Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Non Surgical Voice Repair II: Might Herbal Remedies Be Instrumental in Susan Boyle's Case?

In the first article, “Non-surgical Voice Repair. What’s that? Does it apply to Susan Boyle as well now...?”, I described the Sony artist’s performance on The View as being an unfortunate precedent. In that article, I was talking about her (in my opinion) beautiful, however improperly used voice and about my revolutionary Vocal Science technique, which could (no doubt) remedy that problem. Sometimes a performer may severely damage his/her vocal cords, larynx and even the whole vocal box while using the incorrect technique. In this particular instance then, the performer’s “instrument” is at stake. 
In North America we have an expression, “He/she has a nice voice” (or good/great voice and what have you). That’s wonderful, but it’s only a description of the instrument. What about knowing how to “play” it? Imagine if Liberace, who had a famous great pink grand piano, suddenly would start playing it with his elbows? Funny, hah! But the singers with good voices, including Susan Boyle, are doing exactly that in a manner of speaking. And while doing that, they’re damaging their beautiful “instruments” and, needless to say, the expression “she has a good voice” becomes obsolete. 
The question now is how to fix the “instrument” and as a side effect, how to “fix” the player? 
For many years now, I’ve been using natural herbs and remedies which greatly aid the human voice. They lubricate the throat (you would not drive your car without lube and oil), they strengthen the vocal cords and they clean the vocal anatomy from excessive mucus and other pollutants. So, in this instance, the “instrument” will be taken care of. If the performer will stop “hammering” their newly tuned up instrument, he/she will be able to achieve what I call the “Total Performance”. At the same time, he/she will do a service to the public by not cracking his/her voice or stopping the performance all together, but rather the opposite: serenade the audience with a beautiful, coherent and intelligent sound. 
Wouldn’t any performer give their “right arm”, so to speak, to have a beautiful instrument and to know how to extract the most from it? After all, an artist like Susan Boyle cannot hide her vocal problems by dancing and prancing around as Britney Spears does. So many artists today have, nevertheless, 40 million dollar stages built for them with fireworks and pyrotechnics going off while they perform (Bono is a perfect example) HIT ORIGINAL songs and in sexy clothes and attire. Susan Boyle has a beautiful voice, but she performs covers in simple clothes on simple stages... and that is her charm: with an angelic voice she doesn’t need the other distractions. That means, however, that without her voice, she will (unfortunately) not be worth much, will she...? 
In short, if the damage to her voice is not properly attended to, it could be (God forbid)permanent and in this unfortunate instance she will have nothing left and neither will any  of the other parties involved (management and labels included).

Let’s hope that this will never happen, as it would make a lot of her fans also very sad.

Diana Yampolsky is the Master Vocal Coach, Studio Vocal Producerand Non-Surgical Voice Repair Specialist at The Royans Professional Vocal School in Toronto, Canada. She is also the creator of the Vocal Science (TM) method and Talent Scout & Director for the 4 A.M. Talent Development and Artist Management Group Inc.

If you find yourself struggling with vocal performance or are in need of voice repair, you can reach Diana by email or phone, Toll Free in North America, at 1-888-229-TUNE (8863). Local and International Inquirers please call: 416-229-0976.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Non-surgical Voice Repair. What’s that? Does it apply to Susan Boyle as well now...?

Almost everybody knows now what happened to Susan Boyle on the television show “The View”. The question is why, and could it have been prevented? Being a vocal mentor and world renowned non-surgical voice repair specialist for over 35 years, I could say with absolute certainty that YES! It DEFINITELY could have been prevented if Susan, as well as many other renowned vocal performers, actually knew what they were doing with their voices and were using their voices upon design and not just by praying and keeping their fingers crossed while on stage (playing it by ear). You can clearly see the fear on Susan’s face about a minute before the disaster happened. She obviously knew intuitively that she would not finish that show, as she felt the restriction in her vocal box and knew there was no more space left to go anywhere except even deeper down into her throat where her vocal cords split and what I call “vocal impotence” had occurred. 

Horrible!!! And every singer’s nightmare!!! But it could have been prevented. How, you may ask? The answer is not that complicated. If Susan and her alike (Celine Dion in her own times) knew how to use her facial muscles in conjunction with her abdominal muscles and utilize the sound upwards rather than downwards through the aforementioned cavities, she would have the perfect “flight” instead of the perfect “crash nose down” with her voice.

The technique which I developed is called the Vocal Science(TM) Method. The core principle of this technique is “work smart and not hard”. “With the minimum effort, achieve the maximum result”. Never experience any pain or strain on your vocal anatomy while using you voice “upon design”.  This method ensures the length and health of one’s vocal anatomy for life!

