Category Archives: Jeanie’s Blog

“Post-Truth” Singing

It is hard to imagine but we are currently living in an age of “post-truth.” It is difficult to wrap my mind around the idea that truth is not real but whatever someone says it is, yet this is being stated every day. This is incredibly dangerous. There is also “post-truth” singing.

Hiding behind things that are lies is not new. Many have done that  since recorded history began. What’s new is that our mainstream society has become comfortable with that as a new normal. It has taken on the idea that we each “create our own reality” and grossly distorted what that means.

Let’s get something straight. Each of us is responsible for our own lives. We can choose how to react to what happens to us, or has happened in the past, and we can choose to deal with all repercussions of our existence in a positive manner, even if that is sometimes very challenging. Together, we create families, groups of friends, organizations, local and state governments, federal governments and world governments. In each of these we have groups of people who, more or less, agree to hold the same or nearly the same point of view. As the group increases in size, the power of the thoughts that hold it together magnifies. When the beliefs are held by millions or people, they get very powerful. Those who know how to harness those beliefs can be helpful or harmful, depending on their own philosophical ideas.

Only those beliefs which are uplifting are worth holding. All negative beliefs lead to pain and suffering, to harm and to deterioration. That which is dark, hidden, distorted and twisted produces the same. The only counterbalance to this is light, openness, honor, and yes, truth. That which is redeeming and uplifting is worthy and that which is degrading and condemning is not. A choice. A necessary choice, in every human being, every day. As Yoda would say, “Beware the dark side. It will overtake you if you let it.”

In singing, there have been individuals who have decided that what they believe, others should also believe. Some have done research (if you could call it that) on their own throats, assuming that what holds true for them automatically holds true for others. With hubris, these people decide that everyone else should cause the same movements within their throats that they see in their own. They dictate that these manipulative movements, whatever they may be, are good and useful. This ploy is powerful particularly to those who know little about the voice and who are easily swayed by any argument.  We in our Western society have for hundreds of years rested upon the belief that science is based on truth, on data, on findings which are shared in order to be replicated without bias by others. Those who use science to build their case by manipulating the data to favor their own ideas are dangerous, as this is not science at all. It is “post-truth” information.

Only by observing a wide range of behaviors in a wide range of singers and comparing them, one to the other, can there be any science, valid and provable by objective measures. And, without a context in which the data is evaluated, the importance of it cannot be known. If I study gorillas in a cage in a lab, what does that tell me about gorillas in a rainforest? If I study “belters” in African bush culture is that the same as studying “belters” on Broadway? How can any valid conclusions be drawn?  If I study myself, and I assume that all singers do exactly what I do, is that even possible to assume? By what means can we determine that?

Beware those who claim something based solely on their own experience. Beware people who would make themselves more powerful than others by declaration. “I am the only person who can tell you the truth” is never truthful. No. The only things that cannot lie, that will never lie, are the body itself and the throat as part of the body. Therein only lies the truth of freedom, of expression, of being alive as a human being.

Now, more than ever, it is necessary to take only that which can be found to be objective, and proved by objective measures, to be true. Beware all those who tell you they have the only answers. Do not be fooled by the noise, the packaging, the show, the marketing, the media circus. Trust, instead, your own voice and body, your own wisdom and your own heart. In singing and in life.

If you enjoyed this post please like & share:

Conscious Singing

Most people do not fully understand the power and depth of sound as a creative force in the universe. Conscious singing, that is, being  a conscious sound-maker, or being one who brings forth the primary creative energy of the Universe, is an extraordinary experience. It is  simultaneously transformative to do and to hear.

Someone singing from the depth of his or her soul, pouring all mental and emotional energy into the sound and the intention of the words and music, is aligning with the energy of life itself. In the beginning was the Word or the Sound is real. Particularly for those who do not process the voice through any type of  electronic amplification, sound uttered in this manner carries an irresistibly riveting  magnetic energy.

In some traditions such as Indian, Islamic and Hebrew, the people who are the “keepers” of the sound understand this and are trained to be able to encompass it. It takes years of dedicated work to be able to “get out-of-the-way” and let the sound sing you. In order to be able hold and use such sounds, made through the physical body,  a singer must develop an exquisitely prepared mechanism, one that is both pure and strong.

Sometimes these people become famous singers, recognized in the world, but not always. Some are known only to small groups, some are never known. Those who dedicate their lives to generating sound as this level are moving the sub-atomic particles of the universe (as we understand it now). This requires the purest heart and the most profound willingness to serve the highest good with nothing asked in return. That there are people who do this could be hard to imagine but they do exist although they are very rare.

