Monday, August 19, 2019

Singers - We Pretend Many Things... But...


We pretend many things.
We pretend to know things that we do not and rant and rave and fight and defend on social media and in person.  We pretend we are better off because of the existence of cell phones and the internet, which had the possibility of uniting people but has had the opposite effect.  We pretend to be closer but we are not.  We are more vocal and we are also more superficial.  We are careful (some of us) to not offend, disturb, or upset anyone.  Others don’t care.  That is just bad manners and manners existed for hundreds of years before the stupid term, political correctness.  We pretend that there is political correctness but it is a myth.  The term is used to shut others up or is used as a cult-like thought stopping technique.

Where are we left as learners?
We believe no one or we should not.  We should not accept anything at face value but instead should question the validity, the truth, the authenticity, and the track record of anything and everything.  If we are sold on something and it appears right and it appears true, we might try it out.  We might even try learning to sing by buying a new singing method, but we also might discover it is missing many things a singer should know and be able to do, unless the singer is a hobbyist and not an artist. 

Distance
The best thing about using an online course is that we are the farthest away from the “teacher” that we could possibly be.  It is also the worst thing.  Why?  When you practice, you seriously could use some correction to save you time and even injury.  If no on who knows what to listen for is present, you are on your own.  Common sense would dictate that this is stupidity in action.  Would you jump out of a plane with no parachute?  Some people have and lived, oddly enough; but most die.  You could go through the jungle without an experienced guide and it might feel like a brave thing to do, until you become a meal for an animal or animals.  You need a guide more than you need distance.  One way to have distance and a guide is to do lessons online, so that you can get help when you need it. 

What’s next?
What’s next?  That is just the point.  You can do exercises for your voice and can practice but how do you know which exercises you need in the present moment, if you are not a trained vocal coach?  Truth is, you don’t.  You can do the wrong exercises the wrong way.  What?  Yes!  They can be done the wrong way and if no one hears you, who knows how they are supposed to be, you could be wasting your time or even hurting yourself.  If you think you are saving money by buying video voice lessons, you are not.  You are spending money and you may be wasting it and your time, too.   Maybe you don’t care.  Maybe your voice sounds like you don’t care.  Maybe you wonder why you get no parts or work or why you get fired.  A live vocal coach knows in a few minutes what is wrong if the coach knows what he or she is doing.  I tried it on my own with a great method and I failed but when my vocal coach had me do the same exercises but in the proper order and in the correct amount of time for my voice, I gained over an octave of range, I lost the break in my voice, and my endurance was such that I could do six hours a night, six nights a week in Las Vegas.  No tiredness or hoarseness resulted.  Without her guidance, all I got out of exercises was tiredness and loss of range.  Once my break was gone, she insisted that I study six days a week with her and intern under her for three months.  All my students were working professional singers in Las Vegas.  She told me that she had never seen anyone get results as fast as I had with my students.  She didn’t have to say that.  I paid her $175 an hour in the 1990s and I don’t regret a penny of it.  I’ve helped singers prepare for music conservatories and even for Broadway, where they had excellent careers. 

But!
Most vocal coaches don’t teach musicianship or how to sing in tune or how to be stylistically correct.  Most don’t have the professional performance experience that I’ve had.  Some vocal coaches don’t sing very well, but shouldn’t they be a product of their own teachings?  I had many obstacles to overcome including stage fright and feeling I had no stage presence or charisma.  I felt I wasn’t good looking enough to be on a Las Vegas stage.  My appearance didn’t get me fired, so I guess it was good enough.  I did know music and have written over 2500 songs, have sold radio jingles, and I’m an ASCAP member.  I hear pitch extremely well and that is partially attributed to playing a trombone since the age of nine and professionally since 1972, touring 14 states and then settling in Las Vegas and working with famous musicians.  I also played lead (1st Chair) since 1969 as a student and later as a professional.  I teach breathing techniques used successfully since the 1940s by professional and famous brass players but I don’t teach fallacies and myths, such as “sing from your diaphragm” because 8 of my students were licensed practicing physicians and two were speech therapists and we shared a lot of information and we all know that no one has or ever will “sing from their diaphragm” and also why that is so.  In five minutes time, I will know what is wrong with your singing in a very multi-factorial way.  I’ll know your strengths and your weaknesses and precisely what to do to get you from where you are to a world class singer, one who could be signed to a label (I’ve had a few of those) or perform on Broadway or on TV shows, such as The Voice (I’ve also had some of those).  So, what do you want?  Do you want to settle for mediocrity or worse?  Would you rather find out what is in you and learn to overcome the obstacles-yours and the ones from others?  Hiding from your talent might feel safe, but years down the road, it won’t feel so good, knowing what might have been, had you gone for it.

