–Have sung all their lives but don’t understand that singing through the lifespan is like being active in sports. You need to tend things along the way or you can’t play.
–Don’t know much about their bodies or biological cycles other than what they hear in media or what their doctors tell them.
–Work with singers through midlife and aging: coaches, teachers, performers, choral conductors, music directors and medical personal.
–Are colleagues, students and medical professionals. We are writing the book we wish we’d had as we moved through our changes.
A very T-A-L-L order? Yes.
That’s why there are three of us writing in collaboration. We are really excited about the very unique way of co-authoring we’ve created! It takes longer than if we each write a chapter, but it’ll be worth it!
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We have more academically-educated singers and voice teachers now than at any time in the history of vocal expression, and dare I say it? Very little teaching from an Undivided Self, which means very little useful and true wisdom.
Learning to get to this place this requires TIME.
It’s a sort of alchemical process to find personal, musical and pedagogical ah ha’s! amid the deafening noise of information, data, and a cult of personality. These things don’t work well with singing. Because singing is about first finding silence of stillness and then becoming a channel for bio-electric energy, all human expression and divine connection.
I think many teachers ‘head’ know this–but they don’t FEEL it or EMBODY it.
There is a crying need for a 1:1 Experiential Learning Program outside of academia to allow teachers and singers the time they need to create this alchemical process. To learn to teach WHO they ARE as well as WHAT they KNOW.
I was inspired to write this blog post by Nikki Loney, a Canadian vocal music educator who runs a popular vocal music education podcast called The Full Voice. She has a three-part series called “Warm Ups from Around the World.”
The warm-ups Nikki includes are suitable for many ages and stages of singers. Part of her mission is to help singers & teachers understand the reasons for the vocal exercises they use, and sing them in a spirit of fun and exploration. While the exercises may be familiar to more experienced teachers, I was thrilled to hear the guest artist/teachers’ explanations for WHY you are using them and HOW to do them.
This matters much more than the actual exercises themselves! So consider heading over to her series and listen.
In the meantime, here’s three vocal warm-ups from CateFNStudios that I use.
I. Pick a short musical phrase from the music that your student or group is singing. Choose one that can be moved up and down the chromatic scale easily. Limit them one or two measures at the most.
Here’s an example for developing voices of any age or stage: a passage from the end of Linda Ronstadt’s recording of Ray Orbison’s “Blue Bayou.”
This helps coordinate chest to head registration smoothly in all styles of music, perhaps after registration work has taken root. It easily syncs with most functional vocal pedagogy models out there that use other names for those registrations/qualities.
It can also help with teaching relationships between intervals and with coordinating sustained singing. You can also use it as a “Messa di Voce” exercise.
Plus you get to introduce young people to Ronstadt and Orbison if they look at you with a blank stare….
For choristers, any pattern that has slow, sustained passages has the benefit of the kind of choral tuning that American choral conductor Robert Shaw used. Church choir directors can’t usually take the time needed for this way of working, but it can be incorporated into 2 minutes with one short passage as part of your choir’s warm-up. Over time this will develop stamina, mental focus, and group bonding.
II. For vocal flexibility and ear training for world music, Indie artists or jazz singers–have them warm up on arpeggiated patterns that are not the traditional major scale 1-3-5-8-5-3-1 pattern.
Eventually move to other arpeggiated blues or harmonic patterns using syllables they choose. Try to guide them to “ahs and ays” on the lower notes and “ees, oos or ohs” on the higher pitches. Scat singers will use their patterns or you can suggest something like “doo-bway-doo,” etc.
PS. I make classical singers do this, too, to wake up their ears.
I recognize that not all singers and teachers can play this warm up in different keys on a keyboard. You can adapt this idea for you and your students in any way that serves them.
III. This general idea is for singers who know their music well and are far enough along that it makes sense to them:
I coached privately many years ago with the late Randolph Maulden, of The Washington Opera. Obviously I warmed up before coachings, but then he often had me sing phrases from whatever I was working on, starting 4 1/2 steps down from its key, and going up two more 1/2 steps beyond the highest note and back down. I experienced this as a real work out. This gave me a chance to move through all the registration minutia, and solidified where high notes in the right key actually existed in my throat, body and psyche (as a whole singer.) This idea also can be adapted, so open to your creativity!
Once you know the HOW and the WHY for a warm-up or exercise, you can always adapt it to be the most useful!
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