At this time, when our entire planet is being challenged by energy that is dark and forbidding, conscious singing is needed to help strengthen everything that is of love and light. If you respond at all to these words or if they seem to stir in your heart any awareness or desire to know what the words truly mean, you must listen to your intuition. Singing not for fame and fortune, not for recognition in the world but to transform daily life, asks for many spiritual qualities: dedication, perseverance, humility, courage, insight, clarity, open-heartedness, sacrifice and many other qualities. Singing consciouly  becomes a force for healing and for good. It lifts up those who hear it and it carries the vocalist on a stream of energy that is indescribable.

When ones sings from the source of sound in the Universe, out of, as it were, the heart of God, the entire planet hears and is energized, whether they are aware or not. If you are called to sing in this way, you will not find in the many popular methods of vocal training a quick answer in maneuvers to give you special effects as if you were a singing circus. You will not find answers on YouTube in the “trending” videos or on Facebook from teachers of singing who have thousands of “likes”. No. To find a teacher who can guide you on this specific path, you have to arrive at his or her studio through the guidance of the Universe itself. And do not be  quick to judge the book by the cover. Sometimes those who look least likely are the True Masters hiding their inner glory from the world. The light within cannot be seen with just your physical eyes and the information in your intellect.

Stand, if you will, in the light of your glorious, beautiful, effulgent, radiant voice. Do the necessary work to liberate it in and through your physical body, harnessing the depth and power of your breathing to the clear intention of your mind. Allow your sound to be the bridge between this world and the next, between your body and your soul. Allow the sound to be present in each moment by releasing it as it passes through you to die away after you utter it. Accept nothing less than that as truth and let what sounds you make in this way ring out to the world, if only in the solitude of your home. Be a conscious singer.

This is what is needed now on this earth. Now is the time. Are you called? If so, then seek and ye shall find.

Please share this with anyone who may be interested.

 

 

If you enjoyed this post please like & share:

Never Too Late

It’s never too late to find your true voice. If you are open to exploring, if you have a sense of singing, if you are willing to have that experience, age is no barrier.

Recently, in a master class, I was able to help someone find his voice in a way that he never had. In about 30 minutes we shifted into a sound that was truly beautiful, in a classical vocal production, and he was surprised and delighted. After we were done he said he felt he had found the voice he had always searched for. This man was in his mid-60s and has been singing all his life. The shift was small but produced huge results.

With my work, this happens on a regular basis in master classes and in the studio. It also happens in the studios of those who have taken Somatic Voicework™ into their own hearts and use it wherever they may be. It isn’t some “magic” that exists only in me. It works because the throat and the body function in certain ways and when you sing in ways that are in concert with those behaviors, the sound emerges. By itself.

It hurts to see people teach things that tie a student in vocal knots, or force a student to sing in a particular mode or style at an early age, or ask for the student to make the throat do things it doesn’t like or want to do, or ask the student to strive for “resonance” at any cost, or deliberately constrict, hold, move, position, force or manipulate any structure within the throat itself. Absolutely none of that is ever necessary. If you don’t believe that, go back to the home page and listen to me go from Bellini, to Carmichael, to Three Dog Night. I did not need to do any of the above things to make those changes. Live. Unedited. At 66. With a bum left vocal fold.

If you still want to force your voice in the name of “vocal technique” you need to ask yourself why. It’s never too late to come home to the voice you have always had and couldn’t find.

If you enjoyed this post please like & share:

Accommodation

Some people are very accommodating. They will do their best to help you, grant your request, assist you, or even inconvenience themselves so that your needs are met. This can be very important in relationships and in life.

If you sing you have to accommodate the lyrics to the music or vice versa. You have to make sure they work together well. This is true whether or not you sing someone else’s music or if you write and sing your own. You must accommodate the intention of the words — what do these words mean to you and why is that important? If you are hired to sing something you don’t necessary like or would have not chosen to sing on your own, you have to find a reason why doing it really enthusiastically makes sense. You must accommodate the work you are being paid to perform. Period.

If you work with other musicians or vocalists you accommodate them by being a good colleague, making sure to maintain a flow between you all as you rehearse and perform. If you want to make any situation work, you need to take in the largest possible picture and then work to accommodate the overall good of the scenario, even if you have to step your own expectations down.

Sadly, some people can’t be accommodating to anyone ever. They have to have their way, they have to get what they want. They view accommodating someone else as an insult to their own sensibilities. Those people don’t do well unless they have other attributes that compensate — a great sense of humor, a brilliant mind, or perhaps a generous pocketbook. Sometimes even that isn’t enough.

