zijin_cheng

Possible? Learning Vocal Technique FIRST, then learning to add emotion later

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Hello all, I am currently taking Bel Canto singing lessons with an instructor, and she has been teaching me vocal technique and giving me exercises to get more in touch with my emotions so I can draw them out and use them in singing.

 

Learning Vocal Technique and Adding Emotions Separately?

I originally wanted lessons so I could improve my vocal technique and use my vocal organs to their maximum ability (and sing healthily) so I was a little surprised by the addition of emotion, as I had thought that adding emotion comes after you learn how to sing properly.

 The instructor trains all her students with stardom as the goal, and says that learning vocal technique and emotion go hand in hand, you cannot learn one first then the other if you want to be a good singer. She said that if I wanted to learn technique first then emotion, she is not the teacher for me as in her opinion that just doesn’t work (or is a rather half-assed attempt at becoming a singer).

 

What's your Opinion?

I have zero experience with singing and don’t even know anyone I could ask about this (cept for the internet), and to a layman’s mind, it seems logical that you could learn vocal technique first then learn how to sing with emotion later just like learning an instrument.

 So, is she right?

 

Side Question

Let’s say that my interest in singing ranges from singing broadway like Les Mis, Chinese pop songs, and Oratorios like Handel’s Messiah. Can I train to sing all those genres in their appropriate styles, or is it impossible to do that?

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I would stick with the teacher. Most of the things regarding "Technique" is what your body does naturally when expressing emotion. The problem comes in when we "TRY" to be emotional or "TRY" to sing.  You can over-do technique and lack character and end up sounding boring even when you are nailing every pitch and tone.

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Depends on what that means. If the idea is replacing technical training with  "emotions", as in depending on feeling something to sing as you intend, that's a problem.

However, there is this aspect that is not easy to convey and perhaps it's what she wants:

On every thing you do, you have two ways to approach it. You can do things intuitively, or, you can do it rationally.

For example, say you have two boxes full of objects, and you want to tell which one has more objects.

You can just glance, evaluate the contents and take a shot at guessing the answer, with a certain probability of getting it right, you will use your intuition.

Or, you can sit down, and *count* everything inside each box, and have an exact answer. That's a more rational approach to the problem.

Now, if you are an engineer or an accountant, that first approach might not be the best way to do it eh? hehe

But on creative arts, we need the intuitive process more than anything else, because it is this type of approach that will give you freedom and allow you to express yourself better. And we need it because it's fast and does not depend on consciously evaluating everything.

It may seem bad because it's not very accurate, but the good thing is that by failing and trying again, and again, you get better at doing tasks intuitively (and in fact you learned quite a lot of them as a child, all the things you do that you are not even aware).

And that may be what your teacher wants to get you more into. It's common with people that are rational, and very intelligent, to try to break down problems and solve it in pieces. For example trying to count and measure every interval and duration of the notes they will sing. Which believe it or not is associated with a decrease in performance.

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Great response Felipe.

The problem with this question is that it feels like a question that would or should never be asked in the first place. You need BOTH. You need to train techniques.. techniques that hasten the strengthening and motor skills process. Emotion on the other hand sort comes naturally. I suppose you can practice feeling emotion and interpretation, but ultimately in the end, you just will be natural in this regard.

Train and pay attention to both at the same time. It really isn't something you do "first" and then something you do "second". Just do both.

 

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11 hours ago, Felipe Carvalho said:

Depends on what that means. If the idea is replacing technical training with  "emotions", as in depending on feeling something to sing as you intend, that's a problem.

However, there is this aspect that is not easy to convey and perhaps it's what she wants:

On every thing you do, you have two ways to approach it. You can do things intuitively, or, you can do it rationally.

For example, say you have two boxes full of objects, and you want to tell which one has more objects.

You can just glance, evaluate the contents and take a shot at guessing the answer, with a certain probability of getting it right, you will use your intuition.

Or, you can sit down, and *count* everything inside each box, and have an exact answer. That's a more rational approach to the problem.

