Monday, April 28, 2008


Below are the answers to questions for which I participated to help out a student doing a project for school:

1. In your own words, define what singing means to you.

Singing means being able to artistically and musically communicate with an audience while expressing creativity and doing it in such away that there is an exchange between myself and the audience. I give them a song and my attention and they give me attention and a response, when I am finished, and sometimes even before that. It is a very personal "gift", if you will, in both directions.

2. What are the education requirements? (courses you need to take, degree, etc.)

Many great singers have had little or no education. Many great singers have studied voice, either at the university level or in private study. Most singers, who we perceive as amateurish or are "not great" have problems of which they may or may not be aware. The deficiencies can be either a single problem or multifactorial but will lie in one of the following: vocal technique, musicianship, artistry, appropriateness of style, talent, or the level of ability of interfacing and working with others.

Many great singers have studied music in high school and college. All universities are not the same, by any stretch of imagination, and each has its own stylistic bent. Berklee School of Music in Boston, MA is quite different from Juliard or Eastman School of Music. Many universities are geared toward making educators instead of performers.

3. What tasks or jobs are performed?

Singing, sight singing, live performance, recording the voice. Some singers are also required to move and/or dance, such as in most stage performance. Some singers are also songwriters. Some are also arrangers.

4. What is a typical day of work like?

A singer at a theme park has a work day much different from a singer in a Las Vegas show or a singer on Broadway. A typical day would include individual practicing, rehearsals are a possibility, performance may include makeup and costumes. Prior to the performance there is usually some nervousness but afterwards is usually a great sense of accomplishment beyond many other "jobs". A "job" in a theme park can mean having to be present for an eight hour shift but not singing for those eight hours. Shows, once set, usually require no rehearsal after the show is running but there are exceptions to that, A person in a show may have the entire day free and only have to arrive early for the show and is free to do whatever afterwards.

Some singers are recording artists or work in local groups, which changes all the aforementioned variables.

5. What will the future be like for people in this career?

The future for a singer is potentially limited (or enhanced) by the singer's level of performance, the ability to sell, market, do public relations, keep current, find out what is desired by directors, venues, record companies, etc. A career can run for a short time or for decades, depending on the above and the attitude and mental physical health of the singer.

6. What types of advancement or promotions are there?

A singer can go from a local artist to a national or even international artist. Background singers for name acts can advance to solo artists. Most careers are self-directed until signed by a label. Chorus singers in plays may potentially advance to being soloists.

7. What titles could a worker possibly hold?

Singer, singer/songwriter, diva, recording artist, stage performer, chorus singer, singer/director, American Idol.

8. Where does a person who has this job work?

There is work for singers in nearly every city in the U.S. but many singers will not make a living singing unless they learn the business side of music very well.

9. What is the environment like?

The environment is like all work environment but the intensity of emotion may be higher. Every workplace problem can be present and many can be added having to do with sound support or recording equipment technical difficulties or failure, in worse case scenario. When singing is at semi-celebrity level, or celebrity level, the "job" could be one of the most enjoyable in the world.

10. What are the hours?

These can vary around the clock. Most shows are at night but at theme parks can be all day and at night. Some people do weddings (usually receptions) and the time and date are typically either afternoon or evening. Those type performances are between two and four hours.

11. Do you think singers make a good salary for this job?

Singers may or may not be salaried. They can perform in many ways and at many levels, they can (some) teach. Most singing positions are for the duration of a show or for a recording contract. Some singers make many millions and at the bottom of the industry, there are singers who cannot make enough money to support themselves financially and must take other work, possibly outside of music, to be able to make a living.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


The Biggest Lie
Category: Life

The biggest lie I ever told is, "I am doing the best I can."

How would anyone know their best? The main thing is, is it good enough? Is it better than is required or needed? Is it based upon the effort of one? Is it based upon the effort of many but is organized by and directed by one? Is it a goup activity but I have not put together the group? What is the reality of it, or more accurately, the actuality of it? Things to ponder.

Maybe the best is not what is important as much as: is it enough or is it better than enough? If you look at this as a professional, the 'enough' part is the part that is the standard of the industry or the state of the art. So, how does it compare and what is needed in knowledge or in skill to bring it to the level and beyond? Things to learn and/or things to practice. Are you doing the best you can do?

