April 29, 2014

iPhone Practice

Blindfolded man makes another appearance, he having appeared in an earlier post. I thought of him today since I have been recording my practice on my iPhone every morning, watching and listening so much I used up all the memory.

Yes, dear reader, this voice teacher still works on his voice, recording his practice with his iPhone, using the video recorder, not the voice memo, which is awful in terms of sound quality. 

So, why have I used a photograph of a gentlemen who has a blindfold again? To make the point that most students don't watch or listen to what they are doing, and that is a huge mistake. Funny how that is. When I ask a student to look at their face in the mirror above my piano, what do they do at the last moment? Look away, of course. 

Looking and listening means learning to accept yourself. Really, it's not any more complicated than that. But getting a student to be present enough to do just that? To play in front of the mirror? That's hard for many. However, I have noticed one thing. Those with really good ears and the ability to mimic, also seem to have the ability to pay attention to what is happening objectively. It's as though their already heightened sense of discrimination has a built-in performance mode. Ready, Set, Go! 

Often, I tell students they need to have the freedom they once had when they were kids, hamming it up in front of a mirror, with a hairbrush in their right hand (now there's a clue), pretending to be their favorite singer; their early desire to sing, sing, sing with no self-consciousness making their singing in the here-and-now take off in a wonderful way. Many think this kind of play embarrassing: It's too much, goes to far, isn't proper.

Speaking of proper: There is nothing more life-killing than being serious onstage. You may have to sing the most horrific lyrics in the most high-fa-lutin art, but if there isn't some joy that holds the whole experience, you are going to crash and burn eventually, as will your ear. That's what the old voice teachers would tell their students anyway. Say you have to sing the role of Butterfly, where you kill yourself at the end of the show so your kid can have a better life with that awful tenor who left you. You had better cry your eyes out in rehearsal, and get it out of your system, because, if you get all worked up onstage, your throat is going to close, and what do you think is going to happen to your voice? And let's be clear. The audience doesn't care how you feel. They only care how you make them feel.

My iPhone doesn't lie. It tells me the minute I get too serious for my own good, shows me how to lose everything I know and just sing, and reveals what is happening vs what I intend to happen, which is often not the same thing at all. Good practice if you ask me. 

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