If you are running a singing studio, please remember to accommodate your students by being attentive and adjustable as you meet their vocal needs. Go a little out of your way to do someone a favor, to bend your policies or to offer more than you had planned. Yes, keep clear boundaries. You don’t want to end up feeling like you were used or taken advantage of by the students, but you do not need to be rigid or strict in your behaviors either.

Being accommodating is the opposite of being self-involved. It is what used to be called “the customer is always right”. It implies that the other person or the situation is more important than you are or your life is and that by adjusting to the needs of others you are doing something good. In this day of “me first” it is more difficult than ever to find someone who is willing to be accommodating. When you encounter it, be sure to be grateful.

If you enjoyed this post please like & share:
suely-giving-a-lesson-todos-os-cantos-course-all-chants-course-photo-by-barbara-lopes-9960

SPOTLIGHT ON SUELY MESQUITA

Guest Interview by Billy Gollner

How did you get started in music?

I’ve been singing since I was a little kid, I was attracted to music; my mom signed me up for piano and guitar lessons. Many years later, I began singing in choirs, when I was 19 I began singing lessons with a classical teacher.

As a Brazilian singer, the most important element for learning and growth was singing with friends, learning and teaching informally from one another.

Where did you go to college and what did you study?

I studied Psychology. My family didn’t support the idea of going to Music School. My mother played piano and guitar, we listened to lots of music at home but music was considered something fun that people did at home; it wasn’t really considered a profession.

In my third year of studying psychology, I was certain that I did not want to work in the field. However, I finished the degree and have never worked a day in psychology.

How did you get your professional start in music?

I had my first show when I was 19, it was a complete failure for everyone in the band. In fact, we broke up and didn’t speak for a whole year. This was traumatic. You see, with popular music education at the time, you really had to guess, popular singers didn’t have teachers or concrete ways to learn. It was trial and error. But I think music chooses you and I couldn’t quit.

In 1979, after my first show, I began composing songs and singing in a few groups but it was very indie and not commercially relevant. The popular music market was very polarized, you had the millionaires and then everyone else, it was very hard to make a living just singing, so I turned to teaching to make a living in music.

To make a living just singing, this is still hard, perhaps it’s even more difficult today. I turned to teaching, other friends turned to backing vocals, jingles, and some were crooners in big bands. Others became studio managers or audio engineers; some were hired as musicians or background singers for big stars. While others developed parallel careers as composers to other singers, arrangers, or choir maestros.

Many of us turned to something outside music to make a living: I worked for 10 years as a translator after my daughter was born.  Even big names in Brazilian music did this, like Vinicius de Moraes (diplomat), Aldir Blanc (psychiatrist), Guinga (dentist), Jose Miguel Wisnick (teacher in the university) and others.

How did you start your professional life as a teacher? What were the challenges?

I had been taking voice lessons for four years with a Classical teacher and I was singing in a choir. I began teaching with the singers in the choir. To my surprise, I started to notice what the singers were doing, I watched singers have trouble and I realized that I knew what was happing, sort of. So, I started helping people, I began giving lessons for my own improvement (as a teacher), so I was not charging for these beginning lessons.

At that time, there weren’t popular singers giving lessons in Brazil, everyone studied with Classical teachers. While this training was precious, it was incomplete; the singers didn’t know anything about microphones, female singers were trained mostly in head voice, singers were not being trained in a way that met the demands of the marketplace. Contraltos and male voices had more to gain from traditional classical approaches while Sopranos, like myself, were heavily trained in head voice, and then trying to sing in chest. This was the main issue, here and all over the world!

So I began developing a way to train singers who knew they wanted to sing popular music. My generation was full of pioneers in the sense that we were giving lessons to popular singers.

There wasn’t a formal pedagogy; we were learning with the students, we didn’t want to cheat people.

So, we began a study group in 1991, this was a turning point, the group was called Grupo De Estudos Da Voz (GEV). One of my colleagues from GEV, Felipe Abreu, perhaps the most renowned voice teacher in the popular field in Brazil, is absolutely brilliant and was the first person to really help me begin to understand the issue of registration.

The group started with 20 people, at first, most of us were singers, voice teachers, choral directors and SLPs. We started mentoring one another in how to teach lessons in a popular context; we would share the challenges we were encountering, discussing difficulties our students were encountering, we’d collectively work to address the problems.

We hired SLPs and Laryngologists to come in and lecture our group; we also hired self-taught, excellent singers to come in and tell us how they learnt, how they studied. We began to create a pedagogy that was useful to teachers and singers, and that was fully adapted to Brazilian music.

