“Easy for you to sing!” I have heard that many times from my students! Well, when you were lucky enough to be born a “natural singer,” that’s a fair comment. Pat Boone-this is our fifteenth year, I believe-and I were discussing that phenomenon just last week and we shared our experiences as kids, “ ... getting out of bed, coughing once maybe” and then singing the rest of the day, not knowing that it was hard. When I sang in Junior High School, Boys Glee Club, everyone did just as I did. (In those days, in my neighborhood, it never occurred to any of us that a “voice teacher” was an option.) Same thing with Andy Williams and his three brothers ... Andy said, They just “ ... played around for a bunch of years until the Williams Brothers found their sound.”
Come to think of it, every Saturday night at the Central movie theater-after each of us had collected another piece of dishware for our respective sets, the whole audience-would “follow the bouncing ball” and sing about fifteen minutes of the songs that everyone knew in my generation i.e. By the Light of the Silvery Moon, Beautiful Dreamer, Shine on Harvest Moon, etc. Virtually everyone sang as a way of entertaining ourselves when we would have picnics, weekend Band Concerts at the local park ... or just by a piano a someone’s home, or maybe even under a convenient street light. Dint have no damn television yet ~ Some of us sang better than others ... but most everyone sang!
As I’ve mentioned in earlier Tip’s, I didn’t start studying until I got out of the Navy and went to El Camino Jr. College for Pre-Engineering ... and A Cappella Choir, where the Director singled me out for solos in our musical events. A year later, at my request, he began “teaching me” by listening to me and every time he heard me make the sound he wanted, he said, “That’s the sound!” That sound was really focused vowels, tied together in an uninterrupted line, the tone of which would “spin” waaaayyy over there!!! It took me awhile to zero in on that sound consistently but, within eleven months, he had me sounding “professional,” my winning the Inglewood Musical Arts Society contest and giving a recital, receiving a great review in the L A Times!”
I was singing at the New York City Opera, four years later, before I started teaching seriously, using my senses to divine what were the “mechanics” of singing and creating my own vernacular for the benefit of consistency, When teaching it to others, in time I developed an Algorithm-an equation of the various values from each of the parts of the vocal apparatus, essentially in balance-to produce a quality sound on demand. That way, when I open my mouth in the morning-although I am a baritone, a high B-flat is one of the first notes outta my throat to this day. I really sing well. I’m not bragging ... I have always sung well, as demonstrated by my career achievements, and I owe it all to ... essentially doing everything the same way, every time. I do it even better now, than when I was singing at the Met ... because I am constantly learning as I teach!
Last week, I sang through La Bohéme twice in one day, one each for two of my operatic tenors. And, I sing not just Marcello, but most of the other cues as well. At USC, I taught seven hours, on each of my two days ... and I guesstimate that I probably sang two to three notes in demonstration, to each one of my students. After fifteen weeks, everyone of them sang their first aria for their first Jury, since studying with me! Kinda neat.
The point I am making here, is that “technique will-out!” ... if you sing correctly with a well “balanced” technique, your voice will always be dependable and ... reliable! When the Powers-that-be hire you, that is one of the most important factors. In my career, I only cancelled four times.
One of my tenors had come to me with his vocal production rooted in the back of his throat and, while he could punch out the occasional high note, his stamina was pretty much done after out hour-and-a-half! Yesterday, now that I have moved his voice “upandforward”-one word-we spent three hours working on Bohéme and his high notes were even better at the end, than half-way through the session.
He has learned to “let the tongue make the high notes” and keeping the pure vowel tones there, high up in the HONK- the nasal pharynx- with a shot of breath-pressure, feeding through the note, spinning the tone ... instead of driving from below, he has learned my concept of lifting from above ... and ALLOWING the tone to SPIN!” He now appreciates the fact that ... his throat is no-longer trying to “help out with the high notes but, with the soft palate high, the throat is now open and the voice just soars!!! In essence ... with the proper placement of the voice ringing forward, getting used to the sound you are making inside takes some getting used to! If you are doing it right, the audience will be getting the sound that you want them to hear ... rather that making in the sound that sounds so big in your throat, but is actually significantly small than your POTENTIAL sound ... with the voice really forward!!! Now lis-ten up: the only way you can find that sound, is by constantly recording yourself and playing it back during your “initial vocalizing” ... every two or three minutes. Play it back of good speakers, not something from your cell phone, real speakers and NEVER headphones! You want to hear your sound in whatever venue in which you are singing ... No headphones
Did it take awhile for my tenor to find that delicate algorithmic balance ... you betcha, but now, he owns it!!!