This is the second in a series where Brett Manning Associates from around the globe share their perspective on common problems faced by singers, the consequences, and what can be done to address them.
Plan Your Performance
BMA vocal coach Sharon Rowntree is a veteran performer and understands the role that preparation plays in engaging an audience and having a successful show. She feels it’s a must for singers to carefully and thoroughly plan their performances.
“Whether you are singing at church, at a gig, in your home, you should always know how you intend to sing that song,” she said. “You must keep rehearsing the song until you fully understand how it will be delivered. There are some successful, popular singers making a great living, not because they are great singers, but because they are great performers. They present a story and entertain the audience. They make the audience feel the emotion, and leave the performance taking away every feeling such as elation, sorrow, and joy.”
She feels that every time you rehearse, you must be totally focused on giving it your full attention. In fact, bad habits require time and attention for correction. If you put off dealing with a bad habit you end up reinforcing the bad habit.
“Don’t practice when you don’t have time to do it properly,” she said. “That will only put off dealing with bad habits for later, and make it harder to get things right later. You should also record your practice, and listen to how you have done your exercises. Evaluate, identify, and acknowledge what you did well and what you did badly. Then talk to another singer or teacher about the problems and what you did well. Encourage feedback!”
Rest Is Necessary
Another issue Sharon sees with singers is that they all too often push through injuries or illness, which can make things worse by inviting further injury.
“Most injuries need rest to get better,” she said. “Many of the great Divas doing daily shows will not speak all day to give their voice a rest. Vaporizing can get moisture down the wind pipe to the chords. Drinking water will maintain proper hydration and help with body moisture. Calli tea is very soothing and is available from the Singing Success website.”
Get Real With Imitation
Zuke Smith of Brett Manning Vocal Method: East Coast, U.S.A. sees imitation as a potential open invitation to bad habits.
“Imitation is good to a point, but when the imitation brings in issues with tension you can get stuck on a treadmill of bad habits,” she said. “I would never say a student is trapped by imitation because it’s a right of passage. We learn by imitating. My job is to make sure they imitate the best singers and not ones who have bad habits.”
Zuke understands that many students initially learn by imitating, and that as small children we tend to imitate or mirror behaviors in order to get a feel for things that we grow into and take on as our own.
Feel The True Voice
“I learned from my first teacher, Eileen Farrell, mostly by imitation because her sound was so beautiful,” she said. “I love it when my student has their first experience of feeling and hearing their own unique voice. They usually stop mid exercise and say, Whoa…I’ve never felt that before…that felt cool! Brett is always encouraging us to feel the voice, and I couldn’t agree more. Imitation is only a mask when the student is completely aware that they are imitating so they are consciously making a choice to hide behind an affected sound. Since I have several Broadway singers, some of them sing everything in character voices. They are a bit harder to break down to finding the true voice because their characters have served them so well. But that’s another story for another time!”
Zuke said she often assigns songs a student isn’t familiar with so they must rely on their own voice. Sometimes she even works with a student to write original material.
Loosen The Belt
Estelle Poots is a BMA vocal coach in Queensland, Australia. She has identified belting as another key issue that many singers struggle with. Belting occurs when a singer is yelling or singing primarily with the mouth resonator on notes that are too high.
“This will give you nodules, not only limit your range now, but actually reduce it over time, make you and your audience uncomfortable by sounding flat, give your speaking voice a husky or raspy quality, and it will limit the number of songs you can get through in a set,” she said. “If damage has occurred, this can be remedied by first seeing an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist (ENT) to assess the extent of the damage. You can then change these habits through edge training and learning to access the pharyngeal resonator with appropriate cord closure, compression and airflow.”
Letting The Air Out
“Singing with excessive air or breathy singing is a problem,” she said. “This limits the choices you have stylistically in terms of range, power, tone and emotion. It is a result of not having a strong foundation in your chest voice with efficient vocal cord closure. Volume comes simply from the ability of the vocal cords to hold back or compress the air, so the more compression, the more volume. Without this ability you will find it hard to hold notes for a length of time and sustain with ease. This can also be fixed with edge training and developing a strong chest voice. From here you will learn to mix with power and ease. Then you can use your breathy singing as a stylistic choice and not out of necessity.”
More Bad Habits To Break
These are a few of many more common issues faced by singers that Brett Manning and his associates address in a timely, effective fashion. Look for upcoming newsletters and blog entries on how to successfully correct habits and address challenges that compromise your voice, limit your potential, and, if not corrected, can cause permanent, career-threatening damage.
Sharon started her professional performing career at age 18. She has been teaching singing for over 10 years and also performs in her own tribute show around Australia. The busy mother and wife brings valuable experience and life lessons as a singer and performer to the students she teaches. Visit her on Facebook as well as www.singing-success.com.au and www.vocalsuccess.com.au.
Deborah “Zuke” Smith
Zuke is a renowned music copyist, piano teacher, songwriter, vocal coach, and self-proclaimed “East coast chick,” who credits Brett Manning’s Singing Success with not only saving her life but forever changing it for the very best it can be. In 2000 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and braved the brutal battery of tests, surgeries, chemotherapy, post chemo drug regimen and physical therapy. She believes that Brett Manning’s programs and method are absolutely essential to bringing out the full potential in any voice. You can find her on Facebook listed as Brett Manning Vocal Method: East Coast, U.S.A.
Estelle has spent years studying with the most sought after singing teachers in the world. Because of Brett’s teaching, Estelle is confident that she can offer you the answers that she has searched a lifetime to discover. She and husband, Mark, teach from their home studio in Ayr North Queensland Australia. She offers Skype lessons for all out of town students. For all those interested in booking a lesson with Estelle, send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also (615) 866-1030 or (888) 269-7758 for more information on bookings.