Most of the teachers in the group had a classical background, we were not denying what we had learnt from our classical teachers, we were adapting to the demands of popular music.

The group still exists today and has played a huge role in the growth and development of several generations of singers, especially in São Paolo.

When did you meet Jeanie LoVetri? What did her work do for you?

I first met Jeanie in 2005; Jeanie had come to São Paolo with an SLP named Mara Behlau. Mara was the first person in Brazil who brought Jeanie to talk about Somatic Voicework™. We came in trusting Mara’s name at first. In 2005, we had already had lots of foreign famous teachers come to Brazil but none of us had ever come across Jeanie’s work. The course was full and many of us were blown away by Jeanie’s work. This was the first seed; since then, many Brazilian singers and voice teachers have completed the Somatic Voicework™ training, and Jeanie’s name is really well known and respected among the voice teaching community here.

When Jeanie first presented, I immediately identified with so many things being said, things I was saying to my students but I’d never heard from other people; at the same moment, I knew that Jeanie knew exponentially more about the subject than I did, I realized that she was the teacher of my dreams. I knew she was someone who I wanted to know, I needed to get close to Jeanie.

I was impressed with how Jeanie talked about Contemporary Commercial Music (CCM), I was enamored with how she interacted with singers, I was so impressed with the emphasis on registers in Somatic Voicework™ – The LoVetri Method.

Then after a series of coincidences, one of my students was looking to travel to the United States or Europe to study CCM Voice. Of course, I immediately recommended Jeanie; the student had received the same recommendation from another voice teachers in São Paolo who was at the same workshop when Jeanie first came to Brazil, it really left a huge impact.

Upon my students return, he told me about The LoVetri Institute for Somatic Voicework and I went in 2012. Following my completion of the Three Levels of Somatic Voicework™, I have had the pleasure of studying privately in NYC with Jeanie and I have continued my studies with Jeanie via Skype.

How has Jeanie’s work influenced you as a teacher?

Just before I met Jeanie, there was a boom in Musical Theatre in Brazil. There have always been singers using chest dominant singing styles in Brazil; however, this marked the first time that there were many teachers who started trying to teach CCM Styles with a huge emphasis on belting.

I began looking into these teachers, and I took private lessons with some of the most renowned teachers in the area but I would many of the lessons feeling vocally tired. The teachers were just forcing chest voice up, and I often felt exhausted.

Working with Jeanie was the first time I was able to manage singing in the style differently. Jeanie told me in our first lesson about herself, “I’m not a belter but I can belt,” and I identified with that. Of course I am not a belter, and I don’t think belting is something that should be an objective or a target but her work was helping me sing how I’ve always wanted to. In this lesson, it was the first time I was able to sing high notes comfortably in a chest dominant voice.

The first time I accessed mixed voice with Jeanie, I asked her, “am I singing in chest or head? It feels like head but it sounds like chest.” This was very interesting.

In addition, I have been studying the science of the singing voice for a long time but it wasn’t until singing with Jeanie that I could feel everything working in an integrated way. It was the first time I could feel everything making sense together, a bridge between vocal function and emotions; when everything works together, this helps you to be expressive with your singing, it allows you to find the art.

Tell me about your classical training.

I had many excellent teachers in classical music that helped take my voice to the next level. My teachers were excellent, I discovered things in my voice that were truly magical and while I was grateful for the training, I could not use the training in Popular styles. I was using a completely different part of my voice and I couldn’t manage the requirements for navigating CCM Singing Styles.

How has Jeanie’s work influenced you as a teacher?

I identified with the way Jeanie related to the singers, many of the things Jeanie had been talking about I was already starting to figure out on my own but it would’ve taken me another twenty-years, maybe a lifetime to establish and nail everything down.

Somatic Voicework™ – The LoVetri Method made me laugh, I felt assured and safe as a teacher. I learned to laugh with my students and this was freedom; when you are trying to do something that you are not skilled at, it is normal to make mistakes, as a teacher knowing what was happening physiologically that caused the mistake, Somatic Voicework™ helped give me a framework to address the problem. I learnt the mistake is precious because it tells me everything I need to know to address the problem.

Tell us about starting your own teaching business.  What were your goals, challenges and successes?

When I first started out as a teacher, my main goal was to be a professional singer, not to be a teacher. I didn’t have a decision or a want to be a professional teacher, I didn’t make that decision, and it just happened, life happened.

From the onset, I wanted to be the teacher that I needed when I was a beginner. I wanted to offer students what they needed, to meet their goals.

