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Marlena Malas technique question

October 28 2005 at 1:43 PM
Squillo  (Login Squillo)
NFCS Member

 
I was wondering: Is Marlena Malas in the "pull your lower abdomnen in to sing" school or the "let every thing stay gently expanding out" school of technique?


    
This message has been edited by Squillo on Oct 28, 2005 1:43 PM


 
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Anonymous
(Login DerBajazzo)

If you want help with...

October 31 2005, 1:37 AM 

...your breathing, Marlena is just about the last teacher you should go to.

Seriously.

 
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Squillo
(Login Squillo)
NFCS Member

Really?.............

October 31 2005, 1:40 PM 

Can you elaborate?

 
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Anonymous
(Login DerBajazzo)

Re: Really?.............

October 31 2005, 6:29 PM 

There's really nothing to elaborate on. If you need me to pick one of your options, it's B, the "let everything gently expand out".

Other than getting you to bend forward and "hang over" so you can feel your rib cage expand when taking your breath, she has almost nothing to say about breath.

Teaching breath is not exactly Marlena's strong suit.

 
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Squillo
(Login Squillo)
NFCS Member

Re: Really?................

November 1 2005, 7:14 AM 

Thank you. I really don't need to be with a teacher who teaches breath. I have a wonderful teacher who has already taught me how to use breath and support.

It's just that I might end up attending a school she teaches at and wanted to be sure that if I end up studying with her, she won't be trying to teach the "pull in your lower abs" thing. That has been really detrimental to my singing in the past, so I really try to avoid teachers from that school of technique.

 
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Riwa Cot
(Login RiwaCot)
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Not in my experience (long)

January 4 2006, 4:13 PM 

When I worked with Marlena, she addressed breath and support quite openly. She had me pull in (I carry most of my weight in my gut, and had just lost 30 pounds when I worked with her) when I before I took the breath, then release slightly before onset. I'm sure that this doesn't work for everyone, but it is exactly what I needed at the time. I know that Ashley Putnam advocates the same technique, and have heard Ruth Falcon and Trish McCaffrey do also.

A word about Marlena. I was hesitant to work with her at first. I am always nervous to work with "gurus" and teachers who are know to have students worship their every word. I was shocked and surprised to have a very focused, mapped out plan with everyone of my lessons. She was very kind, open, demanding, and encouraging. An amazing woman with amazing ears.

That said, she, nor any other teacher is not for everyone. It is such an investment to "try" out a teacher. In my experience, it really takes five lessons to know if someone is really going to work for you or not. Don't get me wrong, with some teachers it takes 3 minutes, but I think five lessons have always helped me decide whether I feel that I should continue with that person or not. Unfortunately, 5 lessons with some NYC teachers could run you well over $800 which is absurd, but hey, you only get one voice.

 
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(Login Squillo)
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Other Input? Please??

October 31 2005, 2:10 PM 

nt

 
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(Login kimvox)
NFCS Member

Are you asking only about Marlena, or do you want other recs?

October 31 2005, 2:15 PM 

'Cause Deb Birnbaum is the goddess of breathing. IMVHO.

____________________________________
Don't grow a wishbone where your backbone should be.

 
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Leodiva
(Login Leodiva)
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Seconding Deb Birnbaum nt

October 31 2005, 6:35 PM 

nt

VIVA ITALIA!

 
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Couchpoetgirl
(Login couchpoetgirl)
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Thirding Deb

October 31 2005, 6:45 PM 

I LOVE Deb Birnbaum.....

 
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(Login shoegal76)
NFCS Member

**BUMP** Deb Birnbaum Contactt Info???

January 24 2008, 9:34 AM 

Hi,

I would like to work with Ms. Birnbaum. Would someone please tell me how to get in touch with her?

Thanks so much!!!!

 
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Squillo
(Login Squillo)
NFCS Member

I'm asking because............

November 1 2005, 7:09 AM 

I don't need a teacher to teach me breath. It's just that I'm planning to go to a school where Marlena is the best they have to offer and I just want to make sure that she won't try to make me working with my breath support in an opposite way. I've been taught to gently expand out and that works for me, but this summer I was at a prestigous program where they were really pushing the "pull in your abdomen thing" and it was really frustrating.

 
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(Login canadianblackfish)
NFCS Member

you should check out.....

November 1 2005, 12:07 PM 



the lenghty discussion from a little while ago on the subject of pull-in vs. push-out that was on the Main Forum. It's worth investigating.

And what school has Marlena as the only and best option?

CBF

 
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operadds
(Login operadds)
NFCS Member

She's an amazing teacher...

November 1 2005, 9:42 PM 

she's not going to mess you up. If she thinks you're breathing incorrectly, I am sure she'll mention it. If she does, try her suggestions with an open mind. She has LOTS of working students. I know that doesn't necessarily mean anything, but she does not have a harmful word of wisdom in her vocabulary.
B
(a very happy student of MM)

 
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Anonymous
(Login helenaliz)
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Patricia Macaffrey

November 4 2005, 6:56 PM 

I hear AWESOME things about this woman and have great admiration for most of her students. SHe's supposed to be the Bobby Knight of opera when it comes to teaching/coaching but the technique seems marvellous and correct. If I were at that school I would probably go with someone like Trish who will kick my ass and get me in shape. I also NEVER hear anything great about Marlena other than her super-high fees and the credit card machine in her studio.

