Singing

I care what you DO want.

Why do we spend so much time worrying about what we don’t want in life (& singing)?  I learned SO much from my three days with Shirlee Emmons at an Arizona NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) workshop in 2007  that it is still influencing my thoughts of how I approach life and teaching.  Her book Power Performance for Singers, co-written with sports psychologist Alma Thomas, focuses on how to think so that we perform better.  Unfortunately, we lost Shirlee in 2010, but her thoughts and words are still a daily inspiration to many throughout the singing community.

One of the biggest thoughts I learned from Shirlee that I try to focus on, in singing, teaching & life in general, is that “We don’t care what we don’t want.”  Basically, let’s not focus on what went wrong, let’s focus on what went right and how to repeat it.  To that end, I ask questions of both myself and my students: What happened?  What worked?  What could you do to make it better?  Where did the sound go?  How did it feel?  How did it sound?  What were you thinking about? [···]

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On occasion  I have singers come to lessons who have not practiced since I saw them last, but for the most part I find my singers practice- but practice “inefficiently”.  What is “efficient” practice? Efficient practice usually entails setting a goal or goals and accomplishing them.

Here are some simple tips for efficient vocal practice.

  1. Set your goal for this practice session. Do I need to build stamina?  Work a difficult leap?  Master some stylistic issue or rhythmic passage?  Am I struggling with a fast Italian passage or run? Once you have identified what you want to accomplish then…..
  2. Warm-up
  3. Sing through your piece.   Note where you are struggling – whether it be with unsure notes, struggling for notes, lack of ability/prowess/energy on a note or a passage, word, stylistic, rhythm, or interpretation issues.
  4. Once through the piece, Jot the trouble sections down – use measure numbers, words, or page numbers to indicate where the trouble spots are.  Hang on to these notes for your next practice session and/or lesson! [···]
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Have you hunted any wabbits recently?

When we voice teacher’s hear a singer we immediately begin to process the voice – is the sound effortless, does it move you in some way, is their too much tongue involvement or jaw tension, etc. How often do you put your mind at rest and just listen?

As teachers of voice we spend our time living in the critique mode- seeking out the flaws and embarking upon repairing and reprogramming how those sounds are made to make them more effortless, powerful, efficient, expressive. We live in the “what is wrong” and “how do we fix it” mode.

I challenge you as you embark on your fall teaching to step out of that critique box and into the audience mode. Marvel that even your weakest singers have improved upon something. Hunt for the wabbit! Share that success with the singer! If they are family dependent share that with their families too! Drop them a note or send them an email or stop everything and run out to their car as they pick up their singer and tell them how excited you are about this progress! [···]

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