October 30, 2018

The Ear is the Spine

"The ear is the spine: the spine is the ear." —Alfred Tomatis 

The Einstein of the Ear wasn't kidding either. Tomatis meant this literally. According to his observation, the ear has everything to do with how the spine articulates itself within space, which observant voice teachers know from long experience. No one has to conduct 10 studies before they accept this as fact. They see it with their own eyes. That's empiricism for you. 

High level classical singing? The singer's spine is a heck of a lot more extended than that of the cabaret artist. Tomatis would observe that this is a result of the sound—as guided by the ear—shaping the body. 

Now that's a different perspective. 

In our day and age of knowing everything about the vocal mechanism, we all too often think in terms of the garage mechanic; where muscles are manipulated and air is moved through a system. But if that was the case, we'd all be great artists, wouldn't we? Simply extend the spine and voila! A great opera singer is born! 

But it takes a lot more than that to make an artist. As the Halloween candy is handed out tomorrow, I am going to looking at all the skeletons, ghouls, and goblins and thinking about singing.

October 21, 2018

The Ten Minute Rule

Ten minutes. That's all you need. Just ten minutes. 

This is what I tell avocational singers who enter my studio. They have jobs. They work umpteen hours yet want to sing—and think I am going to ask them to practice for hours at a time. 

Ah no. That's not how it works.

Even vocational singers need only practice for ten minutes at a time. 

The difference? 

Avocational singers should be able to practice singing a few times a day—say twenty to thirty minutes, while the vocational artist needs to think in terms of two and a half hours broken up in multiple ten minutes practice sessions. 

The vocational singer should practice technique for at least four to five practices sessions and only then devote sessions to repertoire. 

The beginning vocational student? Nearly all of the practice sessions will be devoted to technique. We're talking about the formation of beautiful tone: pure vowels, messa di voce, mezza voce, crescendo, decrescendo, trills, etc, etc—the high goal being an absolute technique throughout a two octave range.

If this sounds hard, you would be right. It's certainly not easy. It can and does that years to attain full mastery of the voice. But the sooner you start, the sooner you attain that mastery. 

Why ten minutes? 

Very simply: the mind goes to mush after ten minutes. Learning to master the voice means having to stimulate a very different response than the one associated with most activities. It's athletic, very active, and incredibly uplifting. Most young students have trouble finding the degree of innervation involved and then sustaining it for more than ten minutes at a time. It takes time to build up one's stamina—which is as much mental as it is physical. 

Training to be at a high level is an art unto itself. You have to start where you are going. So, if you are spending twenty minutes out of thirty at a lower level, that is what your practice is giving you. 

Be smart. Follow the Ten Minute Rule which reflects the tenets of neuroplasticity: if you want to change the brain you have to inundate it with overriding energy. This is much easier to do for shorter periods.