. They come not having been able to understand so many things after so many lessons with other instructors.Often its' because of misperception with semantics when, in reality, we are all trying to teach right way. With my own clientele, I've found it important to not only learn how to explain things using the right words, but to also learn how to communicate on different levels. My dictionaries have been quite useful with this. The "just do it" method never worked for me, so why would I think it would work for my students? In my mind, it's like when I was a kid and asked my parents, "Why?" and they came back at me with "because I said so." Some students don't even understand why they even have to bother practicing vocalises just because they've never understood the reasoning behind it. "Learn by do" is one of my mottos, but we also have to have some intellectual understanding of how things work or the puzzle pieces won't come together when physically experienced. It all has to make sense. The AH HA moments come when someone has repeatedly physically experienced right way. I teach a lot of foreigners. There are a lot of words they don't understand. This is where my acting (used to be an actress -- long story) and my willingness to look ridiculous comes in handy. Often I have to imitate the unnatural ways in which a singer is trying to go after something, exxagerate it so much that they get the point. It never fails that we both end up laughing hysterically in these moments. And to me, laughter is so healing, so important. It's also surprising ( at least to me) that those who are famous, have the money to spend, and don't sing well 'live' aren't doing the research to find the teachers who are equipped to fix such problems. I'd be embarrassed to have someone running around telling people, "I took lessons with Dena Murray" if I hadn't corrected such things. Additionally, it's such a let-down for fans to hear that their favorites need so much technology just to be able sound as good as they do on their CDs. It leaves those who are really trying to learn something feeling badly about themselves (their investment), and wondering about their own journeys. I don't like to judge whey anyone has chosen to take voice lessons. There may be reasons that none of us may know until it's time to part ways --and personally, I don't want to be the type who tries to hang on to someone just because I might need money. At that point, there would not only be an undercurrent of resistance, but trying to learn anything would prove unproductive. Besides, it doesn't make room for someone else who might need my service. As instructors, most all are trying to teach the same things and not hurt anyone's voice. In that way, we are all one. I also believe it to be very true that each and every one of has something very unique to bring to the table and that this is what separates us. I have not only learned multitudes from other teachers, methods, and books, I have also learned from my students. I'm not just a professional instructor of voice, I am also still a professional student. I love the challenge of learning new things; challenging my own self. All of that said, it is a privilege to be on this site, an honor to be able to work with such a supportive, professional, gifted, and accomplished group of people. And, if any of you singers find yourself with a teacher who doesn't necessarily 'click 'for you, remember that sometimes it takes having a 'wrong fit' to realize when you've found the right one. I thank all of you for your gifts and the willingness to share them.
  3. The Passagio: Myth vs. Mechanics What is it? The passagio is a necessary change in the dominant muscles responsible for making a pitch. What is happening? Put simply, the pitch is determined by the length and tension of the vocal folds. Lower pitches rely predominantly on the speaking muscles or thyroarytenoid muscles(TA's), the deepest layer of the vocal folds, which bulk or mass the folds. As you ascend in pitch there has to be a transfer of dominance from the TA's to the crying muscles or cricothyroid muscles (CT's), which tilt the top half of the larynx (thyroid cartilage) forward. This tilt stretches and thins the folds, which aids in creating higher pitches. Singers often experience a change in the location of the sensation of vibration (chest, throat, mask, head, etc.) when moving around the passagio. This change in sensation is determined by the sound the singer is making and in what part of the range and will vary between sound qualities and singers. It is important to note that this change in sensation of vibration is a by-product of the muscle set-ups the singer is using, not the cause. It is difficult to teach by where a singer feels the vibration and get sustainable results. Singers are more likely to find consistency in their voices when they are given tools that help them isolate the muscles that are responsible for different sounds. This way they can always tune-in to how they are making the sounds happen as opposed to judging the sound by where they feel the resulting vibration. Why make the change? If a singer wants a more consistent aesthetic sound quality throughout the range this change in muscle use has to be made gradually and subtly by adding the CT's in before the singer reaches the passagio. The singer must then also gradually reduce the amount of TA effort as he/she ascends over the passagio. The singer may also choose to add twang or an aryepiglottic sphincter contraction along with contractions in other muscles in the pharynx to give the voice an edgy or ringing quality that will boost the formants between 2.5-4kHz where the ear is most sensitive. This twang will make up for any perceived diminishing of power that accompanies the thinning of the vocal folds as the singer moves up in the range. Why not make the change? This decision to blend the qualities above and below the passagio is a purely aesthetic one. Many a singer has benefitted from the use of falsetto or belting (if applied correctly and safely) for artistic purposes and ignored any sense of aesthetic balance throughout the range. A blended or connected sound is more important in certain styles of music than others. Great singing is not purely the ability to sing high. It is a great worry to me that so many voice teachers are obsessed with four-octave ranges. This vocal size-queen approach to the range is often limiting to singers artistry and is often misrepresented as the only way to vocal health. It is also a very limited view of the myriad elements that make great singing exceptional. All sound qualities from operatic tone to belting can be employed safely and sustainably throughout one's range if one has proper muscle control. People who claim that bridging techniques are the lynchpin of sustainable healthy voice use often do so because it helps them sell their training products. This vocal scaremongering is without evidence and should be questioned if not discredited full-stop. What should be considered? Singing styles that require a modal or full-voice sound in higher parts of the range that maintain a conversational tone quality (pop, some theatre, RnB, etc.) will certainly demand that singers can move seamlessly through the passagio. Styles that rely on heightened states of emotion signified by vocal breaks, yelling, belting, distortion and breathiness (modern theatre, folk, jazz, rock/metal, etc.) will require singers to have access to a variety of sounds both above and below the passagio. These sounds will not always blend and may not be to everyone's taste. That does not mean one cannot make them safely.
  4. Vocals Mag had a great experience meeting up with Robert Lunte (your very own TMV creator). We had a great time meeting up with him and his wife. Vocals Mag has reached out to the all the high-speed, low-drag, fully-automatic manufacturers at the NAMM show. We were able to speak with the biggest names, Boy! were they stoked about being part of the Vocals Mag. We had a great chance to meet with Anthrax, Black Label Society, Serpent Underground (these dudes thought they could outdrink a bunch of Texans....yeah, sure..), Metal Knights (Razor really kicked some ass, not only did he take care of us, he went out of his way to ensure we were where we needed to be. Owe ya one Robbie!), Mike Stone (Queensryche guitarist, dammit, he's such a great friend), Melissa Cross (Zen of Screaming, fellow San Antonian!), Kerry King (Slayer), Myles Kennedy/Mark Tremonti (Creed/Altar Bridge), and many many others. The next issue of Vocals Mag will feature the NAMM 2009 show with tons of pics. Hell, you might see yourself in there. Ken Vocals Magazine
  5. Take your acting to the next level by following this one simple directive: Move, then sing. That's it. Amateurs move on their phrases. Pros move before them. I teach Movement for Actors at the Stella Adler Studio, Los Angeles. There, we spend countless hours laboring over truth in performance. Truth is what your audience connects with--more than great vocal technique, more than powerful lyrics, more than personality. And the truth of human behavior is that we express ideas with our bodies before we express them with our words. To act the heck out of a song, your performance behavior must reflect the truth of natural human behavior. When you see someone struggling with an armful of packages, do you stand there and say, "Oh, my gosh, let me help you!" and then go running over to help them? No, you run over, and, while you're running, you say, "Oh, my gosh, let me help you!" After you pour someone a drink, do you say, "Here you go," and then offer them the glass? No, you offer the glass and then say, "Here you go." When you hear a loud noise behind you, do you say, "What was that?" and then spin around? No, you spin around and then say, "What was that?" Your performance will be more truthful, and therefore more compelling, if it expresses the same truth of human behavior illustrated in the examples above. The way to this truth is to allow yourself to get caught up in the ideas of the song before you sing the symbols (words) that express those ideas. Your body is only a manifestation of what you're thinking; it has no intelligence to move on its own. So, if you get caught up in the ideas, your body will naturally express those ideas before you make the choice to express them through symbols (words). Wanna see what I mean? Check out these two performances: The first is Steve Perry singing "Faithfully." Notice what happens at 1:09. He moves his right hand just before he sings, "Right down the line..." See how natural it looks? And it feels natural. Steve isn't just a great voice, he's a singer, an artist. He's connected to the truth of what he's saying, and his body expresses it before his words do. The second is Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Watch her eyes. They almost always move before her phrases. You can see she's thinking about the ideas, not just singing words, so her body expresses the same naturalness of human behavior that you experience every day. It's why that performance is so compelling! It's like she's just talking to you, the way she would to a friend who'd stopped by for some tea. For some reason, when amateurs sing, they move counterintuitively--on the phrase, instead of before it. DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU. Naturally, it's okay to do it if you have to dance during a song or when you're adding emphasis to a particular word, as Steve Perry does in "Faithfully" when he sings, "...you and me." And sometimes the song is so fast, it's tough to move before you sing. But don't let these become excuses for a lack of truth in your performance. Your audience came for the deeper truth that art can express. Move, then sing, and give 'em what they came (and paid) for! Request: Have you come across other great performances of singers who move, then sing? Post links to those performances in the comments section, so we can all check them out. Make a note of where in the song the "move, then sing" moment occurs. Paul Cuneo is an actor, singer and teacher. He teaches Movement for Actors at the Stella Adler Studio, Los Angeles. He blogs on the topic of Performance and Movement for Actors atMovementalLA.com. Paul will appear on MTV'S From Gs to Gents later this month, as well as Of Silence, an independent feature film from director Jeremiah Sayys filming this spring. Paul is also the founder of NotToneDeaf.com and the author of Correcting Tone Deafness. This is the ONLY completely sensible approach I have ever encountered to resolving the problem and stigma of "Tone Deafness." - Jeannie Deva You can hear Paul on his lullaby album Rest Here, described by national parenting magazine Childas "...perfect for soothing your baby."
  6. Are you determined to become the next American Idol? Good for you! Anything is possible when you believe in yourself. This is the second in a series on the making of an American Idol. In this series of blogs I'm going to walk you through the process I am using to prepare a student of mine to audition on the east coast this summer for American Idol. We'll first take a look at the basic ingredients needed to become a star. In Part 1 of this series, we talked about singing ability and how it may or may not be a deciding factor in an audition. In Part 2 we're going to take a look at stage fright. You know about stage fright. Sweaty palms, nausea, uncontrollable shaking of limbs, butterflies in the tummy and on and on. You probably know exactly how you will feel when it hits you. Basically, stage fright is adrenaline running wild through your mind and body causing all the symptoms mentioned above. One of my favorite sayings that I quote in my book on vocal technique is this: The brain starts to work the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak [sing] in public anonymous Below are 10 tips to help you overcome your stage fright and to give a great performance. Take and make them a part of your mind and body a part of your performance. #1 Bodacious Body Alignment: Look confident, feel confident! Begin by stretching your spine down from the tailbone and up from the top of the spine, which is at the same height as the top of your ears. Release and soften your back muscles and triceps (back of the arm). You will feel the core muscles taking over the job of holding your body open and erect. Think superhero: strong and confident. Lift the collarbone keeping the chin level to the ground. Looking confident will make you feel confident! #2 Dispel the Myths Do not picture your audience naked. They won't appreciate it and you might not either. It does not help you to put your audience at a disadvantage to your position as performer. Include them, talk to them, share your story. They want you to be successful they are rooting for you! Give your audience what they came to experience you! #3 Use It! Stage fright is an over abundance of adrenaline running wild through your brain and body. Trying to suppress it will only make it more insistent on taking over. Accept the adrenaline rush. Welcome it to your body and brain. This will diffuse its power. #4 Be Prepared Ben Franklin wrote, It takes about three weeks to prepare a good extemporaneous speech. Wise man, our Ben. Be over-prepared with your music and a healthy voice. Practice as though the person who makes you the most nervous is in the room. Practice welcoming that person and accepting their presence. #5 Practice Every Chance You Get Get out there and sing at every opportunity. The more you perform, the less nervous you will be when the real audition comes. #6 Establish a Pre-performance Routine Maybe you've seen the baseball player who has an elaborate ritual of gestures that he makes every time before he swings the bat. That is a pre-performance ritual that keeps him focused on his performance. Find something that calms you and focuses your energy and thoughts. Try tapping a complex rhythm, send roots out of the soles of your feet into the ground, count your breaths, etc. Remember that the audience is cheering for you to be great! #7 Move! It is tempting to remain physically very still to keep the adrenaline rush from getting the upper hand before you hit the stage. However, that is like trying to contain a basket of frisky puppies they have to work out their energy! Same with your stage fright. Figure out where in your body the energy is causing tension and wiggle it until you feel silly and can laugh. Now you are ready to perform! #8 Keep Your Sense of Humor Anyone who has performed a lot knows that anything and everything that can go wrong, will. We've all seen a president of the US vomit while speaking, performers trip and fall off the stage, wardrobe malfunction and the list goes on. Keep your sense of humor alive and well for those mishaps and enjoy the surprise. Acknowledge it when something goes wrong. Make a joke and continue with your performance. It makes you more human, more accessible to the audience and makes for a great story to tell later on. #9 Breathe: Nature's Valium Never, ever take drugs or alcohol thinking that you will be calmer! You won't. Instead, breathe. Follow your breath as it flows in and out of your body. Feel it open up your airways and bring calm to tense places in your body and mind. Go to www.VocalPowerTools.com products page to get Meditative Breathing Exercises. #10 Listen! Stage fright originates with those negative voices inside your head. The audience will think I'm a no talent hack. No one wants to hear this! I'm going to sound terrible and look foolish. The voices inside your head are ancient history and they are not the truth. They are your fear talking. Instead, make a choice to listen to breathing in I calm, breathing out I smile, I am prepared and I'm going to have fun and other positive messages that you can develop for yourself and practice. ** Always remember that the performance is not about you! It is about your audience their comfort, their pleasure, their entertainment. Focus on them at all times and have fun! **
  7. Which Is The Best Vocal "Method"to Study? A unique look at the approaches, challenges and insights of being a singing teacher. Advice from Vocal Coach Kathy Thompson © 2009 Request permission to use in whole or in part by email: admin@purevoicepower.ca We study singing to get better at it just as we would study any skill. We are studying this art form in order to improve our ability. One of the foundations of voice work lies in building confidence. But more than that, we should study singing in order to acquire healthy technique when we vocalize. Notice that I said healthy rather than good. I try to avoid words such as good or bad, because they imply judgment. When you sing with correct and healthy technique, you are in fact maintaining your voice for longevity and stamina, as well as optimum performance. Good technique involves understanding your instrument to some degree, and employing recommended, safe habits when it comes to warming up or working out with your voice. Beyond that, continued study and vocal maintenance (regular practice routine) is recommended. Regardless of my teaching methods, there are constants and truths such as: Progress does not - and will not - happen instantly, overnight. As with developing any physical skill, developing one's voice takes time without force. If you practice regularly, you will see results. Everyone progresses at a different rate. In order to create something artistic, it helps to know the rules. That's the same with anything you want to excel at in life! We shouldn't assume that just because you know how to use your voice to talk and have sung songs, that you know all there is to know about how to do it better. Think of it this way: Just because you know how to run doesn't mean that you can automatically run a marathon. Just because you can use a sewing machine doesn't mean you can sew high fashion clothing. Just because you can talk with your voice doesn't mean you can sing expertly. Just because you can sing without studying doesn't mean you have the ability to sing like a seasoned professional with heavy usage demands on one's voice. I think we can agree that someone just learning to paint can paint any old picture without knowing what they're doing or studying it. Maybe they will get lucky and it will look fine. But it's usually short-lived. Pretty soon that passionate novice painter will want to know how it all works. So they study. Great painters know all about painting and understand how the great masters created such classic, unique and timeless art. I think it's the same with singing. What is a method? My dictionary defines METHOD as: A manner of procedure, esp. a systematic or clearly defined way of accomplishing an end; system or order in thought or action; the plan of procedure characteristic of discipline; logical or scientific arrangement. A method is the way in which we do something. Most everything we do has a method of some kind. You might have your own method of stacking the dishwasher or your own method of folding your towels. Use of a method simply implies that there is a systematic or specific way of doing something. If a singing teacher advertises that they are certified in a particular method of teaching singing, it's possible that they will be only able to deploy only that one method when teaching voice. They may not be allowed to utilize any aids, exercises or approaches that they as a singing teacher created themselves. I prefer not to work like that. To just use one method created by someone else would be stifling to me, no matter how popular that method is, or which masterful teacher developed it. I am the sum of my parts. All of my experiences as a singing student, actor, voice over artist and vocalist made me the performer I am today, and also the teacher I am today. I have studied voice with many singing teachers myself, taken workshops, and I was a voice major in college. I have experienced various styles of teaching voice as a singing student myself. I have developed my own approaches on how to connect with students as individuals over the years and I customize lessons to the way in which a student will learn best. (BTW- I myself, will continue to learn, read, research, develop, take workshops and classes for the rest of my life. We are never above learning anything new.) Which Teaching Methods does Kathy use? I believe that there are so many different approaches to teaching voice because there is no standard. That is a lengthy discussion which is best had elsewhere. When I teach voice, I use mostly my own “method”. That means I use partial things from a variety of other methods, or systems of teaching voice, along with exercises, games and handouts that I created. I draw from information from all forms of media, and my own personal experience as a singer. I would work differently with someone who is very soft-spoken and shy than I would with someone who is a high-energy extrovert. There are different kinds of learners and I take that into account. I never plagiarize anything from other singing teachers. I might take a seed of an idea I learned and tweak it, just as you would a classic food recipe. If I learn something related to singing from a science book, I will incorporate that. If I use a scale from another method such as the Seth Riggs SLS method, Frank Sinatra method, the Alan Greene workbook, or the Bel Canto method, I am sure to tell the student where that exercise came from and that they can pull on those resources. (The source is always quoted on their printed handout). I frequently tell my students about other singing courses! If a student is doing something incorrect during singing, I can imitate it in my own voice, identify where the error is occurring during the process, and then show the student how to approach singing that one thing with more correct technique or more economical way. Kathy's Approach I insist on visiting the basics at first and spend time accordingly on the usual things such as correct breathing, posture, vowel formation, etc. It's ongoing. I devote a part of every lesson to performance. I want you to be an original. I want to help you discover the leader within you. Every moment that we are singing a song, we are making decisions about how to sing it. The lyrics will mean something. The beat will mean something. How you phrase, deliver words, the volume or power you apply will shape the song. The vocal nuance or the boldness you choose will come into play. I think there is an actor in each of us and we can adopt characters for our songs. How you connect with your audience whether live on stage, or from a recording booth - will matter in the end. The main goal of lessons is not to CHANGE the inherent way your voice sounds. My goal is to take the unique sound of your voice and add to it; enhance it. We work towards uncovering and empowering the artist within you. We develop the voice you have and build upon that with a spirit of joy. You will discover new sounds. You can't force your voice to grow or do things it can't possibly do until you have trained to do it. (And yes, there is a difference between belting and yelling!) To me, singing is both science and art at the same time. I never try to change someone's natural sound. We only enhance it, help it flourish, take a holistic vocal evolutionary path and keep adding new musical layers. At the end of every lesson, I hope that these 4 questions will be answered yes: 1. Did your voice get some good exercise / workout? 2. Did you learn something interesting and new? 3. Do you understand the assignment for next time; are there any questions? 4. Do you feel motivated to sing and practice? I research. I test. In truth, science is still learning about human behaviour and how the brain works, which is paramount to the mind-body connection not only when it comes to singing or playing an instrument, but is related to learning and executing ANY physical skill. Science is still learning about the voice. What Makes a Great Singing Teacher? Let us pose this question to anyone who teaches a skill. For example: In order to be a fantastic football coach, does that person have to be a fantastic football player themselves first? In order to be a fantastic auto mechanic teacher, does that person have to be a fantastic auto mechanic themselves first? In order to be a fantastic singing teacher, does that person have to be a fantastic singer themselves? It's my opinion that the answer to that is yes. Ideally, at some time in their career the teacher, trainer or coach would have excelled at performing that skill themselves, which they are now teaching. If they themselves know what it's like to hit a home run on stage or in the studio, they can bring that experience to you through their coaching. Don't be too quick to judge the style of your singing teacher. If you are a raspy rock singer and you need to learn how to sing more healthy easy sounds during practice, you might not want to study with a person who only knows how to rock hard with their voice. You probably need warmer, richer, healthier exercises to sing; not more of the same. You need a little something in the way of therapeutic singing. Look to a variety of styles to study: R&B, folk/roots, classical, SLS, theatre, pop, etc. Internet Misinformation About Singing Methods There is so much misinformation on the internet, it's hard to believe what's true and what's not! Just because something is in writing doesn't mean that it is entirely accurate and absolute. There are literally hundreds of people out there calling themselves singing teachers, vocal coaches, starting schools and calling themselves experts. Should a singing teacher have academic credentials only? A degree? Stage experience only? What credentials does someone need to be a valid singing teacher? Suppose someone has performed on Broadway stages for years but has never been in a hit musical, is not famous, and they decide to teach singing. Does that mean they won't be a good singing teacher? Maybe maybe not. Don't be fooled by fame. Fame can be a result of luck and good networking skills. It's rare that anyone becomes famous by accident, including singing teachers. They have usually sought their station. That's not good, bad, right, or wrong just fact. A few times, a parent has asked me if I have taught anyone famous. Would that make a difference to the quality of my teaching? Not necessarily. Keep an open mind is all I'm saying and try not to think in absolutes. There are singing methods out there with certified coaches who are fanatical with the notion that they have the ONLY and the BEST method of teaching singing on the planet. Some attach to celebrity endorsement. Well there can be many, many amazing and valid approaches to working with people on their voices. I think that some popular methods are far too technical and the student gets hung up on the mechanics of singing. Some methods recommend things like warming up with very high quiet tones, or never talk about vocal mechanics, and assorted approaches. Here’s something that made my eyes pop wide open. I saw video of a celebrity voice coach working with a famous rap superstar that I found to be very disturbing. He had his female rap star actually moving her jaw sideways, quickly sweeping it back and forth, fast and hard, as a part of the vocal warm-up! You can almost guarantee TMJ medical issues from that. In fact, it could possibly warrant litigation. This NY singing coach was charging an astronomical hourly fee into three figures (but included back massage). I like to base things in fact. I have kept a log of internet untruths about singing. Here is just one of many, and more benign than most: There is a website I saw which has the word musician and university in the name of the site. Under singing, it says, Singing is easy. Anyone can do it. But what most singers do not know is that your voice is just like an instrument. I don't think that's true. No, singing is not easy for everyone. Some people are very challenged with vocally interpreting and recreating sound as they hear it (* research the word amusia), and require different amounts of, and approaches to- ear training for accurate pitch placement. Some people are in poor physical condition and have a hard time understanding breathing, believe it or not. Some people were raised in a culture where silence was encouraged and they are ashamed to use their voice in a singing fashion. And so forth. The human voice is the only musical instrument located within the body. It is prejudiced with emotion. A piano is not. A violin has no emotion. A guitar has no emotion. It's the players of these instruments who can bring emotional interpretation to sound production. But our voice is within our body; the player and the instrument are one. Furthermore, I can see all other instruments as I play them. But you cannot see your voice as you play it. You feel it. You operate this instrument of voice as your brain sends neuromuscular impulses to your voice and various other muscles and systems in the body. For fascinating information on this, I encourage you to investigate The Alexander Technique for Singers. (FYI, it's a little technical.) I don't mean to scare or intimidate anyone. Connect with the person you want to work with. See if they make sense to you. Use your instincts and common sense when it comes to information at large. If something sounds astonishing or weird, perhaps try searching university and academic websites which are usually loaded with true and verified information. When we sing, let there be unconditional joy. Kathy Thompson, Vocal Coach, Toronto
