Sunday, January 25, 2015

Simply the Voice: How do you sing at a recital or just standing still? Use interpretation of the text....

The Simplicity of the Voice

Sometimes it is daunting to think about just standing there and singing.  Without costumes or staging, just singing, we have to get comfortable communicating what we are singing. “What am I supposed to do?”, I sometimes hear from my students.  “Communicate what you are saying in the song”, is often my reply.  “??????? “, is the response.  

Express YOUR interpretation of the text. The beauty is in the music and the delivery.

Imagine you don’t understand any of the words that someone was saying to you in a conversation.  You would be lost, right?  This is what happens when we as singers don’t understand what we are saying when we sing.  It could be a foreign language or our native tongue, but if we don’t understand the meaning of the text, how can we communicate through the music? 

Spend time analyzing exactly what the poet is saying and how the composer set the text.  If the text is in a foreign language, do a word by word translation (google translate will do if need be), and put it in terms you can understand and relate to.  16th century Italian arias can be re-termed in a way that a 16 year old can relate to.  An oversimplified version of a love aria: “I love someone and it hurts me so much because he is far away from me” can become “I have a crush on a guy and I just can’t stop thinking about him, but I know he doesn’t even notice that I am alive.”

Write poetry out on a piece of paper in paragraph form.  Analyze each phrase.  What does it really mean?  If you don’t know a work, look it up.  Is there symbolism or is it clear cut?  Put it in terms you can relate to (simplify it) so you can communicate it.

Once you have analyze it and know what poet is saying, look at how the composer sets the words to music.  Where are there dynamic changes?  Where are the goals of phrases?  Is there interplay between the voice and accompaniment? Look at the poets and composers intentions and the history of their lives.  Look at the history to enhance the meaning.  Then relate it to you and your life. 

The more details you absorb from life, the more context you give you performances- Deborah Domanski.  The more you feel the emotion of text, the more you communicate it and the more the audience feels and hears the authenticity of emotion. 

If it is a text you cannot relate to, research the history and try it from that angle or personal experience as best you can.  i.e. The sadness of losing a lover or anger of him leaving you for another is hard for a 15 year old to relate to.  Change the angle slightly.  The sadness and anger you feel because a guy you have a crush on is now dating your best friend is easier for a 15 year old to grasp.  It may not be 100% what the poet says, but it taps into the emotion of the person singing.  The feeling of loss or anger can then become authentic.

Convey your emotions through your facial expressions and occasional body movement when you are performing in a concert.  Remember you are communicating words and emotions so you will move a little bit, but there is no need to map out true acting and blocking.  After all, there is no space often.  This doesn't mean you don’t communicate the meaning of the words.  We were given music to communicate in a different form.  Authenticate the poet and composer’s intentions and add your individual interpretations to make YOUR best performance of a vocal selection.  

Hopefully this helps make you more comfortable with 'just singing'!  Read on next week about my students learning experience of singing in a studio voice recital.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

2015 New Year's Singing Resolutions- Time to Revise?

2015 New Year’s Resolutions- Now that we are a couple of weeks in, how are yours going?  Did you slip a little?  Be patient with yourself and try to get back on track.  Were your goals realistic?  Not so much?  Revise them and get back on track or simplify them!  Take it easy on yourself, but make some adjustments now to help yourself to be successful!

Here are some ideas:

Resolutions for singing in 2015

Practice 3-4 times per week and workout 3-4 times per week.  That is something good for your singing voice everyday of the week!  Map it out.  Which days work for you to each and at what time of day?  Does it work to exercise on Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning and sing Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday?  Then pick which one you do on Sunday (or both!).

Map out what to practice.  Find a focus for each day.  The more structure, sometimes the better.

For Example:
Monday workout:  Yoga before school.
Tuesday practice: Text of “Song A”, Dynamics and Vowels of “Song B”, Pitches of new song.
Wednesday workout: Cardio and weights before work
Thursday practice:  Review vowel work of “Song B”, Solidify pitches of new song and add words, Sing through “Song A” to find meaning in text
Friday workout: Yoga before school and walk after school
Saturday practice:  Review all 3 songs and start to work on interpretation of “Song B”
Sunday: Rest OR sing or workout if feel like it

Add drink more water (a goal of 8 glasses of water a day or 4 large bottles is ideal).  Find a place to put it that is accessible.  Also, place healthy snacks in key places.  Think your drawer or closet at work or an extra bottle of water and a healthy snack in your backpack for school.

Plan out a sleep schedule.  I know, you think I am crazy with all of the work that has piled up and homework teachers are giving.  Vow to go to bed 15 minutes earlier than normal for 3 or 4 nights.  Try to then go to sleep another 15 minutes earlier.  By the end of the week, you are gaining 30 minutes per night.  If you keep that up for a week, it is 3 ½ extra hours of sleep.  Before you know it, you are getting 8-9 hours of sleep a night.  What a way to help your body fight off getting sick and your mind to work at it’s maximum potential.

If you take care of you, you take care of your voice to be the best singer YOU can be!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Years Resolutions: New Singer, New You!

As we enter the seasonal New Year Resolution window, I find myself making new resolutions for my singing, teaching, and personal life.  Make the resolutions realistic and attainable.  Maybe you just need to get more organized or take more time for you to be more effective in your practice. Make your own tree of resolutions that can grow throughout the year.  What can you resolve to do to make yourself a better singer, better, student, better teacher, better you?  A few things always pop to mind for me:

1. Make a committed schedule of practicing.

2. Establish a focus to each practice session.

3. Set goals for singing for myself (and my student).

4. Make a timeline to achieve those goals.

5. Sing just for the sake of singing a few times a week.

6. Workout (cardio and/or yoga) 3-5 times per week.  Do what suits you and your mind.

7. Drink lots of water and try to get 8 hours of sleep per night.

8. Take 10 minutes a day (or more if you can) to do something for yourself.

9. Tell people in your life how much they mean to you and take the time to say "Thank you" or "I love you."

10.  Breathe when it seems too much and regroup.  It will all work out.

This may seem like a long list.  They are little attainable goals.  I think I can make them work.  Take what you like, disregard what you do not.   Regardless, do your best to make 2015 a happy, prosperous, and wonderful year!

Share some of your resolutions too!