I notice that you are available for private lessons?
Thats true. I am not travelling as much as I used to and can now offer my services on a regular basis.
How effective are Skype sessions?
Skype sessions now represent almost 10% of my weekly appointments. They are extremely effective. Simply put it allows anyone with a computer and internet connection to take advantage of the services we offer.
Can I do your exercises if I sing opera or musical theatre?
Yes. What may change for you is that you might 'culture' or round the vowel sound in line with the style of what you do. But remember this, the scales themselves are not the important thing. The scales don’t give you the result it’s what you do on the scales that matters most.
How does your program differ from other programs out there?
It’s not for us to comment on what other people are doing. What we know is that we have researched and studied the effect of these exercises and have seen them help in the majority of cases. Our track record of success speaks for itself.
Why is it you feel most people don’t practice consistently?
Our research has shown that the reason the greater majority of people don’t practice consistently is a lack of understanding about what they need to do and why they need to do it. Most people that we have worked with have already had some form of tuition and have been to several teachers. Whilst many of them have exercises and the convenience of doing them, they don’t do them because quite simply they don’t understand why they must. Another crucial difference is that people have their practice (or discovery time as we call it) as a ‘should’ instead of a ‘must’. Right there is the difference. When you make something a ‘must’ it WILL happen.
I see from the book and the exercises that the people demonstrating are primarily pop or RnB singers. Why is that?
At VOCAL MASTERY we work with a wide variety of singers, however the greater majority of people who make a living in singing work in popular areas i.e. Pop, Jazz, Musical Theatre etc. As we said earlier, you can apply these exercises in to any style you wish to sing. Remember that just being able to stylise isn’t sufficient – you must have muscular control over your voice in order to facilitate style.
I’ve heard that it takes years and years to develop a great voice. Is that true?
Yes it is true. However just singing the same things over and over that aren’t working and hoping that they may suddenly start working for you is quite futile. Once you start to develop successful coordination, for example, from our vocal exercises, you will find the development of your voice compounding in a healthy manner. It is similar thinking to that of compound interest in finance. One of the big problems in trying to rush the development of a voice is the pressure applied to the artist to get instant results. It’s like standing in front of a flower and demanding that it grow quicker. At VOCAL MASTERY we believe that we fast track the process of vocal development without cheating you of all the essential ingredients required.
If I have a young voice that I am working with, or I am a young singer, can I still do your exercises?
Yes, of course. The most important thing in ANY voice is to not take it higher or lower than is comfortable, and not to try and make it sound too big too soon. This is the number one killer. Remember that the notes on the scales do not in and of themselves guarantee anything. It is what is done on the exercise that makes a difference. We have worked successfully with singers as young as 7 and 8 years of age who are required to perform 8 shows a week. What you might want to do is reduce the duration of lessons and discovery time. Another important thing is to ensure that when you begin to perform songs, that you don’t start yelling. This is very common, especially for young singers.
Is it true I can only learn singing from a teacher?
No, it is not true. Whilst we support the idea of finding a good teacher i.e. one that has your best interests at heart, it is not essential. What is essential is that you spend time with your voice discovering, and you find some people or peers that can provide you with good, constructive feedback as to how your development is. We don’t advise relying on your own judgment entirely, especially if you are inexperienced. At VOCAL MASTERY we recommend being wise as to who you entrust your voice to.
Whilst singing lessons aren’t the only way to discover your voice, we believe you can make quicker progress by putting yourself into an environment such as that of a regular singing lesson. This gives you a deadline and may encourage you to spend a little more on your discovery time.
I have a friend that sings, that doesn’t warm up, seems to be able to push their voice, stay up half the night etc, and still is able to sing the next day. Why is that?
Some people have the constitution of a bull. The question is not why they are able to do what they do, but if they didn’t do it, would they in fact have a better voice? You’re not them and if you have tried to emulate their behaviour and it hasn’t worked for you, then you already have your answer.
I’ve always heard that if you can sing opera or classical, you can sing anything. Is that true?
This is true if you sing opera and classical. However, the cultured type vowel sounds and the type of exercising you do may not lead you to other styles of music, although it is a very good basis. If you tend to gravitate to a particular style, you will find yourself being influenced by those sounds that you listen to. Specifically doing classical or opera in order to become a jazz or RnB singer may not benefit you as the correlation between the styles is not well established.
My singing/acting teacher has told me I should audition for everything.