  8. (This text has been sourced from the eBook "Just another day at the office...How to get better results in auditions and other high pressure performing situations"). Introduction Throughout the course of your performing life, opportunities to audition for jobs or perform in solo recitals don't usually come along too often. If you're an active job-seeker, you may have the chance to attend four or five auditions per year. As a student, you might perform one or two sixty-minute solo recitals per year. And as a full-time professional orchestral musician or choral singer, solo performances may be very few and far between indeed. Auditions and other solo performances are under the spotlight events, and are often experienced by many performers with high levels of performance arousal. Performance arousal? What's that? You've no doubt heard of or even experienced feelings of anxiety before and at times during performances. This anxiety, or performance anxiety as it is commonly referred to, is the negative form of performance arousal. Performance anxiety can affect you negatively in performing situations. Excitement on the other hand, or the feeling of looking forward to a performance, is the positive form of performance arousal, and can have a positive effect on your ability to perform. But this is only true if the level of excitement you experience is appropriate for your particular performing situation. In other words if the level of excitement you experience is inappropriate (i.e. too much or too little) for your performing situation, then this excitement will have a negative effect on your ability to perform. So in short, the term performance arousal describes the excitement or anxiety you may feel before and at times during performances. Performance arousal can be particularly strong in under the spotlight events, or other performing situations that you perceive as high-pressure. Ok. So how much positive performance arousal (excitement) do I need to get the best results? As a classical musician or singer performing in a recital or audition situation, high levels of excitement may make you feel like you are out of control. Likewise, performance anxiety can also make you feel out of control, and in addition may be accompanied by unpleasant physical sensations such as muscular tension, hyperventilation, sweaty palms, nausea, and so on. So, in traditional recital or audition situations, a moderately low level of positive performance arousal (excitement) will in most cases allow you to achieve your best possible results. That sounds like it should work in theory. But how do I actually make it happen? In this eBook you'll be shown the simple yet powerful technique of Intense Positive Visualisation . This technique has been specifically designed to help you obtain an ideal state of mind for your performing situations, regardless of your field of performance. Using Intense Positive Visualisation, you can achieve better results in auditions, and see how other high-pressure performance situations may be perceived as easy, comfortable, and dare I say, even a joy to experience! Familiarity To begin with, let's take a situation quite apart from a musical one. Let's imagine for a minute that you are an office worker beginning your first day at a new job. As with a recital or audition, this is a situation that can put you in the stressful position of not knowing exactly what will happen throughout the course of the experience. You might have a certain amount of information, but there are still many variables and details that are either unfamiliar, or completely unknown. You are also quite naturally aware that the outcome of the actual event is significant, especially given the importance placed on first impressions. What are some of the physical and mental responses that you might experience before and/or during your ever-important first day at the office? Perhaps you might have sweaty palms, shallow breathing, a churning stomach, or possibly mixed feelings of excitement and anxiety. However, after experiencing your new environment for a few days, you begin to perceive being at the office as no big deal. When this happens, the heightened excitement or anxiety (performance arousal) you experienced on your first day starts to disappear. Now, compare the number of times you've heard of the phrase I'm starting my new job today. Wish me luck! with the phrase It's my 30th day at the office today. Wish me luck! and not to mention It's my 2,623rd day at the office today. Wish me luck! It starts to sound ridiculous, doesn't it? So therefore, and this really is the crux of the matter, what is the difference between the ever so slightly ridiculous sounding 2,623rd day at the office and the 1st day at the office? The answer is familiarity! And it is a special sort of familiarity that helps us feel at ease, calm, confident and in control. This sort of familiarity can be referred to as positive conditioning. Riding the Roller Coaster To explain positive conditioning in plain English, picture this. You are at a theme park and are very nervous or anxious about riding that big, scary roller coaster for the first time. Even thinking about taking the plunge starts you off on a serious emotional roller coaster! Should I? Shouldn't I? I don't really want to after all. But I do want to try it, and all my friends are doing it. I can do it. I can't do it. It might be fun!? But what happens if we crash? Maybe I should have just stayed in bed this morning! Eventually you decide to board the roller coaster, and experience the ride. Riding the roller coaster turns out to be a positive experience you survived and even enjoyed it in some weird way! This makes your brain suddenly say Hey! That wasn't so bad after all! The next time you think about riding the roller coaster, you are perhaps only a little nervous or anxious. You make the decision to ride the roller coaster again, and again it turns out to be a positive experience you even had your eyes open this time! Your brain now says to you Hey! That was actually kinda fun! I wanna do it again! And so the next time you think about riding the roller coaster, you are looking forward to it, because you know it will be a fun, enjoyable experience! This is basically how positive conditioning works. However, what if your experiences are negative? For example, what happens if the first time you ride the roller coaster you get stuck at the top of the ride and are forced to dangle upside-down for 6 hours because of a technical problem? If this happens, your brain is probably going to say to you the next time you think about riding a roller coaster, Oi! Remember that last roller coaster experience?? It was horrible! I don't ever want to go through that again get me outta here! This is negative conditioning in action. The Routine Part 1 So, how do we ensure your brain tells you that auditions, recitals, and other high-pressure performing situations are easy and fun? How do you achieve positive conditioning when you only get one shot at something??? We'll answer these questions very soon! But for now, it's back to the office! After 30 days at the office, you know the routine... Wake up with the alarm clock, hit the snooze button, and sleep for an extra 10 minutes Get out of bed when the alarm rings for the second time Eat breakfast Have a shower and get dressed Brush teeth Shoes on Leave the house after locking the door Walk to the bus stop. Aim to arrive there in time to get on the number 85 bus that you know always leaves 2 or 3 minutes earlier than it's supposed to Board the bus Get off the bus at the appropriate stop Walk up to the building and in through the main entrance The Routine Part 2 A Greet the receptionist Sign in Walk up the stairs, bidding a fellow colleague a good day on the way Greet the other office workers as you pass them on your way to your desk Arrive at your desk, sit down, and start the day's work Lunch break for 45 minutes Work through to the late afternoon When it's time to leave, walk back down the stairs, out of the office, and out of the building All of these small but necessary actions are completed each day as part of your routine. Thinking back to your first day at the office, you didn't have this routine your first day was completely unfamiliar! This is the reason why you may have been feeling anxious or even over-excited (high performance arousal level), and the reason why you asked your partner, flatmate, friends, or family to wish you luck. Now, if it feels like we have wandered from the path of an under the spotlight performance situation, read the bullet points in The Routine Part 1 again, and then skip directly toThe Routine Part 2 B below. The Routine Part 2 B Walk around to the stage door of the venue Greet the receptionist at the desk Sign in Walk up the stairs and along the corridor to warm-up room marked ‘Soloist 1’ Take out your instrument, and begin your warm-up routine After some time, your accompanist enters the warm-up room With 15 minutes until your audition is scheduled to start, you rehearse entries and certain problem passages The stage manager knocks on the door, and asks if you are both ready You follow the stage manager to the wings in the off-stage area You walk confidently on stage, with your accompanist following closely behind You acknowledge the audition jury You begin the audition calmly, and confidently The performance begins, and continues in the most musical way you can possibly imagine You finish the last audition piece, acknowledge the jury, and finally walk off stage So, if you're a performer, and get the chance to be at the office for 30 days (performing in recitals or auditions every day for 30 days) you can get to know the routine, and become quite comfortable and familiar with it. But wait a second! You might be thinking: Ok, but the office worker has the opportunity to learn the routine and get familiar with it as they are in reality at the office every weekday. I'm not doing a recital or audition everyday. I only get one shot at this! What?!? You're right! You're not performing in a recital or audition everyday but you should be! What?!? Auditions and recitals don't come along everyday! In reality, no they don't! But in your mind, you can perform auditions and recitals as often as you wish! What do you mean?!? How does this work?!? By using specially designed visualisation techniques, you can use your mind to rehearse any one-shot performance as many times as you wish! Therefore, you can become familiar with your one-shot performing situation, well before it even happens! So, if you practise visualisation techniques, when you walk into your performing situation in reality, you're just like the office worker going to work on their 30th or even 2,623rd day at the office! In other words, you can feel, calm, confident, and in control in any performance situation! The Proof But wait just another second! Surely there is a vast difference between experiencing an event in reality and experiencing the same event in your imagination? After all, the office worker actually is at the office every day, and if I use visualisation, I'm only going to imagine myself being at the office. Can this really be the same thing? The short answer to this question is YES! According to many studies on visualisation in the field of sports psychology, the subconscious mind doesn't know the difference between actually experiencing an event, and simply imagining an event in vivid detail! Look at this example: One study on visualisation in sports psychology involved the members of three basketball teams of approximately equal skill level, practising shooting 3-pointers, for a period of 30 days. One of the teams practised neither physically on the court, nor in their minds during the duration of the study. Their improvement at the end of the study was not surprisingly 0%. Another team practised physically that is, on the basketball court for a period of one hour each day. After 30 days, their improvement was measured at 24%. The third team did not practise physically at all but was told to mentally visualise the game for one hour each day. At the end of the thirty day period, their improvement was a remarkable 23%. What was the reason for this? The sports scientists concluded that the subconscious mind cannot differentiate between what is real and what is imagined. Therefore, since the subconscious mind has a large influence on how you perform, positively conditioning your subconscious mind using Intense Positive Visualisation can have a huge effect on your success as a performer! Find out how to practise Intense Positive Visualisation in the next chapter! Intense Positive Visualisation Visualisation techniques can help you positively condition yourself to achieve an ideal state of mind, helping you to gain optimal results in your performing situations. In short, when visualising, you train your mind by entering a relaxed state and imagining the exact results you would like to achieve. By regularly practising visualisation techniques, you can condition yourself for success! In the book Performing in The Zone, three different types of visualisation techniques are explained: Snap Shot Intense Positive Visualisation The 5 Sense Visualisation Method Here in Just Another Day at the Office you're going to see exactly how the simple yet powerful technique of Intense Positive Visualisation can help you in your performing situations! Read on! Different points of view Intense Positive Visualisation can be carried out in the 1st person or 3rd person perspective. Using the 1st person perspective, you put yourself in the centre of the visualisation. For example, if you are a concert pianist, you would imagine yourself performing on stage from your own eyes, seeing your hands and the piano keyboard in front of you, taking in the experience as if you were actually carrying it out in reality. In the 3rd person perspective, you would see yourself from a distance, possibly from a seat in the audience, the back of the room, or even a position up in the ceiling somewhere above, behind, or beside you. Some performers find a 1st person visualisation to be more powerful and real, whereas others may find a 3rd person visualisation to be most effective. Experiment using both viewpoints, and discover which one works best for you. Intense Positive Visualisation explained To practise Intense Positive Visualisation, you will need to be undisturbed for a period of anywhere from ten minutes to an hour, depending on the length of the performance you are about to visualise. Intense Positive Visualisation is best carried out lying down on your back with your hands resting gently on your solar-plexus. You may choose to lie flat on the floor or on a yoga mattress. Lying down on a bed can be an acceptable alternative, and is at times preferable if practising this exercise just before sleeping. It's important to keep the body at a comfortable temperature throughout the duration of the visualisation, and therefore covering yourself with a blanket might be necessary. To begin Intense Positive Visualisation, gently close your eyes, and lightly touch your tongue to the front part of the roof of your mouth, just behind the teeth. This is a Qi Gong technique which forms an energy bridge to allow freer flow of energy in the human energy system. Try to keep the root of your tongue relaxed at all times. If you have trouble with this, simply let your tongue sit in its natural position and come back to this Qi Gong energy bridge technique at a later stage. Whilst in a horizontal position, allow the floor to take your weight. Feel your limbs becoming heavier the more relaxed they feel. Trust the floor it will hold you. Give in to the support from underneath. Trust, relax, and let go. Breathe gently through your nose. Allow your body to breathe as it needs to. The next section is designed to help you understand how Intense Positive Visualisation works. It is an example of one possible