I was reading a piece, several weeks ago, by a teacher of acting-who has had a remarkable career-reminiscing about his years working with a multitude of promising young talents, some of whom had risen to prominence ... and wondering if the techniques he had taught them were at the core of their respective successes. As I read his comments, I personalized them, relating to the teaching of voice, which I have been doing these many years. And then-coincidentally-my Audio/Visual Engineer, Henri Campo sent me the note below that appeared on my Facebook page.
“From 1979 thru 1980 in New York City, Richard helped me to find my true voice, for which I am forever grateful. After living my dream on stage over the next 10 years, I still use my voice and am living a new dream, helping & teaching people how to live their dreams by accessing their inner voice. Life just keeps getting more & more interesting and wonderful. Hope you are well, Richard”
Patricia V. Scott
Wow ... that’s few years ago ... but, I remember Patti as a lovely young soprano with an exciting gift, who was a joy to teach.
I enjoy many a moment in virtually every lesson I teach, as we work through the disparate vocal lines and phrases in opera (Italian, French, German, Russian), musical theater in English, Spanish Love songs (Historia de un amor) pop music, stopping and fixing or adding a nuance ... any number of things. The joy comes, when my student arrives at the nuanced sound in his head-on a given note or phrase-that translates to the sound I want to hear, as the audience! Then I play it back on the tape recorder, the first way he/she sang it and then ... the second time having employed my suggested correction or nuance. That’s kinda where some of the best “magic” takes place.
Do you remember the first time you heard the playback of a recording of yourself? Your first thought was-think back-“I don’t sound like that ... that’s not my voice!”
(I have to add an editorial observation here. When I was learning to sing ... they didn’t have tape recorders, or any reasonable alternative. That didn’t come along until Norelco put out the first table top cassette player, in 1962, one that everyone could afford ... and learning to sing became a lot easier ... because you could finally hear every note you sang, immediately and begin making adjustments to make it better. Most of you have grown up from the age of one or two, with all kinds of toys that made recordings. So maybe it wasn’t as big a shock to you, as it was to me when I first heard myself.)
When you start singing you don’t think about the “way” you hear yourself; your inputs are bone conduction, water conduction (the body is 60% water), inner ears, and outer ears-after the sound goes out and into your ears.
That is a different sound that the tape recorder gives back and is a bit confusing, but you get used to it, with consistency. The teacher’s job is to get you used to making a “different” sound that comports with what she/he wants and that you-and your audience-ultimately find pleasing.
I don’t know why it is, but it always takes new students a significant time to appreciate how valuable the tape recorder is!!! IT CAN TAKE YEARS OFF YOUR TRAINING ... when used properly.
Here are a couple of rules, you might try, to make the bonding with your machine a really positive affair:
1. When playing back something you’ve sung, ALWAYS play it back at least three times. Explanation: The first time you play it back, you are playing it remembering how you MEANT to sing it. It will probably sound pretty doggone good. Play it the second time. This time you are a little further away-time wise-from the first time you heard it ... and maybe, just maybe, this time you heard a little something that was ... uh ... er ... a little amiss. So, you play it a third time and you just might hear ... what you really did, and kinda missed the first two playings i.e.:
Did you come in smack dab on pitch, center of the vowel focused ... going somewhere? Or were you maybe just a little under pitch, slid into it, maybe a little under-energized, you maybe forgot to lift every high note and maybe sagged a little on the last note ...because you forgot to “lift and grow!” Perhaps you’ll hear a few more little things if you play it a fourth time ...
2. OK ...Record it again. Now, given what you heard a few minutes ago, are there a few things you can “make better,” by thinking about singing “a line way over there” ... by connecting the vowels ... without thinking about going up or down to the notes on the page ... just let your “tongue” may the pitches and the vowels ... just singing way over there ... being sure to lift and grow on the last note. (Refer to my first Tip about how to do this, in Breathing/Support, Aug 2007!)
3. Repeat #1
4. Record it again. Listen, listen, listen ...Now, wasn’t that better? (Give yourself a moderate pat on your head.)
Now this time, you might actually remember that your JOB IS TO KEEP THE SOUND GOING SOMEWHERE! (That part ain’t easy!) A BIG HINT; Always sing the first note of every phrase, LONGER THAT WRITTEN-you’ll even it out as you go-to hit the center of the vowel, in the HONK (nasal pharynx) and flow through the phrases, lifting and growing on every high note, remembering to lift and grow ON THE LAST NOTE OF EVERY PHRASE ... so that you can pop and rest!!! Ya got that? Any confusion! I have written everything I know about singing in these Tips of the Month.
There are about 60 or more Tips ... I promise you a NUGGET (at least one) in every Tip.
Here’s one for free; sing VOWEL TO VOWEL ... What about the consonants and diphthongs, I hear a plaintive cry in the wilderness ... ALWAYS HIT THE CENTER OF THE VOWEL and the consonants and diphthongs are always on the beginning of the next syllable ... always!!!
One last note; NEVER, OH NEVER try the above while wearing headphones! You must
be able to hear your sound relative to the ambience of your room/studio/theater.