SOME USEFUL IDIOMS

THIS SUMMER, FOLLOWING MY SERIES OF MASTER CLASSES  AT  “SUMMERFEST” (CURTIS INSTITUTE  OF MUSIC) & “LA MUSICA LIRICA” (NOVAFELTRIA, ITALY), SEVERAL SINGERS  ASKED IF I COULD SET DOWN  SOME OF THE  “IDIOMS”  I  USED IN THESE CLASSES.

AND SO I AM HAPPY TO INCLUDE A FEW IF THESE FOR MY  “END OF SUMMER” BLOG:

 

  “STAY AT THE PARTY WITHT THE VOWEL YOU CAME WITH BUT FLIRT WITH ANOTHER  – PREFERABLY HER ROUNDER SISTER”  (Vowel Modification )

 “TOP DOWN/BOTTOM UP”  –  (blending the registers)

“LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP”   (preparing mentally)

“A VOWEL IS LIKE A BAD HOUSE GUEST – COMES EARLY AND STAYS LATE”  (maintaining the pure vowel)

“LET THE TONGUE DO  THE WALKING”  – (vowel harmonization)

 ‘DON’T TRY — ALLOW”  (mental preparation)

“LESS EFFORT – MORE ENERGY”  (developing the tools intelligently)

 “FIND THE GESTURE IN EVERY PHRASE” (legato energy)

“THE INHALE IS THE UPBEAT TO EACH PHRASE”  (Prepare the whole instrument in advance of the first tone)

‘INHALE – INHALE”   (Thomas Hampson)  (balances breath management)

“SING THE WORDS AS IF YOU HAVE NEVER SAID THEM BEFORE”  (strong intent & honest expression)

“ALWAYS HAVE A POINT OF VIEW”  (mental preparation vocally and expressively)

“HOLY TRINITY – BUT ONLY ONE GOD “  (register balancing)

“YAWN UP”   (allow resonators to do the work)

“HEAR YOURSELF BEFORE YOU SING – NOT WHILE YOU SING) (developing the inner ear)

“KEEP THE BRAIN AHEAD OF THE VOICE”  (Benita Valente)

“ALLOW THE DOME TO SING ”    (Resonance)

“FOLLOW THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD”  (awareness of the vocal tract)

“STOP – LOOK – LISTEN”  (using the imagination – inner ear & eye)

“THE INFINITIVE OF LEGATO (‘LEGARE) IS AN ACTIVE VERB – NOT A PASSIVE VERB”  (legato energy)

“LET THE CONSONANTS DO THEIR JOB”   (articulation)

“THE LARGER THE HALL THE LESS YOU TRY”   resist tendency to push outward in larger halls)

And these are the three quotes with which  every Master Class begins: 

“A VOICE TEACHER’S RESPONSIBILITY IS TO HELP A SINGER WHO HAS SOMETHING TO SAY, SAY IT MORE EASILY”  (DIETRICH FISHER DISKEAU)

“IT IS NOT DIFFICULT TO SING WELL, AS LONG AS YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO” (Joan Sutherland)

  And the one that seems to be enjoyed the most:   “ALWAYS FOCUS ON ‘BEL CANTO’ – NOT ‘CAN BELTO’ “

THERE ARE MANY MORE IDIOMS WRITTEN OR SAID BY GREAT SINGERS AND PEDAGOGUES WHICH I WILL INCLUDE IN A FUTURE BLOG.   

AS ALWAYS I LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS.   JPY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dealing With The “Fear Factor”

Several  of you have asked me to write a blog on  the “Fear Factor”.  It is often a problem  that so many singers face from time to time  – students & professionals alike. 

Here is a good place to start:    “WE HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR BUT FEAR ITSELF” (Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States )  It is an important maxim for us all.  But it is especially important for singers.  It is too easy to let the fears take root.

No other group of performers and musicians deal with an instrument they cannot see, put into a case or forget about when  done using it.   Our instrument is our own body – not a man-made object that is  between us and the audience.       

 There are several things that can cause singers to experience fear of some type  – be it in rehearsal, in audition or in performance.  

So let’s talk about some of the obvious ones  –  what may cause theme –  and what can be done to control or eliminate them.  

“Fear of not being vocally, musically, interpretively secure in performance.”

 This common fear is governed  by the quality of your preparation.   