Chuck Stewart, Vocal Coach

Friday, August 16, 2019

Singers - The Three Musketeers of Your Unhappiness


The Three Musketeers of Your Unhappiness:

1.       Blame

2.       Regret

3.       Shame

BLAME
Blame is how you become “lame”, maybe not literally but maybe literally.  B-lame.  Be lame when you blame.  Blame is the biggest lie you can tell yourself.  I am where I am because she (or he): did, said, took, stole, or fill in the blank _____________.   OR it is what was not done that you feel should have been done. 

I always thought my father should have helped me more, particularly when I felt I could do nothing and that I was powerless.  From the first grade to the sixth, there was a boy who bullied me daily, or almost daily.  The boy’s father was about 5’-6” and my father was 6’-1 ½” tall.  My father had been a baseball pitcher at Marshall University and turned down the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had scouted him.  I figured my father could throw a punch, if he had to.  I begged my father on multiple occasions to tell the bully’s father to make him stop.  My father said that I should fight back but I was too scared, since I was a lot smaller than the bully. 

At a later point, my father said he would talk to the boy’s father but I think he never did and the verbal and physical abuse continued until one day.  I always showed up early at little league football practice and so did Mike.  In the second year of our team, he got into the habit of using me for a “tackling dummy”, knocking me down over and over again.  My telling him to stop did nothing.  It didn’t hurt too much, since we both were wearing pads and helmets, but it was demeaning. 

One day I got mad.  I hadn’t planned anything.  On this day, Mike knocked me down, as usual.  I got up and walked over to a tree and tore a small branch off of it and started swinging it at him and hitting him with it.  Mike started yelling at me and asking me if I was crazy.  I kept swinging until he started running from me.  This was the end of the bullying. 

Did I blame my father for not helping me?  Yes.  Did I resent him?  Yes.  Was I “the effect” of my father?  Yes.  Did I feel that he cared for me as much as I would have liked him to?  No.  I felt that I was a problem for my father.  I blamed him, though.  He was too demanding and too controlling and never had much good to say about me.  He did most things better than what I could do, except for a couple of things.  My blaming him crippled me, but not in the physical sense.  He had all the power and I had none.  This is what blaming someone does.  It has repercussions and ramifications, far reaching and beyond where one would suppose. 

The most insidious thing about blame is that it is a squatter.  It takes up residence in your mind and takes over everything.  It is behind your not starting something.  It is behind your lack of momentum or perseverance.  It is the cause for your not finishing things because you are not the cause; you are the effect.  How does that feel?  Not so good, right?  Well, don’t blame me.  Blaming yourself also is not the answer because it doesn’t matter who you blame because when you blame, it makes you lame. 

Blaming means that you “had nothing to do with it”.  It means that someone else had the power and did the action and that you were incapable or that you simply refused to get involved or to play a part or to act effectively.  The real reason can be found in the lies you tell yourself or in the lies in your value systems, the ones which you use to rationalize and justify your current condition in life.


REGRET
Regret is that coulda, woulda, shoulda thing.  Some people say: could’ve, would’ve, should’ve and others think they are hearing: could of, would of, should of, but that is just a false interpretation of an illegal contraction, having been made of: could have, would have, and should have. 

Abandoning semantics, we move forward now.  Regret is the sorrow and guilt composite of the errors of commission or of omission.  What we did that we think is bad or what we didn’t do that we shoulda oughta did is the basis for regret.  Regret seems to be short-lived but recurring in our minds.  We kind of shove it away from our consciousness, to avoid the pain of its thorns, darts, and arrows.  Regret hurts.  It could also be a clue as to what to do.  One thing is to be an author of your story and to rewrite it.  Literally.  Re write it as it would be if you would not have caused regret as your outcome.  Before you start, just remember that acts of omission or commission are not the same thing as accidents.  There are accidents and some can be prevented but some cannot.  It doesn’t let you off the hook but it also doesn’t put you on the hook, unfairly. 

Write your story as it should have been, learn from it, look for ways to not repeat your mistakes and put those into practice.  Why?  If you are stuck in your past, you will never move fast.  You’ll be slow or simply “no go”.  So, yo!  Write, so!



SHAME
Shame is as bad of a game as blame.  It’s also Blame’s first cousin or daughter or son.  It can be an integral part of blame.  It can help feed blame or regret.  So, how do we forget, or must we?  The Three Musketeers!  The trinity of uselessness, of an evil synergism designed to destroy happiness and hope and turn you into a dope are: blame, regret, and shame.  It’s a family of despair.  It will stop you from going from here to there.  It can get you so that you do not care.  It fuels ignorance and apathy and for it, have no sympathy or empathy and don’t cavort with the enemy.  Don’t enlist it, just insist it ceases and desists because if it persists, you’re done and it has won.  Make a choice.  Raise your voice.

