June 27, 2013

Show Me How You Practice

Manuel Garcia the Elder
Five words that strike terror, or something close to it, into the heart of the student. 

You mean I have to show you what I do when I'm at home?  

Yep. That's the whole idea. 

I only ask after the student has had the opportunity to get a grasp on things, that is, has been given specific exercises and detailed instructions on how to do them.

The demonstration is revelatory, revealing everything from the need for me to be ever more specific and systematic, to the student's ability - or lack thereof - in keeping everything we have worked on together viable.

Did you ever see the Ed Sullivan Show? The episode featuring Erich Brenn spinning plates? There are times what I think singing is like that, there being no more than 5 or 6 things to do at any given time. More than that and singing becomes impossible.

What are some of the plates in my conceptual pantry? The ability to maintain the 'singing position,' 'open face,' 'open throat' (an auditory sensation), and 'voice placement' (another auditory sensation), the latter always more present in awareness, bell-like and ringing. 

Getting these plates in the air at the same time? That's the real trick, one which requires a teacher with skill on his or her plate. 

Manuel García the Younger talked about his father not allowing him to descend after singing an ascending scale. Can't I go down once? Nope. Not allowed. He had to get that one plate in the air, which is the kind of detailed practice young students need. Singing, like composition, having its laws: you have to learn them before you can break them. 

Show me how you practice. 

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