visualisation, taken from the perspective of a musician giving a recital, requiring a performance arousal level of +1 before the performance, +2 for the majority of the recital, and +3 for the climax of the concert. After reading the following example and understanding the process of Intense Positive Visualisation, you can then create your own personal visualisation to meet your specific needs. When creating your visualisation, remember to visualise events exactly as you want them to be Start of Intense Positive Visualisation example: You begin by imagining yourself at home, taking your performance clothes out of the wardrobe. You check to see that everything is in order with your clothes and your performance shoes. You put your performance clothes and shoes in a suit bag, pick up your instrument case, check to see if you have your keys and wallet, and leave the house, locking the door behind you. You walk down the stairs and out on to the street in a relaxed pace. Arriving at the metro (underground train/tube) station, you use your ticket to pass the barrier, and board your train. It's going to be a great show. Your performance arousal level is at +1. You feel relaxed, positive, and calm. Getting off at the right stop, you stroll towards the recital hall, taking in the scenery on the way. Perhaps a seagull is calling in the distance? How do the trees look? Are there other people out walking? You take out your Cue Card and slowly read over your key words. Your performance arousal level is at +1. You feel relaxed, positive, and calm. You arrive at the venue and greet the receptionist on the way in. After signing in, you head to your warm up room where your accompanist is already waiting for you. You ask your accompanist for 15 minutes by yourself so that you can prepare yourself and warm up. You unpack your instrument, and begin your warm up routine. It feels fantastic to start warming up. You know your accompanist is going help you put on a great show. You know that the venue has a warm acoustic. Your performance clothes are ironed and your shoes polished. You are ready. You are about to share part of yourself with some people who want to hear you they want to be touched by you. It's going to be a warm, giving, rewarding experience for both them and you. It's going to be great! Your performance arousal level is at +1. You feel relaxed, positive, and calm. After 15 minutes your accompanist walks in to the room. Before you begin to rehearse, you check your Cue Card again, and go through your Pre-Performance Ritual, C3 calm, controlled, confident the C3 and +1 on your Cue Card gives you a familiar, friendly reminder. You rehearse the beginning of the first piece with your accompanist. It's easy and free. The acoustic in the practise room is dry, but you know that out there in the hall the space will take care of you the warm reverb will beautify every nuance and add to the experience for everyone. Your performance arousal level is at +1. You feel relaxed, positive, and calm. When it is time, you are called to the wings of the stage. You take one final look at your Cue Card and go through the C3 exercise again. You can hear the chatter of the audience, and see the stage in front of you. You walk calmly, securely, and with purpose on to the stage where you are greeted by applause. They like you and you haven't even done anything yet! This is going to be a fun performance! Your performance arousal level is at +1. You feel relaxed, positive, and calm. Whilst your accompanist adjusts the piano stool, you look out into the audience and make visual contact with the people you are about to touch with your performance. Your body language exudes confidence and assuredness. You greet the audience, introducing yourself and your accompanist, and begin to talk about the evening's programme. Your voice is stable, powerful, and reflects the perfect +1 state of performance arousal that you are currently in. Your voice resonates effortlessly to the back of the hall. You are in The Zone. After your brief introductory talk, you look to your accompanist who is ready to work with you. This is going great! You begin your performance, and your performance arousal gently rises to a +2. (At this point in the visualisation I strongly suggest that you visualise your entire performance that is, see and hear yourself giving the most musical, fantastic, controlled, inspired, moving performance you can possibly imagine. Use either 1st or 3rd person perspective. In your visualisation you are doing everything right it feels fantastic and sounds amazing. You are at an ideal level of performance arousal for this performing situation, and totally in The Zone.) Just before the climax of the final piece, you turn the page, and see the familiar figure of +3 that you wrote earlier at the top of your music. You step it up a notch, and raise your performance arousal level to +3. The music takes on a new life and energy and this is felt by you, your accompanist, and the audience. Finishing the concert at a +3 level your audience erupts in cheers and applause. You did it! It was great!! You were in The Zone!!! You acknowledge the audience, and walk off stage. End of Intense Positive Visualisation example. When you feel ready, slowly begin to move your body again. How did it feel to give that amazing performance? You were great! Everything just clicked. You were totally and completely in The Zone throughout the entire process. Intense Positive Visualisation can be practised every day before a performance. By doing so, you can condition yourself to perform in The Zone. Intense Positive Visualisation is highly recommended to all performers about to give important performances, auditions or recitals. The earlier you begin Intense Positive Visualisation the better, but at least one week prior to the performance event should be the minimum. In your own visualisations, remember to assess how much positive performance arousal you need at various moments: +1, +2, +3, +4, or +5. Do you need to be at the same activation level for the entire event, or does your performance arousal level need to modulate at various times? Remember that imagining yourself calm and relaxed probably isn't going to give you the best results if you are preparing for an intensely physical, fast-paced performance situation. Likewise, visualising getting yourself psyched up and exploding out of the gates isn’t going to help you if you are preparing for a more delicate +1 situation, such as a slow movement of a concerto. Visualising performing with an ideal level of performance arousal is important! By using Intense Positive Visualisation, you are using positive conditioning to become familiar with as many elements of your performance day as possible, and become used to experiencing these always in a positive light. Notice also that Intense Positive Visualisation goes into as much detail as possible, both before and during your performance. This is to help take away as many surprises and unknown factors on the day of your performance as possible. It may help the accuracy and intensity of your visualisation to do some reconnaissance by actually visiting the performance venue prior to your performance event. This is easily possible for students giving final recitals for example, or sportspeople playing at a local venue. Try to also incorporate some variations in your visualisations. Perhaps the audience isn’t ready and takes an extra 5 minutes to get seated? Perhaps your accompanist arrives later than expected due to traffic problems? Maybe the stage curtains are blue and not red? Perhaps the warm up room is bigger or smaller? Regardless of what happens, you are prepared, and you stay in your ideal level of positive performance arousal. You are completely stable, and in The Zone, always. By using Intense Positive Visualisation every day over a period of one week, you have in effect carried out your performance successfully 7 times. Practise this visualisation 3 times per day for a week and you’ve completed 21 successful, positive, great, fantastic, easy, ideal performances, and have been in The Zone every single time! Remember that your subconscious doesn’t differentiate between what is real and what is imagined. Therefore by using Intense Positive Visualisation diligently, you are conditioning yourself for success by becoming familiar with performing in The Zone! By using the technique of Intense Positive Visualisation, you can experience your next audition, recital or ‘high-pressure’ performance as just another day at the office! Conclusion Intense Positive Visualisation is just one of over 20 effective techniques fully explained in the book Performing in The Zone. These techniques can help you to become secure, confident, comfortable, in control, and successful in your performing situations. With the book Performing in The Zone, you get more than just techniques. You get: To find out what really goes on inside your mind and body in performing situations To learn about The Zone, what it is, and how you can get there A complete explanation of performance arousal, and how it can affect you positively or negatively in performing situations Over 20 techniques specifically designed to help you get better results in any field of performance The 12 Week Performance Success Programme to help you incorporate the techniques from Performing in The Zone into your performing life An introduction to additional sources of advice and information to further aid you in your journey to The Zone! By reading Performing in The Zone, you can: Perform at an optimal level Achieve better results when under the spotlight Become a master of yourself and your performance environment Realise your true performing potential Become a better performer by learning to perform in The Zone! In addition, at http://www.thezonebook.com you can subscribe to: The very latest techniques for controlling performance anxiety and over-excitement A personal email support service One-on-one coaching services – in person, via chat, or via video conferencing (limited number of places available) What should I do now? 1) Visit www.thezonebook.com 2) Sign up for a 20% Pre-Release Discount on "Performing in The Zone!" 3) Read Performing in The Zone, apply the information in the book, and enjoy the results! 4) Keep visiting www.thezonebook.com (as well as the blog, at http://www.thezonebook.com/blog) regularly for news updates, the latest techniques for getting better results in performing situations, and special offers!
  9. This article has been republished from my blog, www.findingmysingingvoice.com. This is part two in my Learning to Sing series. Finding the right voice teacher is the most important choice an aspiring singer can make.Your teacher will guide you through the process of exploring, developing, and training your voice. The right teacher will help you grow in a nurturing yet challenging environment. The wrong teacher can harm your self-esteem, dash your hopes (or inflate them with false promises) and even damage your vocal cords! Some fields have formal training or evaluation processes to determine whether a person is qualified to practice that profession. Singing does not. That means anyone can call herself a voice teacher as long as someone is willing to pay her for lessons. It's up to you the student to decide whether a teacher has what it takes to teach you. So what should you look for in a voice teacher? * Training This is usually the first thing people look at when evaluating a voice teacher. You'll want to know that your teacher has received thorough training in areas such as music theory, music history, vocal literature (songs, opera, musicals, etc.), languages (if you want to sing classical/opera), and vocal technique. Look for a B.A. or B.M. in music or vocal performance. Many teachers will have master's degrees in voice or music education and may also have certification in some form of bodywork (usually yoga, Alexander Technique, the Feldenkrais method, or Fitzmaurice Voicework). While training is essential, keep in mind that degrees from top schools don't automatically make someone a great teacher. The best singers and teachers learn from a combination of formal education, private study, personal experience, professional development, and trial and error. * Performing experience Many teachers are also active performers. Others have given up performing to focus on teaching. Both types can be excellent teachers. Singers stop performing for a number of reasons: finances, health, family, lifestyle, etc. Often a singer will discover that his or her personality is better suited to the teaching studio than to the stage. Ideally, a teacher will have at least some performing experience. As with degrees, however, keep in mind that performing credentials alone don't guarantee great teaching. An opera singer with international performing credits may be better at communicating with a large audience than describing vocal concepts to a beginning singer. * Teaching success The number one question you'll want to ask about a potential teacher is whether that person's students are successful. Do the teacher's students win competitions, get accepted into good music schools, have performing careers, or become respected teachers? Whatever your immediate goals are as a singer, make sure your teacher has helped other singers achieve similar success. * Singing style Before you commit to a teacher, find out if he or she teaches the singing style you want to learn. If you want to sing pop, don't study with someone who only teaches opera singers. If your dream is to sing on Broadway, find someone whose students are successful in musical theater. Some teachers successfully teach a wide variety of singing styles. (I know of a voice teacher in NYC who has famous students in pop, musical theater, and opera.) Others prefer to specialize in one style. Be sure to ask about a teacher's experience with the style you love best. Or, if you're not sure what style you prefer, find a teacher who's comfortable with multiple styles. * Specialties Many teachers end up specializing in one or more areas, while others prefer to teach a variety of students and voice types. For example, some teachers prefer beginning students and others only teach professionals. Voice teachers with training in speech or voice pathology may work exclusively with singers who have a history of vocal trouble. Some teachers may even choose to only teach students of their gender or voice type. Singers also have similar preferences. Some sopranos, for example, only want to study with other sopranos. * Personality Maybe personality isn't essential for everyone. (I suppose if you're open minded, you can learn from anyone.) But I find it much easier to trust, connect with, and learn from someone I like, admire, and want to please. I've had several teachers who I never really connected with personally, and I didn't make great progress with them. Several times, I've declined to study with successful teachers I didn't connect with. As you search for a voice teacher, here are some thoughts on several types of teachers to avoid: * Anyone who makes unrealistic promises Become a star in 6 weeks! Sing like a pro in one month! Guaranteed to increase your vocal range! An honest teacher will tell you that learning to sing takes time. And no one can make promises about your voice without hearing you first. If it sounds too good to be true, it is! * Anyone who only teaches online. Online lessons are fine in some circumstances, but I wouldn't recommend them for a beginner or for the beginning of a new singer/teacher relationship. Some might call me old-fashioned, but it's essential that your teacher see you sing and hear your voice without distortion. Plus, you'll get to know each other better and establish a stronger rapport by meeting in person. * Anyone who's all about the money. Watch out for teachers who are overly keen on selling you their products (singing books, CDs, DVDs, pricey seminars, etc.). Everyone needs to make a living, but a committed teacher will put your interests ahead of merchandise sales. A few years ago, a friend suggested that I consider studying with a well-known opera singer. This singer had sung major roles all over the world, he took students at my level, he found performance opportunities for many of his students, and several of his prots were embarking on successful careers. His students spoke highly of him, and encouraged me to join his studio. I spoke to him on the phone, met him in person, and went to a master class he taught. I decided that he would have a lot to offer me. There was only one problem: I just didn't like him. As much as I respected his experience as a singer and his commitment to teaching, there were other things about him that turned me off: his loud humor, his disorganized manner, his rambling anecdotes, and his rather forceful personality. I felt that my quieter demeanor would be overwhelmed by this man's larger-than-life persona. I decided to keep looking for a teacher, and I eventually found just the right person. In your search for a teacher, remember to listen to your instincts. Never let anyone (or their impressive credentials) pressure you into studying with someone who doesn't feel right for you. If you begin studies with a teacher and decide the relationship isn't working, don't be shy about ending it. It's your money, your time, and your voice!
