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My audition and why the school might actually suck.

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This may be a bit in an inappropriate section and may in many ways be an inappropriate post and stuff, but meh... I'm pretty steemed about some stuff that happened in this audition and would like to share thoughts.

So I just got back from my audition in London for university (I shall not name which). Yadayadayada, I got in. I GOT IN!! I GOT IN!! Wyyaaaaaaayyy!! Go me!!! Wooo!!!

Okay, so I'm happy about that... But wow... after today, do I want to go there?

First off, I do the song they demand I do, 'Isn't she lovely' by Stevie Wonder and I do it acappella in the original key... a challenge and all, but I've been working on getting everything like the dipthongs and stuff right and all... It's fine. Not amazing, passable (obviously, as I passed). I'm not straining, I'm in a light mass phonation head voice (take note: HEAD VOICE). No belting, no shouting, no strain etc.

This lady, Kelly, she reckons she is called, is all like "Try it in your headvoice!". So I'm thinking "WTF!?!?!, I'm all about the head voice up in 'ere" (except not so gangsta style, that was purely for comical effect). So instead of being rude I politely ask "Please demonstrate what YOU [emphasis] mean by 'head voice'"

She proceeds to do falsetto and confidently tells me "Yes, that is headvoice".

Erm... so I'm pretty sure Robert addressed this in this video:


I mean, cummon! Anyway, I do it in my crappy falsetto which sounds awful. Females always seem to assume I can sing amazingly well in falsetto. It's like they forget that my male baritone voice is a bit different to their female soprano. Maybe they shouldn't be teaching guys, at least not in the same way they were taught to sing, which would obviously be inappropriate due to the physiological differences.

This has really put me off going to this place. I still will, but now only for the whole 'networking' side. They also drummed in the whole "Mixed voice is a thing what properly does exist and isn't just there as a device to line the pockets of Seth Riggs and his contemporaries, yay!!!"

... Again, addressed in the same video posted above, I do believe.

So more SLS stuff... W00p!!!! I got on OH SO WELL with that last time :/

Mental! At the open day they had a dude there, teacher he was, doing Audioslaves 'Show me how to live' clearly doing the same headvoice thing which wasn't falsetto. This school is more confused than the pokemon I used to have on my gameboy (if you get that reference then congratz, you are a 90's kid :P)

Also (this is kinda laughable) I mention that I've been attempting to use aryepiglottic constriction. To which the woman, who is head of vocals, replies "Well try not to get TOO technical..."

Excuse me, but 'what'? Am I wasting my time here?

So, you know, I was all politness and everything so as not to ruin my processing onto the course. But so far, not impressed.

Am I being some over reactive jerk person by disregarding all of this completely? Maybe. I don't mean to come off as that, but I'd rather not go somewhere where they have little to no idea what they are talking about.

I'm definitely not the greatest singer in the world, but I'm sure I understand these simple concepts which seem to have perplexed my 'superiors'.

If nothing else, I hope this was worth a giggle or something. Happy Chinese New Year!! :D

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If you can hold a note in your heady voice for 20 seconds you ARE in head voice.

Most people do use head voice over falsetto naturally. Falsetto is really airy and disconnected, you can't go very high with it or hold a note for more than like 10 seconds.

You have to build your head voice to make it sound good. It may sound weak now, but over time you'll get better at getting the right resonance, air flow, and compression to get the sound you're looking for.

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maybe she was just speaking what she thought was colloquially? Also, maybe she was asking you to not get too technical, because, although she can get technical as hell, she may not always agree with your technical jargon and is there to teach the technique she believes in and perhaps 'un-learn' some of your techniques?

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Hi Nathan. Firstly, congrats on passing, and on getting the improvements in your singing that enabled you to do that!

I can understand your uneasiness, because it seems like you've been having good success lately with TVS and don't want to go "back" to something that didn't work for you in the past. But no matter what happens in the school, your progress won't be erased, and neither will your knowledge of how you got the progress. Also, it's a university right? You're allowed to question and debate with the professors (at least in principle!).