Now, if you are an engineer or an accountant, that first approach might not be the best way to do it eh? hehe

But on creative arts, we need the intuitive process more than anything else, because it is this type of approach that will give you freedom and allow you to express yourself better. And we need it because it's fast and does not depend on consciously evaluating everything.

It may seem bad because it's not very accurate, but the good thing is that by failing and trying again, and again, you get better at doing tasks intuitively (and in fact you learned quite a lot of them as a child, all the things you do that you are not even aware).

And that may be what your teacher wants to get you more into. It's common with people that are rational, and very intelligent, to try to break down problems and solve it in pieces. For example trying to count and measure every interval and duration of the notes they will sing. Which believe it or not is associated with a decrease in performance.

Hey Felipe, thanks for the reply. Seems like you hit one of the nails on the head, breaking stuff down just seems like the logical thing to do. 

However, what you say does jive with what my instructor says, don't think too much when singing, aim for 75% output, and she will trick me into doing the correct thing instead of just telling me because that would be worse. 

Also, please see the reply I give Robert below for more info.

10 hours ago, Robert Lunte said:

Great response Felipe.

The problem with this question is that it feels like a question that would or should never be asked in the first place. You need BOTH. You need to train techniques.. techniques that hasten the strengthening and motor skills process. Emotion on the other hand sort comes naturally. I suppose you can practice feeling emotion and interpretation, but ultimately in the end, you just will be natural in this regard.

Train and pay attention to both at the same time. It really isn't something you do "first" and then something you do "second". Just do both.

 

I agree, even as a layman I can tell that emotions are an integral part of singing. However, the instructor is giving me exercises to get more in touch with my emotions that have nothing to do with singing and I'm uncomfortable doing that with anyone but a family member or close friend.

I asked whether I could just focus on vocal technique first, then do the emotional stuff later and she said it comes hand in hand.

???

Side note, she does give me exercises like "sing this line happy", "sing this line sad" and these exercise I practice and agree with as being part of the training. But getting in touch with my feelings? Dunno, seems weird to me.

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19 minutes ago, zijin_cheng said:

I agree, even as a layman I can tell that emotions are an integral part of singing. However, the instructor is giving me exercises to get more in touch with my emotions that have nothing to do with singing and I'm uncomfortable doing that with anyone but a family member or close friend.

I asked whether I could just focus on vocal technique first, then do the emotional stuff later and she said it comes hand in hand.

???

Side note, she does give me exercises like "sing this line happy", "sing this line sad" and these exercise I practice and agree with as being part of the training. But getting in touch with my feelings? Dunno, seems weird to me.

I am not sure of what kind of exercises she would have you do to "Get in touch with your emotions". But, just as in Roberts explanation of the physiology of the "Cry"  in your voice, emotional reactions trigger different positions in the vocal tract. Happy and joyful will lift the soft palate and brighten the voice. When you are sad and lonely, the vocal tract tends to set up a lighter, softer sound. An outburst of laughter will open the vocal tract and trigger other muscle involvement. When you are angry the folds tend to tighten a little more and give you more vocal fold compression, and a deeper fuller sound. These things happen naturally with a spontaneous emotional reaction. 

For me the "Use of emotions" is a way to control muscles that you cannot see and are usually beyond "Physical" control.

Training technique is pretty much giving you the ability to control the different positions even though an emotional response did not trigger them,  and getting you to know which aspects are needed for a given task(tone, pitch,volume, dynamic....).

Sitting in your room and pretending to yell across the street to someone who is headed for trouble is way different than having to really yell to someone who is in the path of a speeding vehicle. The response triggers things you are not even aware of. Becoming aware of them lets you start using them on purpose.

 

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6 hours ago, zijin_cheng said:

I agree, even as a layman I can tell that emotions are an integral part of singing. However, the instructor is giving me exercises to get more in touch with my emotions that have nothing to do with singing and I'm uncomfortable doing that with anyone but a family member or close friend.

Right then, the way I see it, it crosses the line. If it has nothing to do with singing then it's not the job of a singing instructor/teacher/coach.

