BEWARE WHEN SHOPPING FOR A VOICE TEACHER!

Lately my heart has been burdened by the plethora of people who are mounting the “Professional Voice Teacher” sign on their business door. Would you expect a person who is not and never has been a Medical Dr. to put up a Doctor’s sign and start practicing!

Here is a funny video on this subject–the girl is hilarious, but NOT a voice teacher, giving the Pentatonix  “voice lesson”!

 

 Unfortunately in my state, there is no criteria set as to who can pose as a music teacher. Some singers who have had little to no training TEACHING singing techniques, consider themselves “professional teachers”. And how are parents to know? They obviously don’t. I have seen some students still taking lessons for 6 years now from some voice “teachers” who are still singing with incorrect placement shout-singing with no beauty to their voices. This is unacceptable! If you are a voice teacher, I apologize and pray that you will help to be part of the solution, not the problem. Here are a few steps to take as a consumer when looking for a voice teacher.

 First of all, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Go to performances of several voice teachers’ students. You will get a taste of the quality of and style of vocal quality that these instructors produce in their performers. If they all sound alike, or sing with bad technique, WATCH OUT!!! Every singer should be developing his or her own “sound”, with good consistent vocal technique. Ask yourself, “Is this singer in control of his/her voice? Is he/she confident? Is he/she breathing with full relaxed breaths from the diaphragm. Or is he/she breathy, nasal, off pitch, etc?

Carefully LOOK AT THE TEACHER’S BIO. If they do not have any education in Vocal Music, watch out! It is not enough just to be a good singer themselves. From experience, I know that at a music university we were taught not only quality vocal production as singers ourselves, but how to teach the concepts to others. Obviously, years of experience DOES count in this business. Would you hire a lawyer who has never tried a case? Or a first year intern to do surgery on you?

 OBSERVE CAREFULLY THE PROGRESS OF THEIR STUDENTS. If they are not improving at a reasonable rate, then stay away. If your throat is hurting when you finish your lessons, DO NOT CONTINUE! Your throat should NEVER hurt after a lesson. This is a warning that tension is causing stress on your voice and it is NEVER O.K.

 CHEAPER IS USUALLY NOT BETTER! You get what you pay for. I know I am not the cheapest in my town, but people get results quicker, so in the long run, it is cheaper because you get greater results with the money you do pay out.

 In conclusion, I had a young student a few years ago who had paid thousands of dollars to be in pageants (registration fees, costumes, etc.). She had NEVER learned HOW to sing though. And of course because of this she could never place at pageants or get an agent to take her on. She actually SAVED money taking lessons from me, and learned HOW to sing. She was soon on a touring group to Europe within months because she learned how to sing! You get what you pay for…IF you shop around and take this advice. You shop for the best value at the grocery store, why not do it when looking for training for your child in the performing arts!

There are music students who post “lessons” on youtube for class projects. Some are pretty interesting, but these should never take the place of a quality, experienced professional to teach you voice lessons on an ongoing basis. 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CHEWBACCA MOM BRINGS IT!!!

Wow—I had no idea how talented Chewbaca mom was! It is refreshing to hear the Star Spangled Banner sung without changing keys. She started on a pitch that she can handle, then move up to the higher section with ease. I noticed in this video of her singing the Star Spangled Banner, how great her placement is. She “scrunches” her nose especially on the higher notes, which gives her power and makes her match the higher pitches with her lovely lower chest voice. I teach this technique in my vocal series which you can buy at http://relaxedsinging.com/ Way to go, Chewbacca mom! Keep up the good work! For further information about Chewbaca mom, here is a recent article about her.

To develop a free, relaxed voice, go to: http://relaxedsinging.com/

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

REBELLION OR LACK OF TALENT?

I have found that, with a good teacher ANYBODY can learn to sing. Some people naturally start with a better vocal sound, but others need more instruction and guidance in order to sound pleasant to listen to.

I have met many people who have a lot of natural talent who never made it past middle school chorus because they have authority issues. They cannot seem to follow directions and therefore have relationship problems as well. In other words, people don’t like them. I am not one to make quick judgments on liking or disliking students, but it is very frustrating to teach a student who does not want to learn!