I also think you might be reading too much into the head voice/mix stuff. It's all just labels. Some people just don't use the term head voice as broadly as Robert does - they reserve it for light, soft but not airy, and high sounds (= CVT neutral without air in the middle-high part of the voice). Also, whether "mix exists" is not really an empirical question. Mix is pretty much defined as "what Stevie Wonder does", so by definition it exists. I know you have bad associations with the term (so do I) but it doesn't necessarily mean that they can't teach you anything.

That said, they might indeed suck.:) I guess you'll never know unless you try.

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Nate, Congratulations, we worked hard on that audition and you won because of your coaching. As I said, I know the school well and its an important school. I have to say as your coach, stop your bitchin and just be thankful your in.... oh, and welcome to the world of singing teachers, singing techniques and singing schools. Another TVS student knocks it out of the park, thats great dude... go buy yourself a brewski and be glad you get to go to school and are not cleaning chimneys.

BTW, this video above is not my video on "mixed voice is dead" that seemed to get a lot of mixed up people in a ruffle. (haha, I LOVE it!)... I knew my "mixed voice is dead" video would cause a sensation. Personally, I think its funny. In my composition, "mixed voice is dead" you will note, that I never said there wasn't a unique resonant sensation from E4=G4 approx. (for men), never made that claim... what I said was the term "mixed voice" is confusing to students of singing and in doing so, simply exposed the white elephant in the room that so many people wont say anything about. I know what they mean by "mixed voice" and Kelly probably knows what it means... we understand it is referring to the unique resonant sensation we feel low and in the back of the head through the passagio and on to approx. G4 in men... but students dont know this and frankly, many teachers dont know it either, those that cant bridge properly. Student think that "mixed voice" means you are singing half in your chest voice and half in your head voice (WRONG!) or there is some mystery 3rd register between chest and head (ASLO WRONG!)... thats the problem with "mixed voice". Anyways, I digress... but you have to understand, as one of my students, two things will happen. 1). You will always sound amazing and have great technique that will accelerate your progress compared to your peers and 2). Your going to be bucking old conventions and beliefs sometimes and those that hang to them, get a little pissy when you invite them to reconsider what they have believed to be true for so many years, such as, Falsetto and Head Voice dont mean the same thing... which is what the video above is about.

I dont know why she had you sing in Falsetto? Maybe there was a good reason for it, but I cant think of what that was... I agree with you, it seems stupid. Sounds like she was trying to prove a point to you, but what point she was trying to prove, i do not know? That she and you can both phonate in a lame Falsetto mode? Whats the point?

It doesnt matter Nate, you passed the test... they cant deny that you sounded great on that song and they have to let you in. I loved that you asked her to demonstrate what she means by head voice and she sings in Falsetto... dude, that is classic and pretty ballsy too... they could of disqualified you for getting snappy with the jury, not really the smartest thing to do... but it shows moxie. Nate, thump your chest and say, "Buffalo Hunt"! Totally cool... They may not of liked your little attitude, but you were so good, they had to let you in... Yep, must be my student, Good, but with a little too much attitude. LOL!!

You did great, Im proud of you... now keep turning heads at that school and stick to your guns but also play their game. Dont go around pissing people off if you can help it.

BTW... this is the "mixed voice is dead" video.


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Congrats, and...

Maybe your head voice is strong and even with your chest, and she was expecting a dramatic change between the two or something. Not as light and fragile as she thought. Or maybe she just likes falsetto and cannot dare to imagine the world without it. I'm fairly certain there is something good to take there regardless.

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Well, Nate, congratulations. I know you fought long and hard to get there. And if you stick with, you will have some credentials. And yes, it's disconcerting that you probably know some newer things than your teachers, there. However, if you "play the game," it will, as you noted, increase your networking.

