Posts Tagged ‘voice lesson’


Sing with Confidence

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

I always feel like I’m going out on a limb in videos that are mostly theory and not as much practice. That being said, confidence, also thought of as performance anxiety is something that many of us deal with.

I struggled with confidence greatly in the years before and during University. I struggled so much in fact that it was commented upon during auditions and mentioned to my professor. It didn’t make sense to me that I could feel so compelled to perform and also feel so crippled by performance anxiety. I quickly learned that the normal recommendations for anxiety were little more than jokes as far as I was concerned. No amount of visualizing a large body of individuals naked in front of me was going focus my mind on the music.

The fact remains though that I conquered it. I did such a good job in fact that it was recommended to me that I study psychology to better understand exactly what I had done and write a book about it. It seemed like there was a future there for me. That wasn’t going to be my path though.

This video on building confidence is focused on the singing voice, but it’s really applicable to any discipline. It is a three step process, not necessarily done in order. The process is a cyclical event that hopefully develops into a positive feedback loop.

Awareness: Being present in your body. Noticing the physical experience of what it is to sing and taking notice of what feels right and what doesn’t. Noticing what you are satisfied with in your performances and what you would like to change. If it’s too much to notice these things during your practice sessions, then a recording helps immensely during this part of the process.

Preparation: Charlie Parker said, “You’ve got to learn your instrument. Practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.” I believe Parker rather eloquently describes what I think of as the difference between individual practice and performance practice.

There is a time to work your scales. Analyze your breathing. To notice how you have used your voice in the past and how you are practicing with it to be able to do more in the future. The awareness and recordings you’ve done help to inform these areas of technical practice.

Once you’re on stage though, the environment is not conducive to this type of reflection. It’s at this time that we want all of those good technical skills and practices to have become habits. This way we’re focused on the music and have the mental space to deal with any self limiting thoughts.

Self Limiting Thoughts: The most individual aspect of this practice, and also, I believe, the most sinister. I had an audition this past Monday at nine in the evening. At around three in the afternoon I started to notice that it was going to be a bit expensive to get there on the London Underground. I also noticed that parking was going to cost nearly five pounds and despite taking the car to the station I still wouldn’t get home until midnight or later. Factoring in an early morning United States Pacific Cost timeline lesson I was scheduled to teach I was looking at a fairly expensive audition that would get me home late in the evening meaning I would only get about four hours of sleep that night.

That is my performance anxiety now. I don’t get scared, nor do I get obsessed with the music I have chosen to perform. I get bogged down in the mundane details of the situation around the performance and convince myself that it’s too much effort.

Had I never noticed this internal dialogue of self limiting thoughts and ideas, I might have perpetually looked for auditions, signed up for them, and then cancelled them at the last minute. The outcome in that situation is obvious; I’d never get the gig.

In this case, my efforts were externally positively reinforced in that I was successful and was offered a spot. That however, is little encouragement compared to the internal satisfaction I felt once I began singing in the audition and my sense of achievement afterwards. I don’t mention this as a concept in the video, as it’s even more esoteric than the process itself, but it pays to remove the external reinforcement from the equation of how you evaluate your performances. Concerning yourself more with how you performed as compared to your practice sessions or practice performance recordings is far more valuable than worrying about how an audience responds to you. The same gig performed the exact same way but with different people could have dramatically different outcomes. If we perform to our highest standards including the practice of building confidence through awareness, preparation, and managing our self-limiting thoughts we always come out as winners. Even if for that particular performance you don’t get the external validation, the efforts put into it prepare us for the next one and the one after that making the process of performing an increasingly positive experience that we can enjoy.

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Tenor Range Singing Lesson

Monday, July 14th, 2014

This new singing lesson focuses on the narrow range of notes in the secondo passaggio area of the male tenor range. Being that we’re all different, you may find the exercises to be right where you want them to be, or slightly too high or low. Working through them with the lip trill is the recommended way to begin these studies, and is in fact, the first exercise in the video.