On the other hand, there is nothing more thrilling to a teacher than to hear a student they have been working with improve. I was judging several solo and choral festivals this month and I heard many singers and choirs, from brand new children who have only been singing for a few months to those who have sung together for years. I could immediately spot the directors who had been working not only hard with their students, but intelligently. It was obvious which schools had directors who knew how to get quality, healthy sounds, matched vowels, correct pitches and dynamics out of their students.

Maybe there were directors who had important input, but students refused to listen. What about them? I believe there must be some talent for motivating others involved in the music director position as well. But the bottom line is, if they listen to the director and do what he/she says, they will usually do well. If you are truly doing this and are not improving, then you need to find another teacher. I even had some directors thanking me for giving their students the no-so-great score that they earned. These teachers wanted their students to learn that you reap what you sow. Some years we get better groups of students than others. I am not talking about talent per se, but personality and drive.

In addition to traveling around and adjudicating other groups, I have had my own groups to deal with. In some of my groups, this rebellion issue has been great, and is getting to be a bigger problem every year. I sometimes have to re-clarify who is the director. Students want to teach themselves and, though they are very capable of practicing independently, my young students are nowhere near able to instruct themselves! They just do not yet know enough. There is this new trend in education (that I hope does not last long), that students can teach themselves as long as they have a computer. I completely disagree with this philosophy when it some to music performance.

I get students who already “know” everything and they usually do not last long. They quit before they really learn what they need to know in order to be prepared for the next level. I also have some “divas” who are not team players and they usually do not do well either, unless they “see the light”…that it is NOT all about THEM. Making quality music is usually a huge group project and there is always a leader—the teacher. Especially at the younger ages, they need to learn, more than any singing skill, responding to authority. Singing is doing EXACTLY what the director instructs you to do.

I also teach drama and I get students who CANNOT even stay in their seat, or turn to the right page in the script and they want to be an actor? Think again! I remind them that I am the director and they are the actor and they need to follow their stage directions to a tea. Often they find out that acting isn’t really for them after a semester of being nagged by me.

In addition to chorus and drama, I teach dance classes to young people. A few times I have had students who complain incessantly about the choreography, the shoes that are too tight (that I bust my rear to provide for them), or their costume. Students, DON”T DO THIS, not if you want to continue performing….if you treat your director badly, don’t expect to get cast again, and in my case, you will find yourself not in ANY show at all! We don’t have time to listen to your complaints. Much like sports, don’t shoot yourself in the foot by arguing with the coach. The coach is the boss, you are NOT.

Here is a video of a very fine group of young men who respond well to the authority of their skilled director who obviously cares very much for them.  A respectful relationship with the leadership is essential for success as a performing group.

You don’t have to be on the professional track as a performer to have a rich, exciting experience creating beautiful works of art. Please, for YOUR sake, listen and do exactly what your teacher tells you and you will be AMAZED at how you will surprise yourself! Happy performing!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Auto-Tuning Exposed Oh MY!

I don’t think most people really know that currently “auto-tuning” is done in almost every famous singer’s live performance as well as most T.V. shows and movies featuring vocalists.  GLEE does it, PITCH PERFECT did it, AMERICAN IDOL does it, they all do it!  I loved the a cappella show that put the Pentatonix on the map, THE SING OFF.  But when I heard rumors that even they auto-tuned, I was disappointed, to say the least.  

For those who don’t know what “auto-tuning” is, it is when the technicians can bend pitches electronically to make out of tune pitches match.  Evidently the technology is so good these days, that the sound men can “fix” almost anything even during a live performance!  Wow-what a treat!  You mean, if I want to be a star, I don’t have to learn to sing on pitch?  It seems that if you get famous enough and can pack out a stadium, this is true!

It is tough as a music educator for live students to sound even close to the high quality that an auto-tuned GLEE version of a song produces.  There is great pressure by audiences for live amateurs to sound just like the soundtracks that they hear–which are totally doctored up.  

Here is an example of Mariah Carey’s performance, with the auto-tuning and “electronic gymnastics” REMOVED:

Mariah Carey WITHOUT Auto-tuning

Compare that with this sample of the same performance WITH the technicians “magic”!

Mariah Carey WITH auto-tuning

Magic is exactly what it is!  It is amazing what technicians can do these days.  Sometimes when a popular singer is “under the weather” they can totally lip-synch the entire performance and the audience never knows. So it really is a concert showing off the talent of the technician, not the singer!  That is what the industry is becoming.  I hope this trend fades away soon, I LOVE to see and hear new talent, REAL talent!