In a nutshell, it is a method of visualization. It is also an integration and synergy between singers’ mental, physical, emotional and vocal state. Once the vocal performer understands it intellectually, the kinesthetics then will take place. In other words, the performer has to know mentally what he/she is actually doing. They have to feel it kinesthetically and retain both of the feels. It it easy? Not at all. But just like for everything genius, the concept is quite attainable;

-   Use your body as an instrument instead of abusing it.
-   Use your body as a support and platform for the sound to take off and take the flight to the facial and head cavities and the aimed delivery of the sound will be assured.

Mainly, the performer will be at ease and joy instead of the pain and fear and thus, will be able to convey his/her positive and joyful emotions, not to mention the pleasant tone, correct pitch, right phrasing, emphasis and inflections of the words and thus a perfect and clear delivery.

If I ask any practicing performer what price tag they could put on that, the answer inevitably would be, “it’s priceless”. One of them said to me, “I would give my ‘right arm’ to know what I’m actually doing on stage and not to die 1,000 deaths before the performance ends”. I think this is quite self-explanatory and definitely should be addressed and not only to the performers, but to their management companies and record executives, as if the performer loses his/her voice, everybody involved would also lose. What is Susan Boyle worth without her voice? How much money Sony Records and Susan’s management could make, if she cannot any longer sing and perform? And how much joy is the audience going to miss out on? How could you measure it...and can you?

Stay tuned for part two…

Diana Yampolsky is the Master Vocal Coach, Studio Vocal Producer, and Non-Surgical Voice Repair Specialist at The Royans Professional Vocal School in Toronto, Canada. She is also the creator of the Vocal Science (TM) method and Talent Scout & Director for the 4 A.M. Talent Development and Artist Management Group Inc.
If you find yourself struggling with vocal performance or are in need of voice repair, you can reach Diana by email or phone, Toll Free in North America, at 1-888-229-TUNE (8863). Local and International Inquirers please call: 416-229-0976.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What good is an encore performance if your voice dies before you get there?

After all these years of bigger and bigger live music shows, everyone that’s
been to a concert, large or small, expects any great show to have an encore.
So after singing, playing and entertaining the crowd for two or two and a
half hours on average, the crowd expects the artist or band to come out and
sing with the same excellence, energy and conviction another song or two to
close the show.

The problem is that the majority of singers are not singing it by design.
And primarily they deliver their performance by what I call, ‘playing it by
ear.’ That means that they do not have an adequate vocal technique or at
least the knowledge about it, which would allow them to save and protect
their voices, and make it last for hours on end.

Ultimately, they’re using the wrong set of muscles while singing and thus
using and abusing their vocal apparatus sometimes to the bitter end. It’s a
known fact that even Celine Dion once lost her voice during her concert.
Luckily she found a very knowledgeable Doctor of ENT (Ear Nose and Throat)
who, not only fixed the acquired damaged cause by improper technique, but
also no doubt showed her how to re-structure her voice in a different set of
muscles, and thus save and protect her voice up until the present day. I’m
not sure what means he used, but on the final analysis she was able to
acquire something similar to what I am teaching to every client of mine by
applying what I call the “Vocal Science Technique”. The core of this
technique is to re-structure your voice in a set of the facial muscles and
then put them to work in full conjunction and coordination with the
abdominal muscles, which will allow the performer to work smart and not
hard, and with minimum efforts achieve the maximum result. The facial
muscles in this equation will also play the role of the natural resonator or
amplifier and thus the voice will sound well placed, structured and
projected while simultaneously being supported by the physical body. As a
result, the tone, the conviction of the sound and the body of the sound will
dramatically improve. Furthermore, the enunciation and pronunciation of the
words as well as overall clarity of the sound will be achieved.

If the vocalist is well aware of all these components, his or her voice will
never be in jeopardy. And therefore the songs in the encore will sound just
as good as the ones at the beginning of the first set.

Afterall, couldn’t you agree that this type of show would be desirable on
both ends, for the performer and for the audience…?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Vocally Speaking - How to Realize a “Teenage Dream” to succeed in the Music Industry at Large

I started teaching since 1976 in Russia and at that time was teaching primarily kids grade 1 through grade 8. They too liked the pop music, which was hardly available for the easy listening with the exception of a couple of local stars and some Beatles hits, which were occasionally played on the radio.

Nowadays, here in Canada and in Europe especially, pop singing is very popular amongst constantly rising young artists and of course the teenagers who are on a regular basis listening to them through their radios, iPods and phones, and who would want to emulate something similar in their dreams and who would also want to experience the glamour which they see and read about in fashion magazines and watching on YouTube. For some of them the dream will remain to be a dream, but for others it could become a reality.