 
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(Login princessopera)
NFCS Member

what is her contact info

January 4 2006, 1:07 PM 

Please email contact info for Marlena Malas and Patricia Maccaffery!

Thanks, j

"Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it."
- Katherine Whitehorn

 
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BCS
(Login BelCantoSop)
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Bwa! Ah the Credit Card Machine. nt

July 30 2008, 10:43 PM 

nt

 
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CS
(Login coquette_soubrette)
NFCS Member

Can you go to her to just work on breathing while studying w/someone else? (NT)

November 1 2005, 5:13 PM 

NT

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
--Soren Kierkegaard.

 
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(Login kimvox)
NFCS Member

I do, but

November 1 2005, 5:17 PM 

if I was in NYC I would study with her full-time. I get so much out of my lessons and she has helped me a lot, not only with breathing, but also with rep, networking, etc.

E-me and we can discuss off-board.

K

____________________________________
Don't grow a wishbone where your backbone should be.

 
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CS
(Login coquette_soubrette)
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You've got mail :) (NT)

November 2 2005, 11:53 AM 

nt

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
--Soren Kierkegaard.

 
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kimvox
(Login kimvox)
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and so do you. :) nt

November 2 2005, 12:21 PM 

nt

____________________________________
Don't grow a wishbone where your backbone should be.

 
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Anonymous
(Login Littlemissopera)
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Have you considered something entirely different?

November 1 2005, 8:31 PM 

The functional or natural school of singing (taught by Cornelius Reid and a handful of others), requires no special "singing" breath. All you do is breath, and "support" occurs when the registers become balanced. I once had a teacher who had me doing all kinds of crazy things to get the right breath and enough breath and to get good, solid support--it seemed so strange and so forced. Now I just take normal breaths, and because of the registrational balance, it's always plenty--I don't have to do anything special or different, and I never run out of air. When registers are balanced, that expansion through the ribcage naturally develops too. You don't have to make any of this happen.

I don't know why more people don't teach this way, but I'm very grateful to have found someone who does. It has made life so much easier, and my voice is becoming incredibly free.

I just wanted to share that and see if anyone else has had this experience or has thoughts on the matter =)

 
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Zwischen
(Login Zwischen)
NFCS Regular

Balanced registers, or balanced resonators?

November 1 2005, 11:23 PM 

Could you elaborate a little more?

[oh dear Lord, I asked a technique question...well, its hiding on the Recs and Warning page, so maybe the tenors won't notice!]

 
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Allen
(Login TruthSeeker77)

Response to "balanced registers/balanced resonators"

November 10 2005, 6:24 PM 

Hi! Succinctly...when the 2 registers are balanced through selected patterns of pitch, intensity, and vowel, then resonance becomes a happening. Once a coordination between these 2 registers has been established, then attention may focus on registration and resonance adjustments together...each one complimenting and helping the other. Registration is the PRIMARY concern with resonance and breathing being important yet secondary concerns. The truth is out there! Read Cornelius Reid, E. Herbert Caesari, William Vennard, and Edmund J. Meyer. Good luck in your search.

TruthSeeker77

 
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HT
(Login Houndentenor)
NFCS Member

If that works for you...

November 2 2005, 8:41 AM 

that's great. I had a few teachers in a row (briefly) who did not address breath and at the time it was what I needed to work on more than anything. Breath work opened up my voice and made a world of difference.



HT

"The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come."

 
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(Login kposner)

Amen, Sister

November 2 2005, 9:01 AM 

After 12 years in Cornelius' studio and nearly 30 years of teaching functional singing, I can testify under oath that the answer to having plenty of breath lies in the registration, not in breathing exercises. As I tell my students, support is the RESULT of good singing, not the cause of it. The only thing anyone ever got from learning breath control is tension, in the body and in the mechanism. We know how to breathe. The issue is not how to take in the breath or hold it in. The issue is whether or not the vocal folds efficiently manage the outflow of air and that is an issue of function within the vocal mechanism. In all the time I have spent in my life in the Reid studio, not once, not once has there ever been any discussion of how to breathe or how to manage breath. Yet every singer who stays there sings with ease. Must mean something. Littlemissopera, I assume you know how lucky you are to have encountered the principles of functional singing.

By the way, a side issue: Why do people change teachers so much? Why do they go to strings of teachers? If you have what you need, why do you change? If you need to go from person to person, does it ever occur to you why all the teachers are not meeting your needs?

 
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(Login Houndentenor)
NFCS Member

Some answers to your (probably obviously rhetorical) questions

November 2 2005, 9:28 AM 


Why do people change teachers so much?

Aside from the fact that most teachers suck, I think it's unlikely that any singer is going to get everything from a single teacher. I was with my last teacher for about six years. There were a few things I needed to work on and I also thought it would be useful to work with a man so I started working with someone else about a year ago, with the previous teacher's blessing.



HT

"The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come."