  10. This article has been republished from my blog, www.findingmysingingvoice.com. A lot of people come to my blog looking for information on how to sing. So far, my posts have focused more on my journey as a singer or on tips for people who are already singers or students of singing. Look for that focus to change somewhat in the coming months. Learning to Sing series I've written before that one of my goals is to eventually teach singing. I've taught voice lessons before (though not recently), so it seems like a natural topic to writing about here. After all, this is a site about finding the singing voice - not having it, not showing it off, not becoming famous for it. It's a site about the process of improving as a singer. So why not start at the very beginning? Why you need a voice teacher I'll give specific singing tips in later posts. For now, you should know that the best way to learn to sing is with a teacher. Yes, you can pick up some knowledge online, watch American Idol, listen to recordings, and sing along to your favorite songs. But here are a few reasons why you should consider finding a teacher if you're serious about singing. * A voice teacher can hear things you can't. It's tempting to think that nobody knows your voice as well as you do, but it's actually not true. Your vocal cords are located in your throat, and the sounds they make resonate in your throat, mouth, head, and chest. Your body is a musical instrument, and your ears are attached to it. That means they can't possibly hear your voice like others do. They're too close! Singers have to learn the sensations of good singing and rely on the expert ears of a teacher. * A voice teacher can see you sing. No, a teacher can't see your vocal cords, but he or she can see a lot of your vocal instrument: your face, jaw, tongue, neck, ribcage, and abdomen. Good posture is essential for singing. A teacher can also spot signs of physical tension that can affect your sound. Another common problem teachers catch are distracting movements or tics like rocking back and forth while singing, clenching your hands, or standing on your toes for high notes. * A voice teacher can guide your learning process. You could read a thousand books on singing and never improve as a singer, but a teacher can guide you in a way that knowledge can't. A teacher, a book, or a DVD can all tell you how to breathe, but only a teacher can tell you if you're doing it right or not. Also, a teacher will tailor lessons to your specific needs. Is your breathing fine, but your neck is tense? Do you have a huge vocal range, but places where the voice breaks? A wise teacher will determine what you need to work on and in what order and will match his or her teaching to your learning style. * A voice teacher can help you work towards your goals. Do you want to join a choir, audition for a musical, become a pop star, or sing opera? Or maybe you just like singing and want to improve your voice. Whatever your goals are, a teacher can help you move in the right direction. He or she can also give you feedback on whether your goals are realistic. If they aren't, your teacher can help you set new goals that are within your reach. * A voice teacher can open up a whole new world! A lot of people start singing lessons without knowing quite what to expect. Singing seems simple enough, but it connects so many other areas. The best singers and teachers draw on knowledge from so many fields besides music: anatomy, bodywork (like yoga), health, psychology, speech and language, history, poetry, acting, theater, etc. You might get into singing for one reason, only to discover a new passion. Have a question about singing? Send me an email. Look for more posts in the Learning to Sing series on topics such as: * What to look for in a voice teacher * How to find a voice teacher * Deciding when to start * What to expect at your first voice lesson * How to stand while singing * How to warm up the voice
  11. CHAPTER 4 - REHEARSALS: WHO, WHERE, WHEN, WHAT? SO, YOU WANT TO BE A SINGER? by Diva Joan Cartwright Practice, practice, practice! is the rule for professionals. However, scheduling rehearsals can be frustrating. Once you've found the musicians you enjoy being around, work up a rehearsal schedule for once a week or every other week, until you've gotten a tight show of about ten to twenty songs. Rehearsal can be held at someone's home, at a community center or school, at a church or any place where you will not disturb others or be interrupted. It is common to rehearse in the daytime because most musicians work at night, but many have day gigs, too. So, figure a time when everyone is free. Sometimes, you can rehearse with the pianist or guitarist, alone, just to get the tunes down. But it's better if everyone in the band is present. Getting a feel for one another is very important. Some musicians require payment for rehearsal, especially if it's for a recording session. But if it's for a gig and you're new to them, rehearsal is a must in order for you to hire them or if they are hiring you. It's just the professional thing to do, so don’t be intimidated by musicians who try to con you into paying them to rehearse. If the music sounds bad, YOU, the singer are usually the one that critics point the finger at, so demand rehearsal so your show will be great! First, rehearse the songs you are familiar with. Then, work on the new material. Don't wait until rehearsal time to learn the lyrics. Know them beforehand. Ask if anyone has original songs that they want you to sing or tunes that they want you to write lyrics for. Do your own songs as much as possible. Make sure you do up tempo songs. You don't want to bore your musicians or the audience with too many ballads. Sambas and Bossa Novas are lots of fun. My experience is that everyone loves the Blues. So, learn three or four that you can interchange from gig to gig. Some common ones are "Stormy Monday", "Route 66", "Sweet Home Chicago", "Bye Bye Blackbird", Mustang Sally�, Let The Good Times Roll, "Dr. Feelgood" and "In The Midnight Hour". There are hundreds of blues and you don't need sheet music. You simply need to know the lyrics, tempo and key. Most blues are sung in the key of Bb, C, F or G. It all depends on your vocal range. Source: SO, YOU WANT TO BE A SINGER? by Joan Cartwright available at http://stores.lulu.com/divajc. See Chapters 1-3 on my BLOG.
  12. In some ways it is harder to learn to sing backup that being a solo singer. When you are singing solo, you do not have to worry about blending in or following someone else, they have to follow you! Not so when you are the second singer or "backup" as it is known. When this is the case, you have to be aware of the main singers phrasing, nuances and even possible mistakes. Listening Listening is the most important skill a backup singer has to learn. It is far more important to blend in and not over shadow the main vocal than it is to showcase your own voice. This is not the time for standing out, you are there to enhance, color and accentuate the main vocal, not to over power it. You will not be asked back if it is felt you are only interested in your self. The best backup singer is one who goes virtually un-noticed. Sometimes people may not even remember that there was a backup singer, this is ok, and you did your job! Blending In In order to blend in with the main vocal there are many things you must keep in mind. First, position yourself where you can see the face and lips of the main vocalist. This is so very important. You cannot know when they are going to start a phrase or end one if you cannot see them. Also you will definitely not be able to react when they make a mistake. Sometimes you will need to sing a different verse for example because they started on the wrong one. If you are just looking at the music or going by what you have memorized you will be singing over the main vocal with a different verse and guess who will be blamed? Sometimes they will indicate by a nod of the head or a hand gesture that they want to repeat a section or go back to "the top" and you will not know this if you have your head buried in the music in front of you. Learn to watch them all the time. Phrasing This goes along with watching the main vocalist but also deserves special mention. You must ideally start the phrase with the main vocal and end the phrase with the main vocal. This is very difficult to do but there are some little tips to doing a good job even if you are not familiar with this particular vocalist or their phrasing habits. (And everyone has theirs) First as mentioned before, watch them very carefully to see when they actually start the phrase. Begin your line only when you are sure they have started and start yours quietly. This allows room to grow and to blend in imperceptibly. This seems like a very easy thing to do, but most people forget and try to jump in where it seems best and they end up sounding awful because they came in at the wrong time. If you start quietly and come up to the level of the main vocal you will have much more success in this regard. The same thing applies in reverse in the closing part of the phrase, the end if you will. Start preparing your ending before they get there. Anticipate the end coming up and watch them. You will know by observing when the end is coming up. Make sure you watch their lips and face to see when they might end. Do not get caught singing after they have ended! This can be very, very embarrassing. Also a note about beginning and ending consonants. Sometimes when two or more people are singing a phrase there can be multiple popping "p's" or sibilant sounds as each singer attempts to sing at the same time. A neat trick to avoid this is to drop the first consonant entirely when you are the backup singer. If the line is something like "peter piper picked a peck of", you as a backup vocalist might sing "eter-iper-icked-a-eck-of". This enables the main singer to have the definite first consonant of the phrase without you running over them or being out-of-sync with them. So when you are called to be a backup singer, remember you are there to blend in, not stand out. Enjoy! Learn to Sing ,Play Music, Enjoy Music for life! http://www.SimpleMusicSecrets.comBackup
  13. Steve: Hi, Dena! I understand that your new book on singing has just been published. Would you tell us a little bit about it? Dena: This is a book that has been 15 years in the making. From the time I started teaching (over 20 years ago,) I knew there was a problem with the prevailing concepts of diaphragmatic support. Singers were injuring themselves from too much pressure and misperceiving instructions. Steve: Do yo mean that the usual "singing teacher's lingo" was not helpful in leading the student in what they should do? Dena: Yes, exactly. They also were not getting what they'd hoped to get from taking lessons i.e., freedom when singing/performing. So after many years of study, I finally uncovered that the problem boiled down to correct intake of air (the inhale) and created exercises to correct it. Steve: You've published two other books on singing. How does this latest one fit in with them? Dena: Well, I never set out to do a three-part series but that was the end result of all my work. Vocal Technique: Finding Your Real Voice is a beginners book and focuses on the vocal mechanism. I did two things deliberately for the beginner: 1) I skipped the discussion of how to use the diaphragm for support, and instead created exercises to builid up the muscles and cartilages which control/support the vocal folds, and, 2) I separated the chest voice from the head voice because in my experience if there are problems in either register, those problems will show up when trying to bridge and combine them for that one-register sound. This book is the first step in how to gain support. Steve: Ok, I am with you so far. How was your approach received by your readers? Dena: Very well, I think. My European readers were especially open with their positive feed-back, and I still receive comments to day on that book's usefulness. Steve: Ok! What was your second book like? Dena: The second one, Advanced Vocal Technique: Middle Voice, Placement & Styles (co-authored by Tita Hutchison,) focuses on a step-by-step process of how to bridge the voice for the one register sound, vowel formation, and correct placement for any given style. Steve: So, that would make it the 'next steps' after clarifying the Chest and Head voices, and some discussion of the different vocal productions. Dena: Yes, that's right. There are 13 exercises in this book with every feeling and sensation one should (and shouldn’t) have, literally spelled out for the singer. Again, we purposely stayed away from too much focus on the diaphragm. This book is the second step with regard to support. Steve: All right. How does this third book extend the approach of the other two? Dena: In this third and last book of the series, “Vocal Strength and Power”, the focus is solely on how to employ correct use of the diaphragmatic region for its support of the entire mechanism. Steve: How is your approach different from other's you've heard? Simply stated, I've uncovered a problem inherent with other approaches to 'support' instruction, and created exercises to correct the problem. Steve: Ok, I'll bite. What is the problem? Dena: The problem is the correct intake of air before singing. Steve: Who can benefit from your approach and exercises? Dena: Anyone should be able to add these exercises (if they should so choose) to already working methods of techniques when they notice they are struggling for not just the freedom, but also their inherent great sound. Steve: Dena, what else does the book contain? Dena: In addition to the CD of exercises, this book also includes a glossary of dictionary-defined words, the most commonly used words for instruction. As I was looking up the words to pull this section together, I was quite surprised at the meanings associated with some of these words, as I'm sure others will be too. I found that most misperception comes down to the true meaning of a word. Steve: Moving on to a different aspect of this work, how did you go about getting published? Dena: Let me answer that by describing how I got my first one published. Once I knew the subject I wanted to cover, I started writing. I got a name at Hal Leonard to contact, and pitched my idea by e-mail. Steve: What was the response? Dena: He got back to me within a few days and asked that I I send a table of contents and the first chapter so they could review it. I was very nervous about all of this because it was my first book so nervous that I purposely wouldn't check my e-mail. I decided to go camping for a few days and when I returned, checked my phone messages never expecting to get an answer by phone. Oh My God, they were SO excited about this book wanted it as soon as possible, sent me a contract, and advance money. Steve: That must have been a very pleasant surprise! After the initial contact, how long did the process take? Dena: The first book took a year to write and another to get it printed and published. It surely was one of the most exciting things that ever happened to me. I established an excellent relationship with the vice president and several editors by keeping them updated as to how far along I was every three months or so, and always remembering to tell them how appreciative I was to them for this opportunity. They then told me they wished all authors were this responsible about communication. Steve: I take it from this comment that not all authors are so communicative. Do you have any advice in this regard for any writers out there that would like to have a book published? Dena: Yes, I do. My best advice: if you get a name to contact at a publishing company and can secure the deal... keep your publisher updated as you write the book. Right along with that... never forget about the opportunity they have provided for you. Steve: Dena, this is great information. For those interested, where and when will the book be available? The book is already available to pre-order on Amazon.com (my link on www.denamurray.com will take you straight to the book,) It has already been shipped to Barnes and Noble, Borders, most music stores, and other bookstores. It will be available for purchase in the stores around Thanksgiving. Steve: Thanks, Dena, for taking the time to provide this information.
  14. So, You Want To Be A Singer? by Diva Joan Cartwright CHAPTER 5 - SET LISTS AND LEAD SHEETS Once you've rehearsed, make four or five set lists of the tunes you will perform on gigs. Keep the program interesting by alternating between ballads, blues, sambas and up-tempo (swing or rhythm & blues) songs. Lead sheets may be two kinds: 1) complete with melody, chords and lyrics; or 2) just the chord changes for the piano, bass and horns. The tempo may change according to how you would like to sing the song. For instance, you may decide to sing a swing song in a samba tempo to make it a little different. You will write this at the top of the chart in the left hand corner or just call the tempo samba before counting it off. Put your lead sheets in a book in alphabetical order. Have copies of each song for the pianist, bassist and any horns you may be working with. Most singers do not understand that trumpets and saxophones play in different keys than pianos and basses, but they are usually responsible for transposing their music to their specific key. If you have a gig scheduled, put the sheet music in the order of performance before you go on stage, so you are not sorting through the music during the show. This is where the set list comes in handy. The piano player will know just what song to set up for you, as the performance progresses. Always ask the piano player to give you an introduction to each song so you avoid singing in the wrong key. A set list can be three, four, five or six songs. They can have a theme [see AstroJazz] or they can be about a certain subject like the season (Spring, Autumn) or holiday (Valentine's Day, Christmas). Be sure to put the key of each song on the list, so there's no confusion about what key you are singing in. Remember, rehearsal is the time to determine the right keys for you to sing in. After working with a pianist for some time, she or he can generally tell you which key is best for you. When you make the list, try not to do two songs in the same key. You can make your list as follows: Song #1 Ab Up tempo swing Song #2 G Slow Blues Song #3 C Samba Song #4 F Ballad Song #5 Bb Bounce VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: When working in a foreign country like Italy or Spain, you may call a song in Ab, but the musicians think you mean Eb because they pronounce E as A. This can be disastrous for the singer, because Ab is five whole steps below Eb or four whole steps above Ab. Musicians use sign language for keys. Usually, they use the signs for keys with flats, so there is NO discrepancy. They may also use the signs for E and A, so as not to confuse the musicians who speak French, Italian or Spanish. [see p. 12] The sign for the key of F would be one pointer finger downward, meaning one flat ( The sign for the key of Bb is two fingers down The sign for the key of Eb is three fingers down and Ab is four fingers down The key of G would be one finger up, meaning one sharp. But you can say G without any misunderstanding. E would be four fingers up for four sharps A would be three fingers up for three sharps When I was working a lot with many different musicians, I kept a list of 25 songs I sing in the original key the song was written in. This is a good list to keep as you begin to rehearse with musicians. They really appreciate it when singers sing in the original key because they don't have to spend time transposing the song on paper, in their head and on the instrument. Transposition is a good skill to develop. It pays to know how to transpose songs from one key to the next. This can be part of your music theory lessons. It takes practice, but it's easy, once you get the hang of it. For example, to take a song from Bb to C is just transposing all the chords up one whole step. From Bb to F is up a fifth. From F to Bb is up a fourth. From Eb to C and Bb to G is down a minor third. Knowing how to transpose will make your life with musicians much easier and they will respect you for having this skill. It's up to you to make the show interesting and keep it flowing. Without the set list, you may get confused and waste valuable time, thereby losing your audience's attention. You can put them to sleep, if you sing two ballads in a row. Likewise, you may get them overly agitated if you sing too many swing tunes one right after the other. Pace yourself so you and the band don't get tired before the set is over. Remember, the musicians probably played one, two or even three numbers before you came onstage. Don't go over the set time. Take your breaks. Usual set time is 45 minutes onstage and 15 minutes off. Links: Purchase the book in its entirety: So, You Want To Be A Singer? by Joan Cartwright More books by Joan Cartwright Official website of Joan Cartwright Joan's online radio show: MUSICWOMAN Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc.
  15. The American music scene seems to be experiencing a phenomenon of painfully loud and meaningless over-singing which could be due in part to hit talent shows like American Idol, according to Renee Grant-Williams, one of the nation's leading voice experts and coach to some of the music industry's biggest stars. Grant-Williams points to this week's painful duet by two former Idol contestants as an example, "By shamelessly over-singing, Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas managed to destroy what might otherwise have been a perfectly decent song. Their performance was over-loud, over-ornamented, mutually over-competitive and ultimately banal." "The lyrics to Make a Wave written by Scott Krippayne and Jeffrey D. Peabody are very positive and send a very powerful message," says Grant Williams. "However, these two singers obscured the words so badly by over-singing, that I had to look up the lyrics to see what they were actually saying. The very essence of a song is to touch the listener by conveying a message of some kind. That's difficult to do when no one can get a grip on the melody or understand what's being said." Grant-Williams feels these non-verbal squiggles should be there for one reason only to emphasize the powerful emotion of the song. "When a singer ornaments, it should be because, at that moment, the singer's emotions are running so high that words will not suffice; the singer is only capable of a visceral response too powerful to put into mere words," she says. Grant-Williams also says singers she encounters are increasingly belting out songs to the point where words don't matter. We seem to be caught up in an epidemic of loud, says Grant-Williams. "Singing should be more subtle than just slinging a lot of voice around. If you sing with a thundering voice, you sacrifice the honesty, intimacy, and integrity of music. Yet, this style is presented to millions of TV viewers as desirable. "You just don't hear the level of ear-splitting over-singing in Australia and other places like you do here in America," says Grant-Williams, who recently returned from a sold-out teaching-tour of Australia. Observations she made during tours in Europe and South America confirm that this phenomenon is especially prevalent in the United States. "I'm convinced it's due in part to the tremendous influence in the U. S. of talent shows where over-singing is rewarded. I still think America has the best singers on the planet, says Grant-Williams. They just need to bring down the volume and focus on the words and the emotions. I'm determined to do what I can to curb these phenomenon before they get out of hand. Grant-Williams has as few simple suggestions to help singers get back to the basics of good singing: 1. A song is a one-way conversation, a singer must be very intimate with the words.2. Singing should be like speaking with the audience, there's no need to yell. 2. Use consonants and silence to indicate the most important words of the song. 3. Use inflection sparingly as you would use spices, too much will ruin the song. Grant-Williams coaches aspiring performers as well as celebrities including Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Miley Cyrus, Faith Hill, the Dixie Chicks, Tim McGraw, Christina Aguilera, Linda Ronstadt, Randy Travis, and Huey Lewis. She has been quoted by Cosmopolitan, the Associated Press, Business Week, UPI, Southern Living, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, and the San Francisco Chronicle. She has appeared on many broadcast outlets including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Bravo, USA, MTV, GAC, BBC, PBS, and NPR. Grant-Williams is a former instructor at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as well as the former director of the Division of Vocal Music at the University of California, Berkeley. For more information or to schedule an interview with Renee Grant-Williams, call 615-244-3280 or visit www.myvoicecoach.com/media.html
  16. Urggg, that dreaded cold. If you are like me most humans these days, there are times when you feel like you're a flu magnet. But, there are precautions that you can take to battle, prevent, and flush a cold right out of your system. The following excerpt is from my book, Raise Your Voice Second Edition, to aid you in your fight against infection: Nothing is worse than having to deal with a cold. Many singers refrain from singing (and speaking in some cases) with a cold, due to the fear of damaging their voices. Singing with a cold is quite possible, although uncomfortable. If you use proper vocal technique, your voice will be fine. A cold is an infection in the sinuses, the throat, or the lungs, or it could be a combination of all three. An infection of the upper throat is referred to as pharyngitis. Your throat will be sore but you will still be able to speak or sing. Pharyngitis may be very painful, but as long as there is no infection in the vocal cords, you'll still be able to make it through a performance, although it won't feel that fun. Keep the sound out of the throat and focused into the resonant cavities of the head. The only time you should avoid speaking or singing is if you have laryngitis, which is an infection of the vocal cords. Your throat will feel swollen and sore. It could be so painful that you might not be able to speak. Swallowing will be difficult. The vocal cords are swollen due to the infection and enlarged blood vessels. In this state, the cords will not vibrate correctly. Do not speak or sing with laryngitis. You could damage your vocal cords. This includes whispering and gargling. Whispering is a quiet shout and gargling forces air past the irritated cords. The best remedy for laryngitis is plenty of water and absolute silence. Try a warm mist umidifier at night to moisten The air. Give your voice time to heal. Visit your doctor to see if antibiotics could help. If you are developing a cold, this is a signal that your body is full of toxins and needs to cleanse itself of toxin overload. Once you notice cold symptoms developing, there are several things you can do to help the cleansing process along and shorten the duration of the cold: When you notice the first signs of a cold's supply of vitamin C and Calcium are rapidly depleted. Bothsore throat, congestion, coughing, etc., you must take immediate action. If you are under physical or mental stress, your body are important nutrients in fighting infection. At first sign of a cold, I've been told that if immediately increase your vitamin C and Calcium/Magnesium intake, it will help to speed up the cold-elimination process. Both can be purchased at any drug store. Magnesium helps to increase the body's absorption of Calcium, so it is wiser to take a combination of the two. Zinc lozenges are beneficial during a cold. Zinc is proven to fight infection and to relieve a sore throat. An herbal combination of Goldenseal and Echinacea is excellent for fighting infection in the body. A few drops of Colloidal Silver under the tongue will be absorbed into the blood stream. Colloidal Silver is like a natural antibiotic and fights all forms of infection. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. If you feel you might have pneumonia, see your doctor. To break up chest congestion, tap repeatedly on your chest to loosen phlegm in your lungs. This will enable you to cough up and expel the mucus. Cup your hands and tap on your chest as if it were a drum. If you have someone tap on your back, the results will be better. Breathing steam or using a vaporizer helps to keep your lungs hydrated and will also loosen mucus. Choose wisely any over-the-counter drugs you might take to fight a cold. Many only mask the symptoms, slowing down the healing process. There are several herbs listed in the next chapter that relieve pain, loosen congestion, and aid the healing process. A throat gargle is beneficial for a sore throat. These methods are discussed in the next few chapters. Now you have the means to fight off a cold. Jaime Vendera Author of "Raise Your Voice", "Mindset: programming Your Mind for Success" and "Online Teaching Secrets Revealed" jaimevendera.com theultimatevocalworkout.com