Be sure that you’re providing good airflow throughout this singing lesson, and be mindful of your overall fatigue level. If you feel that you’re getting tired and allowing your muscle engagement to collapse take a break. Pause the video or rewind and start again. It’s extremely important that positive airflow be available otherwise you run the risk of using too much muscle control robbing your voice of freedom and resonance.

This singing lesson is meant for male vocalists whose secondo passaggio falls around F4. If you have any questions, or would like this video in a different key area for a different vocal range, let me know. All the best!

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Singing consistency

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Singing consistency is a skill that I promote in my studio. With consistency comes confidence, derived from knowing that when you step on stage, your voice will respond that way it did in rehearsal, and the riffs and range that you were able to execute the day before will still be there. I suppose confidence in singing comes from many different places and it may be different for each individual. For me, however, I can relax and feel confident when my voice is functioning consistently and my singing is reliable.

I did these exercises to help us work on that, and I hope you’ll enjoy them. They’re full range, so stop if they get too high, or work them with the lip trill after that point in the recording. I find it helpful to learn them with the lip trill first, then transition into the vowel sounds so that you’re confident with the pattern.

If any questions come up, or you’d like me to elaborate on the exercises, feel free to get in touch!

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New Lip Trill Help!

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

The lip trill is one of those voice teacher exercises that nearly ever one of us uses. It’s helpful for so many reasons it’s hard not to implement it frequently when working with clients. The learning curve on it can be steep for those that have difficulties with it, which is what someone wrote in to my youtube page. So, I put together this video.

It may still take some time to get the lip trill going, but with some patience it’s just a matter of time.

The lip trill, though, is not the end all be all of vocal training. As much as I use it all the time, and find it extremely helpful in range development and diagnosing airflow management issues, I feel like it’s more of a blunt force object. Kind of like using a baseball bat to squeeze orange juice. Sure, you’ll get some juice, but you’ll also end up with orange all over the kitchen.

The lip trill is great when you’re first learning a new song or skill. It takes a lot of the weight of the air column off of the vocal fold, allowing it to change shape more easily while remaining adducted. Fundamentally though, it’s not the same as singing a solid vowel sound where that sub-glottic presure must be consciously controlled. I say this all to say, practice and work towards acquiring this useful skill in order to add it to your tool chest of vocal exercises, but keep working on the other vocalizations and practices that are out there as well. There’s no need to but the brakes on the rest of your vocal development simply because this one exercise is elusive at times.

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New Warm Up Video Online!

Monday, April 21st, 2014

I uploaded and released these last week, but I wanted to share a word or two about them. Working with intervals in our vocal practice offers advantages that are different from pure scalar singing. First off, we sing intervals, and consequently it pays to practice with them and warm up with skips in mind. Secondly, in many of the exercises in these videos, there are slight pauses between one note and the next. These pauses serve an important function, and provide us with an opportunity to develop several skills simultaneously.

In an exercise where the air stream is momentarily paused, the vocal fold has the opportunity to adjust in an un weighted capacity. This is significant in that with practice, there will be subtle changes to how we’re vocalizing. The released that the vocal fold has in those pauses gives it the opportunity to adopt the new position more easily, rather than defaulting to an old position that we’ve grown accustomed to singing with that is normally achieved while the vocal fold is in a legato phrase. This is particularly helpful in working through passages that ascend over the passaggio. It is there that the most amount of adjustment for new vocalists or those new to vocal study occurs.

I combine shorter length syllables with more legato passages in order to create a ready, set, go type situation. The shorter bursts allow us to adopt a more appropriate position; the legato phrases are more similar to actual singing.

As you work with this warm up, I would encourage you to pay as close attention as possible to your vocal posture, and attempt to maintain it through the legato passages.

This brings us to the other significant skill of these warm up

Much as we focus quite intently on the singing, or exhalation aspect of singing, it also pays to devote some attention to the inhalation and suspension aspect of vocal production. All the pauses in these exercises create an opportunity for you to take note of the overall engagement of your core, and how it is supporting vocal production. As a one who studies and teaches the appoggio breathing management system, I want to encourage you to pay attention to how much engagement is happening. Is it free to change as you sing in a different range? Does it feel supple and light or heavy? How much open-ness is maintained in the lower ribs? Being aware of your posture and engagement can help maintain greater open-ness and ultimately, provide better airflow to support vocal production, further enhancing your control and enjoyment of your voice!

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New Interval Study Video Up!

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

I remember when I first began to sing in an environment where there was a critical analysis happening while it was coming out of my mouth. It didn’t entirely go that well I have to admit, and doing this video on Perfect 4ths feels a little like closing that loop. All I had to do in the lesson I’m thinking of was sing up from the tonic of a major scale to the fourth, and I floundered miserably. I don’t really have that problem anymore, and working with this video will help if that’s something you struggle with.

It’s interesting really, because fourths are all over the place in popular music. A perfect fourth is the interval between the fifth scale degree and the tonic when one ascends to the tonic, and this is an awfully common occurrence when we’re making a cadence in our songs. Approaching those key areas of songs and being able to execute them well makes us as vocalists stand out as professionals, something I want for myself and for all my clients. I hope you find this practice helpful. If there are areas of vocal pedagogy or music that you want covered, let me know, I’m always happy to take requests. Until then, all the best!

Jeff Rolka

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How to Sing Fast Notes!

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

A listener wrote in on youtube asking about exercises and tips for delineation. This is another way of saying fast passages including ornamentation, riffs, trills, and that sort of vocal line. These are the phrases that we hear when vocalists are singing a lot of notes, sometimes very quickly, on a single vowel sound. These riffs can occur anywhere in a vocalists range, it’s just about how you write the line.

Having good legato phrasing and good airflow doesn’t always translate directly to singing fast paced melodic lines. We have to be sure to really keep our air moving solidly through the phrase and beyond the last note of the riff. If we fail to do that, either in the muscular engagement of our cores, or conceptually by thinking that the line is over before we’ve stopped singing, we often get phrases that have compromised intonation, or sound different timbre wise in our voices after a certain point.

The exercises in these videos, of which there are four, are a progressive beginning to getting a grip on changing vowels, changing directions of phrase, and changing length of phrase. There are certainly more, but this will get you started. Enjoy!

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Working with Breathiness in the Voice

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Breathiness in our singing voices can be a nice affectation for certain songs, but ideally we can control it so that it’s only there when we wish. I’ve encountered breathiness in vocalists of nearly all experience levels, and the question of how to work on it comes up regularly.

In these videos are a few exercises that one can do to work on eliminating that breathy quality. Each one has a brief explanation of what breathiness is and how the exercise works. There are four of these, and I want to encourage you to find the one that is in the most comfortable range for you, despite whatever vocal range label you associate with. The goal here is to in an area of your voice that is easy to work with, and leaves you free to focus on the exercise, rather than having to sing a note that is too high or too low for comfort. If any questions, comments, or requests for further information come up, I want to encourage you to write in and let me know. These videos were done by request, and few things give me greater pleasure than to address the needs of those who are watching and making use of these videos.

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Singing When You’re Sick

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

If there’s anything that gets to me, it’s having a cold and worrying about my voice. Logically, there’s no reason to get stressed out about it, but as someone whose livelihood depends on their ability to sing, demonstrate singing, and meet with people, being sick really gets to me. As the new father to twins, I’ve had more colds this winter than I have had in the past decade, and just as I was recovering and feeling like my voice was back in shape from the last one, I got yet another cold, and this one is really rough!

When life hands you lemons though….as the saying goes, and I took this opportunity to make a short video about what we can do when we’re ill. The focus is on determining if it is safe to sing, and how to proceed if that’s the case. As always, comments, questions, or requests for more information are welcome and encouraged!

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New Video – A Brief Word on Talent

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

I feel like I’m going out a little on a limb here, discussing talent. Talent as a concept that through my years of training has generated different reactions from different teachers I’ve studied with. From those that were offended to suggest that they were talented, to those who took as a compliment, but didn’t give it terrible weight, I’ve come to think of talent as something we create with constructive criticisms and disciplined practice. I’m certainly open to discussion about it, have a look/listen and tell me your thoughts. Thanks as always for watching!

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