the teacher and the student
Over the past few weeks I’ve been continuing my work in the studio .. the voice studio, that is. Yes, all singers need to continue to take lessons. And opera singers? Definitely! Since coming back to the States I’ve started up with a fantastic teacher named Don Marrazzo. He went to Curtis and teaches full-on opera technique, but also studied with William Riley (Celine Dion’s and my dear friend Keith Porteous’s teacher) and teaches pop voice. We have opened up some incredible things in my voice so I thought I’d explain to you a bit .. and hopefully enlighten you on how to open up your own voice if you so desire.
One of the things we’ve been working on in the pop voice is having a proper “mix”. This is sometimes known as a “belt” and it’s mixing head and chest voice into one register that the body knows how to instantly call up when you sing a note. Don gave me a number of exercises that we worked on for weeks, as well as pointing me to some videos online.
This is Hayley Williams from Paramore doing her vocal warmup.
We also worked on stripping out all the vibrato on the pop voice. Vibrato is the natural shake in the voice. With both my opera and pop voice I was imposing vibrato on my sustained notes, and we worked so that I only used my natural vibrato, which is a lot slower and produces a much more free sound. And with pop music, too much vibrato clouds the words. When we cleaned up the vibrato and took most of it out, the words of the song and the emotion began to jump out! I used this new voice on my show at the Queen Theater, and you can hear the difference. (listen to “Future Love” on http://www.reverbnation.com/iva)
As for the opera voice, since I’d been singing mostly pop for a while, we had some work to do. The voice had grown since the clips on my opera website and I hadn’t been using my full voice. Plus, once I started using my natural vibrato, things just got crazy big! So we’re working on new sound clips for the end of the summer/early fall so you can hear the difference. The opera voice is kind of a wild animal, so for the past months I’ve been on the 1-2 hour a day practice schedule while doing classical concerts to test it out. Phew .. I am tired after one of the sessions, but things become more and more natural. And progress is made. So really, there’s no complaining allowed. I mean, what else would I be doing with my time?? Silly me, did I forget that this is what I love to do??
So, what else; we are working on dynamics. Now that I’ve got this bigger voice, I have to learn how to control it. Especially pianissimo (very quiet) in the high registers. It takes incredible presence to make it happen, and the body is working, working, working for air production and the right amount of pressure in the voice. Take a listen to Renée Fleming if you’d like to know. Especially at about 5:00 of this clip – you’ll hear her come off the note with a little release of pressure from the voice and a breath in. She is in top-gear, thought it’s the most quiet full sound she can sustain.
Am feeling a bit embarrassed to share clips from my voice lessons, but now I’m seriously temped to upload some audio and even make some video clips to show you so you can hear what’s happening.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some wisdom from Brett Manning:
p.s. someone tell him to get some rest!!