Wednesday, April 17, 2019
One of the single most neglected activities by amateur singers and some professionals is listening. It is a great idea to listen to singers you love. It is an even better idea to listen and try to analyze singers who may not even sing your favorite music. I have a list of some fabulous singers to listen to and also what to listen for in their singing. It's not a fluke that they have risen to fame. It's not talent alone. It's not learning healthy vocal technique alone. It's not musicianship and knowing modern harmonic technique. If you don't know how to listen to very specific aspects in a voice, the style, the interpretation and more, you may be missing 95% of the entire "picture". One example is articulation which might also be called enunciation or diction. There is a standard for performance and for recording in every single style of music. What works for classical will sound ridiculous for R&B. It is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. It also can be under or over-done and fall short of professional. Listening to great singers provides lessons for free and who doesn't like free? I paid as much as $175 an hour, 25 years ago for lessons. Was it worth it? I sang in a show in Las Vegas and followed that with countless performances in Vegas and Orlando. I gained endurance, range, control, and style as a result of lessons and discovering exactly how to practice, how much, when, when to rest and how much. I got comfortable at being able to sing six nights a week, 6 hours a night and without vocal fatigue or any other vocal issues. No hoarseness and no cracking and no need for vocal rest. No ill effects whatsoever and it is not unique to me. Correct and healthy vocal technique works that way. Is your voice worth spending money on? Maybe it is. So, don't copy other singers as an impressionist might do a voice. Listen, assimilate, emulate (NOT imitate) and when you have it down, innovate. Make it new and make it yours. It starts with listening!
Monday, April 01, 2019
For years, and even today, there have been singers who thought that breathing is everything when you're singing. No, it's not. BUT, you have to breathe. It's essential to living. When it isn't easy, it can be scary or terrifying. I had asthma in the Springtime in Las Vegas. It was SEVERE! The first spring there I felt like I couldn't breathe in or out for about a month with almost no relief. In the next spring, I found odd remedies with various vitamins and things I found at a health food store. It wasn't too many more springs until I sought out an allergist who had been writing articles in the local paper about the pollen from plants which was wrecking peoples lives. At that time there were over 250,000 people in Las Vegas who shared my ailment. Olive trees, flowerless mulberry trees, Bermuda grass and Desert Sage were my worst sources of pollen. Life in Las Vegas, for me, was a constant fight with having to get Albuterol breathing treatments every other day, getting desensitization injections every other day, getting Kenalog injections (corticosteroid) every three or four months and constantly taking Claritin. You gotta breathe to sing, though. The first two years I was not doing much singing in Las Vegas. What else? I played trombone since I was nine years old. I ran a lot. I had lung capacity well beyond what a singer would ever need. I also had studied trombone in Philly with the late great Dr. Donald S. Reinhardt. HE KNEW BREATHING and also how to do things with it which were logical, practical, and very applicable not only to brass playing but also to singing, as it has turned out. I've shared these with singers and have seen the joy they experience when their breathing is working for them, instead of against them. An aside is that I can hold out a note for almost a minute. Air does not act as an impediment. Eight doctors, who were my students, confirmed that the diaphragm is the INHALE muscle and doesn't PUSH out your air... your abs do, IF it needs to be pushed. One of my students cried when I exposed the myth of "singing from the diaphragm". I replaced it with truth and medical facts. Her illusion was gone but her singing improved and was easier, since she was not fighting something that turned out to be a myth. Since the 1700s, physicians have understood the actual function of the diaphragm. It has been proven over and over. It is not something we have to believe or guess at. Hanging on to useless myths works AGAINST singing better or even being able to sing well. If you cannot find the source of "truth", it probably is not truth. There are many myths about singing. Some don't help at all and others can cause injury. Do you know the common myths about singing? Do you want to?
Posted by Chuck Stewart, Vocal Coach at 1:26 AM