Technical Preparation:         We have all heard :   “When performing one must put their technique on the back burner”.    But to do that we must already have a solid technique to put on that back burner.  One of two things is often the cause of this common  fear:   lack of steady technical preparation  or 2) using technique as an end itself.

If you intelligently  and consistently prepare the work technically it will be there for you.   Muscle memory will hand it back to you when you are performing.   

 On the other hand, when a singer considers technical skill as an end in itself they forget about letting technique  serve a higher goal – to bring to life   the composer’s and librettist’s emotional intention.  This is true for auditions and performances.

Musical Preparation:    Callas used a term for this aspect of her craft  – The Wedding Cake approach.   It quite literally means to layer each facet in  preparing a piece:      rhythm, notation, phrasing, dynamic markings, text (pronunciation & comprehension )  Only then did she put the bride and groom on top of the cake (music  & text). Time consuming work to be sure, but it ensures  a sense of security and pleasure  in  performing.

Text Preparation: Apart from correct  pronunciation, one must have a total and complete understanding of the text in any language we sing.  .   A  vague sense of the meaning  is just not good enough.        Callas called it “reading between the lines”, or “getting behind the meaning of the words”.

Having a Point of View: It is common knowledge that the brain cannot concentrate on more than one thing at a time.Therefore, if the brain focuses on the the musical and interpretive aspects of his performance – a result of careful preparation – there is no room left for fear.

2) A fear of not being in physically  top shape for a performance. 

Normal performing nerves cause us to have some unpleasant physical symptoms, :  dry throat, fast heart beat, phlegm, shortness of breath, etc.   Learning to live with these goes a long way in reducing the power they have to spoil an audition or performance.   A healthy lifestyle is the key to being in top physical shape.  Do not be afraid to cancel  if you are not physically well.  The experience could leave an emotional  scar.  

The next fears are usually handled by the mind set of the performer.

3) A fear of failure professionally:  

This fear  is a waste of energy that could be used in both your preparation and your  auditioning or performing.   Developing a Positive Point  of View as to what our goal is as  artists goes a long way in alleviating this fear.  We often just try too hard for success.  Instead of “trying”  it is better to “allow” what you have prepared to function without fear.  

4) A fear of critics & criticism:

5) A fear of one’s competition:

Fears No. 4 & 5 are  usually  dealt with if you set your own bar.   Beverly Sills claimed she set her own level and reaching it  came ahead of  outside criticism.   Everyone listening to you has an opinion – some are intelligent but most are subjective.   Follow the advice of several successful performers – “If you don’t let criticism affect you it will go away”.   You have one singer to compete with – and that is yourself.  Each singer brings an individuality to the stage and to the repertoire.   Developing your individuality is far more important than comparing yourself to colleagues or peers.

6) A fear of not winning the competition or getting the role:

Think about this:     If you go out to audition with a  sense of fear the listener immediately picks up on it.     But, if you present yourself  with a sense of confidence   the audience will  immediately accept you that way.   An added benefit is  the singer themselves feels ready to go out there and “do it”.  

7) A fear of not becoming successful quickly enough:

There is no telling when success will come.    Instant success does not happen often and when it does it sometimes does not last. Trying for the “brass ring” all the time will not allow you to “take a chance”.  All great artists get out of their own way.  It takes time and patience and faith.

I hope these thought are helpful.  Being nervous is normal but fear happens when it is out of control.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“BEL CANTO – A style or a technique?

The term “Bel Canto” is  heard over and over again in articles, books, voice studios, critiques, etc But do we really know what we mean when we use it?

Is it a style ?  Is it a Technique?

It is, of course, a style.  And  it is also a technique.

The term “Bel Canto Style” historically pertains to a long line of Italian vocal literature that spans 400 years , ( i.e. Caccini, Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Handel, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti  ending with Verdi).   However, this term (translation: “Beautiful Singing”) was coined only in the mid 19th century.

Over the course of these 400 years, singers of the classical and romantic bel canto operas slowly and steadily developed a  Technique that fulfilled this evolving Style of vocal writing.

The “Bel Canto Technique”  is, therefore   a set of tools to achieve the inherent characteristics of the Style.

Today the term Bel Canto Technique encompasses  a  broad panorama of  vocal writing. As well as the rich repertoire of the Bel Canto Style, it embraces many languages, many composers of many styles:    Verismo, Wagner, European Operetta, Classical American Musical Theatre,  Lieder, Melodie, Canzone as well as Art Songs &  popular American songs of the 20th century.

