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