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The Making of Singing Success 360 with Guest Dallan Beck

Dallan Beck turns the tables on Brett by asking him about Singing Success 360, and what it took to create it.

Dallan reflects on Brett’s dedication, and Brett shares how he stayed productive while creating this perpetual learning program.

Check out the episode below and learn how Brett became a vocal coach an learn about techniques singers can use to make their single stand out in the crowd.

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Brett Manning  00:11
Hello everybody, I’m Brett Manning.

Dallan Beck  00:13
And I’m Dallan Beck. Welcome to the Singing Success Show Podcast!

Brett Manning  00:19
Dallan and I have been friends for about 14 years. 

Dallan Beck  00:23
Exactly 14 years. 

Brett Manning  00:19
Yes, just after my son was born. 

He just mixed my song, Oxygen. And when you hear it, here’s the first thing people say: “Who mixed this?” When people do the newer Singing Success programs—not the very first flagship program and not the Mastering VibratoMastering Mix, Mastering Harmony, and 360, which we’re going to talk about today…

Whether I’m doing a program or doing a record, he treats it all with the same professional courtesy. I want the best product to go out the door. I want my name on it and it’s not going to have mistakes. If I want something fixed up, [he’ll say]: “Yes, sure.” 

Whether we agree or disagree—because we don’t always agree with the artist—you give them what they want. If you’re looking for a good engineer, you may or may not be able to get him, but we can always refer out. Contact us and we can hook you up with somebody who can do a great record for you. When you hear Oxygen, you’ll see a little bit about what he does. You’ve already heard his work on 360, which is a nice segue to talk about that.

Dallan Beck  01:31
Our topic of today: A little bit of behind-the-scenes. Just to interject for a moment, likewise. I really do—no matter what I’m doing with audio, I treat it like it’s the most important thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s dialogue, singing, full music, tracks, or whatever it is. But you do the same thing, and that’s why I really want to do this subject of behind the scenes.

I’ve worked on a couple of vocal programs and a lot of your vocal programs. I was just blown away by the fact that you treat the vocal program as intensely and with as much care as the music you do. And that’s not what most people do. They look at instructional stuff as, “Hey, this is just business.” But I want people to know how much of your life and soul you poured into 360 before it ever started by the time I came along and how long we spent to get it right towards the end. It was longer than most albums take.

Can you let people know that this didn’t just happen by accident? You weren’t like, “Hey, I’m going to pull together a program.” How long did you take to compile 360?

Brett Manning  02:45
That’s a great question. I have to answer it in a couple of different ways. I was working on the first program. It took me nine months to do that one. And I was teaching. I took about three months off and we did just this. I wrote the script over about three or four years and then released it in ’98. At the time I released it, I had edited the pages from 400 down to 42. On our last program—I don’t remember what the edits were on this because it was a different situation—I edited it as I went along. But we ended up with 94 or 96 pages on the last one. Just under 100.

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, sitting in the coffee shop. And sometimes I’d get up and leave the coffee shop so I didn’t look like I was loitering, because I was. I probably drank too much coffee. “Nonsense! Impossible!” A lot of kombucha. A lot of tea. A lot of food in coffee shops. I rarely ever worked from home because I needed to get deep work done. And sometimes, it can be hard to work from home. Your wife’s like: “I need you.” The kids are like, “I need you,” and you’re like, “Okay.” You have to be able to compartmentalize those things, and sometimes it’s better to be out. 

You have your situation in a good area of your house where they know you’re working and “There better be a good reason to interrupt me; this is my job.” and you’ve managed that. A lot of people don’t. For me, it was excruciatingly long hours. But it didn’t seem like excruciatingly long hours. 

That’s the drive that you always saw in me. You said, “You’re so driven!” And at the same time, we talked about productivity versus…

Dallan Beck  04:33

Brett Manning  04:35
Talk about that. And bust my chops a little bit. Go hard!

Dallan Beck  04:39
No! But I want to go back and revisit what you’re talking about regarding deep work. Some people think that you can do serious work like, “Eh, 15 minutes a day.” Like, “Put it on a little map and just give it 30 minutes of your attention.”  

You have your whole life going on. This program, 360, is on top of that, not instead. And you’ve got to figure out how to balance it all. That means shutting off things and turning on other things, but putting enough time and attention into it. What kind of format did you use? Did you do the 15 to 30 minutes a day, “Hey, I’ll just do that for six months and it’ll just map itself out?” 

Brett Manning  05:24
Never. That’s a great question. Do you remember my routine? I had a routine. I would go there and I’d put my headphones on and people would be like: “There goes Brett, disappearing with the headphones.” Well, yes! 

I would put on these headphones and I would read something inspiring for me—the Bible, a devotional, some book that I was reading, or some website that has some good motivational desire—things that would change me internally, emotionally, and spiritually. I’d dump my weight. Then I’d pray over my meal. I cleared my head. I would listen to Bach sometimes for two hours before I wrote a single word. Then, when I started writing, my hands would go so fast that I couldn’t keep up with them.

