Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Practice Does Not "Make Perfect"

There is no "perfect"!

So, now, what ya gonna do?  Practice can help maintain a level of competence or expertise.  Practice can also contribute to progress.  It may not be noticed the same day or even the same week.  Without practice, you will get worse.  That can be guaranteed.  Practicing the right things, the right way, the right time, and the right amount of time, can help you to progress, to improve and even to maintain very high levels of virtuosity. 

I was at a party a few months ago. There were two professional musicians there. One was a cellist and the other was a flutist. I got to spend some time and chat with the cellist. He told me that he had retired from playing. I asked him, "Do you miss playing?" He said, "Yes, of course I do but I don't have four hours a day to practice now."

I practiced 3 to 4 hours a day for about a year before I decided to sing in a production show in Las Vegas. I also recorded myself every day and sometimes I thought I sounded good, along the way. On mornings following my recording, I listened to myself and usually would hear the progress (however minor) and then take the cassette tape (I used a Tascam recorder which ran at double the speed of normal, thus had good quality) I took the cassette outside and smashed it into little bits with a hammer so that no one would hear how it was not exactly what I had been working toward. It was ok musically but I wanted to sound better and even when I felt an emotion, I didn't hear it on the recording. It was baffling but I persisted. Progress was slow but the feeling started to be audibly perceptible.

Had I given up along the way, I would never have auditioned for the show. I literally earned the right to have confidence in my singing. Three to four hours a day. If that sounds like a lot of time, in college I practiced trombone as much as 6 hours a day and piano 2 hours a day at times. The dues to be in the club are expensive. You give away time and effort but the rewards are far beyond what a non-artist, for lack of a better term, would ever ever know. Progress can be slow at times but patience does and will cure the disease of frustration.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Can C5 Be Sung In Chest Voice by a Tenor?

Many times I see confusion regarding chest voice, as if it is a specific timbre or tone quality.  This is largely due to either no standardization of nomenclature or to misunderstanding of the terminology. 

Chest voice got its name because vibrations from the vocal folds at lower frequencies have sound waves at a size to where they cause sympathetic vibrations in the thorax, or chest. 

Head voice got its name because vibrations from the vocal folds at higher frequencies have sound waves at a size to where they cause sympathetic vibrations in the head.

Technically, chest voice is not a sound, but instead is a range in the voice and is usually where mots people “live” in their speaking voices.  More technically, above chest voice is low middle voice.  Above that is high middle voice, then head voice then the whistle tone register, also called flageolet or superhead voice. 

The direction in which the sound waves travel is something which may be interesting.  In chest voice range, the sound travels mostly straight out through the mouth.  As the frequency of vibration raises, so do the sound waves in direction, to where on high notes, they travel up and on the highest notes, the sound waves are traveling to the back of the head.  These things are measurable and also are not something controllable to a large extent.  It is possible to force the sound forward at the top end of chest voice or the low middle voice but it may not sound musical.  It might sound like yelling or screaming.

There is a term called full voice.  Full voice can be achieved when the vocal folds are vibrating in close enough proximity to where an excess of air does not escape, as it would with a breathy sound.  When a singer can sing in full voice in all ranges, it sounds as if there is one “voice”, not 3 or 4.  It is possible for it all to blend and not change tone quality.  Additionally, this can be done at all dynamic levels from very soft to very loud. 

When properly trained, a tenor should be able to sing a C5 in full voice.  It will sound clear and loud, as if it were in the chest voice register.  A properly trained tenor will also be able to sing any tone with a lighter tone production or even with a breathy quality, should he choose to do so.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Will Learning To Sing Classical Music Help You To Sing Other Genres Better?

The great divide between classical and other styles of music has been so intense at times that it has resembled modern day American politics.  Classical was “right” and everything else was “wrong”.  Not many singers of other styles also shared the opinion of diametrically opposed sides but some did.

My wife is a professional dancer, so looking at another art from could shed some light.  In ballet training, there are things which greatly improve specific things with a dancer.  A ballet-trained dancer may have a better line, will dance with shoulders down instead of raised, will have excellent balance, a sense of center, may have better turns, better extension, may have coordination and better communication between mind and body and may also be able to learn steps and routines faster, easier and better.  All this comes with a caveat.  If the style of ballet is carried over to hip hop, to jazz, to tap or other styles, it will make the other styles look stiff, too smooth, or even silly.  With so many dance competition shows on TV, you may have seen this.

The reason I gave the example of dance is that it also applies to singing.  I know of one or two classically trained singers who can sing Pop and R&B and without a hint of anything classical or operatic.  Julia Migenes and Josh Groban can do this.  Many classical trained singers either cannot or will not.

You must have heard the difference in how a classical singer sings, as compared to a singer of popular music.  Proper training will result in breathing correctly, no register transition area issues (no cracks), having a fully developed and extensive range, having control over all dynamics, and having excellent endurance.

Some differences between classical and other styles are: tone, timbre, articulation, rhythmic structure and its interpretation, pronunciation, enunciation, vowel formation, and musicianship.  This is not to say that a classical singer has poor musicianship but a jazz singer may have musicianship which extends beyond the norm of a classical singer, particularly with modes, extended chords, altered chords, and other harmonic construction not found in classical music.  The ear training for a jazz singer may similarly extend beyond that of a classical singer.  Rather than turning it into a moralistic and right versus wrong thing, think of it as different, instead.

Learning to sing classical music may be beneficial or it may be detrimental to a non-classical singer, depending on the instructor and the instructor’s view, dogmatism and pedantry regarding the subject, or a more open minded approach.