  17. CHAPTER 10 - GIVE-AWAYS AND SALES TIPS SO, YOU WANT TO BE A SINGER? by Diva Joan Cartwright After producing a demo in a studio, you must be concerned with duplication and packaging. You can do it yourself, which is a lot of labor that you must consider when setting the price of your CD. Unless you have invested in a CD burner ($600-700) you must burn CDs on your computer, one by one, or take your master to a reproduction company to get copies. The more tapes, labels, covers and jewel cases you order, the less they cost per piece. The general amount to begin with is 500 or 1,000. Compact disks cost from 80 cents to $2.00 each 500-1,000 Labels, covers and cases cost $500 Artwork costs between $250 to $1,500, depending on paper, photographs, graphics, colors, size of leaflet, etc. You need at least one hundred (100) demo CDs to send out with press packages to radio stations, booking agents, promoters and club owners. Your family and friends can be your best promoters. Fans will buy your product at gigs, only if you display them and remember to offer them to the audience. Always display your product during gigs. A professional DVD of your live performance is a necessity, today. Sales Tips: CDs sell from $10 to $20, depending on how much music is on them. Have friends and family buy 5 to 10 CDs as gifts for their friends Place your music on consignment at small record and book stores for a commission of $3-5 on each sale The library system will buy your music for each branch (10-30 copies) Lesser known distribution houses will buy 10 to 100 copies of your product at a reduced price Expose and sell your CDs and digital tracks on the Internet at sites like CDBaby.com, MP3.com, netradio.com, Cdnow.com, Amazon, Ebay and many more. Surf the net to find the appropriate venues for your product. Get a PayPal account. This is the best way to manage your own sales. You pay a little for the service, but it's worth it! SO, YOU WANT TO BE A SINGER? A manual for up-and-coming Divas, musicians and composers. Purchase the book at http://stores.lulu.com/divajc
  18. Scat-Singing Scat Singing, is merely improvising without words. We aim to approach it the same way as an instrumentalist. Scat Syllables are only to serve the punctuation of the line and I feel strongly that the melody and rhythm used over given chord changes dictate the syllables, not the other way around. The scat syllables flavour the rhythmic inflection synonymous with Jazz. As any good instrumentalist develops his/her language and vocabulary, singers must do the same. This comes from continual listening and transcribing. There isn't a shortcut. Harmonic and rhythmic elements must be studied, for example outlining the relevant scales and arpeggios, patterns and extensions of the chords using a variety of rhythms. Aural training plays a big part in this and because singers rely so much on their ears when it comes to improvising, developing a sense of pitch memory is essential. The more one develops the ear to hear certain sounds the more creative and interesting the improvisation will be. Some people have a natural tendency to hear the harmony and understand rhythmic concepts, but collating and assimilating the vast amount of information, displaying it in performance, on the spot, anticipation of chords, implying multiple chord changes, using altered extensions, interaction and reaction and being emotionally honest in the performance takes a lifetime to hone. Feel, articulation and flow are important factors to consider. All instrumentalists work on this constantly. Having observed vocal improvisers, I"ve noticed difficulties regarding these aspects when using scat syllables. The eighth note feel (continuous line) in particular, is the hardest to develop. Attaining smooth and relaxed swung eighth notes (for bop lines) demands consistent attention and practice Like woodwind and brass instruments we use our tongues to articulate sounds. We'll take for instance- ba (off beat) with the lips and doo (on beat) with the tongue. The off beat (ba) is often articulated too hard and the doo (on beat) is too short, this coupled with over- expressed and affected syllables presents problems with the flow and feel of the line and doesn't swing. I feel that scat singing should be conversational, an extension of the speaking voice, not laboured and over- exaggerated to the point where it is no longer musical. Finally, I'd like to add that in recent years, many have become aware of the marked increase of highly talented jazz vocal improvisers who continue to raise the level of this growing art form. These vocalists regard themselves as musicians and consider it a priority to develop their improvisational skills. It's also a reflection of dedicated Jazz vocal educators with improvising skills, on a mission to encourage the search for educational opportunities in this field.
  19. As a professional voice coach with solid voice training, I often check out the other voice coaches that are spouting how they can open your voice almost overnight. This should be your first red flag. Anyone, who understands the singing voice as an instrument, understands the mechanics of development and it does not happen overnight. Most of the body parts that contribute to the vocal instrument are muscles, including the vocal cords. Do you go to the gym and lift 100 lbs. more than you did the day before with some innovative technique or does it take a few weeks to stretch and build the muscle to accomplish this goal? The same can be said about the voice. Immediate results is their way of hooking you and reeling you in to their net. There are some key factors you MUST ask yourself when selecting a voice coach: Are they simply singers who have had no reputable training themselves passing on to you their bad habits and unsupported claims of how to improve your voice? Do they talk a lot about free singing or do they comment on more specific vocal techniques like nasal singing, controlling vibrato, phrasing, breathing correctly, ear training, and enunciation skills? Do they use the same training to develop the classical voice versus the pop singer or theatre voice? In other words, do they teach it all? Do they promise immediate results increasing your vocal range? Do they speak about their techniques in detail or are they vague and ambiguous? Do they have any formal training or experience with voice therapy or speech pathology? This is the screening process you must strictly adhere to when selecting a vocal coach. Your vocal cords are a sensitive and delicate instrument that must be used with care in an effort to avoid vocal strain, vocal ailments, and even long-term damage. I have witnessed individuals promote themselves as voice coaches and teachers who are completely inept. Choose wisely.
  20. The modern singer is a vocal athlete. Dancers and elite sports professionals know the importance of preparing the body correctly for performance. Vocalists need to be the same way! Just like the skeletal muscles should be systematically stretched before demanding usage, so should the muscles of the larynx that are involved in phonation. The principle of veisel dilation is the same- blood needs to nourish the muscles with oxygen to increase flexibility and decrease the chance of injury. DON'T SKIMP ON YOUR VOCAL WARMUP!!!! A singer should NEVER go into a lengthy rehearsal, recording session, or performance without a thorough warmup. It should last somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes to make sure that all the musculature is properly coordinated, with the head and chest registers easily connected and the full range engaged. Physical stretches are also helpful as are stretches for the tongue. I begin the vocal warmup with glissandi, or slides, either on a hum, 'oo', lip trill, or tongue trill. Either starting lightly in head voice and descending or sliding up easily from chest voice work well. The first scales will be on sounds that serve to stretch out the voice- lip trills, tongue trill, and the 'ng' sound. I use the octave and a half pattern and then into the mixed octave scale. These exercise sounds allow for a very effective warmup over a wide range without undue pressure and unwanted muscular interference. And they can be revisited throughout the day to keep the voice fresh. Now we move on to the dumb or crying sounds. These exercise syllables will help you balance good cord closure with efficient air flow- not too much, not too little. Use syllables such as 'mum', 'goog', 'bub', or 'wun' with a slightly exaggerated goofy sound. This will keep the swallowing muscles from pulling the larynx up and constricting the throat. Then change the sound from the dumber approach to more of a whimper or cry, bringing the larynx to a more natural, neutral position. This is not supposed to be a pretty sound. Its job is to deactivate those overactive swallowing muscles that interfere with easy tone production. Then, the ugly but invaluable pharyngeal sounds are employed. They were referred to as 'the witch's voice' in times past and that's exactly how you should sound!! No sounding pretty here!! With a bratty, witchy tone, we will use the syllables 'nay' and 'naa'. These sounds will allow again greater air flow and a produce a tone that is deceptively powerful but actually quite easy to make- no strain needed. The exercise allows a very easy, effiecient connection of the chest and head registers, creating the much needed middle voice or 'the mix' that is so important for most modern vocal styles. Remember, the goal is not prettiness. The ugliness in the exercises is helping to build a solid technique, so enjoy the chance to sound like a looney as you build a killer voice!! Once you have gotten through this portion of the warmup, you may move onto exercises that work on agility, sustains, and dynamics, but only after the voice feels loose and the cord closure is well coordinated with the breath. This is a map of the basics of the daily warmup. It will vary according to many factors, such as energy level, time of day, amount of sleep, the size of the voice, and many others. But this is a general approach that we will use as the core of regimen. It is very imporant to find a knowledgeable voice teacher to help you develop the proper routine for your voice and its unique demands. Remember, you are a vocal athlete and you must train with that idea in mind.
  21. Singing is one of the most important means of communication that we are blessed to experience. It is the means by which we express our innermost thoughts and feelings in a language shared by the whole world. We sing songs as worship...as symbols of patriotism...as words to inspire change...to amuse...to romance....to uplift. Often, it is forgotten how integral singing is to our existence. When at play, children seem to almost instinctively sing as part of their games. These same young voices are instruments capable of producing a wide array of tones and timbres. In order to access this wide range of sounds, though, the sounds produced at play are not enough. Proper training in healthy vocal production is needed. Recently, I have been asked quite a bit about the appropriate age to begin voice lessons for children. Parents realize that their kids have either an overwhelming enthusiasm for singing or some substantial native talent that they want to properly nurture. They just wonder if formal lessons are safe for the youngster to undertake and worth the financial investment. First of all, I stress that the most important issue with kids is their attention span and not the perceived talent level. I've had some clearly gifted 7 year olds come in but they did not have the focus and maturity that is needed. Once that is explained, I relay that I believe lessons can successfully begin at age 8. I have trained a couple of 7 year olds, though, because they had the requisite focus, attention span, and teachability in addition to natural musical instincts. As long as the training is based in healthy technical habits and applied correctly to songs, there are no inherent dangers. Many people wonder what young singers can actually learn in private voice lessons. Some have believed that their physically immature instruments cannot acquire any real technical skills until their voices fully develop at puberty. But I am one of many who work with kids on a regular basis who believe that these voices can develop quite a lot of facility if guided correctly. We must remember that singing is an intricate psychomotor skill, not so different from the learning of piano, dance, or athletic moves. It's all about the systematic training of correct muscle memory which builds healthy technique that will strengthen and protect the voice. And if the goal of vocal study is establishment of good vocal habits that will carry over into adulthood, vocal technique has to be of primary importance! Of course, this must be balanced with singing good songs, but it will be difficult to expand repertoire if the instrument is limited in the sounds it can produce. The very same technical issues that need to be taught to adult singers need to be taught to kids. The building of tone production practices is essential. Child singers need to develop the ability to produce tones without undue tension and restriction. They must be taught proper breathing techniques and good body posture and alignment. Range extension is still important for kids, even though it must be applied relative to their still-growing voices. Many of the exercises that I use with my adult clients are used in the sessions with my youngsters, though sometimes with modifications. I also make sure that I introduce them to correct terminology concerning how the voice is put together and how it works. They learn about head and chest voice, the larynx, vocal folds, diaphragm, and resonance. They need to start learning a singer's vocabulary from the start of their study. We are seeing some fine examples of superstar singers who have become elite vocal athletes because of some fantastic vocal training starting at a young age- Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland, Adam Lambert among others. It is a worthwhile investment to begin lessons with a child who has the love for singing coupled with a sense of focus and discipline. The teacher must have a great knowledge of vocal pedagogy and a personality that can provide a safe, nurturing environment for the young singer to embark on this great journey of singing study.