Case in point. In 1988, I was studying Tae Kwon Do and Aiki-jujutsu. Our instructor had to leave for vacation (well earned) and left a few of his long time friends in charge. They taught the moves in a way that was markedly different than his. So, I started copying their moves. All of a sudden, by the time he got back, I had drastically "improved." No, I was just doing it the way his friends did it, they liked, and told him I improved. What does that say about him? Or them? In the end, I got a belt rank out of "playing the game." Belts mean nothing. But that's a whole 'nother story.

Geoff Tate sang some choir. And he had six lessons from David Kyle. Mick Jagger is a multi-millionaire. As is Sir Paul McCartney.

So, this might be one of those cases where it's better to just nod at the appropriate moments, do your thing. And, of course, they will think their instruction brought you to whatever level. It's that or go out and become a rock star and make way too much money. Not that all rock stars started out that way. Gordon Sumner taught English Lit and acted in a few movies before he got with Stewart Copeland. Most people know him as Sting.

Roger Love mentioned a young brit who sang some, didn't write his own songs, didn't play a musical instrument, didn't have any nice qualities such as a light, airy headvoice that could be expanded. He passed on training him. That punkish young brit was Billy Idol. Point being, if some of these guys without credentialed training could make, so can you. And you will, with this school, and after this school.

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Congratulations! You set a goal, worked diligently for it, and achieved it. Way to go!

As to the suggestion from the teacher, you'll get that sort of stuff in any audition or jury, a question without any context, or someone wanting to hear thus-and-such a tone. Though its uncomfortable, its also an opportunity to learn, and to dialogue.

I thought you did well to ask for an example, but if that ever happens again, ask for one of the male teachers to give the example. Female singers do not produce head voice that sounds the way a man's voice does. :-) Alternatively, rather than ask for a demo, you could ask a clarifying question that is based on the knowledge you already have. This puts you into conversation with them, which is highly advantageous for you. Here is what I mean...

There are many tone qualities that can fall under the category of 'head voice'. Its one of the weaknesses of the term, that it gets used to mean so many things. Because of this, its completely reasonable to say something like... 'I know that there are many different kinds of tone quality that can be called that. Which color of head voice do you mean... Operatic, rock, English Counterenor or something else? '

Admittedly, you may not have learned how to do that yet. There are many fine male singers that never ever have a falsetto, or that lose it with training. Not as often for Baritones or basses, but for tenors it happens all the time, especially if they have a 'late' voice change, more like a drift down than a crash.

As ronws said, part of this is a game, but the savvy student, with just a few strategies, can work the system to enormous advantage. Specifically in this case, to the Classically trained, some colors of male head voice are nearly indistinguishable from falsetto. Falsetto with twang is a very convincing substitute for head voice, and a well-disciplined soft head voice without twang sounds very much like falsetto. Being in dialogue with teachers about terminology and the sounds that go with them is very useful, regardless.

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There are many fine male singers that never ever have a falsetto, or that lose it with training. Not as often for Baritones or basses, but for tenors it happens all the time,.....

congrats nate!

steve, this passage above i feel was happening to me (losing falsetto)..would you be kind enough to explain why this might be happening?

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Thanks for all of the kind words guys. I appreciate it a lot and have worked damn hard to get here.

Next goal: I have until September to make myself the best damneds singer who ever walked through those doors =D

Matt: I'm not sure if she was or not. It wasn't just her though, which was worrying. I spoke to two of the vocal people, one was an auditioner, the other was the head of vocals who went over things like course logistics and payment and all that junk. This second person never heard me sing but she had the report from the first... I dunno... Maybe she knows better.

Eggplant: that's totally it! My first ever teacher was an SLS instructor. This was at a time when I didn't know there were even different vocal techniques... I thought it was all the same (I bet we all did when we started out).

2 years of wasted earnings and time saw very little progress with her. I think the only minor progress I did make was purely due to my increasing confidence whilst singing and not any of her actual technique... I wish I had started with a different methodology... Or at least a better teacher.