At the present time, I myself have been scouting a teenage talent, primarily amongst young girls age 14 - 22. Some of them have more potential and more vocal talent, some less, but not only the vocal talent will take place in realizing their teenage dream. There are far more components which are required to make it big in the music industry at large. Luckily from where I sit, I don’t need to find the potential artist who writes her own very unique and original material, however that would be preferable. I do have contacts in North America and more so in the UK, where the prominent songwriters and producers will take care of that aspect and will co-write with the potential artist catering to their personality, portrayed future image, desires of their hearts and their intelligence. However, the confidence, the self-worth and self-esteem, not to mention the appropriate suitable looks will be definitely required from the future artist to put on the table of the equation. Some teenagers come to me and they have some components of the above description, but are lacking the others. Some of them have excessive weight, however very cute faces, but due to the former, have no required confidence or self-esteem. I previously said that the writing of the songs is not the issue. I can also, with absolute confidence, say that if they have at least 5% - 10% of vocal talent, I can complete the rest. I apply my Vocal Science(TM) method and revolutionary technique, which I’ve been promoting for the last 30 years in Canada and it works like magic and in a very short order.

So what’s left? What’s left is the persona of the future artist. As I said before, with my guidance, if they have a weight issue (I have a weight issue myself for almost my whole life, but also vigorously conquering it at the present time and could be a good example for my clients) they would need to take a serious care of it, as the prototype of a teenage girl is definitely a sexy looking and groomed body with the current fashionable clothes attached to it. The weight issues (again I know it first hand) could cause a lot of personal insecurity and low self-esteem. Besides myself, I have a team of people who could take care of all of this. It becomes that much easier for a teenager, because they’re focused and aimed towards their global performance goal. By learning how to sing professionally, they see that their confidence is rising as well (as knowledge is producing confidence). Then after they obtain sufficient amount of instruction they will be introduced to the most prominent recording studio in Toronto - “Phase One” - to obtain a recording of their demo CDs to be introduced as a sample to appropriate people in the music industry. All of that is the beginning of a Teenage Dream being realized in a real sense.

Let’s outline the benefits of this process while remembering that the music business is very speculative and nobody can guarantee 100% of making it big. However, the benefits themselves could be greater than even the actual final goal.

-  The excess weight is lost
-  The sexy image is obtained
-  The self-confidence and self-esteem is not an issue any longer
-  The focus and goal orientation helps achieving the greater studies and marks at school
-  The real recording studio experience with the real producers and engineers - every musically oriented teenager’s dream

And most likely, if they’re under my care and I find all of their achievements to be sufficiently accomplished, the winning ticket to success is absolutely inevitable at least in some capacity.

So if you have a teenager on your hands who has dreams to be successful and it happens to be in the entertainment business, don’t hesitate to visit our website and read more on how to achieve a great success in wherever you or your kids will put the desire.

Diana Yampolsky is the Master Vocal Coach, Studio Vocal Producer, and Non-Surgical Voice Repair Specialist at The Royans Professional Vocal School in Toronto, Canada. She is also the creator of the Vocal Science (TM) method and Talent Scout & Director for the 4 A.M. Talent Development and Artist Management Group Inc.
If you find yourself struggling with vocal performance or are in need of voice repair, you can reach Diana by email or phone, 416-857-8741

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What is the secret to being a standout artist now and in the foreseeable future?

Everybody knows that writing and recording a good original song is an important key to one's success in the music industry. Not everybody knows or realizes, though, that you need to be able to sing that song in the exact fashion as it has been written; preferably in tune and with proper phrasing, inflection, emphasis, pronunciation and clarity. You also have to be able to use your voice correctly in order to survive more than one song performance and prevent long term damage. If you are capable of all of that, your listeners will respect you because the magic of your music consistently translates in live performances and isn't just artificially created in the studio. Also, the record labels will be more interested in you because you can bring your "A" game any place, any time. Furthermore, already respected and well-known artists will be more interested in featuring you on their records, which brings you exposure to their fanbases.

Consumers these days are very smart. They are not running out to the record stores in a hurry to buy a new artist’s CD. Depending on the genre, there is increasing interest in real talent and they want access to a given artist's music on YouTube where they can to be assured a performer is authentic and not fabricated in the studio. That connection is what will lead them to buy a ticket to see an artist live... and if they like the concert, maybe buy the CD.

To summarize, what would it take to become a successful artist now and in the future?