 
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Anonymous
(Login sopranogrl25)
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bumping because I'm interested in this...(nt)

July 30 2008, 4:14 PM 

nt

 
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JTenor
(Login jfeldm3)
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I don't want to cause trouble but....

November 2 2005, 9:04 AM 

I've been to lessons of Cornelius'. The idea of balanced register is a nice one, but he honestly ignores SO many major technical problems in voics in order to further his ideas. I've actually heard the man encourage screaming (and not in the controlled tenor way, but in a blood curdling, voice destroying sort of way). I have also heard him tell friends that after four or five lessons, they have no need to continue studying voice. ALSO, he has said VERY clearly to everyone in his studio that he believes that practice is not only unnecessary, but detremental to progress in voice study.

If you agree with these things, all the more power to you, but they are anathema to my beliefs about voice and health. I just cannot take at face value anything this man or any of his minions says about breathing.

Only one man's opinion, but one that is not without basis.

JT

 
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(Login Houndentenor)
NFCS Member

Wow

November 2 2005, 9:34 AM 


It is my belief that I am my own teacher. I pay other people as consultants. People who have knowledge, experience and insight that can tell me things that either I would not figure out for myself or that I would take so long to do so. The real learning happens in the practice room. Then I go back to my consultants (coaches as well as a teacher) and get more advice on how to do things better.





HT

"The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come."

 
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Tenormartin
(Login tenormartin)
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You'd be surprised

November 3 2005, 8:57 PM 

I think the same way. But one of the teachers in the school got upset with me because I WARMED UP before my lesson... Then I went on to explain to her what you just said and she replied that that must be sad and hard place to be... Now I'm sorry, but I don't plan on blaming or crediting other people with my success. I DO intend on letting people know who helped me along the way but I would never pass responsibility on to other people for whether I can sing or not.

"Divinite grecque de la confiserie et des tenors martins."

 
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(Login Houndentenor)
NFCS Member

Oh well

November 4 2005, 10:32 AM 


Most every teacher I ever had had an official policy that vocalizing in a lesson was for the purspose of building technique, not warming you up. Once I got out into the non-academic world and often went to lessons straight from a day job, vocalizing in advance was sometimes not possible (people on the subway get SO annoyed when you are singing at the top of your lungs right in their ear.

A sad place to be? I wouldn't trade places with you and your situation for $10,000. (If the offer goes higher let me know though.

Don't get me wrong. I have a great teacher and great coaches. I rely on them a lot. But my voice and my career are my responsiblity, not anyone else's.

HT

"The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come."

 
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TenorMartin
(Login tenormartin)
NFCS Member

I agree...

November 6 2005, 3:03 PM 

Sorry if my previous post didn't sound like it but what I meant was that I totally agree with what you were saying and just wanted to relate what I had been told recently.....

When this person told me that I thought it was one of the worst things I'd ever heard...

"Divinite grecque de la confiserie et des tenors martins."

 
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(Login Littlemissopera)
NFCS Member

Where will you be performing?

November 7 2005, 8:51 PM 

I've heard a few singers who are self-taught and/or have a similar attitude about the need for teachers, and they didn't sound so hot. Even the greatest of great singers, well into their careers, have continued to study with teachers on a regular basis. You could very well be one of those rare natural talents, though. I'd just be curious to hear for myself...

 
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(Login Not-a-coach)
NFCS Regular

I don't think Houndie is advocating

November 7 2005, 9:12 PM 

NOT having teachers/coaches, just saying that the relationship isn't necessarily a dependent one..............

I have a team of people who I trust implicitly, but ultimately I am my own teacher and my own coach (insert usual plug for tape recording, too). I have to decide what I want to sound like. My "team" is there to help me... but they don't do it for me. And if you want to know where I'm singing, email me and I'll tell you.


*****************************************

"Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm"

 
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(Login Houndentenor)
NFCS Member

Not at ALL what I said

November 7 2005, 9:57 PM 


I didn't say I didn't need a teacher or coaches. I love my teacher and coaches and learn so much in every session.

My point is that I am the one responsible for my own singing and how well I perform. I can't just show up and expect someone else to do all the work.

It's not about not needing anyone. It's about taking responsibility for yourself and making damnn sure you are getting what you need from teachers and coaches.



HT

"The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come."

 
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(Login Littlemissopera)
NFCS Member

Fair enough

November 8 2005, 3:30 PM 

I'm actually really glad to see that I misunderstood. Because there ARE people who think they don't need teachers, that they've learned all they need to learn and they're set. And, well, yikes...But I agree that we are truly responsible for our own instrument. I put too much faith in my first teacher and found out later (luckily not too much later, although too much money was thrown out the window...) that she really didn't have a clue. But having had that experience and now having a truly great teacher, has made me smarter about my own voice and know how to identify what's really going on with it.

Point well taken, HT.

 
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(Login Houndentenor)
NFCS Member

The thing about teachers

November 8 2005, 5:07 PM 


Real teaching is more about how than about what. Yes there's some what along the way. There has to be. But evenutally you start learning how to figure it out on your own. Then your lessons are about increasingly detailed work.