Friday, April 25, 2008


Sometimes we are so caught up in our own worlds or our own lives that we can't back away far enough to get some perspective and be objective. Sometimes seeing something through another's eyes, or in this case another activity of an art, can be oblique enough to cut through the clutter and enlighten oneself. I wrote the following but it is from a different perspective than music but it applies because it deals with the creative process and may well be applied to the writing of a song or a play or even of doing a performance.

How much effort does it take to start something?

When the ideas are fresh and the goal is new, it seems to be the most exciting and things roll right along. Seeing the goal and none of the obstacles is something that should be perhaps captured in some way. Writing about it, describing it, sketching it out, clipping pictures from magazines, or getting pictures from online (non-copyrighted ones) can all go together to make what John Assaraf might call a "vision board". Not a bad idea to go from mental images to the ones that can be seen daily as a reminder.

In architecture, in the design of a house, there may be many sketches, pictures, clippings, product brochures, a plot plan with the survey (maybe a soils test report?) and many written notes in the interview with the client. This is when the excitement and enthusiasm seem to be the highest in this design development phase.

How much effort does it take to keep something going?

The law of inertia, having to do with remaining in motion comes into play. All sorts of friction and resistance may come into play: The worst for me has been lacking information or lacking certainty that the information is correct. Other little things, which are part of the creation, can feel like friction or resistance but may, in fact, merely be part of the process. Sometimes unrelated problems, demanding to be solved, may blind side the project and stop it completely until the "fire is put out". Looking at the game from a broader perspective of it all being part of life can help to not react to the situation as if it were devastating, even though it is just a little bump in the road. Look back at the "vision board" and those wonderful creative feelings will start up again.

How much effort does it take to finish something?

The excitement and the enthusiasm may have waned. The goal may have faded and may have lost some of its clarity. Near the attainment of the goal is the imminent let down like the kind you feel when you are a kid and you are playing outside and the baseball game in the alley is all that there is in the entire world and it is so real in your mind that you can actually see the fans, the umpire, the stands with the crowd screaming for you and you smell the popcorn in the air and the hot dogs and the grass and the dirt on the field itself and you have just run out of the dugout because it is your turn to bat and the crowd is roaring and you are pumped and your mom yells for you to come in for dinner as the reality of the alley smacks away the imaginary one which was so much better but but but... You are hungry and dinner is going to be great! What just happened? You were a major league ball player and your imagination is beyond excellent and yet you are ok. You have a new goal and that goal is dinner.

In a design project, for example, is the goal the finished flawless beautiful set of plans and specifications that the builder will follow to bring the idea from the mind to the paper to the reality of it finished and completed? The final push is the new goal to see the creation of the house as it turns into a home for the people, who are ecstatic to live and enjoy their new environment, which is a work of art both inside and out. When it is up, that house is seeing all the puzzle pieces fitting together and working perfectly for many many years to come.

But wait. There's more. What? A new goal? Right. The new clients are scheduled and they are such nice people and not only do you get to design their new home, but they are also such appreciative people that they become your friends for life. You are their Michelangelo and you are scuplting their home around their ideas and their lifestyle (at least thy think of you that way) and you are very fortunate that your lives interfaced and left a lasting friendship in the wake of the project.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


"If you think you can, you will.

If you think you can't, you won't." - Chuck Stewart

So, it's a choice, it's a decision, it is followed with a plan and the plan is carried out. OR it never starts and another dream dies.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


What if you try to do something and you fail? Does it hurt? Does it make you want to quit or does it make you want to try harder? What if you fail twice or five times or ten or twenty times? Do you say things to yourself like: I am not cut out for this. I am not good at this. This always happens to me. Who am I kidding? I need to try something else. I need to stop being stupid. Or worse.

Having a passion for something includes perseverance. It includes learning more. It includes being the best you can be and continuing to study, practice, and improve.

There are only two things that stand between us and our goals: Correct knowledge and correct practice. Deficiencies in these will result in failure. Failure is temporary. It doesn't last. It happens and it is over. It is in the past and it isn't permanent. It doesn't have to be a setback. It can be a blessing or a wakeup call. It is a signal to change something. If you are not at the top of your game, forget about blaming yourself or others and get to work learning and doing more.