We were talking about earlier productivity versus creativity. Productivity happens by showing up daily. You don’t want to do it but you show up because you have to. You are productive at school because you have to be there. So every day is school. Every day, you’re learning. Those are habits. And then you break the habit to be creative. Sometimes you have to just [be like], “I’m going to do something totally different.” You break out of your routine. 

Sometimes [being] creative means doing something different so you think differently. If I have a habit that keeps going on again and again and I need to think creatively, I’ve got to break my habit. Even good habits are hard to break.

Being around disciplined people—you’ve heard this—you’re the average of the five people you hang out with the most. That’s spooky. “Gosh, am I wasting my time around this person?” You don’t want to think of people like that. They’re not commodities. You’re supposed to be building them up and they’re supposed to be building you up. But at the same time, you have to ask yourself, “What am I to them?” People always say: “I love having you in my circle, Brett. You’re part of my team.” And I’m like: “Okay. It’s nice.”

Dallan Beck  07:37
Does it work in reverse? 

Brett Manning  07:38
But yes, are you part of my team? Am I just a cog in your machine?—because that’s not what I want to be. 

A couple of other things on the product. We were talking about productivity, creativity, breaking habits, and breaking patterns. Some things that you noticed as we were recording the program.

Dallan Beck  08:01
Especially when you mention productivity and creativity, my job was to keep things moving along. I am really nice because I want to treat [others] how I want to be treated. Whatever I put out there, I’m pushing it back on myself. But there are times at which I’m realizing: “This program is so immense. This is going to take so much time.” We have so many days of work, and when we start going on a tangent, I’m thinking: “How do I get the ship back? I need to. I know I need to, but this isn’t my ship. I’m not the captain. I’m just trying to help steer it.” And what was so great is that you and I had a good relationship. It’s the easy way to just kind of, “Okay, let’s get back to this.” “That’s good.” There’s a little bit of bungee and then a little bit of springing back. 

I learned real quickly without us ever really coming to blows. Any of that stuff, I’m just not into. I don’t think we need to create chaos to have a great relationship. It didn’t take that to realize, “Oh, he has to stretch.” This is not science. You’re pouring your heart and soul into this. These aren’t just like: “Okay, exercise number one—got it. Two—got it.” Even as you were reading the script—how you read, what you were saying—there was so much that was going on that no matter how much was already pre-done, there was a lot that was done in the moment. It was important that it was captured properly by letting it happen and then realizing: “Okay, this has now gone just off the yellow brick road a little bit too far. Uh-oh, we’ve got to get back on. But I cannot be Mr. Negativity. I cannot just heavy-hand it. We’ve got to find this way.”

We were talking off-camera before when you just said, “I didn’t realize you even knew those moments.” I thought I was being clever enough to just steer it back on. But you have such a good confidence about you. You were like: “This isn’t personal. We need to get back on. That’s his role. This is good. He’s helping me help us.” I’m not trying to take control. That was so great to do.

Brett Manning  10:08
It was cool. Like you said, it’s like a bungee cord. Sometimes I’d be just about ready to hit the ground and he would pull that and take the slack out of there. And like: “Okay, so… All right.” “So, are you ready?” That’s usually what you do. “Okay, so ready? I’m going to hit record.” And sometimes, even in between takes: “Go again. Let’s go.” And when I’ve sung in the studio, he’s just like, “Let’s do another track.” And he could tell if I’m tired. On this song we did, he said: “Do you need a break? Do you need a drink?” “Oh, you know what? I actually haven’t had anything to drink. I’ll do that.” It’s that ebb and flow. Allow yourself to be creative. Allow yourself to let go. 

You also did that little five-octave thing. You guys are going to hear a new five-octave thing. I’m pretty excited about that. And he had this pile. We had so much improvisational stuff. He had to sift through all these tracks. I don’t remember—how many tracks did you say it was?

Dallan Beck  11:05
A lot.

Brett Manning  11:11
You have to be able to go crazy for a second and let your creativity go everywhere. And then have an internal stop button and realize, “I haven’t done anything productive today because I’ve gotten too creative.” And then jump back in. 

I think the thing that helps with that is to have somebody around you or just stop and look at your list. “Oh, where’s my list? Oh, I haven’t done any of these things.” You have to write things down. You have to write them down! And you have to be able to say, “This is what I’m going to do.” And you have to tell somebody, because telling people is a great form of accountability. Whether it’s a spouse, a team member, a family member, or a best friend, you need somebody around you who will help you finish these projects. 

It felt like we were never going to finish that day. That was a long time. Three months and then he’d finish. He came back. Three more months of recording. And we’re talking almost every day in the studio. It’s a long time. In a studio studio, not just a home studio, which would have been smarter because his home studio actually beats the studio. No disrespect to those guys, because we love them. They’re fantastic. And it was a cool, vibey thing. But your house studio is just as vibey, maybe more.

Dallan Beck  12:33
But that kept us on schedule too, because we were booking studio time. I wonder if the flexibility would have been better or worse. I won’t know. But like you said, that list—that is really important. If you’re going to be doing something by yourself, you make yourself accountable somehow. But the synergy—just that ability to work with someone—if you’re a good combination, then your two energies combine and create more than just what you could do. It kept us on pace and kept us moving forward. You’re inspirational. I believe I’m inspirational. So it was just that constant moving forward. 