It's silly to think we don't need teachers and coaches at all. Would an Olympic athlete think he or she didn't need a coach? It's just too hard to figure out for yourself why something isn't working or how to get past the sticking point.

A story. A rather long time ago I was singing in the chorus of Aida at a rather large house. We actually had a piano tech (dress for the principals) for the second cast. The tenor (who shall remain nameless even though I'm sure none of you ever heard of him) bragged that he had never had a voice lesson. Imagine announcing you are going to perform surgery but never went to medical school! Anyway, this guy....well there's just no nice way to say this. He sucked. Everything above F was in microtones between F and F#. It was horrendous. I hear that the decision to fire him was finished before the end of the first scene. Within two days a replacement had been flown in at rather great expense. He was SHOCKED (I happened to be in the hall when he left the AD's office) that they were firing him. SHOCKED!!! I don't think I ever heard of him singing again.

HT

"The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come."

 
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NaC
(Login Not-a-coach)
NFCS Regular

OT: which of course begs the question...

November 8 2005, 5:29 PM 

HOW DID HE GET THE JOB?!?!?!??!

No, on second thought, don't answer that...

Oy.

*****************************************

"Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm"

 
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(Login Houndentenor)
NFCS Member

This is a story to be told over cocktails nt

November 9 2005, 10:24 AM 

nt

HT

"The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come."

 
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(Login CannySop)
NFCS Regular

Meow

November 7 2005, 11:44 PM 

HT's already replied, and I agree that he never said he was self-taught. It's true.....you have to learn from yourself at some point, or I don't think you'll ever be able to depend on yourself when it's just you out there on stage with no teacher in site. Everyone needs at least one set of ears they can trust, but your own have to work too.

"Life might not be the party we'd hoped for, but while we're here we might as well dance"

 
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Anonymous
(Login Littlemissopera)
NFCS Member

No I don't agree with these things

November 2 2005, 1:07 PM 

But the teacher that I study with is a product of Cornelius' studio (via his teacher), and there is zero screaming, and daily practice isn't just encouraged, it's a requirement.


 
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(Login kposner)

Hmmm

November 3 2005, 8:37 AM 

I have heard this sort of stuff about Cornelius Reid before. I have spent a lot of time (obviously) in his studio. He encourages people to listen to other lessons, as well as taking them. I have never, never heard him tell anyone to scream, nor have I ever been asked to do so. This is absurd and silly. I can guess what happened, but not having been there, I will not speculate. I have never heard him say 'never' to practice as it is detrimental. He may very well tell people just beginning with him not to practice as they will undoubtedly not do it correctly. I do this myself, it usually taking a few weeks before I chance it with letting people work on their own. These reports both represent misunderstandings of what he is teaching. You cannot go for a lesson, or three or five, and think you grasp where he is going. Many of the people who criticize him have done just that, take a lesson and bolt out the door with no idea what they have experienced or what the point is. Sad for them.

 
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JTenor
(Login jfeldm3)
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I'm glad you think you get it....

November 3 2005, 8:57 AM 

but there is no arguing with what I have heard come from the mouths of students. I know of MANY students that have gone through that studio, and not for 2 or 3 lessons, but for at least six months, and as much as 5 years. One of them was told that his technique was near perfect and that he should go off to Germany and "make millions". The other two went in with pretty instuments and potential, and they both came out with tension ridden, ugly voices with no sense that they were doing anything wrong.

Defend as you like, but this man's technique was established as an excersize in the purely theoretical. Anyone who has studied or is studying with him who sounds good and healthy is doing it despite him, not because of him. He is not singular in this. There are MANY teachers out there who cannot build voices. I have studied with some.

 
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(Login Houndentenor)
NFCS Member

I'm with you

November 3 2005, 9:21 AM 


The more theories I hear someone spout, the less impressed I usually am with their students.

Not that I don't think teachers need to understand physiology and acoustics. They most certainly do. But I think too often the science becomes an end in itself.

I think it's fair enough to judge a teacher by how well his or her students sing. After all, what else matters?

HT

"The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come."

 
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JTenor
(Login jfeldm3)
NFCS Member

HT, we agree on much...

November 3 2005, 10:47 AM 

as our mid-Flying Bat discussions so revealed.

No coincidence that our respective teacher experiences have been similar. In the end, a good teacher can only be measured by how effective his or her teaching is. This is only achieved by communicating to students that it is THEIR responsibility to take ideas home, play with them, and see what works best. Its a chance in a million that you can leave your brain at the door, study with the same person for 10 years, and come out a star. In addition, that one usually went in a star anyway


JT

 
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(Login kposner)

More

November 3 2005, 2:53 PM 

I realize we have constraints on us here in terms of personal information, but I would love to know who studied with Cornelius for 5 years and came out of the studio wrecked. People come from all over the world to study and observe his teaching. I know he is not the only teacher who is sought after in that way, but the people who believe in him think they are getting something very important. Are they all wrong? Every one?

 
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HT
(Login Houndentenor)
NFCS Member

So by that logic...

November 3 2005, 4:02 PM 

does that mean Andrea Bocelli is a great opera singer? He sells millions of CDs and his concerts sell out.

I am not going to comment on Reid. Never met the guy. I'm just saying that the proof of your teaching is in how well you students can perform, not on how many books you write or how many other voice teachers (now there's an endorsement!) think you are top notch.

By and large I think most of what is wrong with classical music IS the fault of the instruction being received in colleges, universities and conservatories. In the vast majority of cases, teachers are not the solution, they are the problem.

HT

"The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come."

 
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(Login kposner)

True

November 4 2005, 9:53 AM 

You are right, the proof of the pudding.......
I am just tired of the horror stories about Reid. I believe that his teaching is so different from the norm that he is attacked for that reason alone. I hear all the time how awful this or that person's experience was, but I never get any details. It is always, "a friend of a friend of my third cousin twice removed had a lesson and it was dreadful."
Thanks for writing.

 
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stlsop
(Login stlsop)
NFCS Member

To Katherine

November 4 2005, 6:41 PM 

Katherine,

Not long ago we had a discussion about teachers in St.Louis. I don't want to rehash what we discussed the first time but I wanted to tell you that I recently started studying with one of these teachers and my singing has never been better. The first (of many) brilliant thing this teacher did for me was have me read "A Soprano On Her Head." It gave me a completely different outlook on approaching some of my singing issues. My breathing is now the easiest it has ever been and I'm singing longer phrases than I ever have without feeling like I'm trying so hard.
She's also given me back a passion for performing that I had lost with my previous teacher with whom all we ever did was technique with zero focus on artistry. This is not to discredit my previous teacher. Many wonderful things came out of studying with that person.

Here's my new theory: I truly do believe most voice teachers are trying to get us to the same place. Some teach from the standpoint of trying to "make" the voice do the right thing. Many others try to teach you to get out of the way and the voice will do the right thing naturally. I needed to have both approaches in my life to come to a much better understanding of my own voice. Neither approach by itself would've been the answer for me and I'm guessing that is probably the case for a lot of people. I'm making some sweeping generalizations here but I'm mostly just saying what my experience has been. I also wanted to apologize for being so closed minded during the last discussion and assuming I had the answer with my then teacher. There truly isn't one answer.

 
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(Login kposner)

Good for you

November 5 2005, 9:11 AM 

Thanks, STL, for writing. I tried to return this privately but couldn't. I am so happy that you found the right person to work with. My teaching is like the Stewarts, so of course I would believe that is the way to do it. But I sincerely believe also that the important thing for a good teacher is to grasp what the free sound is. If we have a clear idea of what we are going for as teachers and some tools for getting there, it ought to work. You know that old story about the sculptor, Rodin. He was asked about how he would sculpt an elephant. He said he would just take the block of marble and chip away anything that wasn't an elephant. Funny but with a serious intent. He had to be able to conceive the elephant within the stone. We teachers have to know how to "chip way" anything that isn't a beautiful voice. We have to conceive the beautiful sound within what we are hearing. Glad you got a good one!

 
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(Login Littlemissopera)
NFCS Member

Can you be more specific?

November 10 2005, 5:01 PM 

Could you explain the specific technical problems that you mention here? The generality isn't very informative...

Thank you =)

 
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(Login Littlemissopera)
NFCS Member

JTenor, the previous question is for you :-)

November 10 2005, 6:40 PM 

It's been a while since your posting, so I just wanted to make sure you saw my query

 
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Willisbe30
(Login Willisbe30)
NFCS Regular

Perhaps you were already a natural breather

November 2 2005, 10:14 AM 

I hold my breath as general practice so it took me a long time to learn to free up my rib cage and lower ab muscles to learn to breathe for singing. I don't think that one way of teaching will meet everyone's needs. I needed to learn to breathe and wouldn't have met with the success that I have recently if I hadn't learned to breathe.

Sorry - but no one can make blanket statements about technique because while we all end up doing more or less similar things, we all have different ways of approaching and thinking about them.

 
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Anonymous
(Login Littlemissopera)
NFCS Member

It's just an alternative

November 2 2005, 6:05 PM 

I'm certainly not suggesting that everyone learn the same way. Although I am still suggesting that breathing is a product of proper technique, not something that creates it. Within the functional school of thought there are variations in teaching, like there are variations with all types of teaching. I'm just sharing my experience with it and hope that there are people who can benefit from a different perspective (from a centuries-old vocal technique =) )

 
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Willisbe30
(Login Willisbe30)
NFCS Regular

Ok - that's fair. :) (nt)

November 3 2005, 9:22 AM 

nt

 
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(Login Littlemissopera)
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Singers from the olden days

November 3 2005, 9:26 PM 

They don't sound the same as many do now. They were better (and I don't think many of them had a masters in voice). The predominent teaching methodology since the 1950's has been mechanistic. But check out singers from this site if you haven't yet. They do not sound like what we hear at the Met these days--they were clearly trained differently: http://bassocantante.com/opera/

Katherine, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one =)




 
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(Login Houndentenor)
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Amen!

November 4 2005, 9:03 AM 


Although to be honest, you can find articles back for hundreds of years deploring the "current" state of voice teaching and singing.

Even so, I love my old recordings and I wouldn't trade them for all the digital recordings in the world.