The Bel Canto Style embraces a specific set of characteristics.   The Bel Canto Technique is based on these very characteristics.  What are these characteristics ?  Let’s take a look:

      1. Smooth blending of the registers:  An ability to smoothly join the head, mid and chest resonances into one unbroken line

2Clear diction:        pure, harmonized  vowels, well articulated consonants

3.  Dynamic Control:   an ability to modulate the tone throughout the voice (messa di voce)

      4. Clean onset  and offset of tone:   noiseless,  smooth, immediate beginning and ending of each phrase.

  5.  Long phrases sung on one breath:   a mastery over breath management and support of the tone.     

 6. Flexibility:     an ability to sing agile, accurate coloratura passages throughout the range

7.”Chiara/Scura tone:  – a balance  of bright and warm tone in every note in the vocal range.

.  Expressivity:  The convening of the deepest human emotions through voice and text

Keeping these characteristics as their  goal  a singer will begin with a knowledge of how one wants to see the curve of a phrase, express  a vocal color, deliver a text, create a long line, etc. It is in having this strong intent that we go about finding & developing the tools that allow  our singing to be much easier, healthier and energized.

In recognizing and willing these characteristics the technical growth of a singer becomes more comfortable, homeopathic, expressive and less mechanical.  We tend to get out of our own way which, of course, is the singer’s most common vocal challenge.

“Vocalizes are the foundation of a well-developed vocal technique.  They are the only way one can develop the tools that allow for beautiful singing of arias and songs.” – according to the great Belgian Bass Baritone Jose Van Dam.

The intelligent use of bel canto vocalizes is the clear way to achieve these goals, of course.  They are the building blocks  to developing an effortless but  energized classical vocal technique.     When approached in an orderly way the student, with their teacher, is able to develop the characteristics of Bel Canto Technique.   My favorites are:  Rossini (Gorgheggi E Solfeggi); Tosti (alter 25 solfeggi) & Marchesi (accompanied vocalises).

Keeping in mind what three of my favorite singers have said, we will realize that vocal technique is a means to an end – not an end in itself.

“THE VOICE TEACHER’S JOB IS TO HELP A SINGER WHO HAS  SOMETHING TO SAY,  SAY IT MORE EASILY”  (Dietrich Fischer Dieskau)

“SINGING BEAUTIFULLY IS NOT DIFFICULT, AS LONG AS ONE KNOWS WHAT THEY WANT TO ACHIEVE”  (Joan Sutherland)

“A BEATUIFUL TONE IS NEVER AN ACCIDENT (Thomas Hampson)

PS  – As I finish up this blog I have just seen and heard on You Tube  – Fausta Truffa, a  rather old woman singing Verdi’s  “La Vergine degli Angeli”  – a remarkable example of both the Style and Technique of beautiful singing.  It is also a testament to the healthy use  of a voice well into a later life.  Look and listen for yourself.

 

 

 

 

RESPONDING TO YOUR COMMENTS

THANK YOU TO THOSE WHO HAVE SENT IN COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS TO MY BLOG – I AM NOT ABLE TO RESPOND FOR SOME REASON OR OTHER DUE TO SOME WORDPRESS ID PROBLEM.  AS I TRY TO SORT IT OUT WHY DONT YOU JUST WRITE ME AT MY EMAIL ADDRESS WITH YOUR COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS.

I WILL BE HAPPY TO RESPOND.  THANK YOU FOR FOLLWOING “SINGING WITH MANY VOICES”

JOAN PATENAUDE-YARNELL

“I SANG BECAUSE I HAD TO” – Jon Vickers

                         A TRIBUTE TO THE ART OF JON VICKERS

The Canadian tenor, Jon Vickers passed away this July.  He leaves behind a legacy as one of the great singer-actors of the 20th Century.

WHAT MADE JON VICKERS STAND OUT AS SUCH AN IMPORTANT ARTIST?

He was born in the western province of Alberta in Canada and his beginnings were very humble.  He came from a working class family that lived by hard work and a deep sense of their religion.  He worked at low paying, hard labor jobs until he was granted a scholarship to go to the Toronto Conservatory to study with George Lambert – a teacher who insisted that his young student learn new repertoire for each lesson – a great deal of it being oratorio and songs.

He always claimed that his intense love of words came from his strong religious background and prayer.   He also developed an intense understanding of the human condition – most likely because of his less-than-prosperous beginnings and early family struggles to survive  .  Both of these experiences he brought to his singing.   

Mr. Vickers has often been called  the male equivalent to Maria Callas as they both “read between the lines” of the text and delved into their most profound meaning.    He was a great believer that the words came first and then the music – as it did for the composers.   

Because of his love of text and his intense emotional commitment, he never failed to bring a strong point of view to every role he performed – every song he  sang.  As with Callas, he found things in the characters he portrayed that lesser singers fail to do. 

Vickers approached each character with his own particular  individuality,  be it the jealously driven Otello, the self-destructive Don Jose, the lonely outcast, Peter Grimes.  His strong points of view  guided his singing.  It was all born in his imagination long before he put the role into his voice.    As with  many of our greatest singers, it was this intensity of purpose that guided his singing.  Technique was a means to share his deepest musical and interpretive goals with  his audience – never an end in itself.  This  intense preparation informed his singing.

Although  he was classified as a dramatic tenor, he brought the most elegant vocal colorings to his recital repertoire – especially Schubert’s “Die Winterreise”.  Again – he found these colors through his emotional commitment to  the text and the music.   Thus there was always a sense of deep personal commit:ment that came from deep inside the singer himself – nothing seemed to come from outside of him.

This approach, of course, meant taking many chances which many singers are reluctant to do.   He was driven by a need to share his deepest feelings through his voice thus his often heard quote: _ “I Sing Because I Have To”.

For me Vickers was always a profound inspiration – both as a young girl in Canada hearing him on television and also the great honor of singing my first professional role with him while I was still a student in conservatory (Micaela in Carmen – Canadian Opera Company).    I would watch him from the wings and see in front of me – not Mr. Vickers — but a human being who went from a young, naive  soldier in Act 1  to a killer in Act 4 –  a profound study of a self-destructive man.  

He was the personification of a great artist –  wonderfully prepared – very often demanding – always intense & above all a true catalyst between the composer and the librettist, laying bare for us all to see the deepest of emotions of the human spirit. 

The likelyhood of another artist of such intensity is rare – but we do have today the German tenor, Jonas Kaufmann.   He too “reads between the lines” of the text and always brings a strong individuality  to every character he portrays .  His singing is guided by his deep understanding of  each character. And he too  “takes a chance”   a   lesson all young singers should not be afraid to learn.

I heartily recommend that you check out the following Vicker performances on You Tube:

“Vesti La Giubba”  (Pagliacci) – Flower Song (Carmen) – and scenes from “Otello” and “Peter Grimes”.  

In a Vicker’s performance you will always hear deep understanding, intense communication and an overpowering vocal performance — goals we should all reach for.

 

SORTING OUT TECHNICAL INFORMATION & VERBAL DESCRIPTIONS

MOST SINGERS AT SOME POINT, EITHER AS A STUDENT OR PROFESSIONAL, EXPERIENCE SOME CONFUSION OVER A TECHNICAL POINT OR AN IMAGE SUGGESTED TO THEM BY A TEACHER, COACH, ETC. THE FACT THAT THE SINGER “IS” THE INSTRUMENT MAKES THIS ALMOST INEVITABLE. THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO SAY THE SAME THING WHEN IT COMES TO OUR CRAFT.

TODAY’S BLOG IS ABOUT THE USE OF WORDS (SEMANTICS) AND THE VARIOUS EXPLANATIONS GIVEN FOR THE SAME TECHNICAL ELEMENT.

THE CHOICE OF WORDS AND IMAGES WE HEAR AND USE IS ALL IMPORTANT. THE USE OF A CERTAIN PHRASE BY A TEACHER OR COACH WILL UNDOUBTEDLY PRODUCE IMAGES THAT VARY FROM SINGER TO SINGER. THIS IS WHY A TEACHER MUST:

A) ALWAYS HAVE A WIDE PALATE OF WORD DESCRIPTIONS AND IMAGES
B) MUST HAVE A VERY GOOD KNOWLEDGE OF THE SINGER’S PHYSIOGOMY – HOW THE INSTRUMENT WORKS TECHNICALLY.

IT IS EQUALLY IMPORTANT THAT THE SINGER BE ON GUARD FOR ACCEPTING WITHOUT MUCH THOUGHT THE WORDS (SEMANTICS) OR IMAGES USED BY TEACHERS/COACHES/ETC. . TOO MANY YOUNG STUDENTS ACCEPT THE SEMANTICS BLINDLY WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING THEIR MEANING. REMEMBER THERE IS ALWAYS MORE THAN ONE WAY TO DESCRIBE A TECHNICAL CHOICE OR A DESCRIPTION OF HOW OUR INSTRUMENT WORKS. OUT OF POLITENESS OR NOT WISHING TO OFFEND THE TEACHER, A SINGER MAY HESITATE TO ASK FOR A CLEARER EXPLANATION. AND, OF COURSE, A STUDENT MAY FEEL HE IS CHALLENGING THE TEACHER IF HE QUESTIONS THE INFORMATION.

HERE ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF HOW CERTAIN WORD CHOICES THAT MAY OR MAY NOT WORK FOR A PARTICULAR SINGER.

THE WORD “SUPPORT MAY PROVE TO HAVE A POSITIVE EFFECT FOR ONE SINGER BUT CAUSE UNDO MUSCULAR TENSION IN ANOTHER.

ALSO THE SUGGESTION TO “PROJECT” MAY BE MISUNDERSTOOD. TO SOME IT COULD CAUSE THEM TO PUSH THE AIR AND SOUND WHILE OTHERS DO NOT FALL INTO THAT DANGER.

I FIND THAT THE WORD “ATTACK” CAN OFTEN CAUSE ONE SINGER TO AWKWARDLY SING THE FIRST NOTE OF A PHRASE & NOT ANOTHER. IF IT DOES ONE MUST FIND ANOTHR WORD I.E. “ONSET”.

CONFUSION MAY ALSO BE EXPERIENCED BY A YOUNG SINGER WHEN DIFFERENT EXPLANATIONS ARE GIVEN IN DESCRIBING HOW THE INSTRUMENT WORKS. HERE ARE TWO EXAMPLES SOME OF YOU WILL RECOGNIZE I AM SURE.

VOWELS: SOME TEACHERS WILL INFORM A STUDENT THAT THE VOWEL IS FORMED AT THE BACK AND DELIVERED FORWARD BY THE TONGUE. ANOTHER TEACHER MAY INTRODUCE THE IMAGE OF THE VOWELS ALREADY BEING FORWARD ON INHALATION.
YET ANOTHER TEACHER MAY INFORM THE STUDENT THAT THE VOWELS ARE MADE IN THE LARYNX. NONE OF THE ABOVE INFORMATION IS INCORRECT. BUT TO ONE STUDENT THE FIRST IMAGE MAY CAUSE A SINGER TO “FEEL” OR “IMAGE” VOWELS IN THE BACK AND THE TEXT WILL LACK CLARITY. ON THE OTHER HAND THE IMAGE OF THE VOWELS ALREADY BEING FORWARD COULD ERRONEOUSLY CAUSE A SINGER NOT TO PREPARE THE WHOLE VOCAL TRACK ON INHALATION. AND THE THIRD DESCRIPTION OF THE VOWELS BEING MADE IN THE LARYNX, WHILE NOT ALTOGETHER WRONG, MAY CAUSE THE SINGER TO FOCUS ON THE LARYNGEAL MOVEMENT WHICH, OF COURSE, RESULTS IN AN UNSTABLE LARYNX.

BREATH: OF ALL THE TECHNICAL ELEMENTS DEVELOPED IN THE VOCAL STUDIO THE ONE THAT SEEMS TO CAUSE THE MOST CONFUSION IS THE BREATH MECHANISM. EACH SINGER THAT I HEAR FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY STUDIO IS ASKED WHAT THEY ALREADY KNOW ABOUT THE “SINGER’S BREATH”? THE VARIETY OF RESPONSES IS STAGGERING. SOME ARE EITHER TOTALLY UNAWARE OR ILL-INFORMED OF THE INHALATION/EXHALATION PROCESS. OTHERS ARE ABLE TO NAME EACH MUSCLE INVOLVED. YET IN BOTH GROUPS SOME MAY NOT BE ABLE TO USE BREATH MANAGEMENT EFFICIENTLY.

FROM MY EXPERIENCE IN RECEIVING SO MANY VARIOUS RESPONSES, I COME TO THE CONCLUSION THAT THERE ARE THREE APPROACHES TO THIS ALL-IMPORTANT SUBJECT BEING USED IN VOCAL STUDIOS BY THREE DIFFERENT TYPES OF TEACHERS:

1) THE TEACHER WHO FOCUSES ON VOICE SCIENCE & USES TEXT BOOK INFORMATION IN DESCRIBING THE PROCESS IN MINUTE DETAILS

2) THE TEACHER WHO DOES NOT WANT THE STUDENT TO BE OVERLY OBSESSED WITH BREATH MANAGEMENT AND DOES NOT DEAL WITH IT SPECIFICALLY. THIS TEACHER MAY SUGGEST THE SENSATIONS SHE OR HE FELT IN THEIR OWN SINGING.

3) THE TEACHER WHO BALANCES THE PHYSICAL KNOWLEDGE OF THE INHALATION/EXHALATION PROCESS COUPLED WITH THE MUSICAL VALUES OF A PHRASE, I.E. LONG LINE, LEGATO, ETC.

THE INDIVIDUAL SINGER WILL RESPOND BETTER TO ONE OR OTHER OF THESE APROACHES.

AN INTERESTING STORY —- I HAPPENED TO BE AT THE ONLY MASTER CLASS GIVEN BY THE GREAT AMERICAN BARITONE, ROBERT MERRILL. HE WAS A VERY OLD MAN AT THE TIME BUT WAS ABLE TO SING RIGHT ALONG WITH THE YOUNG SINGERS WITH A STEADY TONE. A VOICE STUDENT IN THE AUDIENCE PUT UP HIS HAND AND ASKED: “MR. MERRILL, I HAVE BEEN TO EVERY VOICE TEACHER IN NEW YORK IN AN ATTEMPT TO UNDERSTAND A SINGER’S BREATH AND I STILL DONT KNOW HOW TO SUPPORT. COULD YOU HELP ME?” MR. MERRILL IMMEDIATELY RESPONDED:
“OF COURSE I WILL — HERE IS HOW IT WORKS: YOU TAKE A BREATH AND YOU SING” WAS HE WRONG? — OF COURSE NOT. FOR ROBERT MERRILL THIS SIMPLE EXPLANATION WORKED FOR HIM DURING HIS LONG CAREER. HOWEVER, THIS LACK OF A MORE DETAILED EXPLANATION DOES NOT WORK FOR EVERYONE.

HOW DOES A YOUNG SINGER DEAL WITH THE SUBJECT OF “SEMANTICS” AND/OR CONFLICTING TECHNICAL EXPLANATIONS? BY ASKING QUESTIONS IS A GOOD PLACE TO START. IF THEIR IS ANY CONFUSION AS TO WHAT A TEACHER OR COACH MEANS IN THEIR CHOICE OF WORDS YOU MUST RECOGNIZE WHEN THEY DO NOT CONJURE UP THE RIGHT IMAGE FOR YOU. IF YOU HAVE HEARD THE SAME TECHNICAL POINT DESCRIBED DIFFERENTLY BY ANOTHER TEACHER OR COACH BRING THAT UP DURING THE LESSON. A GOOD TEACHER WILL ALWAYS HAVE THE PATIENCE AND IMAGINATION TO HELP YOU UNRAVEL THAT CONFUSION.

A GOOD RULE OF THUMB IS TO BE HONEST WITH YOUR VOICE TEACHER. TOGETHER YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO CLARIFY ANY CONFUSION WITH THE INFORMATION ONE GETS EITHER FROM OTHER SINGERS, TEACHERS, COACHES, ETC. YOU WILL BE SURPRISED HOW THAT WILL HELP YOUR GROWTH AND CONFIDENCE. IDEALLY YOU AND YOUR PRIMARY VOICE TEACHER WILL DEVELOP A LANGUAGE THAT WORKS FOR YOU. THERE IS REALLY NOTHING WORSE THAN BEING CONFUSED AND DOUBTFUL. NIP IT IN THE BUD BEFORE IT GETS THE BEST OF YOU.

HOW DOES A TEACHER DEAL WITH THE INDIVIDUAL STUDENT WHO MAY NOT GET A PARTICULAR EXPLANATION OR WORDING USED ? BY HAVING VARIOUS WORD CHOICES, OF COURSE, AS WELL AS A VERY THOROUGH KNOWLEDGE OF HOW THE INSTRUMENT ACTUALLY WORKS. ABOVE ALL, TO HAVE PATIENCE AND TO USE IMAGINATIVE VERBIAGE BASED ON SOLID KNOWLEDGE. IT IS A GOOD IDEA TO ENCOURAGE THE SINGER TO USE THEIR OWN DESCRIPTION OF A VOCAL SENSATION THEY EXPERIENCE. PUTTING IT IN ONE’S OWN WORDS IS SO HELPFUL.
TO QUOTE A FAVORITE MAXIM: “IF YOU ARE NOT ABLE TO EXPLAIN IT SIMPLY, YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND IT WELL ENOUGH”
(ALBERT EINSTEIN)

IN SUMMING UP, I THINK ANOTHER MAXIM SAYS IT BEST FOR BOTH YOUNG SINGERS & TEACHERS/COACHES ALIKE:

“EDUCATION IS NOT THE LEARNING OF FACTS BUT THE TRAINING OF THE MIND TO THINK” (ALBERT EINSTEIN)

PREPARING TO PERFORM

MANY FOLLOWERS OF THIS  BLOG WOULD LIKE TO TALK ABOUT HANDLING PERFORMANCE ANXIETY .

As the Fall season approaches every serious singer, be they student or professional, will be “performing” in some manner or other, I.E.  an audition for the Opera Department at your school or for one of the important Young Artist Programs. Many of the major and regional opera companies will be auditioning for their future seasons. Professional singers will be embarking on a new performance calendar in opera, recital or concerts. 

        A singer never stops “performing”. It is a much better mind-set than “auditioning”, of course. To perform means to share musically, vocally and interpretively. To audition connatess “being judged”. If we think of “performing” in the broad sense of the word we will go a long way in mentally preparing our thoughts as to how we want a piece to sound, what emotion we want to convey. So many young singers, either through inadequate vocal and musical preparation, become very nervous at the thought of “performing” in whatever venue he is facing and mentally treat it more as “auditioning”.

      There are many reasons why a singer feels a great sense of fear in facing a performance of any nature. One of these reasons can be their attitude in developing a good technique. If this goal is approached as an end in itself the singer will not be as ready to  “perform” as to much as to “exhibit”  technical skills. The needed impetus to communicate music and text will not be in the forefront of their  thoughts. Instead they will be “trying” to do it “correctly”. It  is absolutely necessary then that  vocal study, from the beginning,  must incorporate the intuitive, spontaneous, musical and vocal impulse each singer naturally brings to their voice lessons or coachings.

      Voice science has taught us so very much about the workings of the singing voice–about the anatomy of a singer.. But this knowledge must not be isolated and focused on to the point of making a singer overly conscious of their physical mechanism. This will only induce a sense of “holding”,  not allowing a singer to go to the level of truly comfortably expressing  the human emotions inherent in the music,  be it on the Operatic Stage, in the Audition Hall, the Studio or the Practice Room.

     How does one then find the calmness and alertness to perform with joy and ease. Is it by being “excited” when you walk on stage? Or is it a definite gathering of energies prior to stepping out to sing? The latter, of course, is the more sensible way. The former only is uncontrolled energy, somehting like a runaway car.

     This brings us to Preparing to Perform. And it is all has to do with how we prepare mentally, physically & emotionally prior to stepping onto the platform with the healthy impulse to perform and to share. And this preparation takes time, concentration and calmness. A body that is tightly held  because of over-focusing on the mechanical  cannot vibrate. By the same token, a body that is under-energized and “loose” will never make a beautifully ringing  tone. Therefore the postural preparation of the singer is a good place to start in any lesson, coaching, audition or performance.    We have to wake up the body and the mind to “want” to perform.

     Cecilia Bartolli is quoted as saying she feels like a young race horse in the wings -” eager for the gate to open” so that she can go out and run with energy, making the performance a wonderfully joyous experience.

    Some singers find this calmness and readiness  by  doing physical warm-up exercises. it is a good idea to have a set that one does regularly.  They can be stretches, Tai Chi moves, dance steps, etc.

    Another way of finding the impulse to perform is to be affected when  hearing certain  piece of music, a poem, a particular thought.  Each singer is able to find something of this nature that will be the driving impetus  that brings one to the wings with energy and alertness.

    All of this preparation takes time, patience, intelligence and concentration. Only if these skills are developed in advance  will the performer truly perform with ease, energy and a wonderful sense of calmness.