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I am glad you saw this... Like I said in the video. The MAIN reason some voice coaches do this , is simply because:

1. They don't have a clue how to teach you what you want to learn, and that typically is the hard stuff, such as bridging the vocal break and singing in the head voice register with a full voice. It is SUPER hard to figure out how to do it and to teach it and most coaches can't do either one. So instead of admitting to you and themselves that they can't help you with the #1 thing you really want, need and desire... , which they can't do because they are trying to make a living as a "voice coach", they displace their limitations onto the students. It protects them from exposure and from having to face their own lack of abilities. I imagine that it usually subconscious behavior, it isn't something they are completely aware of. Because the simple fact is... if you are a teacher that can teach these skills, you would do it. You would demonstrate it. You would advertise it. You would ensure your student that you can do it. If you use logic, the conclusion as to why they would say this is obvious.

2. Less likely, but I do think happens sometimes.... They are envious. Envious of your youth, your ambition, your opportunities in the music world that they passed by and if your actually good and have talent... envious of that too.

Run like hell if you hear this...

 

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Haha thanks for all your replies. In fact, the reason why I asked this question is because I told her I was uncomfortable about those emotion exercises, and she told me that she would not teach me as this was "part of the package". She also said that I would have to find a new teacher if I didn't accept, which I won't.

I'm currently searching for singing teachers near my house and have found someone else and will start lessons in about 2 weeks (also half price of the previous one!). The weird thing was that she wouldn't give me any recommendations for any other teachers.

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Welcome to the forum Zijin, I guess if you are faced with an ultimatum, accept my terms or go, the only thing to do is go. It may be an indication that the teacher doesn't even know why the emotional part is important.

I tried to give a couple of clues as to why it could help. I am also one who does not like to show emotions to other people, or rather I do not like to lose control of them in front of other people.In singing, part of what gives you the power and stamina is learning to "Control" the energy produced by raw emotion and the physical "Setup" that is a result of an emotional state.

It is a tool. Especially for those of us who try to maintain a calm, cool, collected appearance.  How are you going to sing a loud powerful high note if you do not let yourself go enough to achieve it?  

Sure, there are other ways teachers can explain or guide you to a configuration.....Lift the soft palate, show your teeth, add support, compress your air supply, compress the vocal folds, project.....or they can say. "Zijin, remember when that teacher told you she cannot teach you if you do not accept her terms?"  "Remember the frustration that you had at that moment and you wanted to tell her to take her lessons and shove it?" "Go into your closet or outside or in a field and tell her to "Take your lessons and shove it". Chances are good that if you said ,in frustration, "Take your lessons and shove it",  You just had your soft palate lifted, Your canines showing, a good compression of the air supply , your vocal folds were compressed and you were most likely projecting pretty good. And you did not have to think about anything but telling her off. 

 

Now, remember, This type of exercise would be for you to discover HOW your vocal tract and body FEEL, physically so you can reproduce it WITHOUT the emotion. Does not mean that you have to emotionally feel the same when singing or speaking or whatever. Just gives a way that you can access the energy and coordination that results from the Frustration or anger or hopelessness or sadness whatever....

Chances are also good that if you are one who keeps a calm composure, when you sing....you are using too little energy.

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Interesting, many (if not all) of you seem to agree that those emotion exercises are weird and that finding a new teacher is the next step. 

I also like MDEW's explanations about emotions in singing, much more transparent and logical than what my now previous teacher used to say, whether out of habit or pure snake oil.

 

Finally, I went for a trial lesson with a new singing teacher, and it was a bit scary. I felt like I was walking into a russian mafia den straight out of the movies, replete with heavy double curtains, a dark room with orthodox style candlesticks, and a teacher who wouldn't look out of place as a russian thug fighting Jason Bourne. Lol.

The teacher is a belcanto opera singer from Moscow, and the first thing he did was check my range, and immediately start talking about head voice, chest voice, and told me that he heard some notes where I had a good mix of both, and he knew what to do. I"m excited to start, and would like to thank you all for being involved in this conversation.

If you have any tips or things I should look out for when starting with this new teacher, I would appreciate it!

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