-       Musical talent and the ability write a hit song
-       Vocal talent and training in order to perform up to professional standards
-       Social Media presence 
               A well designed and integrated website. Bandzoogle is a great resource
               Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. See Ariel Hyatt's book for guidance
               Viral marketing campaigns ...  if you're clever and timely enough. Here are the principles

Once you have these considerations in full swing, your odds of standing out and succeeding in today’s music business are immeasurably better.

Diana Yampolsky is the Master Vocal Coach, Studio Vocal Producer, and Non-Surgical Voice Repair Specialist at The Royans Professional Vocal School in Toronto, Canada. She is also the creator of the Vocal Science (TM) method and Talent Scout & Director for the 4 A.M. Talent Development and Artist Management Group Inc.
If you find yourself struggling with vocal performance or are in need of voice repair, you can reach Diana by email or phone, Toll Free in North America, at 1-888-229-TUNE (8863)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Media human spirit pollution and conditioning: How does it affect the music business in general and vocal performer in particular?

We all go to sleep and wake up with the news on the radio, TV or Internet. Usually, none of the news stories are positive. They typically speak about crimes committed on a daily basis, horrible accidents that are happening all the time, and the getting-worse-by-the-minute financial situation in the country and around the world globally.

Also, they are reciting about new technology, which is being upgraded literally all the time and not necessarily for the betterment of humanity. Therefore, evidently, the world is becoming more dangerous, more financially unstable, more electronically oriented and much less personal. Speaking of personal, the media and marketing campaigns are promoting complete selfishness and ‘Me, Myself and I’ attitudes. Just listen to them; “My phone, my personal TV, iPhone, iTunes,”, in other words Me, Me, Me, Me… and Myself.

With this philosophy, how is the human being supposed to care for another human being when it’s all self-oriented? How’s the performer able to reach out to the audience and offer a part of him or herself when they don’t know how? Their performances purely by default, become narcissistic. Ultimately, the vocal performance is a story telling through music, and usually that story should be addressed to the listeners...shouldn't it?

Unfortunately this selfish, unstable and getting poorer by the minute world has nothing positive to offer and that has been reflected in music productions and the music industry as a whole. In fact, the music industry, at least in Canada, is now practically non-existent. The recording studios, with their million dollar consoles and other invaluable gear, are also practically extinct, as any ‘Joe Blow’ without any expertise on the matter is trying to replicate so-called recording out of his basement apartment.

And sometimes, believe it or not, this basement music somehow succeeds at getting widespread radio play...?

The other day I was walking around Niagara Falls, Canada and heard my student’s band on the radio and I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of his band's music and his vocal performance. His singing was definitely good quality and up to par. Right after his song finished, another so-called 'singer' came into play and I almost choked on a little healthy snack I had in my mouth. It was beyond horrible…! How anybody who has remote hearing abilities and self respect could put somebody like that on the radio is beyond me. Mind you, I’m currently on a diet and it definitely played a positive role in my dieting as I nearly threw up and lost my appetite for the rest of the day. It could be not a bad thing for those trying to lose weight, lol.

With the help of the media and electronics our lives are becoming lifeless, music-less, and everything else ‘less’ for that matter. We are too selfish, too self-centered and too self absorbed…

So go figure... The world obviously has been prompted to some, in a manner of speaking, 'Pavlovian conditioning'...

Diana Yampolsky is the Master Vocal Coach, Studio Vocal Producer, and Non-Surgical Voice Repair Specialist at The Royans Professional Vocal School in Toronto, Canada. She is also the creator of the Vocal Science (TM) method and Talent Scout & Director for the 4 A.M. Talent Development and Artist Management Group Inc.
If you find yourself struggling with vocal performance or are in need of voice repair, you can reach Diana by email or phone, Toll Free in North America, at 1-888-229-TUNE (8863)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Vocal Style: Channelling Your Emotions Into Your Vocal Performance