HT

"The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come."

 
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Anonymous
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Re: Singers from the olden days

November 4 2005, 6:21 PM 

That's such an amazing website!

 
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(Login CannySop)
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I don't know - if I could hear them live....

November 6 2005, 5:54 PM 

....(which I can't), maybe I'd understand. I just listened to a few clips on that site (and of course I've heard recordings before) and I have trouble with them. I know they must have been amazing, because people keep saying so. But, I often feel like a lot of them aren't singing through anything and that a lot of it sounds shrill. Could just be the recording quality, but I never hear much depth. (Kirsten is different to me though) It kind of reminds me of old time figure skating. When you see a video of olympic figure skating from the early part of the 20th century, it looks ridiculous....and yet they were the best skaters of their day. I feel almost the same way about singing. Does that make any sense? I'm probably going to be shot I get tired of people saying that singers today aren't as good as the old days. Well, I'm sure we're different, but times do change with knowledge and demands. Maybe our pure vocal technique isn't as good, I don't know. But we're also dealing with a different time (hello, jobs?), different demands (acting too?), etc. I just find it to be a discouraging view, because we can't go back in time and I think there are plenty of amazing singers around who don't deserve to be told that they can't possibly be as good as those of the old days.

I'm done
Canny

"Life might not be the party we'd hoped for, but while we're here we might as well dance"

 
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(Login Houndentenor)
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Hmmmm

November 7 2005, 9:17 AM 


First, you do have to learn to listen through limited technology to listen to earlier recordings. Especially the acoustical ones.

Second, there are indeed some truly great singers today who would have been stars in any era.

My point is that my interest is in hearing the best and in a lot of repertoire today there is just not an abundance of greatness. Most of what is being recorded now is mediocre (and that is being kind).

The comparison to sports is interesting. We are actually in an age where the training, medicine and performance enhancing pharmaceuticals are at a peak. I don't think we are in any kind of golder era of singing at the moment and I don't know anyone knowledgeable about the history of singing, at least since the advent of recorded sound, who thinks so.

HT

"The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come."

 
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(Login Littlemissopera)
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Re: I don't know - if I could hear them live....

November 7 2005, 8:03 PM 

I'm afraid you said it yourself: "Maybe our pure vocal technique isn't as good, I don't know."

And "I get tired of people saying that singers today aren't as good as the old days." If you get tired of it, that must mean you hear it a lot, probably because it's a sad but true fact.

Now there ARE good singers out there. No one ever said they're all bad and or that none of them sing as well as those from a hundred years ago. That being said, I do tend to be underwhelmed when I listen to Met broadcasts. There's a whole lot of pushing and squeezing and wobbling and just generally forced sound. I wish I didn't hear these things, but I can't deny that they're there, and it's a shame.

On the other hand, listening to these vintage recordings, I'm awed by the skill and the agility of the voices. It's like watching olympic gymnasts--I find myself saying things like, how can the human body do those things? Same thing here. How can Tetrazzini's coloratura be so completely effortless? How did Vallin sing with such purity and clarity throughout her range? How could Pinza have both the richness of a bass, with flexibility of tone and dynamics? I'm blown away by so many singers who are long-dead. I just don't feel that way at all about singers today.

"But we're also dealing with a different time (hello, jobs?), different demands (acting too?), etc." This I'm curious about. You seem to be acknowledging a decline in vocal technique, but are you attributing that decline to the modern world? And if that is the case, should we just do away with opera because modern singers don't have the time to be as good at their craft as singers from the last century and prior were? As for acting, I'm not sure where that figures in to your argument--are you saying the bar has become higher for acting in opera, so singing quality has been compromised?

As for the quality of the recordings, they're aren't what we expect technilogically, and the sound is very tinny. We miss the full, rich sound of the more modern recordings. You have to make accomodations for that because that's all there was. But it is still possible to hear great technique come through.

 
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(Login CannySop)
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I don't really want to argue about it....

November 7 2005, 11:20 PM 

All I wanted to say really was that the view of singers today sucking in comparison gets old. I don't know who was better or worse, because sadly I wasn't there to hear them in their prime or with decent recording materials....and I haven't had the pleasure of hearing all of the great singers of today live either. I think that they were great then in their way, and singers today are great in their own way. You said I must hear this often. The only place I really here this frequently is here, to be honest. The people I work with speak about the greatness of singers in the past and the present - always with the intention of helping me (or anyone) grow. They don't stand around whining about how much better the singers of the past were and shitting on current singers. What does that do?

If I was using modern times as an exuse, it wasn't meant that way - but it is a factor. Most of the gals back in the day probably didn't work as temps and probably had very frequent lessons, etc. So, I'm not going to make vocal comparisons right now, but I do think that anyone who makes it in opera these days deserves a fucking medal.