If you are a singer and you aren't great, you can blame a lack of talent when it is actually what you don't know and that you don't practice correctly or you don't practice enough. When you hear a great singer, you never see the work that the person put into it. If you think it is natural or just happens, then you have bought a HUGE lie.

You can approach life like a winner or a loser and your life will reflect your decision. What would YOU do if you tried and failed 50 times? Fifty is ridiculous, isn't it? Think about that. You try fifty times and you lose each time? What if on number 51 you win? Does this happen? Most people would quit. A race fan I am not but you have to admire Danica Patrick, who lost 50 times before winning once for not giving up. She cried in victory lane. No wonder.

She even didn't expect to win that day. But she did. She must have expected to win at some point in the past. People don't race to lose. They race to win. She evidently gave up on winning or she wouldn't have said she didn't expect to win. But she didn't give up on trying to win or on racing she persevered. 50 losses before a win. Most people would quit. Most people would give up. I do not want to be like most people in that regard. Do you?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Unique Singer Part 1

A singer writes:

I have a question for you. I have heard this comment made by several different people about several different people. The comment is "He/she has a nice voice but there is nothing unique or special about it, it doesn't captivate you." What are your thoughts about this comment? Can this be a valid comment? If it is a valid comment what are they looking for that seems to be missing? Is it something that can be taught or is it something that is just naturally there. If it is not a valid comment then why would someone make it?

This is not a short answer because the questions do not warrant a short answer.

Without hearing the voices the people are commenting about, it's impossible for me to say what the people meant by what they said and what is missing in the voices as is perceived by the commentors. I can make some guesses as to several things but I do know from being around many many working professional singers that nobody is born with it. People never see the huge amount of time singers practice who sound great. Because they don't see it, they assume that the hours and days of consistent hours are not happening.

I had nothing unique about my voice, in my estimation, but I did spend many many many hours singing and emulating and studying and recording on lots of bad to fair to good equipment and sometimes for 3 hours a day. So my voice was unique enough to get me singing in the 2nd biggest showroom at that time in Las Vegas. I did not get fired either. I sang in the show until it closed. BUT Is the comment valid? Again, without hearing the singer, I couldn't say. I have heard non-singers and non-musicians, such as Simon Cowell make statements like that and I usually have not agreed with him. Nothing with singing is natural. Nobody is born singing. Some people pay attention and duplicate the professional things they hear in other singers but they still have to work at it.

If a person sings without any feeling or without any attachment to a song and they sing the words on the correct notes at the correct time, then they might be ok in a chorus but I wouldn't want a chorus to be bland which is filled with that kind of uninvolved voice.

Every voice is as unique as fingerprints are from one individual to another. If a person thinks that they are not unique, then they need to work on style or on dynamics or on emotion or on interpretation. All those things can be and are taught and the results of it are obvious. Part of what is going on with American Idol is that the singers have vocal coaches and the ones with the bad ones don't make much change or or or the coaches are good and the singers are rebellious and don't take correction or they think they know best or they don't work hard enough or don't even know how to practice. The comment is no more or no less valid than a person saying that a person is beautiful--or ugly. It is an opinion. It is not a fact.

Great singers are great because they decided that they would not settle for less than greatness and then they worked at it to make it happen. It isn't innate and it isn't magic and it isn't that God is stopping people from being unique or giving them uniqueness. It takes a decision that leaves no other way out and the decision is followed up with the practice and perseverance to continue until it is achieved. Greatness comes from an unkillable desire and an impeccable work ethic. Then when preparation meets opportunity, great things can happen. But that's just my opinion BUT it's based on experience since 1962. Professional since 1972. Professionals know that professionals practice. We practice much more than the uninitiated could assume.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008



C when it sounds like an S
as in grace

F as in friend

H as in hello

K as in kitchen

P as in pony

Q as in quack

S as in silly

T as in took

X as in box

CH as in chuck

SH as in shuck


B as in boy

D as in dog

G as in girl

G as in the 2nd G in garage
(it is like a phonated sh)

J as in juggler

L as in luck

M as in man

N as in none

R as in roar

V as in victory

W as in world

X as in xylophone

Y as in yuck

Z as in zebra