So now when I'm potentially going to be reverted to that SLS stage... Yeah... Not cool.

I'll just play the game and do my own work in 'secret' then come out and totally own!

(I dunno how 'secret' I can keep screaming C5's all over the place)

I know it's all just labels and stuff... But if they use confusing terminology now... What is the rest going to be like? You know?

Rob: Couldn't have done this without you dude!! All of the advice you gave me definitely helped.

Ah, confused the videos around...

Well after that happened she got me to sing a range exercise and around G4 said "Try singing it in headvoice"... Once again, already was but okay I'll bite. So I did that in falsetto. I didn't mind that so much because it was just her trying to establish what sort of range I had, despite what voice type I use (apparently it's 3 octaves... Cool, right?).

Hahaha, I wasn't being rude when asking her for the demo, I just wanted clarification. She was cool with demonstrating. I'll save some of this 'moxie' (great word by the way) for the stage! Act like a BADASS BRITISH ROCKSTAR and things :D

(I need to develop a cockney accent for sh*ts and giggles)

I look forward to our next session sometime next week.

Ronron: Yeah, I considered the possibility that I just didn't appear to break. I didn't break, even during that range exercise where at the G4 she said to sing in "Headvoice" *cough*falsetto*cough*. So maybe. But she did say, quote: "sounded shouty"... But I know it wasn't. I guess, as you said, it simply wasn't the soft "Hello I'm Justin Timberlake" sound she expected.

Ronws: Thank you buddy :) Your posts are always a great inspiration. Didn't know that about Billy Idol. I guess it goes to show really that what people enjoy is sometimes more important than what is technically amazing. I find myself telling this to my guitarist best friend all of the time... He is of the thought that everything has to be overly complicated and technically amazing... Which most of the best guitar riffs and solos actually aren't. Bloody musical snobbery ;)

Steven F: I also owe you a massive thanks for the help you have given me recently. I've seen more improvement in the past few months than I have in my whole time before learning the techniques you showed. I owe you greatly. I can see your point as to why they'd want to see my falsetto, it's just them confusing terminology that made me uncomfortable. Maybe I'm being pedantic. They did mention that it needs strengthening, which I guess translates into "We'll strengthen that out", so I look forward to that too.

Would have definitely asked a male teacher to give me an example had one been present. I had actually hoped the person who did my assessment would have been the teacher who sang 'Show me how to live' at the open day. That would have been badass! I am very hopeful that I get to have him as one of my teachers whilst there. You know, I wouldn't be surprised if he trains with TVS. His mic technique was just as Rob showed me, definite twang use, amazing headvoice on that chorus. An incredible performance. Also, as Rob mentioned, he has history with the school, notably in getting them a sponsorship deal with TC Helicon. The dude was actually using one of the TC Helicon pedals during the performance... It did make me think 'How much of this is him and how much is the pedal doing?' a bit... But it was a great performance anyway. Wish I knew his name to see if anyone had heard of him before or anything... No matter.

Also, what you said about losing falsetto totally makes sense. I hadn't done falsetto in so long that when I realised I'd have to sing in it, it took me a couple of seconds to remember how to do it. First time I accidentally did headvoice again, lol! So, whilst I've not lost it, not having used it in a while meant I'd momentarily forgotten how to do it. I actually consider that a good sign, from a bridging standpoint.

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Steven F: I also owe you a massive thanks for the help you have given me recently. I've seen more improvement in the past few months than I have in my whole time before learning the techniques you showed. I owe you greatly. I can see your point as to why they'd want to see my falsetto, it's just them confusing terminology that made me uncomfortable. Maybe I'm being pedantic. They did mention that it needs strengthening, which I guess translates into "We'll strengthen that out", so I look forward to that too.