  22. Are singing exercises really mandatory? No, they are not. They are only mandatory if you want to become a successful singer with a long and important career. Sure, some singers may never have done a scale in their lives. But then again, some people win the Lottery with the first ticket they buy. Willie Nelson probably never warbled a mee-mee-mee in his whole life. (Only guessing here; I've never asked) But few people have the charisma and sincerity that we see in Willie. He is a poet who puts tunes to his poems when he reads them. For the rest of us, the answer to that question is a resounding "YES." Singing is an athletic endeavor. And just like any other athletic activity, in order to be most effective, a subtle combination of brain, body and voice needs to be coordinated. These elements should be awakened by singing exercises so they can work freely together. A singer needs to sing scales and exercises in order to practice the elements of the techniques they are learning in a "pure" form. By that, I mean, without being distracted by issues like words, rhythm and interpretation. This is the time a singer gets to totally concentrate on the body, brain and voice synergy. Singing exercises build a kind of muscle memory intended to allow the singer to forget about issues like breathing and support so they can concentrate on performance aspects when they are singing onstage or in the studio. It's too late to concentrate on breathing and support when you're standing onstage. That's when a singer must forget about the basics and perform. You have to rely on muscle memory. And the way to build that muscle memory is to do what every vocal coach hopes you will do, and that is to practice your exercises. Exercises. That sounds like a lot of work and not much fun, doesn't it? Well, you could be right, but think of them like you would physical training. Crunches aren't much fun either, but when you don't do them, it shows in your performance and in your body. Fabled violinist Jascha Heifetz made a good point when he said, "If I don't practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it." For singers, I recommend warm-ups that work like building blocks, starting with the number one, all-time fundamental building block, which is effortless breathing. If you get the breathing part right, you stand a good chance of doing well with the rest of it. If you fail to establish your breathing correctly you will always be off-kilter. The next step is to incorporate your method of support. Then focus on your resonating system and add it to the mix. I also recommend that as you go through your singing exercises, you begin with scales that are short and in a comfortable voice range for you. Build slowly by gradually lengthening the spread of the notes you sing and begin exploring the boundaries of both upper and lower registers. There is a temptation to view singing exercises as a mindless activity. Nothing could be farther from the truth. They are only worth doing if you concentrate on building a smooth working machine that incorporates body, brain, and voice. Record yourself and monitor your progress. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. To quote football coach Vincent Lombardi, "Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect!" Nashville vocal coach Renee Grant-Williams helped make stars out of many top artists: Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, Dixie Chicks, Miley Cyrus, Huey Lewis, Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, Jason Aldean, Christina Aguilera... Author of "Voice Power" AMACOM (NY), Renee offers insider's information via on-line lessons, to receive her free weekly video News Lessons and an eBook "Answers to Singers' 7 Most Important Questions."http://cybervoicestudio.com
  23. To expand a singer's range, vocal coaches must be prepared to explore every trick in the book. Everyone wants to hit better high notes. And there are many who want to improve, or simply phonate more audibly, their lower notes. It could be argued that there are far more important issues for a singer to conquer: rhythmic integrity, emotional communication, and a delicious understanding of when and how to use consonants, to name a few. But we singers love to fret about the high notes, so I am going to offer a few solutions about range, vocal quality and power that I hope will help. High notes come in all shapes and sizes and any one of them can strike terror into the heart of a hapless singer. Our usual reaction to that terror? We do everything we possibly can to make the situation worse. We panic. We sing too loud. We grimace. We stiffen up like mummies. Support and relax your jaw. When you stiffen and jam your jaw downward you are applying tremendous pressure to that area, which, in turn, constricts your throat and strangles your sound. Instead, use your lower body for support. Tuck your hips under your body and keep your knees loose, almost as if you were sitting on your tailbone. Then support your voice with lower-body strength. Use the same lower-body crouch you would use to lift a heavy chair. If that were the task, you would surely protect yourself by using the strong muscles of your legs and lower body. Sound loves movement. Freely move some part of your body to help keep it loose. Don't clench your fists and stiffen up. Wave your arms, move your head, do a Mariah Carey hand wave. She seems to sing whatever she draws in the air with her right hand. But, no, tapping your toe doesn't count. Keep a level head. Resist reaching up for the high notes. The note is not up there like a fly buzzing around. All you have to do is try this little experiment to see how reaching up with your chin strangles off the sound: Sing or hum a long note as you slowly dip your chin to your chest and then raise it upwards and let your head fall back. Go back and forth a few times. Do you see how tipping back chokes off the sound? Now, we've all seen great singers who seem to throw their heads back and let forth. But if you look carefully, most of them are arching back with their whole body. It's not that the head is arching back independently; the head is part of the support curve. Lighten up before you leap. Most high notes are written as high notes because they are important words and the writer expects them to stand out. But as you go higher in your range, vocal tension increases. Lighten up the volume of the two or three lower notes before the high note. You'll have less weight to carry and the high note will be easier to sing. Never ruin a potentially great high note by over-singing the 1-3 notes before it. Nobody is out there thinking, Wow, I wonder if she'll hit that middle note. No, they're all waiting to hear how well you sing the high note.
  24. Anyone who wants to master a skill is taught that practice makes perfect or perfect practice makes perfect or practice makes permanent. But practicing one's singing is uniquely difficult because it's such an invisible process and it can be challenging to know if you're succeeding or not. A piano player can see his fingers and a skier can time himself racing down a hill. Singing though is esthetic and subjective so it's hard to trust oneself. For how long should I practice? Should I do exercises and then songs? What's the optimal practice time? How do I know if I'm doing anything right? When I began my voice training, in the Dark Ages, my teacher recommended that I not practice. She was concerned that I would practice incorrectly (very likely) and that we'd have to redo rather than build. Made sense to me at the time! But I realize that new muscle memory takes practice and that if the teaching is clear, there's less chance of practicing wrong at home. Here then, is a list of my suggestions to help make practicing a thing of pleasure and satisfaction. Find a private place to sing. Not easy for those living in an apartment, I know, but the more private and undisturbed you can be, the less self-conscious you'll feel. Singing can sound loud and strange at times and you don't want to have to worry about people making fun of you by banging on the wall. Though singing in the car is not ideal, for some, it's the only reasonable private space. Just keep your hands on 10 and 2and eyes straight ahead while driving! Determine exactly what you need to focus on- + support exercises? watching yourself sing in the mirror to eliminate head tilting or chin lifting? + getting rid of chest breathing? holding long notes more comfortably? having consistently easy, non-strainy high notes? singing in tune? + vocal agility (speed and accuracy ornamental sections)? + high belting? + memorizing lyrics? + creating vocal riffs? + figuring out harmonies? working out performance gestures and moves? Notice I didn't mention warming-up exercises. Technical exercises and warm-up exercises can be two different things. Personally, I think that too many warm-up exercises can be tiring and sometimes less is more when it comes to warming up. The idea that one must warm-up for 20 minutes (or any exact amount of time) prior to a performance is unnecessary for many singers. Warm-ups should begin with stretching the body, creating good posture, reaffirming lower belly breathing then warming up the support jobs: chest up, ribs out, upper belly firming out, lower belly going in. This whole process should only take about three minutes. Then it's time to attach the vocal folds to the picture. I love the trill patterns: either lip trill or tongue trills. BUT, do not make the mistake of doing them loudly and carelessly. Start on your very lowest note and LIGHTLY do the trills to your highest note with great attention to your breathing and support jobs. I hear so many people doing the trills incorrectly and super-loud. That will over-pressurize your vocal folds and you'll be hoarse in no time. Humming is also a standard first warm-up for the vocal folds. Can't go wrong with humming. Sirens (smoothing sliding up and down) on hums and on vowels is another great, simple vocal fold warm-up. Never sing high and loud until you feel thoroughly warmed-up. 4) Do you ever accidentally do something amazing when singing and the bell of truth rings in your head? Don't let luck be your master! Follow what I call the Rule of Five. If you get lucky when experimenting and something AWESOME comes out of your mouth, REPEAT the phrase 5 times in a row perfectly. If you blow it, start over and aim for five perfect ones. It's a great method (if a bit obsessive-compulsive!) to make happy accidents into new behaviors. 5) When working on high, challenging passages, take the phrase down an interval of fourth then gradually take the phrase up in semi-tones. Take the passage ABOVE where you need to perform it. That will help trick your brain into thinking that the once-too-high passage is not so high after all. 6) When practicing a new and difficult technique (like belting to high C....with vibrato!), take a break every so often. Go and make yourself a sandwich, then come back and try again. Also try your new techniques in as many different locations as possible so your muscle memory remains no matter what the visual input might be. 7) Figure out if you're primarily a visual learner (reading sheet music, chord charts, or lyrics), a kinesthetic learner (singing by how it feels) or an auditory learner (hear it, sing it, know it). If you have a strong predilection for one type of learning, don't be too hard on yourself if other styles of learning seem really difficult. It's just the way your brain is built. 8) Don't practice until you get hoarse. Hoarse means swelling and that means it's time to stop singing. Pain should NEVER be experienced...nor tickling in the vocal folds. It is incorrect to think that pushing past the pain is ever a technique for strengthening the vocal folds. There should be no pain, ever. 9) The goal of practicing is to sing songs, not to do exercises perfectly. There are too many people out there who can sing their pants off on exercises but cannot sing a song to save their lives. Songs filled with feeling and magic are the goal. Practicing is only the foundation, not the goal. So include songs or difficult song fragments as part of your practice strategies. 10) Record yourself or consider having a professional ear (like a vocal coach with a lot of experience) monitor your progress every so often. Just to make sure your practicing does make perfect! Celebrity voice coach Lisa Popeil, MFA in Voice, is the creator of the Voiceworks® Method and the Total Singer DVD. www.popeil.com
  25. Let's be honest- voice lessons can be expensive!! In this tough economic climate, it becomes an even larger sacrifice to spend money on vocal training. For that reason, if you are making the investment, the vocal instructor you choose should be worth your hard-earned dollars. There are waaaaaay too many charlatans out there who are, in essence, ripping you off!! They are not leading you into vocal freedom and are nothing more than vocal cheerleaders. You should be making your teacher really work for the pay. I want to share with you some things to consider in terms of teacher accountability. First of all, let's be clear: If your vocal coach can't explain clearly and simply how the voice works, RUN IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!! A REAL teacher should be able to lead you into a working knowledge of your instrument. It is only when that happens that you will truly master your voice. He should be able to give you a purpose for any and every exercise that is given. I tell my students that if I don't give you the reason behind the vocalese, they can smack me. When the client is away from me, he will need to become self-sufficient and fend for himself on the road, in rehearsal, or in the studio. Knowing what exercises serve what purpose will keep you able to function on a daily basis. For too long, singers have been allowed to be the 'dumb' musicians, lagging behind their instrumentalist cohorts in knowing the nuts and bolts of their axe. A solid coach won't allow that. Beware of voice teachers who throw around trite directions like "sing from the diaphragm" and "place the tone forward", for example. This is often a sign that they have no clue as to what is pedagogically sound. Famed vocal coach Seth Riggs warns against such teaching by result instead of by cause and effect. They should be able to give specific exercises to bring the voice into balance. Teaching voice is an artful science and a scientific art. The scientific knowledge must be there. If not. move on to another teacher. A good voice teacher doesn't need to be the best singer you ever encounter, but if he can't sing, MOVE ON!!!! The coach should be able to demonstrate the concepts and exercises for their students. You should put the teacher on the spot. Ask her to sing through her passaggi or bridges. If she can't make easy transitions, she shouldn't be teaching you how to do it. The trainer should possess the technique that they claim to teach. By the way, a degree in voice doesn't guarantee that the voice teacher is truly qualified to be training other singers. There are a number of wonderful teachers may have degrees in music education, musical theater, or speech pathology. Also, don't be overly concerned with the piano skills of the coach. They need to able to play the exercises and chords, for sure. But their principal job isn't to be the accompanist. The main focus should be on your watching and listening to you as you vocalize and then move into song work. Set the bar high, folks. Don't throw your money away. Do your homework. Ask good questions. Audition the teacher. You will not regret the effort you put into the search when you find your voice growing into the instrument you've dreamed of having. SING OUT LOUD!!!!