I asked students what they wanted, even the most absolute beginners, many times even the absolute beginners knew what it was they wanted to improve about their voice. I didn’t want to be a teacher that told people what they needed; I wanted to be of service to students to help them reach their goals.

Another major challenge I found with my own voice training was that my teachers were not concerned with preparing me for what happens in the real world of how to be successful in the music marketplace, the teachers treated that as something the student needed to figure out. I do not think the two can be separated, it is our job as teachers to help our students navigate the music business.

I encourage all my students to get out there and perform, to organize their own performance opportunities; if you are a singer who does not sing in the world, it will be hard for you to improve, there are things you learn in performance that you can never learn in a classroom.

How has Jeanie’s work inspired you?

Jeanie is very respectful with students; I’ve seen Jeanie work with people from all walks of life. Somatic Voicework™ – The LoVetri Method empowers people, Jeanie is not trying to prove how much she knows, she is just empowering people with information and meeting the students where they are.

Tell me what continues to draw you to Somatic Voicework™

Somatic Voicework™ – The LoVetri Method transformed me, it transformed my lessons. I had been teaching for at least 20 years before being introduced to Jeanie’s work. Somatic Voicework™ – The LoVetri method respects us as teachers, it empowers us to use the information to work with students, informed by our own experiences. When I am working with a student, I consider the student to be the master, I view myself as the conduit for what the student needs.

I appreciate that Somatic Voicework™ actively encourages referring students out when they need to work with other voice professionals, be that an ENT, Laryngologist, SLP, or other Voice Teacher.

 About Suely Mesquita.

Singer, songwriter, and singing teacher, Suely Mesquita released the albums Microswing (2008) and Sexo Puro (Pure Sex, 2002), reviewed in English by Daniella Thompson (Brazzil) and Kees Schoof (Música Brasileira). With Eugenio Dale, released the site and album Dio & Baco (2015). In 2014 was interviewed in the prestigious TV show Zoombido, by Paulinho Moska. Her songs were recorded by some of her renowed partners, as Mário Sève, Moska, Fernanda Abreu, Pedro Luís e a Parede, Kátia B., George Israel, Celso Fonseca, Leoni, Luís Capucho and also by brazilian singers as Ney Matogrosso, Ceumar, Daúde, 14Bis and others. In 2011, the artist made shows and gave lectures as part of the summer programs at the universities UMass Dartmouth and Georgetown. The book Sexo Puro: A Life in Brazilian Song (2010), by Bob Gaulke, reviewed in English by Kees Schoof and by Daniella Thompson, presents Suely’s songs to an English speaking public. Her songs were studied also in a course at UMass Dartmouth (2011).

As a teacher, Suely has given private lessons since 1984. She created, coordinated and taught in the creative laboratory DESCONTROLE NÃO É CAOS (2013 e 2014), in Rio de Janeiro. She also created and teaches, in many cities in Brazil, other courses about the popular singer training, like Microfone Relâmpago. As vocal producer, she signs albums of important Brazilian artists, such as Pedro Luís e a Parede, Farofa Carioca, Gabriel Moura, Rogê, George Israel etc. She is co-founder of GEV* – Grupo de Estudos da Voz do Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro Voice Study Group), created in 1991 to adapt the acknowledgment of classical voice training and the scientific approach of vocal physiology to the popular singer training and to study many authors and teachers renowned in Brazil and abroad. In 2000, she created the first big discussion list on singing in Brazil, preparacaovocal.

Please check out more from Suely Mesquita at:

Facebook (Teaching Page): https://www.facebook.com/cursos.de.canto.popular/

Facebook (Perfomance Page): https://www.facebook.com/suely.mesquita.cantora
Duo Projects Website (Dio & Baco): www.dioebaco.com.br

Suely’s Book ‘Sexo Puro: A Life In Brazilian Song’: https://www.amazon.com/Sexo-Puro-Life-Brazilian-Song/dp/1891241257

Dio&Baco’s Music Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05b5zVw4CB8

Dio&Baco Live Performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xa88KepGGO4

Videos About Suely’s Group Courses:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TT_9vThEY3M
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRAAjj1C5j0

If you enjoyed this post please like & share:

Getting Your Voice Together For The First Time

Some people have never had the opportunity to experience singing with freedom and ease, making a pleasing sound and expressing their feelings while singing. This is a terrible loss.

If singing teachers were doing a good job across the board, anyone who took regular lessons for two years and practiced in between lessons, would end up sounding better and feeling better and enjoying the process, regardless of where they started. People who had little background would begin to sound good and people with natural ability could sound really terrific. Sadly, this is often not the case with training. In some small percentage of the cases, the issue could be with the student, but most of the time it is due to inadequate teaching. There are few good ways to learn to teach singing, as even in the schools that offer degrees in vocal pedagogy, most schools do not yet have programs that focus upon how to teach CCM teachers.