The reason I train voices and have my vocal system for sale is to SAVE voices before they get so damaged that they need auto-tuning in order to sound decent!  Even the best of vocal stars need to keep training and using their voices correctly (something that many singing stars NEVER learn), is so they can consistently produce  a quality sound without losing their voices.  Stars like Adelle, Keith Urban, John Mayer, Justin Timberlake, and Elton John  are just a few who have had to undergo surgery for polyps developed in the throat.  There are many more who probably need something done due to much strain on the voice.  

As with any 2 parts of our body that rub together, callouses develop.  This is happening when people over-sing and when there is stress in the muscles of the throat.  That is why I have developed the Ann Paris Vocal Relaxation System–pointing out the importance of the neck, face and body RELAXING while singing.  This system leads to a more relaxed (NOT breathy) sound, a naturally longer vocal range, and clearer focus to the voice.

I wish all budding vocalists out there a happy HEALTHY career, check out the website and get started so you won’t have to be “auto-tuned” at your next concert or event!

To your success…

Ann Paris

http://relaxedsinging.com

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

WANNA BE A STAR? COUNT THE COST…Your Director’s Point of View

As a director, community theater and shows with volunteers has got to be the most frustrating! I guarantee you that every show I direct, by the end of it I have a list of people who, although talented, I would NEVER cast again. I don’t want that person to be you, my reader. In this blog, I plan to put together some tips to help you avoid burning your bridges and destroying your dreams of being a performing star.

chair

*SHOW UP!! When you fill out your paperwork at the auditions make sure you list ALL of your obligations and read the rehearsal schedule very carefully. I have directed shows where they did not list ANY dates they could not attend and they missed half the rehearsals (needless to say, they were given the boot!) If we know of your obligations ahead of time, we can arrange the rehearsal schedule, but not if you just don’t show up! All school performance dates need to be on that list as well. If you forsee that you will be very busy at the time of the show, DONT AUDITION.

 *DO ONE SHOW AT A TIME!!! I had a cast member who was trying to be in 3 shows at a time. She was let go within the first 2 weeks of rehearsals because she found out that she was going to miss 5 practices right off the bat. Sometimes, if you can work out the scheduling, you are still too busy to learn all the lines, songs and dances well and there is also the issue of getting SICK! I advise against it. Pick one show and enjoy it!

*MAKE A COMITTMENT AND STICK WITH IT. Don’t quit a show, word will get around that you are a quitter and you will not get cast again. Or, best case scenario, even if you are highly skilled you will NOT get a lead part until you have proven yourself faithful and easy to work with.

*BUY A CALENDAR! Make sure you check it and make sure you do not double-book yourself. 

*DO NOT GET SICK!!! I realize that sometimes we can’t help what our bodies do, but if you are a sickly person, take care of this issue before you start auditioning. Maybe you aren’t eating healthy, not getting enough rest, dabble in drugs or unhealthy habits like smoking, or are too busy (have to much stress in your life). Get with your doctor or someone who doesn’t get sick very often and see what they do. Wash your hands a lot, drink LOTS of clean water throughout the day, be careful what you eat. THEN audition for a show and BE THERE. I also want to tell you what “sick” really is. An excused sick absence is having a fever (contagious), or throwing up. You need to at least come to practice and sit in the back watching the blocking instead of staying home. Feeling a little under the weather is NOT enough to constitute an absence from rehearsal.

 *Be attentive when you ARE there. There is nothing more discouraging to a director than an actor who just stands there, disinterested, not paying attention while on stage. Believe it or not, directors have had actors on the stage in the middle of a scene TEXTING, CHEWING GUM, CROSSING THEIR ARMS, YAWNING, etc.! Do some of these things and expect to NOT be cast again. Even while you are not on stage during a rehearsal, you should be studying your lines. Leave your phone in the car of turned OFF and concentrate on the show while you are at rehearsals. In conclusion, please see this from the director’s point of view. We CANNOT have a show without EVERYBODY present! Sure, we can read the absent people’s lines, but it messes up the blocking of the others and developing character relationship and chemistry with the others in the scene if YOU are not there. Acting is not just knowing YOUR part, it is a group project and everyone must work together in order to make a real, believable, clean, entertaining, polished SHOW!

Enjoy your singing journey!

Ann Paris 

http://palmcoastvoicelessons.com, http://relaxedsinging.com

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment