Hi Everyone! 
This month, I had planned to add a segment about presence, magnetism, and charisma entitled "The Art of Casting A Glamour" (which is a whole lot more than just physical appearance and fashion) but decided to save it for another time.

The reason for the above postponement is due to a sudden flash of insight...a kind of creative realization on a subject matter that is worthy of discussion.

Before I get into this monthís topic, I will give you a little background as to how this all started. Quite a few years back I had received and completed a voice and performance scholarship. The last day of my training I was taken aside by one of the directors and asked what I was doing at the time. He said that I would make a great vocal coach and offered me a job teaching. That was the first time that I had ever considered the thought of teaching voice.

I had studied voice from various coaches throughout several years of my life and learned different techniques from all the combined teaching methods. Generally I would study under the wing of one particular coach for a period of six months to three years. Then I moved on when I felt I had mastered their specific teachings. I have also learned techniques from co-writers, fellow musicians, and producers whom I have worked with on projects. I feel there is always more to learn and am always open to hear more about others experience with technique and training.

Over the last few years, I have found myself in the position of actually doing what my former teacher had suggested and that is teaching vocal techniques to others. I never really went out of my way to pursue this profession nor do I claim to be a know it all. What happened is that I started getting approached by various people in several walks of life who were either interested in learning or who knew someone who wanted to learn how to sing. Because of that, over the past few years I took on a few students while earning some extra cash as well. 

The first thing I do as a coach is go through a few scales and see where the studentís comfortable range is. One of my jobs is to stretch that comfort zone and widen the range. However, I have found that in some instances I have to teach the student how to hear before I can teach then how to sing. This is what I call kindergarten. Once the student starts to develop relative pitch then I can move them on to grade school.

In grade school one of the basic (yet very important) aspects of singing is "breath control".  So here we are in grade school voice class. Breath control is kind of like math (boring). You want to fall asleep. (I hate this class!) "Why canít we just skip this and go to straight high school?", you say. "What I really want is my Ph.D.".(yeah right...maybe someday...in the meantime dream on)

When I was learning breath control my teachers gave me a few really boring yet effective techniques. I was told to lie down and let the air fill my rib cage (diaphragm) to put my hand on my chest and make sure it did not lift up because a chest breath was shallow and incorrect. "Think of your diaphragm as a balloon...fill it up. You can fill it up in the front...now fill the sides...you can add more air into the back area until the balloon is full...fill the balloon." That was one teaching method.

Another coach took newspaper and made them into narrow 4 inch strips. She told me to take a deep breath (again through the diaphragm) and to hold the strip up to my mouth and to blow on it so that it would move. She instructed me to time it until the strip of paper stopped moving.

Another coach told me to do a similar thing without the paper strip but to make a hissing sound and to time it with a stop watch until the hissing stopped...which meant that I had run out of breath.

So here I am years later trying to show this technique to a student and Iím thinking to myself...."This is such a boring subject.... .Isnít there a better way?"

This week I received flash of inspiration that I have added to the teaching of this subject. A new way of explaining what I already know. I will still teach the old traditional method...however for homework (repetitive exercise) I have replaced the old with the new.

I saw one of my more advanced students today who was aware of the old method. I gave him this new exercise to try out and he thought it was a great idea. I actually saw some excitement in him. Excitement in learning breath control? Thatís a first! Remember that the breathing still comes from the diaphragm. I think this a good method because it is real "hands on training" compared to the old ways and helps the brain to quickly understand the correlation between correct breathing and rhythmic phrasing. 

I offer a free download to all who want to try it. It is a rap verse that I had written a few months back. The work is copyrighted, however it is free to use as a voice control exercise. For your convenience I added a loop for a good strong vocal workout. It is approximately 7-1/2 minutes long and should be practiced from start to finish with no break.....twice a day. My engineer purposely made the drums louder so that you will hear them as you sync your voice with mine. We lowered the level on my vocals so that they would act as a guide only. We added a little "out there" music as well.

This verse is a parody on rap music. As I was creating this I had to get into the groove of how a rapper might write about rock. It had to have a definitive stanza with crisp accentuation in the meter. Rap is an art form in itself and requires a great sense of rhythm and rhyme. I needed to get the musical singing notes out of the way so that the breath control exercise could be comprehended in an isolated fashion for rapid results. When I wrote it I was thinking... Eminem meets Zappa. Now I'm hearing Fred Schneider of the B52's influence as well. Itís quite twisted yet all in good fun. I slowed down the tempo a little so that you would have a longer way to go before your next breath for training purposes. Hope you enjoy it. Iíve enclosed the instructions along with the lyrics below.

FREE DOWNLOAD click here ~ (Zip file (.zip) of a Real Media (.rm) clip)

INSTRUCTIONS:
Take ONE diaphragmatic breath (the area in between your ribcage). (Careful not to go too deep with the breath or you may fill your chest as well and get the opposite result...best to play with it until you find the right amount of intake)

Go through the entire phrase without running out of breath. When you finish the first phrase, take another ONE breath and repeat....Do this until the track ends and remember to PROJECT your voice and PRONOUNCE the words. This verse contains some subtle dynamics. It is important to phrase the dynamics as I have so that you may naturally learn to decipher when to use more breath and when to conserve the air. Be consistent with your study and do not get discouraged. 

Once you have mastered this then add body movement by dancing around your living space or rehearsal hall for a level 2 (performance training) exercise. If you play an instrument then add the instrument into your performance and move as if you would if on stage with a mike in front of you. This is a basic technique that applies in all levels of singing from beginner to pro level.

LYRICS:

(Breath)

I like rap 
not rock n roll
all those notes and chords and crap 
got to go
ĎCause it mess with the groove
and it mess with the soul
and it gets in the way of the music

(Breath).....................................

 

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