You can work on eradicating the trinity of failure infinity or you can just change your mind and pay a little whack-a-mole, if one raises its ugly head.  Kill it good and make it dead.  It had a purpose long ago but it’s outlived that one; now it’s a foe.  All you need is to let go.  If you can’t do so, we’ve got the knives to cut the ropes and end your strife.  Today is the best time to start your life.

Stillness.  Motionlessness.  Absolute zero.  No molecular motion.  It’s an incomplete description and an inaccurate one of zero degrees Kelvin.   Still, it mimics what we mimic as we reflect the laws of physics with our activities, or the lack thereof.  “An object at rest tends to stay at rest…”  Forget the rest of that law of inertia for a minute.  Staying at rest doesn’t mean that all inner motion or thought has ceased.  An object can appear to be at rest, but it’s only in relationship to other objects.  We’re never truly at rest because we are on a rotating sphere, revolving around a star and as a solar system, we are moving in a galaxy, which is also moving through space and at an astounding speed.  So, where is the truth in our motionlessness?  It is just another lie or a pretense.

Go. Do. Start. Continue. Rest. Repeat.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

COMMON HARMFUL MYTHS ABOUT SINGING

    You don’t want to spend four years of your time, to get better at singing, do you?  Four years may sound like a lot, but I recall a famous French horn player telling me that he had heard that it can take eight years to build a voice.  He heard this from someone while he was working for The Metropolitan Opera.
    Does it take four years?  No.  Not, if you know what you are doing.  Older methods of voice training only worked for the singers who didn’t need it in the first place.  The lucky ones, endowed with a natural voice and enormous talent, became the stand-out singers.  It was almost impossible to mess them up.
    Now that science has been allowed to enter the world of singing, we know what helps a singer, what hurts a singer, and how to properly train and maintain a singer’s voice.  Sadly, many voice teachers still repeat the worn out and useless phrases that they, themselves, had drilled into their heads.  It could also be the reason that many singing teachers are really bad singers and have never ever worked at singing as a profession. 
    Proven false by physics and medical science are these common myths, some of which can harm or destroy a singer’s voice:  “Sing from your diaphragm.”  “Place your sound in the mask (or up and over or through your eyebrows or _____ )”  “Support your voice with your abs (or your rear end or your pee muscles)”  “Open your mouth two or three fingers wide.”  “Visualize _____.”  Fill in the blank with anything, but it will be a waste of your time.  
    There are at least thirty of these phrases, which are completely useless and potentially harmful.  Some people have had their voices destroyed by such things or by not knowing how to take proper care of the voice.  Julie Andrews is one such example.  She had surgery on her vocal nodules, which caused scarring, which caused her voice to be useless for singing.
    You can learn to sing correctly and have all the range, power, musicality, style, and artistry.  Or, you can study with people who simply want your money and do not care how you sing or if you will ever reach your full potential.  I can show you how to discover the differences between what works and what does not and why that is.  

Monday, August 05, 2019

Singing - "MIXED VOICE" OR "MIX VOICE"


“Mix Voice” or “Mixed Voice” is an invented name.  It is a way of describing something, but this is a gimmick.  It is a sham.  It is fake.  It is a fallacy.  It is stupid and ignorant, unfortunately.  You do not and cannot mix your chest voice with your head voice.  It is not a mix or a blend.  It is a myth that “mix voice” or “mixed voice” exist.  I hate to burst that fantasy bubble, but it is something which can lead to trouble when you go and believe in things which come from a cult mentality with invented words only used by the cult members.  You also cannot sing from your diaphragm, no matter how much you believe it.    When I showed a student written documentation and medically researched evidence that she was not and could not sing from her diaphragm, she cried.  It was as if her religion had been taken away and she had nothing to replace it with…yet.  It was replaced with facts and she became an even better singer because of it.

IT IS ANATOMICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO SING FROM THE DIAPHRAGM
Welcome to the new millennium!  Today and right now is a good time to stop believing in useless myths, unless you want to sabotage yourself and never improve and quite possibly become a worse and a more unstable singer with multiple breaks in your range.   It doesn’t matter who says it or who has said it that you have a “mix” in your voice.  First of all, the terminology is wrong. 


YOU HAVE VOCAL REGISTERS, BUT THERE IS NO “MIX”

Maybe you don’t have the coordination to smoothly sing throughout your entire range but you will not mix registers.  You potentially can sing from low to high and back to low with no shift or change in tone or timbre.  The ranges of each register differ in Sopranos from Altos or anyone else but they are still there.  The truly great pedagogues know or knew this, while the others don’t.  The names and what those names represent and signify are misunderstood by many voice gurus.   The names do not represent, describe, or name tone and/or timbre.  They are specific notes or frequencies of vibration in your vocal range.   The names for the vocal registers are: chest voice, low middle voice, high middle voice, head voice, and flageolette (or “whistle tones” or “super head voice”).   These represent registers, not a sound or timbre quality.