Sample Student "Advantage Curriculum" Reflections
Below are actual reflections of voice students participating in the Vocal Masterclassics Advantage Curriculum. Even with just 1/2 hour per week of viewing, the reflections are highly insightful and deeply educational. Enjoy!
1. The first note of a song predicts the rest of the piece. When singing piano, the sound still needs to be focused. It's easy to have the sound strong and focused when singing loudly, but it's so much harder singing piano and having it be just as focused.
2. ANTICIPATE diction. In fast pieces, words can sneak up on you. Prepare for them and enunciate each of them.
3. "Engineering" of the song –means to analyze every influence behind a single phrase (the influence of the character, their history, the influence of the composer, etc.) Whoever the character is, they must be heard. Something about their story demands that it be told. That's our job.
4. Keep energy up between the phrases. Don't lose intensity or focus when not singing. Feed off the energy of the music. It's right there, so use it.
5. Allow each note to "open up," and blossom. Let each note grow out of the note before it. Like a taffy pull, the notes are connected to each other, not separated with space between them.
6. Don't let the breath support collapse when coming down in a passage. It should actually be the opposite. Support should get stronger on descending phrase.
7. Energy can be misconstrued in performance as having to be really "revved up" and active, but it means having intensity and intentionality in phrases.
8. Be open. Have an open throat, open heart, and open mind. This means be open to anything, and be willing to try anything once.
9. You perform for the purpose of connecting with the people in the audience, not for your own indulgence.
10. The performance won't be the same every night, because it won't be the same audience. It has to be a different performance to connect with the lives of the people who came to the theater that night. Everyone will take something that they need at that point in their life.
11. The performance is not about you. We are interpreters, which we can't do if we think about ourselves. The composer is the creator and we must think about them and their music.
12. Nervousness never goes away, and is a healthy thing for a singer. It heightens the senses.
13. The most important feature of communication is your point of view of what you're saying - what is your, the singer's, perspective of the text? It adds another level to the vowels. Beautiful sound is one level, artistic communication is another.
14. "You cannot (sing) for an outcome, an effect, because it will land hollow and superficial every time." Wow. I needed that. "Color is EVERYTHING!"
15. Sing INTO the harmonies. Watch for chord structures that you as the singer can exploit to your advantage. "Don't just sing the vocal line."
16. CONTEXT is everything! When singing an opera aria, really look at the role itself. What has happened to the character before and after the aria? Is the obvious emotion what the aria is supposed to be, or is there another level to it?
17. The "bedrock" or foundation must be engaged and practice is needed in order to train muscles to do what they should do. We must train our muscles to do what they need to do. The rib cage is the "bedrock." Breathing must be a part of our singing and connection to the "character." WOW.
18. Singing is a long "scream" and the sound can never stop "spinning." "Every note is a continuation of the note before." Sing with your whole heart and conviction. Support is everything, everything!
19. Practice octave jumps in an attempt to equalize high and low range. Scoop and slide in octave jumps, feeling all the notes in between. Work for a more homogeneous sound with the top notes growing from the bottom.
20. Make the character come to life physically by taking the posture and body language that would be assumed by the character. Things such as the wideness of stance, positioning of fingers and hands, and facial expression all communicate the message and disposition of the character.
21. Take time to think about the different sections of the piece you are singing. How is the material of the piece set up? What is the climax? How do we get from the beginning, to the climax, to the end? What does that path look like? Ask these questions...the answers are important and informing.
22. "Singers are athletes." The pelvic floor muscles need to come into play. Then, a sense of a low center comes into play, not just the lungs, voice etc., but rather a whole body concept that is more efficient and produces a more beautiful sound.
23. SING QUEITLY YET powerfully. Be AUTHORATIVE and sing on the breath.
24. Make sure that repeated words, as are common in arias and oratorios, are phrased well and with clear purpose. It is easy to lose concentration.
25. She had the vocalist sit down and slouch. That was a really interesting technique and she had to move around to figure out how to lose the tension that she had. This made me think about how I need to really get my foundation established because many of the same 'problems' continuously arise in my singing.
26. The singer kept pulling her chin down to her neck when trying to hit high notes. I relate to this because I often bring my head forward when I sing and I am beginning to hear a difference when I sing with my head in the correct position and when it is in a forward position.
27. She has her vocalize and sing phrases through a straw. She then moves her to humming, working to build a high and focused tone with space in the vocal track. She also had her stick her tongue out to get it out of the way. Tongue tension. That's big too. Great class to watch!
28. She has her lean against the piano, so that she can connect her breath more. I'm going to try this in the practice room tomorrow. I did not feel like my breath was very connected today, so hopefully this technique will help.
29. I learned so much about the accompaniment, what it means, what it is trying to express, etc. I had some things wrong or at least there were things I did not understand. Speaking to the accompanist: "Keep your power dry," if you’re shooting with gun powder, don't use it too early. Save it for when you need it. It helps the singer enormously and launches the singer into the top.
30. "Too much importance in certain phrases, too little in others." Know the story, and live in the story. When we focus too much on technique and too little on the story, we fall short in our expression.
31. If we don't convey the emotion we wish to employ properly then why are we singing? He wants us to know every moment of our piece. If we repeat a line, who is it directed to? What is the scene we have set up in our mind as to what we are singing about? How much can you extrapolate about that scene? We need to focus on connecting with the audience as much as possible. That can come down to something as minute as making sure the direction of the whites in our eyes and the white of our teeth are directed toward a specific member of the audience and not disengaged. That is a fascinating idea.
32. It is interesting how much more emotion and power can come from the voice when the performer is actually in the character that (s)he is portraying. I think that I am beginning to understand that having a successful performance is about communicating with your audience- sure you have to have really good technique and know all the words, but there needs to be meaning behind the words and a sense of importance for the audience to maintain their attention.
33. "Fortune favors the prepared mind." I had heard, "Fortune favors the Brave" before, and it is the version of the saying with which I was most familiar. However, this new version struck me as being even more true, especially for me. If success is to be had, we each need to prepare ourselves to receive it.
34. "We are not here to entertain ourselves, to indulge ourselves. We are here to move and make contact with the people sitting out there in the auditorium." That hit me hard, because I can easily forget that I am ultimately doing a service to the audience members, not entertaining myself. When I am the center of my attention, my performance suffers. My focus has to be about communicating text, character, musical elements, etc. to the listeners.
35. He spoke exactly toward what I am working on right now in finding freedom, specifically regarding tongue, throat tension, and flexibility. The first exercise he had the performer do was by breathing with the lowest possible area of expansion from his lower back. I practiced this exercise and felt a difference immediately. Use the "girdle of strength." Control is not the issue, but rather consistency. The singing mechanism works in the "x-axis," not the "y-axis." Don't think about the music notationally/geographically, but more through inertia.
36. The character needs to inform the direction of the piece (dynamic contrasts, etc), inhabiting the piece from the very start. Step into the piece before the piano even starts. Let the dynamics be a byproduct of the emotion - not the other way around.