In order to get into a conservatory or a college as a voice major, you have to be able to sing decently or you would be rejected. The people teaching in those institutions do not have to teach you to match pitch, or to be able to sing a song, as you wouldn’t be a voice major if you couldn’t do that. And, with students who are mostly talented, mostly motivated and mostly open-minded, even generic teaching will help them gain more ability over time. Teachers don’t have to be particularly gifted for their students to improve.

When you work with singers who don’t have great voices, or are not very expressive, or do not have natural musical acumen, the opposite is true. You must really know what you are doing. You have to be creative, resourceful, dedicated and patient and keep your expectations modest. If you are successful with these students, you really have to be a very good teacher. If you succeed in helping these people get their voices together, sometimes for the first time, you have done something monumental and should be congratulated. Does that happen? Not usually.

This applies equally to helping an injured singer regain their ability to sing, even if they do not sound like they did prior to the injury. If you have been singing all your life and then suddenly you can’t do what you have always done, it is devastating. Finding a new way to sing, however, is far better than not singing at all. Locating a teacher who can assist you to make that possible is not an easy task, as many singing teachers wouldn’t have a clue as to how to start that process, but if you are persistent, you could find a skilled expert who could re-acquaint you with your larynx and vocal folds. You need someone who can also offer psychological and emotional support as you work your way through a difficult and daunting process. Getting your voice together for the first time in a brand new way is also monumental. It is always worth the effort to try.

Coming home to the voice you have always had but didn’t know you had is an extraordinary experience. Coming home to the voice you had to cultivate to take the place of the voice you had once upon a time is equally amazing. Either way, the journey is dynamic and challenging but rewarding. Finding a guide to help you along the way is a blessing.

Remember that Somatic Voicework™ exists to help you find the voice inside and let it out. It exists to help you create a vocal path that is satisfying, happy and musically powerful, but also healthy and functional to whatever extent is possible. If you seek to be a singer, Somatic Voicework™ will help you understand how to get there slowly and with conscious awareness. There are no gimmicks or quick fixes to get to be a star, just honest, useful tools that make sense to anyone who seeks to make use of them.

My work is for elite teachers of singing who view teaching in the broadest possible manner, with an eye to detail, who believe that everyone is capable of greatness. Revealing that greatness is a gift to be shared. Don’t forget!

If you enjoyed this post please like & share:

Teaching By The Numbers

Did you know that every vocal sound we make can be reduced to five numbers? Surprising, but true.

The human vocal tract has five specific “vibrating peaks” based on the length and diameter of the open tube between your vocal cords and your lips. As you sustain a vowel it interacts with that tube and, depending on the pitch and the volume, you get an interaction between the vowel and the tube that produces boosts in the sound. The boosts are called formants and when they align with certain harmonics of the pitch, you get a special configuration — one which seems like there is “more sound” or resonance.

Currently, in voice science, it is the hot topic everywhere that the first and second formants  and the first and second harmonic must “talk to each other” in order to help get a good sound. That interaction, coupled with the first and second harmonics, are about the differences between belting and singing classically. When you get the specific alignment that “hits the target” you win the prize, sort of.

How do you know you are aligning these ingredients? You have to have the equipment that measures them. There are software programs that can do that, even freeware. You just sing into a microphone and watch what shows up, sort of.

If you have to squeeze, contort or generally manipulate your throat into doing these maneuvers, well, too bad. Just get the right numbers, then you have it. It is this scary fact that has allowed some teachers of singing who don’t belt, have never belted, and will never belt, (in a song in front of an audience) to assume they can teach belting because they understand the acoustic science and read the info revealed by the software. They can tell you that you have the right harmonic/formant (H/F) alignment or not. Great.

This is not moving us forward. The only positive aspect of this development is that suddenly belting has gained credibility in certain classical circles. Since the teachers who have only classical training and classical experience have no idea what “good” belting versus “bad” belting sounds like, unless they have really developed  ears and perceptive eyes they might miss that difference. And, if the belting is deemed to be “bad” because the person is straining, even though they match the harmonic/formant partnership, whether or not the teacher has the means to get the singer to the correct response as well as keep the H/F configuration is completely unknown.

This “teaching by the numbers” is supposedly credible because it is based on objective measurements. So much for vocal pedagogy. It is the new version of “vibrate your eyebrows” instead of “vibrate your cheekbones”. More or less a waste of time, potentially harmful. Certainly disconnected from any kind of authentic communication.

I say again, this is NOT progress. It doesn’t even make sense in any professional universe. You do not audition by showing off your H/F ratio in a song.

Many of the proponents of this approach are middle-aged white males with classical backgrounds who do not belt. I can’t think of any women in this category. There is a popular speaking voice therapy that rests on “resonance” created by an older white female speech pathologist. I do not know about the details of her work so I can’t say whether it is related or not.

Most of the thousands of people who have sung CCM repertoire down through the ages and survived vocal problems did not know voice science. They did not have it to use as a tool of learning. They went by how things sounded and how they felt. Those are still the best two tools. Understanding the phenomenon from an intellectual place and knowing what things are is important. I need to know that I have an engine in my car and that it runs on fuel. It won’t help me drive or give me a good sense of direction.

Be very careful about people who have quick solutions to any singing issue. Elite singing doesn’t happen in anyone “right away” and attempting to get it to do that is a big fat mistake.

If you enjoyed this post please like & share:

Integrity, Respect, Humility

I was raised by a father who was born in Pennsylvania to Sicilian immigrants. My mother was from New Orleans and was of German and Irish descent but her family had been there for at least 6 generations. I rarely saw my mother’s family. I was in Connecticut and was surrounded by my father’s family and consequently, my social programming was largely that of working-class Italians. All around me was a large wave of people with similar backgrounds who were raised the same way.

One of the primary things that was emphasized while I was growing up was respect. (The mafia guys don’t kiss the ring of the Don for no reason.) Respect had certain parameters but was oriented towards the family, towards church and community, towards authority and civic duty. It was very very important to show respect. Everyone around me in the larger community had those same values. It was a shock to me as I ventured out into the world as I grew older that some people did not have those values or any values at all.

The idea that there was a clear right and wrong about things in life was a given of my upbringing. There were things that one did and did not do that fit in with the above ideals and you just did not go against those things unless you wanted to cause yourself a lot of trouble. We can see from the present election, some people just do not have values based on truth, honesty, decency, kindness, decorum, and, yes, respect. The horrible man running for the POTUS is an example of people who truly do not have any values that I recognize. Being rich and famous is a qualification for nothing.

Throughout my life my values have been both a source of great solace and  a source of self-examination in order to sort through what I was taught. I needed to decide for myself which of those values, repeatedly taught to me as a child, were premises I wished to keep as an adult whose life was very different from the one I had growing up. Interestingly, I kept much of what I was taught because the ideas fit who I wanted to be in the present.

I am keenly aware every day of how easy it would be to dwell on my own foibles, weaknesses, limitations, failings and obstacles. I know very well my negative habits that intrude into my life as a woman, wife, friend, and teacher of singing. I work to be the best person I can be, knowing that I will never be perfect, and strive to keep an open heart and mind, a loving point of view towards everything and everyone, to be honest in what I say and how I deal with others. Of course, I make mistakes, but since I will always want to forgive those who injure me, I hope that the same courtesy will be offered in return. I choose to look at myself and my life positively, gratefully and with compassion. It is what allows me to get out of bed in the morning and face the day with hope.

You cannot teach well if you do not look into your own mind and heart and face your dark side. You cannot hide from the places where you are wounded, small, frightened, and withdrawn. If you would bring light into the world, you must own your darkness. If you cannot be responsible for the harm you do to others, (regardless of any reason or motivation) you will carry the burden of the unexpressed guilt with you until and unless you can confess it, at least to yourself, and seek absolution (from yourself or others).

We all fail at teaching singing, even when we strive to be as effective as possible. When we sincerely want to help our students sing with beauty and joy but we can still not be able to find a way to illuminate that path.  If we cannot hold and acknowledge that we are human, our teaching becomes stilted and dry and our hearts heavy and occluded. If you teach, realize that you are not now and will not ever be perfect. You will never be the best or only good teacher, you will never help everyone, you will at times make mistakes in spite of all good intentions not to. You must realize that all of this is OK. It’s real. It just is what it is. To go forward with courage you must trust  your own inner integrity, knowing that you will always take the high road. That is all that you can do. It is a choice and must be made on a daily basis.

If you do not respect yourself it is not possible to respect others at a deep level and to live out of that respect. If you act with impunity to make yourself look good, or seem important, or glamorous, or smart, you will actually create the exact opposite. Do not be surprised if you cannot compensate enough for your own behavior and choices and that your own falsehoods and lies cannot be camouflaged with excuses and dismissal, denial and blindness.

