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Archive for November, 2010

After all these years of bigger and bigger live music shows, everyone that’s been to a concert, large or small, expects any great show to have an encore. So after singing, playing and entertaining the crowd for two or two and a half hours on average, the crowd expects the artist or band to come out and sing with the same excellence, energy and conviction another song or two to close the show.

The problem is that the majority of singers are not singing it by design. And primarily they deliver their performance by what I call, ‘playing it by ear.’ That means that they do not have an adequate vocal technique or at least the knowledge about it, which would allow them to save and protect their voices, and make it last for hours on end.

Ultimately, they’re using the wrong set of muscles while singing and thus using and abusing their vocal apparatus sometimes to the bitter end. It’s a known fact that even Celine Dion once lost her voice during her concert. Luckily she found a very knowledgeable Doctor of ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) who, not only fixed the acquired damaged cause by improper technique, but also no doubt showed her how to re-structure her voice in a different set of muscles, and thus save and protect her voice up until the present day. I’m not sure what means he used, but on the final analysis she was able to acquire something similar to what I am teaching to every client of mine by applying what I call the “Vocal Science Technique”. The core of this technique is to re-structure your voice in a set of the facial muscles and then put them to work in full conjunction and coordination with the abdominal muscles, which will allow the performer to work smart and not hard, and with minimum efforts achieve the maximum result. The facial muscles in this equation will also play the role of the natural resonator or amplifier and thus the voice will sound well placed, structured and projected while simultaneously being supported by the physical body. As a result, the tone, the conviction of the sound and the body of the sound will dramatically improve. Furthermore, the enunciation and pronunciation of the words as well as overall clarity of the sound will be achieved.

If the vocalist is well aware of all these components, his or her voice will never be in jeopardy. And therefore the songs in the encore will sound just as good as the ones at the beginning of the first set.

Afterall, couldn’t you agree that this type of show would be desirable on both ends, for the performer and for the audience…?

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As I mentioned in my previous blog, Vocal Prosperity and Parental Management – When the Push Comes to Shove – Hats Off!?, I taught quite a few children as well as adults, especially in previous years. Once case specifically stuck in my mind. In 2000, I got a phone call from a parent who had an eight year old child who was actually already, according to the father, a child sensation in the singing and performing world. He even had a manager and was just about to break through to the music industry at large. After I agreed to the evaluation and assessment appointment (Introductory Session), I could see that the little boy looked like a young Michael Jackson and actually even sounded somewhat like him, with the exception that he was already experiencing some vocal problems. He was naturally talented but definitely “played it by ear”. I decided to take the case upon myself and our journey began. The father was not only a guardian but also played the role of the manager and later even a producer. It was quite fascinating to see how the father was progressing. It was also fascinating to see that the boy was growing and gradually becoming a teenager, with all the consequences attached to that transformation. Once I first spotted it (they were coming and going to their lessons for several years in between their recording sessions in LA and elsewhere), I asked the father when the development would finally stop (as the boy was quite ready to sing professionally) and they would finally obtain the record deal? The answer was always, “He’s not ready yet” or “They want to exploit my son.” Meanwhile, he had multiple offers on the table from various record companies that were ready to sign this child – soon to be a teenager – sensation. That puzzled me a little. Why wouldn’t he choose at least one offer out of least dozens and finally get on with it. I guess I was asking way too many questions and between the ages of 11 and nearly 14, they disappeared for almost three years from my view. I was almost certain that they ended up somewhere in the States and a new sensation Michael Jackson alike was just about to break through at any given time. I hadn’t heard a thing until I got the next call from the Father/Manager of my student. He said that they were ready to come back, as the boy was experiencing vocal range problems, as now he was nearly 14 years old. I said, “Of course, bring him over and let’s evaluate it.” When the door opened up in my studio I saw an over 6 feet tall fellow which was nothing that reminded me of the little boy I once taught. He said Hi to me with a bass voice and I understood that everything from this point on would be really different. First of all I learned from the Father/Manager that he never took any offers from the Record Companies and decided to produce his son himself “indie style”. He was traveling with him all over North America and recording different songs which started to sound, instead of better, actually worse, as the boy’s voice had deepened completely and never could reach his fascinating high notes, which he had been able to reach in the past. Moreover, I have learned that they had been studying with different vocal coaches here and there who no doubt mixed up my student to the bone. He got confused and then depressed, as he understood that something had drastically changed, but he did not know how to deal with it. The worst part was that he, in his mind, was still a child sensation, ie. did not go to school, used tutors, slept until 4pm as he was going to bed at 5am. In other words he was living the lifestyle of a star, but unfortunately never became one. To watch all of this was extremely disheartening, but in my opinion the problem was not with my student, but with his guardian/manager, who also very much so enjoyed the process of traveling and recording with his son. And before he knew it, they both had “missed the boat” and their “train was definitely gone”. Sad but true. I saw and met the parents who had the best interest at heart for their children, but at the same time they were a little bit too selfish and too self absorbed and some of them nearly ruined not only their children’s careers, but also their children’s lives.