"Life might not be the party we'd hoped for, but while we're here we might as well dance"

 
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Anonymous
(Login Littlemissopera)
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Just trying to make a point

November 8 2005, 8:52 PM 

And it's not about trashing current singers. What I'm getting at is that singers do not receive the same technical training that they used to. Why is that? Sure, the logistics were different, and we may have more to contend with now, but we're talking technique and technique alone. Registrational balance was the predominent school of thought then (and prior to that, like in the days of the Italian masters). It's based on science. We have 2 registers. And, as the next entry in the thread says, you can't argue with science (well said, Hamberguesa). The science was abandoned around the middle of the 20th century, which is when singing started to decline. I've done a lot of homework and have found this to be factual. In the interest of time, I'm skipping over the details, but anyone can do the research if they're willing, by reading the likes of these guys: Caesari, Reid, Vennard, Myer. And actually, here's a link to an e-book I found written by Edmund Myer:
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12856/12856-h/12856-h.htm
So no whining, no shitting. Just information.

And by the way, I sadly agree with your last statement. But I just think the opera business, being part of the entertainment biz, is brutal by nature. People expect it to be nice and civilized because we sing civilized classical music, but it's quite the opposite. And I have to wonder how different the purely business side of things is now versus a hundred years ago...


 
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(Login Houndentenor)
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I don't think anyone wins by lowering the bar

November 9 2005, 10:25 AM 


Especially not the audiences.

HT

"The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come."

 
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Midtown
(Login MidtownSinger)

Ninon Vallin -

November 9 2005, 11:40 AM 

I notice your comments on Vallin. I just picked up a CD of hers which includes selections of Tosca sung in French and I have to say, I was blown away by the combination of intensity and yet lightness and focus she brought to it. She is a quite unique singer and I hope more singers will listen to her. Her recordings are by and large excellent.

 
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(Login Littlemissopera)
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Where did you find the Vallin recording?

November 9 2005, 2:17 PM 

She is exquisite, and I would love to have one of her recordings! Did you get it through Marston? It's going on my Christmas list! =)

 
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Midtown
(Login MidtownSinger)

I think you need to hone your listening skills

November 9 2005, 11:38 AM 

I say it not to be snide, but I do think that you need to hone your listening skills.

A well-honed ear can hear past the limitations of the technology, which of course does cause things to often seem strident (esp female high notes!) and sometimes out of balance, etc., as well as vagaries in style that evolve over time.

Also keep in mind that the very earliest recordings were all live single takes - forget editing, they didn't even have retakes - with positioning as the primarily acoustic tool!

In recordings from the earliest to about the 50's-60's, you hear a very different way of singing than one usually hears nowadays and if you listen to the recordings in chronological fashion you can actually hear a marked decline in the art of singing. More and more it comes off the breath, with more covering, less ping, the diction comes off the fior di labbra, and the whole thing becomes a lot more pop-croony. In the old days the voices were so well placed and supported, with such ring and chiaro-scuro, they had to sing that way to sing over orchestras for years in real opera houses, and often their legato is of an ilk nearly completely unheard of today (especially in the "top recording singers" of the present time). Even on the tinny recordings you get a sense of the visceral impact the live singing must have had.

Not to say that there isn't a role for that type of singing in certain roles, but I think any singer who can't hear the quality of the technique and the singing on the old recordings needs to try to hone their ear to be more discerning!




 
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(Login CannySop)
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maybe....

November 9 2005, 2:09 PM 

...though I don't think I'm retarded. I'm done arguing, but my point remains to be that I'm tired of people going on and on like you do. If you do think they were better, that's great. But I'm not sure what you're going to do about it now. I'm not trying to say that anyone's better or worse - I'm just saying the pessimistic attitudes about today's singers can be discouraging. I hope someone comes up to you after your next concert and tell you how much it sucked in comparison to how Melba would have done it.

"Life might not be the party we'd hoped for, but while we're here we might as well dance"

 
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(Login Littlemissopera)
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Thank you

November 9 2005, 6:50 PM 

All true, Midtown!

Listening to these superior old recordings isn't discouraging at all to me. I'm thrilled to find models of excellent vocal quality, even if the technology is limited. But even with the technological limitations, I still experience the visceral impact you're talking about. It's hard to miss the unforced dynamic variation and pianissimos and all the other marks of highly advanced technique.

It doesn't sound like you're saying that modern singers are bad. There are just lessons that we can learn from the old opera greats.

 
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Midtown
(Login MidtownSinger)

Bull crap argument

November 9 2005, 11:59 AM 

Sorry, your argument is a really bull crap argument.

Singers in each era have by and large met the visual and histrionic requirements of their day and worked just as hard on them in their own way as we have to do on ours. So today we have to be buff and they didn't - but their requirements for toilette, attire, and trying to stay youthful looking without, until the middle of the 1900's, the benefits of (open use of) makeup/hair coloring, plastic surgery, etc etc.

And trying to maintain their health under much more difficult living and travelling conditions with less medical science to help them - they definitely had it tougher.

And if you read about what some singers from the past endured for their studies and in their early years, trust me it will make the "terrors of temping" look like a visit to the spa. Some of their regimens, and the personal sacrifices they and in many cases their entire families maade were incredible.

Read about some of the singers in Europe during the two world wars and having their homes and opera houses bombed out, dealing with mega inflation, losing everything, having to sing in demanding repertory schedules when they barely had enough food rations, sometimes for years, to survive - then come back and complain about the supposed rigors of having to have a Job in big ol' mean NYC and having to Practice at Night and get Pooped. PUH- LEASE.