But I was getting nervous there because we were compiling. You’ve got to imagine this. Three months compiled before I got there—just tracks and tracks and tracks. And then three more. When I had gotten in there one-third in, I thought: “Oh my gosh! This is just way too much.” And then, as we were going through, I was like, “He can just go on and on.” There was no, “This isn’t good information and this is a waste.” 

Then I started to realize, “Oh, this is going to take a while.” As I was compiling it in my mind at the same time, I was going: “I’m going to have to sit down with everything you’ve created” through six months of creation. And then, “Okay, now edit and compile it all from there.” It was so much that it couldn’t even fit into the medium that you’d originally planned—on CDs. The amount of time that it took to conceptualize it, compile it, and release it went out not only on CDs but also electronically on a file server system, which changed the game of what could be released and what couldn’t. I don’t know if I should tell everyone this, but do you know much more that we still record that hasn’t been released? 

At one point, I said to Brett—it was probably one of the very few times I had an epiphany—”Do you know this is a perpetual learning system?” The way he looked at me, I got little goosebumps. I went: “I don’t know if anyone else has done this. They’re compartmentalized. Here it is and I’m done. This is a living, breathing thing. Every portion of the program could be extended, redone, and added to.” My brain started hurting at that point, but I was really excited at the same time. This isn’t your average “Just do this and that’s it.” Man, you are going to go back to this over and over again, and each time there’s more in there. 

Do you know how many times I heard you say the lessons and go through the script just from the basic editing of it? I’ve heard each one hundreds of times. And until I heard it the hundredth time, certain things didn’t even sink in. And I was thinking, “Someone’s just going to listen to this one time and move on to number two.” And I was like, “I don’t think they get it.” I was like, “I’m not a singer and I get it.” And I get it. It’s amazing! 

Brett Manning  15:32
I remember that moment when you said: “This is like a perpetual learning system because the things that were in lesson 1 are going to help with lesson 12, lesson 2 will help with lesson 14, and so forth.” They all feed each other. It’s like when you work out, every exercise is helping something else. You’ve got all these groupings of muscles and all these neural pathways that are forming and you start making better, stronger coordination. 

That’s why old man muscle looks better than young guy muscle. Kids get bulky. They’re young and they’re like, “Hi, here’s my muscle,” and they flex. And they got one big trap here and their muscles are weird and they don’t have synergy because their bodies haven’t just hardened yet. That’s why they call that old man strength in Jiu-Jitsu. An old man grabs you and you’re like, “I’m not getting loose,” because they just squeeze like a vice grip. 

My point in that was that, just like when you’re training your body and you develop every part of your muscle working together, it’s the same thing with your voice. You’re training every part of your voice. And something in this lesson is going to help you with this other thing. 

Dallan Beck  16:36
And not in just one order. You’re going to have to revisit again. As you do, like I said, it continually helps build. You should never stop doing it. It’s not something you just do. “Oh, I did that.” It’s not a book you read. “I read it.” It’s a way of training your voice. If you stop training, you stop being good anymore. 

Brett Manning  16:56
That’s right. What happens is that when a routine becomes normal for you, that’s when you achieve success. You’ve achieved some success because “it’s normal for me to go in my whistle voice.” “Now, have I sung my whistle today? I gave a little bit of a lesson, no? Did I go? I don’t know. I just gave a couple of little Skype lessons and I mostly just played piano and let them sing.” 

But let’s see. [piano key press] C—it should be more normal for me to go, “I’m going to start to the F.” [piano key press] If I say, [does lip trills], that’s normal for me. For some people, it’s like: “Whoa! What do you have to do to get there?” Do it every other day or every day for 30 years. Now it’s normal. 

Let’s see what happens: Mum-mum-mum-mum-maaaaaa [sings with whistle voice]. That’s normal. It feels easy. It’s not necessary. I’d rather have this F. I’d rather have a good F here. I really would. This F feels pretty good. I’d rather that one. It feels good. But it’s normal. So, you train until things become normal. 

You’re not going to get anything meaningfully done until you get to your deep work. This means that you have to put things aside. You have to give up something to get something. If you’re sitting there with your TikTok, you might have to delete that. You know that there was about a year when I deleted my Instagram completely? I deleted my Twitter for two years. I’m back on because of the promotions we’ve been doing. I just don’t open it. I just don’t. I just don’t want the distraction. 

For some of you, I understand that social media is a huge part of this. You saw when I was in the studio doing social media moments. This is a way that we connect with you. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s a beautiful thing if it’s a tool. But it’s a horrible thing if it’s your life, because everything else you want out of life, you cannot do with this thing crowding it out. 

Do you have any parting thoughts?

Dallan Beck  19:09
No. I thought that would be a good jumping-off point. 

Brett Manning  19:12
Thank you so much! I hope you enjoyed listening to Dallan. Fantastic. We’ll have him on here again. He’s been engineering for us for these podcasts. And so we’ll see you next time.