We agree that you should audition for as many things as you feel you would actually like to be involved in. We mention in the book that auditioning for the sake of auditioning does not bring about the appropriate preparation in most cases, because at the back of your mind you know that you aren’t going to get the part since you aren’t really interested. It’s the preparation that suffers and this is something that we advise against. What we suggest is that if you are going to audition for something, you go for it 100% - this will help you develop more mastery.
I have heard that once my technique is working that I should be able to sing anything. Is this true?
It is true to some extent. However, there will still be things to consider i.e. what music you are influenced by, your age (and the appropriateness of the song for your age), the type of song, and how well you have applied what your technique can now do into the songs you wish to sing etc. What we maintain is that in the early stages of your development you should sing as many different styles as you wish, however this should be for your private discovery and practice. When it comes to singing in public, that’s another consideration. Most successful singers only wind up singing that which suits them. That is a process of discovery unto itself. This is the 2nd stage in the 4 steps of mastery – it’s about wisdom.
You mention in your book about recording my voice. Isn’t this an expensive process?
It is true that recording your voice can be an expensive process but with today’s technology you can record your voice in practice just using a small walkman/cassette deck with a microphone, right up to spending many thousands of dollars. We don’t recommend you go with the expensive option to start with. As a part of your vocal development, find a song that is working particularly well for you, prepare it in line with our suggestions, seek out a recording studio locally and tell them what you want to do. You might then set a goal to go back in a month or two, to re-record the song so you can hear the improvement.
Is it essential that I complete every exercise in your program?
While it is not essential, we strongly recommend that you become familiar with all the terminologies and that you definitely take yourself through the warm up process, the understanding of your vocal health etc. From there on if you feel that working any of the exercises in the book is more helpful to you, then you are free to do so. Remember this, voice exercising must take you down the road of discovering your voice. The end result is not the vocal exercises – they are just the commencement of the discovery of your voice.
I’ve heard that you have to be born with a good voice. Is this correct?
This is one of the most ridiculous things I have heard in my life. It would be like suggesting you have to be born with a good golf swing if you want to play golf. All of these things are developed. You may have more of a natural drawing towards singing and perhaps have started a little earlier before you became 'consciously inhibited'. This invites the question about people who are so-called ‘tone deaf’. The statistics on people who are tone deaf are so minute it’s almost not worth mentioning. Essentially, it is true that some people have discovered their voices a little earlier and to some extent, these things can be environmental, i.e. what you grew up listening to. However, I can honestly say I have not seen anybody who has applied themselves to the development of their voice not improve.
What do you think about the current trend of reality shows for singers?
We feel that they have a lot more people interested in singing, however what we encourage is that it isn’t the only way to so called 'success'. By having this ‘running race’ type of thinking that the first person over the line wins is really not promoting the personal satisfaction, joy, passion and all the other things that go along with becoming a good singer. Furthermore, it presumes that the purpose of singing is to become a star, a successful singer, or have a recording contract etc. We question what happened to the enjoyment of singing just for the pleasure it gives you and other people?
I’m just an actor or a dancer. Do I need to get my voice together that much?
The decision of how much to get your voice together is up to you. What we recommend is that if you’re practicing anyway, why not sing as well as you possibly can? This could also further advance your career if you are a professional person, so that later in life if you decide not to dance, you are still able to work in the industry. So there really is no excuse for only getting your voice together ‘just a bit’. For many of the dancers and actors that we work with, we tell them that even though they are primarily a dancer or actor, they must start thinking of themselves as a singer. Some of the things you can tell yourself are, “I am a singer that is currently developing my voice” or “I’m a singer who dances”.
You mention in your book about the inCANtation and the inCANTation. What does that actually mean?
Whenever you sing you are sending a message to yourself. When you voice exercise and say something to yourself that is very positive, you will store feelings of satisfaction that you will want to revisit often and the concept of ‘practice’ will not be such a chore but more of a pleasure. You can use any words you feel comfortable with and apply them to an exercise, for example, “When I sing I get to master my voice every day”, or, “My singing is improving all the time”.. The benefit of doing this on a consistent basis is way beyond what you can expect. We have found this one thing very useful, particularly for singers whose confidence is not quite where they would like it to be.
I’ve heard that I have to dedicate hours and hours a day to my practice. Is this true?
No, this is not true. Whilst you can spend many hours working on the development of your voice, it would not be feasible (especially in the early stages of your development) to sing for hours per day if you are not conditioned to do so. We recommend that you start with 3 x 10 minute sessions per day and you can extend them later on. In the in-between time, you can research new material, learn lyrics by writing them out, get arrangements done, buy backing tracks as well as other things related to improving your voice such as resting, drinking plenty of water etc.
My producer or musical director wants me to push my voice so that it ‘sounds better’. What can I do?
Try to get the people involved to understand that your voice does not work in that way. The process of being creative does not involve being abusive. If you present your case convincingly and show that you are capable of producing an effective artistic performance, they will usually embrace that and attempt to get the most out of you based on what you CAN do, rather than what you can’t.
I’m in a band and the musicians insist on playing songs in certain keys. What can I do?
In this day and age with the ability to change tunings etc, there really isn’t that much of an excuse for not being able to accommodate what the best requirements of a singer are. I know that there are certain keys particularly for guitar players that work much better. My question is, why does a song need to be done in that key anyway? If it is original material, you get to choose what key the song is in. If you are in a musical theatre or opera situation, it is unlikely that the key would ever be changed and it would be unlikely that you would be selected in the first place if you couldn’t accommodate that role. In pop, especially with the increased usage of backing tracks etc, these things are able to be changed with just the touch of a button. What we always say to people is that if you went in to a shoe shop, and you take a size 10 shoe, and all they had left was a size 8, you wouldn’t say, “That’s ok, I’ll squeeze into it”. This needs to be the same principle when it comes to key selection – you need to make sure that you are singing in keys that work favourably with what your voice can do. We don’t have the capability a musician or guitar player has, to tune our strings up or down.
Many of your exercises don’t go too high. Why is that?
Whilst we do have scales later on in the book where you can work through a larger amount of notes, our primary purpose is to get you through the first bridge/break area or ‘bumpy bit’ as we often call it. You will spend most of your vocal life in the middle part of your range – not always in the upper. One of the most common mistakes that singers make is constantly trying to get more and more range out of their voice, not realising that the underpinning of the upper range is around the middle area where their first bridge/break is (where they will spend most of their vocal life). This is a little bit like putting a second floor on your house and not putting in any pillars to support it. Our experience has seen that when you strengthen the lower and middle part of your voice, you gain greater access to the upper part and you will be able to live there a lot more.
I’ve attended one of your master classes and I have heard you talk about the ‘money notes’. Can you explain that a little further?
Yes. In our research we have found that the singers who have had the most consistent success in popular singing, seem to be able to have the capacity to sing in certain areas of their voice. We are quite convinced that this isn’t coincidental – that it in fact has an effect on the listener. For example, male singers that have consistent success are primarily tenors and seem to sing very well between the G to high C (Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and many others). For the females, they move up a little higher and sing very well between the high C and F above high C (Celine Dion, Barbara Streisand, Christina Aguilera etc). This doesn’t mean that if you can’t sing there, you are not going to have success. This is just what we mean when we talk about the money notes. However, while it is more just a figure of speech, these people have been very successful in their singing careers and also financially.
I sing really hard rock and very high-energy stuff. How will your exercises benefit me?
Singing this type of music does come with its own set of problems. However, some people are definitely more robust than others. You will still benefit enormously from the vocal health, warm up and exercises that can help you reduce the amount of pressure you put on your voice while still achieving a similar vocal result. If you are just screaming on the other hand, and you hope to be able to find a more effective way to scream these exercises are unlikely to work for you. You can still benefit for the warm up, warm down, vocal health etc, as this may help to reduce some of the tension in your voice.
I really want to find a good teacher. What should I look for?
We strongly advise you find a teacher who has your best interests at heart. That teacher doesn’t necessarily have to have had a great career, in fact some teachers who have had successful performing careers have not made good teachers. We recommend auditioning the teacher and asking them to sing for you to demonstrate that they have a command over their own voice and are living it – not just giving out advice because they have read about it. We advise avoiding teachers who only teach their own gender, and anyone who tries to influence you beyond what you have attended the lessons for in the first place.
The greater majority of your exercises seem to go up the scale before coming down. Why is this so?
The greater majority of problems in singing come from going from the lower part of your range into the upper part of your range without breaking or yelling. However, if you find any of these exercises too difficult, you are welcome to just use the descending scales within the program. You don’t need to only use the recorded scales from within our program – you can use a piano or just sing some downward scales until you feel confident you can move on to some of the exercises. Please note that we have made the scales (especially in the earlier part where the warm up is) very simple. There is no necessity to move on to the next exercises until you feel comfortable and confident within them.
I’ve read a lot about vowel modification. Can you explain the benefit of this?
There are a number of techniques that recommend altering the vowel sound as you sing higher into the range. This is designed to release the pressure off your voice to assist you in going through your bridge/break areas with greater ease. We use the tRaiNiNG wHeeLS TM as a way of achieving a similar result. Vowel modification often over-cultures the sound and should only be done as a temporary condition, especially in pop.