Q Why get vocal lessons if I can sing really well already?
A Vocal cords are like muscles and with proper training you can get a lot more out of them. With age and use your vocal cords can become sore, developing nodules which could end a career. I will get you through these hazards safely and unleash all of your potential.
Q Do you teach opera, jazz and all genres of music?
A Unlike some vocal methods that are centered on a particular style of singing, we give you the vocal coordination you need, enabling you to sing any style you want. Once we’ve utilized a healthy technique to make sure that you are in healthy vocal form, we’ll work together to apply it to whatever musical genre you wish to sing.
Q How many lessons do I need?
A This is very much like fitness. Some need a coach to get through a problem area; others want to continually refine their skill. We have solved range and mix problems in a single lesson, but many have been students on-and-off for their entire careers. Master-level coaches are often called in before recording sessions, or brought by singers on tour to prevent them from hurting their voices.
Q I hear a lot about bad coaches ruining voices. Is this a real problem?
A Sadly, yes. A bad coach can lead a singer into physically harming their vocal cords. The good news is that in many cases the damage can be undone. The other problem is teaching bad habits that can prevent a singer from maximizing their voice. It is not uncommon for us to work with experienced singers and increase their range dramatically in a handful of lessons.
Q Can you be too young or too old to start singing?
A Not really. If a student can understand the music, they can work to improve their energy and control – thus becoming more able to accomplish their goals.
Q Are singers born with the gift to sing ?
A Some certainly are more gifted than others, but as long as you can speak and are not tone deaf, you can sing. The music world is filled with diverse voices ranging from a Bob Dylan to a Pavarotti. Would we not have missed the one if he had decided not to sing because he did not sound like the other?
Q How do you classify a singer’s voice?
A I don’t! At least not right away. It’s wrong to prematurely classify a voice before you really get to know what it can do. Too often, existing range is the sole determining factor in placing a singer into a certain category. The most important factor to consider is the basic quality of the voice. Assuming that your speaking voice is clear and unforced, your singing voice should be based on the quality of that speaking voice.
Q What about breathing? Doesn’t correct breathing play an important part in your ability to produce good tone?
A Of course. But the importance of breathing in singing has been overemphasized by voice teachers for too long a time. Correct breathing is a by-product of good technique – just like one’s resonance quality is a by-product. You should never work directly at developing your breath unless you have a sloppy posture and a depressed rib cage (which collapses uncontrollably when you expel air). You indirectly develop the proper breath support for your tone as you condition your larynx not to move and your outer muscles to relax. When you use a speech-level approach to singing, everything, including how much air you use to move your cords, happens automatically.
Q What is the difference between projection and shouting?
A Projection is the acoustical phenomenon that occurs when you produce your tone with an efficient balance of air and muscle. Shouting, on the other hand, implies the usage of air “blast”, which causes your voice to “jam up”.
Q Why should I bother so much about my tone quality if I’m going to be singing with a microphone?
A Electronic amplification and alteration of your voice have an important place in the communication and entertainment media, but they must not be thought to replace healthy and efficient vocal production.
Q How does one select a voice teacher?
A First of all, you must be able to discern whether or not a teacher is primarily a voice technique teacher (one who shows you how to sing), or whether he/she is primarily a voice coach (one who shows you what to sing). Of the two types, the voice technique teacher is the most important, because without the technical ability to sing flexibly and clearly in all parts of your range, you are very limited to the material you can do. For the initiated, a good voice technique teacher is hard to find. Many so-called voice teachers are just vocal “cheerleaders”, who bang away at a piano while you follow along. That is not teaching you how to sing, however. You just get a lot of practice following a piano, and memorizing the notes of a song. Furthermore, when the teacher’s methodology consists mainly of using terms such as “give it more support”, “sing from your diaphragm”, “sing into the mask”, and “open your mouth” you know you are in the wrong company. If you don’t feel your voice improving in the areas of tone production and easily attainable range extension within a few weeks, you’d better find another teacher – FAST! Many teachers give their students the same vocal problems which killed their own careers and made them teachers. Before studying with a teacher, ask for a simple demonstration of the teacher’s own ability – especially his/her ability to negotiate their own passage areas. Audition the teacher!
Q Should your vocal technique be the same for choral (ensemble) singing as it is for solo singing?
A Yes, you should always use the same vocal technique, whether you sing solo or in a group. However, choral directors sometimes want you to modify your tone (change the way you sing) in order to blend with the other singers in the group. This may be okay for those singers who have developed a solid vocal technique, but dangerous for those – the majority – who haven’t. You blend, all right – but at what cost? A singer should never compromise correct speech-level technique.
Q How do you teach young voices, say under fifteen years of age?
A For both boys and girls, basic musicianship should begin as soon as possible. I recommend a stringed instrument such as violin, viola or cello as a good start. These instruments give one a feeling of long, continuous, bowed lines, and a “vibratoed” quality of tone which is similar to the singing voice. Piano and guitar are also very good as they will help in the later study of harmony and be useful as a means of self-accompaniment. Naturally, with all instruments, the involvement with reading music and rhythm is invaluable.
As far as actual voice training goes, however, one must be careful. In girls, it is not uncommon to find youngsters around ten years of age who can vocalize easily form low G to A – E flat above high C and above. And it is quite possible to maintain that marvelous start if those handling that voice are careful not to require any heavy singing. That is: competition in groups of older voices or participation in school musicals which require belting. These young voices will become fuller (rounded out) without loss of range, power and quality if care is taken to keep strain absent.
In male voices, the change from boy soprano to the beginnings of the adult male voice can be traumatic. It can happen dramatically (overnight in some cases), or hang in a “cracking limbo”, bobbing back and forth within an octave range for a period of time. It is both embarrassing and bothersome, and indeed (if the young boy has experienced some success with a beautiful soprano voice) a horrifying experience. This is a difficult period to live through, unless you have knowledgeable and patient vocal guidance from an expert voice technique teacher. The youngster must be monitored regularly to insure that he is keeping his voice coordination as balanced as possible through the change.