Have the humility to face yourself with grace and kindness and allow that to inform your piercing honesty. Integrity requires nothing less. If you want to be respected you must first be respectful. If you do not begin with yourself, you will never get the respect you deserve from  others.

 

If you enjoyed this post please like & share:

Respect

Merriam Webster defines respect this way:

a) a feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable, important

b) a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way

One way to respect music is to find out what the composer intended when she wrote it and to investigate what the poet or lyricist intended as well. Sometimes we don’t really know, but we should do our best to research things and discover whatever we can. Another way is to understand the general style of the music when more than one composer or lyricist has created in that style. Lincoln Center Library lists quite a few distinct styles including music theater, jazz, rock, folk, pop, alternative, etc.  While there is always artistic license, such that any music can be arranged in any manner, in order to express something unique, not bothering to find out what was intended in the first place, now that we have the internet, is unacceptable.

There are many ways to make analogies here. If you arrive in a place and decide the people living there are stupid barbarians and that you should suppress their customs and religious beliefs because yours are better, then you yourself are the barbarian. If you think that classical music is superior to all other music and that classical musical and vocal values should be applied to all styles —  you, too, are a barbarian. Fortunately, this idea is going away, but it isn’t gone. The old wives’ tales die slowly and the one that says, “If you can sing classically, you can sing anything”, is persistent. Sadly, it’s simply not true.

In previous posts I have written about “non-classical” as a term of disrespect. “Non” in the dictionary means:

a) not:  other than:  reverse of:  absence of

b) of little or no consequence;  unimportant,  worthless

c) lacking the usual especially positive characteristics of the thing specified

This means that “non-classical” music is of little or no consequence, is unimportant or worthless. Yes, we still have this term and we still live with its consequences. WHY? 

And, if you respect the music, then respect the people who teach it the way it was intended to be performed. Respect the teachers who understand the vocal, stylistic and performance aspects of  music and help you understand how to work with all styles in your own unique way. Respect teachers who do not insist that you must first learn to sing “An Die Muzik” in order to sing “Out Tonight” from Rent.

Respect is necessary. When you respect your teachers it is because you also respect yourself, your voice, your body and your artistic vision to express something unique and special. Contemporary Commercial Music (the term that has replaced “non-classical”) deserves everyone’s respect. If you agree with this idea, please share this post.

If you enjoyed this post please like & share:

Good Enough – Hopefully Not

In art, it is never OK to be good enough. It is never all right to decide to get by. No artist who is truly an artist is interested in being ordinary.

An artist is someone who views life through a unique perspective, one that cannot be shared with anyone else in exactly the same way. An artist illuminates some aspect of life, shedding new light and new insight so that others may come to appreciate it in a manner that would otherwise not be possible. Any artist who is truly an artist will ever seek that which is over the next hill and valley, the path untrod, the new and challenging, until they no longer are capable of creating.

To be an artist is to tread a lonely path. While the outside world can give support or condemnation, it can bestow accolades or criticisms, it cannot tell an artist what to create or not to create. The artist is bound to make whatever arises from inner inspiration. In being true to herself, an artist is compelled to bring forth that which must be given existence, and will often overcome monstrous obstacles to see that the creative end product is birthed according to her passionate vision.

You can study. You can develop skill and craft. You can have excellent mentors and guides. You can have multiple influences along the way but no one can motivate you to confront yourself and your own limitations, your foibles, your fears and your lacks. No one can give you the courage to keep on keeping on no matter how discouraged. Outsiders cannot make you keep your skills and talents in top shape, nor to trust others to seek their thoughts about your work. It cannot prevent you from falling victim to praise, sucking you into the abyss of your own self-admiration, fooling you into thinking that you are more significant because the world has congratulated you. This is, perhaps, the greatest horror of all.

It is very easy to be complacent and to take the easy way out. It is, sadly, in our culture, all too often the case that the squeaky wheel gets the oil. That means, in this case, that the people who can manage to get lots of “followers” on Twitter or “likes” on Facebook can be noticed by that alone, becoming “famous” even though they may have absolutely nothing of value to contribute to the world. These people are not truly artists even though they may become “celebrities” — famous for being famous.

If you are a vocalist, you cannot really hide. If you have something to say, musically and vocally, you must find a way to say it. You will have to “pay your dues” by studying with the best teachers you can find, seeking out ways to learn and grow through performances and by seeking to be as uniquely yourself as possible. Then, when you are “older” you will be able to look back to realize that you left behind a new path, one that others may follow until they find a better one of their own. You might even discover that you went where you never dreamed you would go. You might smile and decide that you were, in the end, an artist after all.

If you enjoyed this post please like & share: