NOT How to Sing Opera – Part 2

My previous post stirred up quite a bit of activity. That’s great. Pretty much everybody who commented was of the opinion that the demonstration of how to sing opera was severely misguided. That is also a very good thing. But I want to go deeper into this topic of how we create the sounds we are looking for.

Initially I wanted to post that video mainly because it was so off-base that it was funny. I actually laughed. But then I realized that the reality is some people think that is an operatic quality. (If you missed the post I’m talking about, you can find it here: http://vocalwisdom.com/not-how-to-sing-opera)

What I want to look at now is a similar belief of how to sing opera. This is less obviously wrong, but no less mistaken.

After discussing the video with my wife I remembered a teacher at our college in the Theater department. She was a voice specialist that worked with actors. She prided herself on her knowledge of all different vocal styles and techniques.

I remember a workshop that she gave to students that I was present for. I don’t remember the details and if I was participating or observing. But the thing I remember that relates was when she came to the topic of making an opera sound.

She told the students that to sing opera was very easy. All you had to do is yawn, and that would change the sound from a spoken quality, which was good for musical theater, to a rounder, more operatic sound.

Even then, before I had spent the many years studying, researching, experimenting and just generally figuring things out, I knew that she was way off-base.

As someone said in the comments to the last post, there are no shortcuts to a complete sound. This is very true. Any kind of direction to “just do this” is wrong. Even if the direction is accurate, there is no single direction that if done correctly will give you a complete sound. The complete sound that we desire is the product of a coordination of several component parts of the body all working together systematically.

And this necessary coordination is the product of years of development of sympathetic relationships. That is the aspect that young singers don’t understand. And this is probably because many of their teachers don’t understand it either.

The point is you can’t just do certain things as a technique and immediately have an operatic sound. Just like you can’t just be coached in sprinting technique and suddenly run a 10-second 100 meter dash. Even if you were able to know exactly what to do, and could execute accurately, you would need to develop the skill of coordination and the physical reactions of the nervous system to be able to achieve that goal. (Not to mention be naturally inclined to running fast)

This is why I’m always “preaching” not to focus on making a particular sound. That is just imitation. Most voices just aren’t capable of an operatic sound right away. But we hear first and second year college students trying to sound like mature singers. We should always sound like what we are. That doesn’t mean we can’t sound good even if we are young. But if we are 19 years old, we should sound 19, not 45.

What we want is a thorough development of the body as a tone producing instrument. The tone quality we will be capable of making in 6-8 months is not the tone we can make right now (even if we do everything correct), which is not the tone quality we will be able to create in 2-3 years, or 10-15 for that matter.

Then there is the aspect that, like the sprinter, not all voices are capable of the same operatic quality. Smaller voices can become capable of great acoustic strength, but they should still have the natural characteristics of a smaller, lighter voice. They shouldn’t be trying to make a bigger, darker sound that isn’t natural for their instrument. And there is repertoire for most types of voices. So as long as we’re not imitating some other type of voice and allowing our natural instrument to exist we will be OK.

But the main point I want to explore in this post is one about yawning to get an operatic sound. This is actually very common and most of us have been taught some version of this opinion. Yes, I include myself as well.

This belief is tied in with the mis-interpretation of what it means to have an open throat. I am reminded of the principle of medical ethics that says, “First, do no harm”. We would do well to remember this when dealing with an open throat. First, do not close it.

The challenge with that is any type of imitative sound involves closing the throat in some way. For that is the only way to control and alter the timbre of our voice. Which is what we are doing when we imitate a sound, even if it is a “good” sound that we imagine.

With most examples of modern operatic singers we can hear some form of this imitative sound production. The most common is the practice of “opening” the throat to create a darker timbre. In reality, what is happening is the singer is dropping the tongue, trapping the resonance deeper in the throat and applying extra pressure on the larynx.

Probably the most famous example of this condition now is the tenor Jonas Kaufmann. He is a very talented singer that is establishing himself as the top tenor of the time. But he is certainly not a model of natural function. Many can hear his obvious distortion of his resonance toward the dark end of the spectrum.

He does this by forming the resonators, primarily with the root of the tongue, to emphasize the back and lower resonance of the throat. These are important parts of the resonance system, but only parts. They should be balanced with the higher/brighter resonances as well.

This fixed resonance condition creates a limitation of an artificially dark, dramatic tone all of the time. In the roles of Wagner that he is now doing this actually is not too disturbing. I listened to a recording of Die Walküre from last spring and it was the first time I wasn’t repulsed (maybe too strong of a word) by his tone.

That’s not to say it was appropriate, just that it didn’t stick out as much in that style. But then he sang Faust this season and that tone is totally inappropriate for the french opera. This is what I mean by a fixed resonance. No matter what he sings the tone color is the same, whether the music is supposed to be a dramatic expression or a lyric one.

The fact that he is distorting his voice is confirmed by the lack of true vibration on the low notes of the Walküre aria and the high C of the Faust aria. Many think he is singing with an open throat. He is lowering his larynx, but it is causing him to disconnect from his larynx. So the vibration of his vocal cords are not true. He is in tune as far as pitch, for the most part, but not in terms of quality.

The real test to determine this is the character of the sung vowels. Traditional vocal training always emphasized pure vowels. Sometimes that is misunderstood because what we tend to associate with that is how we pronounce when talking. We actually do not talk with pure vowels.

Pure vowels for singing require acoustic vowels. Vowels made up of the complete acoustical spectrum of the voice. When a tone resonates completely the whole vowel is created. Often we can notice the impression that many singers only sing the bottom of the vowel. They are missing the top of the vowel.

The reason is physiological. The tongue is dropping in an attempt to have an “open” throat. So the low resonance that makes you think you have a rich tone only represents the bottom half of the vowel. It lacks the upper half. And because the upper part of the resonance, and vowel, is missing there is a lack of brilliance in the tone. Making it less present in the space and forcing the singer to work harder to produce as much result.

But the key aspect to this difference between the yawning throat and the naturally hollow throat is the ability to understand the words being sung. The majority of singers on stage today can’t sing intelligible words because they are distorting their throat in order to “open” it.

This next video is from 1998 and is a good example of his natural quality. This illustrates how much he has changed how he uses his voice.

The production is not totally coordinated. But it is not deliberately distorted like he does now. The only real problem he shows is singing too much out of his mouth. This decreases the amount the resonance is able to reinforce the vibration, which would make the singing easier. It also would improve the register balance in the upper range. But he doesn’t seem to have too much trouble, either.

Another example of Jonas K. singing french, this time the Pearl Fishers duet with Dmitri Hvorostovsky. In this we can hear a good example of the distorted vowel quality because it really shows up in the quiet singing. It sounds like he is holding the vowels in the back of his throat.

We can hear Hvorostovsky has some of the same quality, but not to the same degree. Let’s listen to a version of this that is considered by many to be the standard.

The simplicity and purity of both voices is a real model for all singers.

So the question is, if it is so obvious that the “Kermit” approach to operatic singing is off, why is it not so obvious that the “yawning” approach is as well? They are both distortions of the throat space. The Kermit sound is trapping the resonance in the upper oro-pharynx with a raised larynx. The yawn sound is trapping the resonance in the lower oro-pharynx with a lowered larynx.

I think part of the confusion is not only with the open throat issue, but with the low larynx. It is true that in a well-coordinated voice the larynx is in a low position. But it is not preset there. The larynx lowers itself as part of the vocal gesture. And only for the fully intensified vocalism.

The larynx should always have stability. But the position of it depends on the degree of intensity. It sets itself in response to the expression. Doing any kind of preset lowering over-rides the instinctual coordination of the larynx.

The natural positioning of the larynx is what allows the singer to still sound like a person when they sing. When the vowels are distorted because of the manipulation of arbitrarily lowering the larynx they no longer sound like a person. This is because of the fabricated nature of the imitative sound. The real human character of the voice was a quality of all the great singers, regardless of vocal style.

Now, I have just used Jonas Kaufmann as an example, but he is certainly not the only modern singer doing this. And to be realistic, there were singers in the past that did this as well. They just were recognized as limited and not considered the great singers that they are now.

To close out this post I want to include some examples of singers from the past that illustrate some of the characteristics I’m talking about. These are not necessarily the “best” at what they do. (Although they are pretty darn good) They just approach the act of singing in a fairly natural way. They certainly don’t make a pre-conceived sound by yawning the throat open. And for the most part we can understand the words.

Beniamino Gigli, Tenor

Notice the lift in the mouth form. The combination of strength and sweetness.

John Charles Thomas, Baritone

The Italian pronunciation isn’t great. There is little dynamic contrast. But listen to the tone production. The words are clear, the resonance balanced and the vibration constant. Artistically it could be improved. But right now this is about vocalism, and for our purpose here this is a great example.

Here is an example of JCT where we can see him. He is well past his prime, and singing a light-hearted song. But the voice is still there doing what it is supposed to. And the words are still clear.

Eileen Farrell, Soprano

The first video shows Eileen Farrell in the role of Opera singer. The tone has color, and is even dark at times, but there is no hint of singing down in the throat.

This second video shows Farrell in her alternate role as Jazz singer. This is a great example of many aspects of good singing. Balance between vibration and breath, clean initiation of the voice, balanced pronunciation, spontaneous expression, varied dynamic levels. Also, it shows how it is possible for a big voiced opera singer to express naturally in a popular style. Maybe the most impressive is the healthy use of the lower register orientation that is necessary for popular styles. This actually might be better male voice oriented singing than most actual men I’ve heard.

Joel Berglund, Bass-Baritone

With Joel Berglund we have a great example of getting a rich, warm tone by singing in the head resonator rather than the modern way of singing in the enlarged throat.

Torsten Ralf, Helden Tenor

Ralf was a student of Flagstad’s last teacher, Mdme. Haldis Ingebjart. His timbre took some getting used to for me, but he certainly uses his voice in a good way.

Rita Streich, Soprano

In both of these videos we get a good example of the lift of the face that I often talk about. This helps keep the tongue from dropping down the throat, blocking the tone.

This shows her older but still with a youthful voice.

Apollo Granforte, Baritone

A lesser known baritone, but a great example of a true huge voice. Rich and robust without the falseness of yawning. Notice the words are still clear at “e poi” sung piano near the end.

Sergei Lemeshev, Tenor

Lemeshev is a singer I plan on Spotlighting in the future. He was Russian and not well known in the west. He sometimes had instability in the middle, but the top was incredible. Although the audio is sometimes off, this video from a movie is a nice example of the perfect mouth form he used to accomplish his great head resonance.

http://youtu.be/BD2wMnH5IdA

I know this has been a long post. Thanks for going through it. I hope these concepts are getting clearer. The biggest point I want people to grasp is there is no difference between any of the various manufactured sounds. They are just different versions of the same thing.

The other thing I hope people are starting to notice is modern singers tend to keep their resonance in the throat, treating the roof of the mouth as a ceiling. The singers that exemplified traditional principles allowed the resonance to be in the head, where the roof of the mouth was more like a floor to the tone. I hope you can hear that in these examples.

Please comment below.

Contact me if you are interested in a consultation or assessment. I am running a Summer Special on recorded consultations. Name Your Own Price! Just record yourself demonstrating your question on a song or exercise and send me the file (if it is small enough) or the link to where you have it posted. Use the PayPal button on my Services page to pay whatever you choose and I’ll record my response.

Enhanced by Zemanta

44 Responses to NOT How to Sing Opera – Part 2

  1. I studied voice with a fine teacher, Charles A. Zerffi. He gave a good idea of how the mechanism works. When you sing you must relax the soft pallet in the upper mouth. Putting too much breath on the tone causes a wobble as per Callas. Forcing will cause the cords to scrape together and eventually will cause a polyp as in the case of Jonas Kaufmann. The operation to remove it can cause loss of quality. Ettore Bastianini suffering throat cancer refused the operation fearing loss of quality.

  2. What I’m hearing in Kaufmann is a phenomenal combination of thinned vocal folds (light mechanism), full laryngeal pivot, and fully widened pillars of fauces (wide soft palate). Laryngeal tilt can sound VERY, VERY similar to tongue suppression, as can widened pillars. Early in my study, that was EXACTLY what I thought it was. I was very very VERY critical of most professional singers in that regard. The better my understanding of the voice becomes, the more I respect the techniques of the great singers of our time and the LESS criticisms I have. In academia, I have seen endless numbers of singers with TRUE tongue suppression, and the results are pretty much the same: entirely damped/muted overtones with virtually no carrying power and very often a complete loss of high range. Yet here Kaufmann is with a career that is snowballing bigger and bigger into the history books across many years and all of the top world stages. The houses he sings for are unholy monstrosities, and it’s very, VERY unlikely that he would be satisfying in any one of them with the problems you describe that DO often plague young singers. At the end of the day, Jonas Kaufmann makes more money in classical singing than you, me, and everyone in these comments combined.

  3. Hello Leo – I feel like I have listened to her before, but I don’t really remember clearly. She has a good voice and generally sounds good. But I can see why someone might say she has technical problems. She does rely on the breath too much, which puts the voice out of balance. I think she is pretty good in an overall sense, but functionally she could definitely improve. That would allow better dynamic control in the high range and make the words more intelligible.

  4. Hello Hieu – Thanks for your comment. I don’t know if what he is doing will harm the voice. In general any unnatural use will have some kind of effect. But there are degrees of harm. What he is doing is less harmful than other ways of doing things.

    In fact, although his earlier vocal coordination was less distorted, it very well may have been more harmful. Which may sound like it doesn’t make sense. The key aspect is the larynx to the breath pressure. Now he has a better connection. (Some call it connection to the body) But he is distorting his resonators to help accomplish the connection.

    His earlier singing he didn’t distort, but he lacked connection. Which would explain why he felt uncomfortable.

    Like I said in the post, on the surface he does sound pretty good. Especially in Helden-type rep. But if you listen deeper the defects are too distracting to enjoy.

  5. Thanks for your post! Very interesting to see many debates on Jonas’s voice. I agreed that his voice sounded very distorted sometimes, especially with lyric arias. But do you think that could harm his voice at all? The question about the vocal health related to this “counter-natural” sounds? I remembered he always mentioned that he didn’t feel comfortable about his earlier voice, and had troubles with it until he found the new techniques that he is using?

    Or do you think that it is just the matter of interpretation and that his voice is somehow “naturally” dark now, and that Faust is just not the right song for his voice anymore?

    I personally didn’t like his romantic arias CDs, but I quite like him singing lieder.

    I am a 21-years old singing learner. I think I have a potential spinto tenor voice, but now I sing in baritone keys just to save the voice as it is not mature up top yet. Hence, Jonas is quite an interesting case for me to look at. I would love to hear you to analyze further on this case. Not to criticize but truly learn from this debatable tenor.

    Thanks in advance.
    Hieu

  6. I agree, Christian. What you say is true for many, if not most, singers. I mean, how many have really maximized and realized their potential as a musical instrument? Very few. I include myself as well. It takes an ongoing commitment to developing and coordinating these physical traits to make them come together and “blossom”.

    I think because of the traits you identified he would require very little adjustment to really find a great result. Thanks for sharing him with us.

  7. Michael,

    I appreciate your thoughtful response. Who knows what Braun’s vocal quality could be if he implemented this concept of “lift” into his singing? I guess I offered him as an example because I felt he lacked the overblown quality of many professional low voices. But I agree that he could go further with intensifying the vibration.

    Looking forward to your next article!

    Christian

  8. Hi Christian – Good to see you thinking about this. You’re right that he is better than many these days. But he still doesn’t quite represent what we’re discussing. He doesn’t go far enough. It is true he is not going down in the way I’m talking about related to modern singers. But he also is not going up, or lifting, like I’m recommending.

    If you visualize, and pretend you can see the tone, his tone is still in the mouth. The positive is it isn’t coming out of the mouth. That would sound spread or “white”. Another positive is it isn’t down in the throat. That would be overly dark.

    But what I’m talking about that older singers had was the tone in the head or behind the face. Above the mouth. It is important to remember that we don’t accomplish this by trying to place the tone. It is accomplished by setting up the proper conditions. If the structure is arranged appropriately the tone will place itself, like water runs where the terrain provides a path.

    This is why I’m always talking about lift in the face. And unfortunately Russell Braun does not have lift. The lift allows a path for the tone to resonate in the head behind the face. This makes the tone weightless and removes any difficulty transitioning into the high voice.

    It also gives the tone great acoustic energy so the tone appears to be big, but not heavy. A great combination. Hope this makes sense.

  9. Just wanted to post this link. I think his production is much more in line with the singers of the past you are mentioning. I notice how he uses his mouth very little while pronouncing, the result is a beautifully clear and vibrant baritone sound.

    Russell Braun- “Mab, la reine des mesonges”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llPvYE7D9Gc

  10. Christian – Thank you very much for your comments and feedback. I appreciate it and hope to see you in more discussions in the future. And please pass the word to other singers you know.

  11. As a 24 year old low voice, I readily identify with the pressures of prescribing to a fixed laryngal position as a means of effectively producing a dark and ominous sound. I feel this kind of tone is so incredibly prevalent in the singing today. Distorted vowels, muddy diction, loss of any feeling of real lyricism in the voice, I feel as young people we are pulled every which way. Most of the techniques and methods that are out there are really just temporary fixes, or a means to improve upon some kind of sound .

    We live in a country where young people can sing nessun dorma and o mio babbino caro poorly and be championed for their bravery. How can we combat these trends? How can we change the climate of singing as a whole? Sometimes I just feel despondent over the entire situation, but I need to believe that we can do better.

    This blog is a huge resource for me. I consistently find the articles and reader responses to be right in line with what I am studying and what I fervently believe in.

    Michael, you illustrate so well the incredible difference between a system of fixed resonance versus a condition of balanced vocal production. I believe Kaufmann’s singing is a perfect example of this dilemma. I know for me, I have always preferred the voice Kaufmann once had. I cannot pick apart his technique now, because he is working consistently at a very high level, yet I know, that I would not ever be satisfied with myself if I was forced to sing that way.

    Please keep writing and know that there are those out there that feel just as you do. I hope you have a wonderful day!

    Best,

    Christian

  12. Matthew – Thanks for joining in. It’s great to hear from another college age singer. It is encouraging to hear that you have become aware of these traps. Good for you. Singing with your voice, rather than an imitated one, will allow for a more complete development. I hope to hear more from you.

  13. Well being a tenor (age 19) and currently studying Music Education (Voice of course), I am noticing that I am becoming more aware of the vocal traps that singers and aspiring singers and fall into before their career takes off. I know that vocally, I am just a baby and my voice is not even no where near being fully developed. Yet, one thing my voice teachers in college prevented me from doing right after I graduated high school was what a lot of young singers do when they first start their studies: Making themselves sound older than they really are. My voice teachers call this and “artifice”.

    I agree with your “Bjorling” post earlier last year. The more natural, the better. What I noticed, is that the less I tried to sound like a “typical” opera singer, the more my voice sang naturally, without tension, without artifice and I noticed my tone became more resonant and warm.

    Being a current sophomore in college, I am glad that my teachers are from the “old school” you might say. They introduced me to singers such as Jussi Bjorling and Fritz Wunderlich and Sopranos such as Kiri Te Kanawa and Arleen Auger.

    Yet even I can say that there is no one trick to sing opera.

  14. Thanks, Chris. Well said. The thing I appreciate about Anthony Warlow (not having heard him before you asked me about him previously) is the simplicity of his pronunciation. That is the key to finding balance. I do feel he could improve his vibration, but it isn’t terrible. The big thing I hear is there is no exaggeration either forward or back. That should always be the basis of our singing, in my opinion.

  15. I think it’s fascinating how many ‘operatic’ singers simply cannot sing without distorting their throats. I have mentioned this before to Michael, but I happened to catch Renee Fleming singing a jazz number on television once, and I was shocked at how bizarre her production was. Here is the clip (I hope this is okay to post): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bY1unOjt7w&feature=related

    Compare this with Anthony Warlow (another operatic singer who transitioned to Musical Theatre) singing a pop ballad:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wREiuojW3Rg&feature=related
    (Apologies for Olivia Newton-John – this is actually one of her better numbers from the show.)

    Okay, so he won’t be collaborating with Gaga any time soon, but for a guy who usually sings classical musical theatre repertoire, I think he does a great job making the transition to pop. You can hear he is well-trained and has that operatic intensity at certain points, and some of his vowels are too pure, but I doubt many laymen would easily tell he was trained as an operatic baritone. When I listen to Warlow, I hear somebody whose technique allows him to sing many different genres without really changing things all that much. I hear pretty much the opposite with Fleming. Surely that’s what learning to sing correctly is all about – not whether you are any good at lots of different genres, but rather that your technique isn’t based on some gimmick that traps you in any particular one. I’d rather sing correctly and do McCartney numbers well than distort my voice so I can ruin Wagner. But that’s just me – I really liked Kaufman’s old voice. Now he sounds to me like yet another ‘PVC pipe’ opera singer.

    When I was 16, I was in my first musical and the director gave me a book on singing: it was Seth Rigg’s “Singing for the stars”. If anyone has ever actually learned how to sing from that travesty, I’ll eat my hat. I don’t completely blame Riggs, though. The problem with any commercial product is that it has to sell, so the complexities involved usually get simplified and further simplified until the original intended message becomes some unrecognisable gimmick – “Learn to sing reasonably well by doing lots of careful work over a lifetime of sacrifice” does not have quite the same ring to it as “Master singing opera in 5 days from your couch without doing ANYTHING AT ALL!!”. I very much doubt that a single person who makes the effort to seek out and read this blog has been swayed by those sorts of marketing spiels.

  16. I’m sorry, Bea. But you are the one who has misunderstood, on many points.

    When I said “you tend to be drawn to certain things” I was meaning all singers tend to be drawn to what they are interested in. It was not a statement about you individually.

    It is true that there tends to be a separation and limitation, regardless of style. I did misunderstand your meaning there. I agree and don’t believe there should be.

    You did misunderstand Joseph’s statement. He was talking about seeing a vocal coach in person. You told him he was wrong because you were thinking from the point of someone buying some DVDs to work on their own. A very different circumstance.

    Third, I take great exception to you calling me an Academic. I absolutely am not. I don’t work at an academic institution. I don’t write for academic journals. I don’t use academic terminology like TA and CT and this cartilage and that ligament. I don’t have a Doctorate. And I feel that the academic approach is largely resonsible for the degredation of the level of singing.

    I write and teach completely from a practical viewpoint. Everything I understand I have learned through old-fashioned research. No fancy computer porgrams, no scopes. Just simple experimentation and observation. I hold no opinion based on anything I learned in Academia. Everything I speak on is what I have gathered through years of observation. Just because I am intelligent does not make me an academic.

    Another thing you have misunderstood is that when someone makes the statement that the training can help someone sing any style, they are not talking about one individual singing many styles. They are speaking to an audience of thousands and saying that the training can help them sing any style that they are looking to perform. Meaning each individual has a style they want to do and the vocal principles can help them do that, regardless of what style it is.

    That is what I mean, at least. It IS theoretically possible that someone could have the ability to express themselves in more than one style. Just because you (who it seems holds the only valid opinion) decide that they do one style less well than another does not determine that they CAN’T perform that style. It is up to them to decide that.

    (And if we haven’t actually seen it ourselves then it has to be theoretical. If we haven’t witnessed something we don’t know that it has happened. But it is certainly possible. That is what I meant by theoretically possible. Just because I haven’t seen someone do something I can conceive of it being possible.)

    Even if they are not good at all, that is not for you to say they can’t do it. There are plenty of singers who can’t do ONE style to my liking. But that doesn’t mean they have to quit singing. There are some out there who still enjoy their singing.

    Domingo was questionably effective in his cross-over attempts, in my opinion. But there were millions of people buying his albums which made them very happy. Was he going to quit doing that because you or I said that he was not good at it?

    Michael Bolton was a train-wreck as an opera singer, again in my opinion. But he ejoyed it and there were some I suppose that liked it. He worked hard on developing his coordination to sing operatically. Was he successful? I would say not so much. But he still was able to do it.

    It is much harder to prove that something is NOT possible than to prove that something IS possible. It only needs to happen once to prove it is possible. You have to prove that it can’t happen ever to prove it is not possible. That is why I disagree with you. And I would prefer you stop bringing up that point.

    I also request that you stop trying to find any and all opportunities to knock Jussi Bjorling. He was the singer he was. Period. He did things better than any other singer I have seen or heard. Period. Did he or could he do everything the world has ever known in singing? No, of course not. He sang the way he sang because that is how he wanted to do things. Later in his life he sang everything very operatically because that is what the audience wanted from him. But he did occasionally show he could still do the light, tender expression.

    But that isn’t even the point. The fact that he is a great example and model for singers doesn’t mean he used, or could use, that exemplary function to sing all styles of music. To think that is something I claim or have said is completly false.

    The biggest point that I want you to understand, and it seems I have to tell you this every six months or so, is you are a guest here. A very welcome guest and I appreciate your contribution. But it is inappropriate for you to tell someone they are wrong. It is inappropriate for you to criticize me and what I discuss.

    You are a guest and I think you should know how to act like one. This is not a public forum and this is certainly not your blog. Frankly, I didn’t read all of your comments because I just don’t have the time. Perhaps that is why you feel I haven’t gotten your point. You say so many things I can’t get your point because I just don’t have the time to sift through all of the details that you put out.

    Discussion is great. But I fear the sheer magnitude of your comments make it difficult for others to participate. Again, I always find it amazing that you state you agree with everything I said but then go one a ten page diatribe about all of the things that are wrong.

    This is not the place for you to vent. If you write something on my blog it will reflect on me, whether you are talking about me or not.

    I want you to rethink how you participate here. It is not OK for you to write 10 times more than I do. I value your experience and viewpoint, but you need to keep in mind your role and the appropriate boundaries that go along with that.

    You accuse me of not being clear because of being too academic, but you are not clear because of being too verbose. There are just too many things for me to respond to. So I don’t. But every point you made in this last comment has the attitude of knowing what I’m thinking and that it is wrong. You have no idea of what I am thinking, which shows that I haven’t been clear enough. But that is the limitation of the written word. But I think it is more an issue of the ideas you have in your head being projected onto what I say.

    But just because you do not understand what is meant doesn’t make it OK to tell someone they are wrong. The things you describe as being what you support actually represent my meaning. For example this paragraph about singing a country song,

    “I hardly care if someone can sing the notes of all types of music and all styles, if in the end I hear no real style at all, or if all styles basically sound the same. Basically, if you sing a country song to me, and it has even a hint of “operatic sound” (especially all those open rounded vowels, or correctly functioning vowels, or pure Italianate vowels) you have not sung it correctly, no matter how correct your vocal function was and no matter how perfectly you reflected vocal truth.”

    That is exactly what I’m always talking about. Rounded vowels would be inappropriate in a country song. But that would be part of the pronunciation I am always talking about. We must pronounce to sing. A rounded vowel in a country song would be an example of a pre-conceived idea. Not what we want to do.

    Style is a product of the individual expression. If someone can’t express in a certain style that is not an issue of function. That is an issue of the individual. That can’t really be taught. And that is something I barely discuss at all. It is certainly not something I talk about as being part of the training I provide. The functional training I do is based on natural behavior of the vocal system. Which morphs itself to the style the individual wants to express.

    I have seen it happen in people I worked with. I have worked with Opera and Classical singers. But also Musical Theater, Pop, Rock, Folk, Jazz, R&B, Choral, Prayer Leaders and even Chant, Hebrew Cantors, both traditional (which is quite operatic) and contemporary which is also like a Prayer Leader. Then on top of that Actors, Public Speakers and Business Porfessionals and rehabilitation for vocal damage.

    Just about any style there is I have worked with it and applied the principles of natural function. I don’t teach the style very much at all because the people I work with tend to already feel that. I think Style needs to be developed by the individual and not taught. It can be encouraged but not taught.

    So don’t tell me what I know and don’t know and what is possible and not possible. Just because you haven’t seen it doesn’t make it impossible. And these comment sections are not here for you to try to discredit what I am talking about.

    Also, if you think I read things into your comments then don’t write so much negative stuff. Like I said, if you write it here it should relate to me. Much, if not most, of what you wrote has nothing to do with me. Why should I take my time to go over it then? It shouldn’t be here. I want to help people understand their voice, and I believe that people come here to get that from me. If you feel that I am not doing a good enough job at changing things like Internet teachers that sell DVDs, which has nothing to do with me and this site, than please either write about that on your own blog or keep it to yourself.

    I am upset that you insulted one of the other participants here. It is also inappropriate for you to make statements like “go get a teacher that does this or that”. This blog is not about other teachers. It is about my teaching. If someone wants to learn something and the concepts presented here interest them they should inquire about working with me.

    So think about what you are saying before you say it. This is my business. It is not here for you to chase potential clients away with your venting. If you have a complaint about these programs you purchased to review, then fine. But it shouldn’t take 10,000 words to do it. And it certainly shouldn’t lump me in with these people you are referring to.

    I believe myself to be a quality alternative to these programs. I am protective of my business, which I have every right to be. Stop infringing on it. Please.

  17. Beatrice: I certainly appreciate you sharing your knowledge and personal experiences here for all of us to read, and I do not mind standing corrected if I learn something from it. However, while I agree with almost everything you say, I think you have mischaracterized what I was trying to get across in my last post. I was not advocating modern vocal coaches and their methods per se, and I certainly wasn’t defending these “study at home” courses – I don’t think I even mentioned anything about Internet courses. I may have not worded my statements in an ideal way due to being tired at the time, but I was simply trying to point out how some of these vocal coaches (which seems to be the new popular term used to refer to “voice teachers”) have the right ideas and would agree with us in some ways.
    That isn’t to say that these guys are correct in everything they do. Do I think there are vocal coaches out there who can teach good singing? Sure. But you are absolutely right that many of these people promote themselves as providing “quick fixes” to people’s vocal problems – they’ll probably help a guy bridge his falsetto and chest voice or eliminate some tension around the neck, but probably won’t build a voice from the ground up. And as I’m sure many of us have noticed, lots of the singers who these vocal coaches help “improve” were already talented before they ever took a lesson.
    But when I said that I would rather a young singer study with a “modern vocal coach” than with a classical yawn-singing imitator teacher, I was not trying to bash classical training in any way, nor was I saying that these contemporary methods are better than real classical training. As Michael said, it really boils down to a question of good teacher vs. bad teacher. There are good teachers and bad teachers in the contemporary coaching world, just as there are good and bad teachers in the classical world. That doesn’t mean that even the majority of contemporary methods are based on good foundations, but there are good coaches out there.
    There is more I’d like to say, but I have to be somewhere very soon. I’ll return later, though.

Leave a reply

4 × two =

Are you having difficulty with your voice?
Suffering from a Vocal Injury?
Or just want your voice to do what you want?

I can help! Let's work together!

Try a Recorded Video Consultation to test things out.

Only $19

Information and contact form on the Services page

Click Here