Diana Yampolsky is the Master Vocal Coach, Studio Vocal Producer, and Non-Surgical Voice Repair Specialist at The Royans Professional Vocal School in Toronto, Canada. She is also the creator of the Vocal Science (TM) method and Talent Scout & Director for the 4 A.M. Talent Development and Artist Management Group Inc.

If you find yourself struggling with vocal performance or are in need of voice repair, you can reach Diana by email or phone, Toll Free in North America, at 1-888-229-TUNE (8863)

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Over the years, besides adults I have taught a lot of children. Some of them were learning how to sing for fun, but the majority of them were addressed by me to the junior instructors, who were also trained and guided by me. Those children who were coming with very determined parents who sounded very serious are usually enrolled in my course provided that the child was showing a great interest and had at least a remote talent to be able to succeed down the road in the music business. However, it was not always a straightforward endeavour. My memory still possesses a case where the whole family walked into my studio in Toronto and the child (approximately 12 years of age) and both the mother and father were wearing cowboy hats. I found it was a little unusual and unique. I saw people wearing these types of hats in Calgary, Texas and Nashville, but definitely not in Toronto. In my brief interview with them, the father revealed that his daughter had been taking lessons all over the place and he was quite disappointed because she was not achieving any results. He, meanwhile, seemed to be quite serious in playing his role as his daughter’s manager. Obviously they were talking about the country music, which explained the cowboy hats in Toronto. So he sounded as if he had it all under control and that the only problem was his daughter’s proper vocal development. I said, “Great” and I started the Introductory Session for my Vocal Science method. I could see that the mother of the child was impressed immensely – meanwhile, the father (the manager) first looked puzzled, then extremely amazed and then literally scared, especially by the time I was completing the session with very obvious, even videotaped before and after instruction results. That puzzled me a little. Why would he be looking so scared I was wondering? I finally completed the session and the mother of the child jumped up off of the couch and with absolute amusement offered me her Gold credit card. She said that she had been sitting in on a lot of her daughter’s vocal lessons, but she had never seen anything like this. The father (still in the hat) also jumped up off of the couch, trying desperately to prevent his wife from paying for the course. Both his wife and the daughter were really surprised at his reaction. His words were, “Let’s go home and talk about it.” His head was down and he was avoiding the eye contact with me. They finally left and did not register for the course. They left me extremely puzzled as everybody liked it and admitted throughout the session that it was different than anywhere else. I asked myself for some time why did that happen. And one day after a couple of similar precedents, I found an answer. The father of that child clearly understood that I meant business, that his daughter would finally learn how to sing, which would mean that it would soon be time for him to take the hat off and become a real manager. Was he ready for it? Evidently not. He obviously liked the process and it was easier to play the role of the manager and feel good about it. When the push came to shove, there was not a real deal present. He called me over a decade’s period of time asking for a lesson or two and revealing that his daughter was still studying and trying some recording. Obviously he liked the process of “getting there” and the child never became a child star as it was intended, as by now she would be a full grown woman and no doubt still singing nowhere. Go figure!!!

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As you read the above title you probably asked yourself, “Why would anybody work on the stove when the fridge is broken?” Most would answer that it is absurd and that nobody does it. Well, I have news for you. Music Industry professionals are doing it every day on an every artist basis. Why is that you may ask? Because the truth comes out in the wash. The fact is that the majority of artists cannot sing without syllable by syllable comping, auto tuning and melodyning. After the so-called “authentic” performance has been fertilized in the studio it is time for the artist to go on stage and perform live. And then that performance flops. The audience begins to talk and walk away, while in some cases booing the artist off the stage. Then the so-called professionals from the Record Label often make the “wise” decision to implement a change in strategy. For example, the beautiful artist with long brown hair portraying the image of a pop diva is obviously not working, so let’s get her hair cut real short and make her blond. This way she will look like a standard jazz singer and they can hire jazz musicians and a jazz producer to organize her next musical project. They are hoping that nobody will be able to recognize her as they will have given her a new image and sound. They will even use the same comp, melodyne and auto tune. And the result would be that nothing has actually changed. The artist still cannot sing live and is even doing it worse than before, as they are not even themselves anymore with the music industry professionals having changed them to a completely different genre. Now they don’t know how to power their voice and are extremely confused. Some even turn to drugs as their dreams are now shattered once and for all. This sad result is as obvious as the reality that you shouldn’t work on the stove when the fridge is broken. The stove may or may not actually work better, but the fridge will definitely still be broken.

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