Friday, March 30, 2007

Strange Vocal Exercises That Work

Some of my vocal exercises are, well, strange. Bryan White once wryly observed to me "the more humiliating an exercise, the better it seems to work".

I think the reason a correctly executed weird exercise works so well is...
that it bypasses the tenacious but counter-productive vocal habits of the conscious mind by trickery. The Feldenkrais method used by some chiropractors does the same thing... a slight touch can suggest possibilities of movement that the conscious mind hasn't considered possible, and then amazing healing can take place.

Here's a prime example:

Memphis Cole, a young man who is has been studying with me for a few months, came in to his lesson this week with a grin. Memphis has been growing vocally by leaps and bounds, and has really developed his style, his sound and his confidence. Anyway, he entered his first Nashville contest- "The Grand Ole Opry Country Vocal Challenge"- just to get some experience with competing. In the male category he joined about 46 fellow competitors.

Before he went on, he was doing his "Forrest Gump" imitation of "Life is like a box of chocolates", a vocal exercise he learned from the Power, Path & Performance cd vocal training course he bought to go with his private lessons. One of his competitors started laughing and taunting "what are you doing, man?" Memphis shot back "I'm loosening up my jaw". The guy kept laughing and so Memphis started doing it silently instead of out loud.

Memphis got the last laugh: He won the contest! The other guy... he was eliminated rather quickly.

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A SILLY VOCAL EXERCISE! Be willing to ditch a little pride, and you may find a strange and weird sense of ... VOCAL FREEDOM!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Vocal Performance: Reveal... don't display!

There is a classical voice training textbook series by Van A. Christy called "Expressive Singing". In the Third Edition, Volume #1, Christy recommends this excellent suggestion for any performance in any genre:

"Meaning must be REVEALED, never DISPLAYED in a theatrical manner."

I can't tell you how very much I agree with this. There is a fine line between over- and under- acting. If you REALLY want to sing or speak in such a way as to cause an emotional response from your audience, learn how to master authentic delivery- the kind you can't fake!.

Authentic delivery balances several things:
  • Vocal technique is definitely a major factor.
  • The message (song or monologue) is a huge factor.
  • Other factors include: The size and feel of the venue or room, the state of your own inner self, the cheeseburger you had for lunch, the label rep in the audience. Hey, it's amazing we can focus at all :)

Nevertheless, there must be such a balance in your mind-body-voice connection that you make it look almost effortless to get and hold the attention of the listener.

Here's an example to help you understand the power of revealing instead of displaying meaning:

When I was a recording artist on MTM Records, Alan Bernard (the CEO) let me in on one of his secrets at "meet & greet" events. Alan had been around. Among other things, he had managed Andy Williams and Dusty Springfield. Instead of going up to people to introduce himself and begin a conversation, he would often just sit or stand alone. People were drawn to his cool confidence, and soon were coming over to where he was to meet HIM.

Now think about this: Alan quite openly revealed who he was to people who had been drawn his way. He didn't put on a forward display to try to gain attention. I think this is a psychological tool we need to understand as performers.

Bottom line: Draw people in. Don't be a space invader! Reveal by... being real.