You are kind, Nathan, but you and Robert did the heavy lifting, the real work. All I really did was add another voice of encouragement, a slightly different perspective, and Skype at you a bit :-)

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Regardless Steve, you continue to be a fantastic help to me.

Lol Fridix... I was born in Southern England... So I don't even get the cool Manchester or Liverpool accent singing props. I just, as Paul Rudd marvellously put it in Forgetting Sarah Marshall; "SAND LARK ARM FRAM LANDAN!!!" =]

Have you heard Liams new band Beady Eye? Surprisingly good... Ya know... for Liam ;)

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Ronws: Thank you buddy :) Your posts are always a great inspiration. Didn't know that about Billy Idol. I guess it goes to show really that what people enjoy is sometimes more important than what is technically amazing. I find myself telling this to my guitarist best friend all of the time... He is of the thought that everything has to be overly complicated and technically amazing... Which most of the best guitar riffs and solos actually aren't. Bloody musical snobbery ;) .

Tell your friend that the greatest guitar solo that everyone and their aunt will hum to is the solo in "Stairway to Heaven, running at about half the time signature of the drums and bass line. Listen to that song and follow the meter, which really doesn't change throughout the song. All that changes in the dramatic ending is the beats per note of the drums, bass, and rhythm guitar track. It is a lazy, slow amble around the blues scale at the fifth fret.

Now, ask anyone, even a devoted guitar fiend, to hum any of Yngwie Malmsteen's rippers that have something like 1/132 notes. Listen to the ensuing silence. Nothing against Malmsteen and he has learned to slow it down in recent years. Because technically awesome is not always what is needed. Memorable and linked to the melody, that is what is needed.

As for your experiences with the audition and follow-ups, it's also possible that they don't usually get singers of your caliber. Probably most of their students can only do a little bit of falsetto. It wouldn't matter if you came in and did a Stryper cover, "you still need work." You might end up doing the same thing at the finish of school as you did at the audition yet they will say you have improved. Just the same, enjoy what you can at the school. You will, indeed, learn a few things, probably a load of musical theory, which will always help. And if you end up wanting to teach voice, having a solid credential helps.

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Interesting commentary on Yngwie... Back "in the day"... in the 80s when Yngwie first hit the scene, you will note that he always had great vocalists. Dont buy Ynqwie Malmsteen albums for the guitar chops or the amazing song compositions, buy them to hear the amazing vocalists he worked with; Grhamm Bonnett, Mark Boals, Jeff Scott Soto and Joe Lynn Turner!

To me, Yngwie Malmsteen has always meant, "great vocalists"... as for his chops? Well their great too... if you want to hear the best balance between sweeping arpepgios that blaze, but have nice phrasing and are tastely, listen to his solos when he was in the band "Alcatrazz" with Graham Bonnett on the album "No Parole from Rock n' Roll". Here, Yngwie struck a balance of tastey phrasing with the blazing... after this album, he went solo and then the solos were a lot more just about blazing only.

Here is a great take from that Alcatrazz album with Graham Bonnett on vocals and Yngwie playing blazing arpeggios that are also tastily phrased.

You younger guys are clueless on who Graham Bonnett I think... bone up!

Here is another from that same album, live with Graham Bonnett:

This is "Jet to Jet" with Jeff Scott Soto singing, from the same album...


Some people like to make fun of the 80s... truth is, if you want to find great rock vocals... pretty much start with a trickle in the 70s and dive into the 80s when rock vocals were about range and power... then the grunge era hit and it suddenly wasnt cool to sing in pitch with range and power... in 90s it became cool to basically not demonstrate technical chops and if you did as a singer, you were called a "Tater Tot" in Seattle... very sad... thankfully, I think we are getting past that attitude. More and more, my students are looking for the range, power and in doing so, require real technical skills.


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Believe it or not, I have some Yngwie albums. And yes, he usually used other singers. Except for his album of cover tunes, where he played the songs that influenced him. For example, he did the singing himself on Purple Haze.

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