Look this is not to take away from the fact that modern singers work hard to and try to do our best and face our own set of challenges to try to become artists and make our own way in the world and establish a profitable career.

BUT, to try to say that the demands the modern singer faces are particularly greater, especially in the US and Western Europe where our life stule is so cushy, is really pretty sophomoric and juvenile.

You need to expand your worldview, sorry.

 
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Canny
(Login CannySop)
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Bull crap, eh? You're sweet :) nt

November 9 2005, 2:05 PM 

nt

"Life might not be the party we'd hoped for, but while we're here we might as well dance"

 
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(Login CannySop)
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And that's big old mean Toronto, thank you very much :) nt

November 9 2005, 2:20 PM 

nt

"Life might not be the party we'd hoped for, but while we're here we might as well dance"

 
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MidtownSinger
(Login MidtownSinger)

ok, so add "cold" to big ol' NT

November 9 2005, 2:56 PM 

NT

 
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Canny
(Login CannySop)
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Huh? Is that because you think T.O. is colder than NYC? Bwah nt

November 9 2005, 2:59 PM 

nt

"Life might not be the party we'd hoped for, but while we're here we might as well dance"

 
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midtown
(Login MidtownSinger)

well actually, it is, by about 5-10 degrees

November 9 2005, 5:44 PM 

and it is colder for longer with earlier onset of colder weather and a later spring.

But since you're the one who thinks red strapless dresses are great for Messiah gigs and that old recordings are really that great and the demands on the modern singer are so much, well, tougher, I suggest you don't waste too much time worrying about it. I would focus on other things were I ye.

have a good life.

 
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(Login CannySop)
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aw....you're cute. I'm going to put on my strapless red dress and hug you :) nt

November 9 2005, 6:40 PM 

nt

"Life might not be the party we'd hoped for, but while we're here we might as well dance"

 
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(Login hamberguesa)
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Re: Have you considered something entirely different?

November 7 2005, 9:35 PM 

I too study with a teacher that has completely changed my life with balancing registration. Always frustrated with the whole breath idea I finally started studying pedagogy and found the truth. You can't argue with science, registration is the only way to go. "Breath" and "breath support" are relatively new ideas that have replaced registration because people are missinformed and ignorant on the subject. Just ask anybody "what is registration?" and then look at all the blank faces...

 
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Anonymous
(Login Littlemissopera)
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Who is your teacher?

November 9 2005, 12:42 PM 

Teachers who use this methodology are a little hard to come by, so I'd love to know who you've found =)

 
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Anonymous
(Login hamberguesa)
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Re: Who is your teacher?

November 9 2005, 1:15 PM 

Dr. Joel Ewing. (He studied under Reid, Vennard, Cesari, and Nicolai Gedda.) And you?

 
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Anonymous
(Login Littlemissopera)
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Whadya know, another Cornelius student :-)

November 9 2005, 2:49 PM 

My teacher is Allen Rascoe. I assume you know eachother...

Ok, since Joel is a product of Cornelius Reid's studio and passes along what he learned by working with Cornelius, I have a couple questions for you: Does he encourage you to scream? Has he mandated that you never practice outside of your lessons? Has working with him brought about an accumulation of tension?

There are previous threads claiming Cornelius worked this way and that his written theories were not put to practice. But being the product of his teaching through Allen, this sounds completely false. I'm never encouraged to scream, always expected to practice, and the tension that I came to him with is gone. Why? Balanced registration, which is based on science. As you said, you can't argue with science.






 
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(Login hamberguesa)
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Re: Whadya know, another Cornelius student :-)

November 9 2005, 9:07 PM 

No screaming, practice always, and a complete lack of bad tensions are a result of working on balancing my registration. I have had several people comment on the changes in my voice since this...People do not want to study registration because it is HARD and it's easier to address symptoms, such as breath problems, tension, etc., and not internal root problems, thus producing only short term results. (Allen is one of my closest friends)

 
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(Login Littlemissopera)
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Re: Whadya know, another Cornelius student :-)

November 10 2005, 5:21 PM 

Not only that, but with registrational balance, the registers first have to separated out. There are students who get frustrated by this process and bail before their voice is put back together, and then they blame the teacher for "ruining their voice". It's a long, arduous process and not the quick fix that many singers want.

I've found functional work so rewarding because it's meant total freedom. AND it's just easier than all that mechanical b.s. My first teacher had me doing all of the following every single time I opened my mouth:
1) take a good, low breath and expand the ribcage
2) get the support established--the tummy should feel firm, but not hard like a brick
3) get that "yawn feeling" to lift the soft palatte, drop the jaw and open the throat (a total bastardization of Vennard's technique)
4) lift the corners of the mouth
5) get the tongue down into a groove shape
6) relax

Oddly enough, almost immediately after starting the registration work, I noticed those things just happening naturally, without being forced. It was forcing them to happen which created loads of tension. And how does forcing physiological RESPONSES create a free voice? It doesn't make any sense. I'm glad that's all a thing of the past =)

 
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