We all know the importance of proper vocal technique and its role in the safety and protection of a singer's voice. But how important is it to attach a singer's style and emotion to that technique? And where should those feelings come from? The answer, obviously, is: They have to come from within.
I have a favourite saying, "Be it, Feel it, Love it, Live it". What I mean by that is that a performer has to identify not just with the style of the music, but also with the lyrics and message he or she wants to convey. This is easier for singers who write their own songs, but many mainstream top-40 artists do not, especially in Pop. Recently, I recorded a young artist who was covering Miley Cyrus's "Can't be Tamed" for a demo and that song requires a lot of staccato punch. The title of the song itself suggests strength, rebellion, power, self-esteem and self-worth. If that song is sung with softness instead of intensity, or without strong enough inflection, the message would be lost on an emotional level and infringe on the style of the accompanying music. It took a lot of mentoring and vocal consulting in the studio to help the artist identify herself with the intensity of the song and channel that energy into her performance, as in reality the artist is a very soft and gentle person ... not that intense at all. This reflects the notion that, in a manner of speaking, real performing artists have to walk into a different role with every song. Much like an actor learns their characters and acts their roles on stage and in film, the singer/performer is ultimately a story teller through music.
Let's take Lady Gaga for example. I went to one of her concerts this summer and watched her very intently. I tried to see who she was through her performance and came to the conclusion that she is none of the things she portrays on stage, but she is a great actress who plays her role with absolute excellence. Obviously she and her team created the image she bears and the spectacular show that looked, to me, almost like a Halloween play with monsters and angels; full of liberty, sex, dance and what have you. It was very cleverly set out, covering absolutely every aspect of entertainment and catering to an audience of wide ranging ages and interests. To pull off a performance like Gaga's, the performer does not necessarily have to be the character he or she is singing about, but they definitely have to channel the song's character, being, and emotions through their own intrinsic paths of artistic expression and overall performance. 
Diana Yampolsky is the Master Vocal Coach, Studio Vocal Producer, and Non-Surgical Voice Repair Specialist at The Royans Professional Vocal School in Toronto, Canada. She is also the creator of the Vocal Science (TM) method and Talent Scout & Director for the 4 A.M. Talent Development and Artist Management Group Inc.
If you find yourself struggling with vocal performance or are in need of voice repair, you can reach Diana by email or phone, Toll Free in North America, at 1-888-229-TUNE (8863)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Importance of Peripheral "Thinking" for Singers: A Case Study in Revolutionary Vocal Performance

You are obviously familiar with the term "peripheral vision". Every driver knows that if they don't exercise their peripheral vision they might get into trouble, as when you're driving you have to watch front, back, left and right. It is that level of attention that will help you avoid an accident because you can catch an unexpected object racing at you with just the corner of your eye. Personally, I was encountered with that situation not too long ago and if it were not for my active use of peripheral vision, I would not be writing this blog now.

Along a similar vein, while running a number of vocal workshops and seminars over the last three decades, I have learned that when consulting large groups, you have to be able to see all of your clients at once so as not to lose their attention. In the context of sports, hockey players cannot play their game well and, worse, will undoubtedly suffer an injury if they are not actively engaging their peripheral vision. I could refer you to the movie "The Cutting Edge" where that happened with a top hockey player who chose to become a figure skater in order to keep skating after his injury. Without peripheral vision there is no way to react in time to a high speed puck moving rapidly towards you. In music, the piano player has to always be looking at least one bar ahead with the corner of their right eye, otherwise the next consecutive score will come to them as a surprise. And finally, a singer has to anticipate what is coming next in a song, thinking of how to prepare and place their voice in the proper facial cavities so that they achieve the desired sonic outcome. That requires not only peripheral vision, but also peripheral thinking.

A performer should think ahead and quickly respond to changes in note height, especially notes that challenge their natural or developed range (high or low). If the singer is only concerned with what is happening in the present moment, they are very likely to falter in their application of trained technique, ultimately resulting in false notes and/or vocal cracks and inconsistency. So, the use of peripheral thinking, like peripheral vision, is a skill in itself which needs to be developed along with vocal technique, performance and style.

This was especially true for one particular case under my care, where a young and promising female singer was good in pieces, but experienced difficulties connecting it all together. She was failing to think forward and, thus, was not preparing appropriately for the upcoming vocal challenges in the song. Depending on the natural abilities of the singer, perfecting this type of coordination could take a considerable amount of time and training... as it did with this singer whose determination has paid off and is now working with high end songwriters and producers; well on her way to obtaining a record deal like many of my other clients. As such, my experience in working with this singer and overcoming her challenges is what inspired me to start sharing the concept of "peripheral thinking" and later to write this blog.

The lesson is: "Stay in the moment, but anticipate what could/will happen next and act accordingly"
That will help you keep your vocal pieces together.

Diana Yampolsky is the Master Vocal Coach, Studio Vocal Producer, and Non-Surgical Voice Repair Specialist at The Royans Professional Vocal School in Toronto, Canada. She is also the creator of the Vocal Science (TM) method and Talent Scout & Director for the 4 A.M. Talent Development and Artist Management Group Inc.
If you find yourself struggling with vocal technique or are in need of voice repair, you can reach Diana by email or phone, Toll Free in North America, at 1-888-229-TUNE (8863)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Vocal Box Repair: Is There Such a Thing? And is it even possible?

Apparently there is! And yes, it is possible and it is fixable… however, with great difficulty.

For comparison, let’s look at classical ballet dancers: Everybody knows that ballerinas have to have a certain arch in their feet, especially females. It is detrimental to their careers if their feet are flat and not properly arched, because it would be difficult to do pirouettes; circling up to 32 revolutions (fouettés) with one leg while keeping the whole weight of the body on the other leg while the flat foot is virtually unable to hold the body weight.

Similarly for singers, the upper palette (located in the vocal box) also has an arch and curve. The deeper that arch is, the more the "body of the voice" will be projected. The palette arch, however, is not everything, as the sound also needs to be supported simultaneously by the lower abdomen and upper diaphragm, or else the whole lift of the voice becomes obsolete. Singers can avoid cracks in their voice and letting their sound “fall down” by lifting their voice into the facial cavities, where the facial muscles will also have to be supported by the arch of the upper palette, as well as by the abdominal muscles. Like in ballet, there is a lot of coordination involved between body parts and the human voice.

Can a damaged vocal box be fixed? Yes, to varying degrees based on individual cases. At the very least, it can be improved so that the sound will be much more steady, secure and at much less risk of falling and producing a crack. It is, however, very detailed and intense work for all parties involved.

Your pathway to recovery begins by utilizing the basics of speech. It requires attentive repetition of syllables, vowels and phrases. Then vocalizing different combinations of sounds will assure the control of duration of sound(s) as well as clarity and precision of pitch. The purpose and use of different combinations of sounds in musical performance (and also public speaking) can be very different and can require specific ways of applying the vocal/voice techniques. In the end, all of the work will lend itself to a better quality, frame, and body of sound; and thus will be instrumental in achieving greater voice projection, tone, inflection, diction and overall clarity.

All of this, of course, requires a trained specialist who understands the mechanics of voice, and is able to hear where the problems lie. Ultimately, it requires a voice repair specialist who also knows how to help you reconstruct your sound and heal your voice in general.

If, by chance, you are in need of voice repair, but do not want to resort to surgery, or are interested in preventing vocal box damage, you can learn more about our unique non-surgical voice repair programs at and

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Vocal cancer II: Is there a cure?

“…and can we stop the spread…?”

Like any cancer, in my opinion, vocal cancer is also a serious disease. However, there are always stages. And if the real cancer is diagnosed and detected early, it usually falls in at stage 1, which means it is quite curable and if not completely, at the very least could prolong the patient’s life significantly. Unfortunately the vocal cancer, I would classify as stage 4, which in most cases is terminal and no cure could be offered unless something really alternative, out of this world and crazily outrageous comes along. Strangely enough, it actually has already come, like a lot of alternative treatments for the real cancer, which have been suggested by the alternative herbal and naturopathic medicines. The problem is that the people are so brainwashed and so believing in what they’ve “known” for years, ie. conventional medicine, which in a lot of cases is killing while supposedly “healing”. That said, no doubt, it’s very hard to change the herd mentality.

Therefore, for over thirty years I’ve been offering to the public in general and music industry in particular a new alternative way of how to teach a performer to sing in tune with proper phrasing, inflection, emphasis, etc. and how to apply the authenticity to all those technical aspects of proper vocals in a very easy, short-timed and efficient manner. Did anybody listen? No, not too many people and definitely not the music industry. They in particular got really frightened by my new and innovative approach to the vocal mechanics and the performer on the whole. Deep inside they knew that primarily their artists cannot sing to save their lives, but they were covering it all up by studio magic technology, by somewhat reasonably good songs and for the bigger artists with $40 or so million dollar built stages. In other words, they were investing in everything else but authentic singing and performance.

If this is not the cancer than what is? The music industry actually put it all on “life support and morphine” to ease the pain, but evidently to prolong the agony while offering no cure and just temporarily getting by. Moreover the metastasis of the cancer went even further where they ended up “shooting themselves in the foot”. To make the matter worse, the internet came upon the world. Instead of treating it like an opportunity to enhance the music industry, they treated it all wrong by resisting the very embrace of it. To their credit, however, eventually they got the hang of it, allowing for MP3 sales online and what have you, but it was a little too late as the “cancer” of illegal downloads and other piracies killed the music industry down to the roots.

Therefore, the question is still remaining: Will the public in general smarten up and embrace the fact that there is something else which exists on this earth outside of their conventional beliefs, and not only with respect to music, vocals and what not, but in other instances? Will the music industry eventually clue in to the fact that if they want to prosper, their performers have to be more “sound” with respect to their vocals and performances and not only the songs and outrageously built stages. It’s self evident that the people are fed up with the fake artists who cannot play their own records on stage, let alone sing them. And lastly, when are they going to embrace the new ways of the music evolution, using the internet and other now available means more efficiently?

In essence, it all could be good, there is a cure to the vocal and music cancer available, provided that the fear of embracing new things will find it’s cure first.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Vocally Speaking: Vocal Cancer; How Far Has it Already Metastacized?

Being teaching and producing vocals in Canada for over thirty years, it never ceases to amaze me how many people have gone for conventional vocal training, practicing, the least to say, nonsensical and leading nowhere exercises - and think that one day they are going to wake up with a wonderful voice and be able to sign a million dollar record deal. A lot of them were complaining that they were feeling quite strange making sounds, some of which reminding them of cats meowing and wolves howling. I'm sure if the latter would hear those people, they would be extremely jealous, as those singers were sounding "better" than the original mammals. A lot of these people after years and years are still trying to make some sense of it, while concurrently ruining their voices, as they were told that if their throats hurt to the point that they are losing any presence of their voices, that is good, because their muscles are working and they must be doing something right. Nevertheless, some of them ended up needing laser surgery and, luckily, some of them I could help non-surgically. If we could imagine for a second that those exercises actually meant anything positive for someone's voice, why did nobody ever explain how to apply them to the actual given song? The answer is very simple - these strange sounds and exercises are not applicable. I'm sure some readers have been through "Myam's", "Neigh, neigh, neighs", "Goo, goo, gooks", "Zay, Yay, Yay, Yays..." and "Prrrrrrrrr" (lip trills). For years I have been doing a lot of seminars and vocal interactive workshops - not only locally, but all around the world - my opening line has always been, "I did not come here to prove anybody wrong or to prove myself right, I came here to show you something different. And now you can accept it or reject it". I often find skeptical people who have been taught exactly what I have described above and they tried to contradict what I have to say. On that note, I usually offer them a $1000 reward if they can show me how they can apply their "Goo, goo, ga ga's" to a real song. Nobody has been able to do it so far. And I am talking worldwide and not just locally in Toronto. So the vocal cancer has evidently spread, ie. metasticized, and, as far as I am concerned, is gradually killing people's dreams and health, as conventional vocal coaching is very dangerous for people's anatomy (and not only vocal), physiology as well as their mental state. With respect to anatomy, not only vocal boxes are getting hurt, but also the lower abdominal muscles, lower back and posture as a whole. Some skinny young girls were coming with their stomachs sticking out and I had to inquire as to if they were perhaps five months pregnant. One answered, "No, I'm not even sexually active". Then "what" I exclaimed? The answer was that the girl from age 7 to her current age of 18 was pushing her stomach out following the instructions of the conventional vocal coaching and naturally wore out her abdominal wall. So now on the skinny body there was a big stomach. I asked her if she felt a pain in her lower back while predominantly knowing the answer, which ultimately was yes. As by the suggestion of her former vocal coach, she was to push everything down to the floor and look like a question mark and then of course, she sounded and looked like a "pregnant ballerina" would. A lot of people were walking at me with their pelvis bones sticking forward - meaning their upper body was inclined backwards - and when I told them to lean forward towards me (as the sound is supposed to be lifted up and above the body), they were sticking their stomach and pelvis out even more. Needless to say, for over 30 years of practice in Canada, I have seen it all in the full ugliness and almost near fatality, at least vocally speaking. The question is, "Is there a cure and can we stop the spread?"

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Vocally Speaking - American Idol's Requirements: Make This Song (Cover Tune No Doubts...) Your Own! Or Guess What?

Really... Guess what? Who ever told the contestants how to make the well known tune their own? And what, in any case, did the judges mean by that? I guess it's still somewhat a riddle to the participants and to the audience, for that matter.

Watching American Idol for the last 9 seasons (not to mention Canadian Idol for at least 7 seasons) I couldn't help but notice that those young kids and even more mature adults, are stuggling to turn and twist the well known cover tune into something which is hardly recognizable, as the melody has often been changed, the vocal licks were inserted all over the place (most of the time not corresponding with the style) and that made it just unlistenable and simply left a bad taste in the listener's mouth. My husband and I are big fans of 50s and 60s music and therefore we're very familiar with the songs of that era. Occasionally, while both of us were watching pre-final stages performances (where these types of songs were required to be covered) of the carefully selected participants, we sometimes could not recognize the song until the chorus or even until the very end.

Being for many years a vocal producer in the studio, I have to admit that many times I had to figure out how to convey the originality on a well known cover tune. Lately, I'm recording a lot of them, as I'm scouting the talents for a very well known and prominent UK management. From female artists, they're not requiring the original tunes, they're requiring to hear their voices, performance, interpretation and originality on the cover tunes. However, we cannot record copying the original artist to the T, as for example, there is already one Beyonce and already one Lady Gaga in existence, why would they need the second double bodies? The answer is they won't, they would need a strong singer like them, with the similar vocal and performance quality and yes, originality and interpretation on any given tune (original or not). So, my aim as a vocal producer is to pull out from my performer the same or better quality of voice as of the original artist's performance, but with their own twist and take on the tune. That's what I call "to make the song your own".

I wish judges and mentors of those vocal competitions like American Idol would make it more clear to their contestants and moreover, would mentor them and advise them how to arrive there. Evidently, they do not, at least not just yet. On that note, if they did, I am pretty sure we would have more sound and more original artists on our Earth's roster.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Music Industry Resurrection: Given the present situation ... is it even in the stars?

Being involved in the music industry for over 30 years in Canada, I have a lot of observations watching it from inside and out.

When I first came in March of 1980, there were a lot of things happening, musically speaking and otherwise, as music is always a reflection of what's happening in that present time. There were great artists rising up, like Celine Dion, Madonna, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler and many more. Specializing in vocals, I started my career with the garage bands and pop star wannabes. Those years the immigration from European countries like Russia, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Poland and others was at a very high rate. A lot of people were coming with children and teenagers and being brought up the European way, were willing to work hard to give their youngsters music education and helping them to succeed in the music industry. The children of those times were also very receptive, seeing that the music industry was happening and true to their cause new stars were rising up, minimum to say, on a monthly basis, they too had ambitions, desires, passion and willingness and lovingness to persevere. The music industry in those days was also quite true to their cause, as they were looking for true talents, finding them and taking them for development, i.e. investing their funds into grooming them into a real happening big time artist.

Then came the 90s. The technology started to kick in and a minor recession took place as well and things started to change. Now we started seeing younger and much less talented artists being somewhat fabricated by the music industry, however, not in a full bloom yet. We also started seeing a lot of groups popping out, quite out of the blue. Granted, since the technology was progressing rather rapidly, the in-studio "in-vitro fertilization" was taking a great part in producing somewhat listenable records, with the difference already then, not too many artists could resemble it live.

And now came Y2K. Everybody was scared that the world's end was near. There were a lot of predictions about the computers not being reset properly and therefore, the whole world was supposed to evidently go to pieces. Luckily, that didn't happen and those who were hiding away from their dreams and trying to suppress them came out on the surface in a full bloom. People were bringing me tons of cash, which were hidden away in pillow cases in case the world was actually to end. When they found that it didn't (at least not just yet) they decided to try to enhance their musical abilities and see if they could succeed in this genre.

Came 2001, September 11th, a tragedy in New York. Given to what was happening before, I was 100/100 sure that my world would end this time, as people would be scared and would not come for any vocal lessons, recordings or whatever else my practice consists of. To my and my accountant's biggest surprise, my business skyrocketed four times over. It felt like we were "going out of style" and people were afraid that something drastic might happen to them and this time, they decided to persevere full tilt and realize their dreams before they might be "crushed" by the next terror attacks. It was great, and I was producing a lot of talent, but then came 2004, where I felt that the generation of people who I was accustomed to changed drastically. The new people were coming, but they were much less physical (the computers were taking a huge turn in our lives), much more lazy, much less motivated with much less passion.

Thank God for American and Canadian Idol televisions shows that were thriving at the time, as they were rejuvenating the spirits a little bit and then brought healthy competitiveness between future artists to be. And then, 2 years later, after my client Brian Melo won the competition in 2007, Canadian Idol was canceled. There was a lot of disappointment amongst the young population whose dreams were to become the next Canadian Idol and/or somehow to succeed in the music industry. They then turned to the computer games instead and the music industry turned also to their computers, but this time really in depth. The in studio in-vitro fertilization turned into a "genie in a bottle". Those so called artists who could afford the top producers were "helped" immensely to realize their so called talents. The music was sounding more and more digitized, autotuned and melodined. The concert tickets were not selling as much, as not too many of the artists of those times could resemble anything remotely on stage which would remind of what was "recorded" prior on their record. Some of them were booted out, as they could not even play their record, let alone sing. Meanwhile, the consumer was getting "smarter" by the minute. They stopped going to concerts and started downloading everything on their computers. And then and only then, if they liked what they heard online, they would consider to spend the money and come out to the club or a bigger venue. Needless to say, the electronics began to run our world. The conclusion is that 1% of today's known artists could sing to the point that you don't have to cover your ears (also to protect them from the enormous decibels shooting at you). All the rest of them, sometimes even in the recorded version, were sounding absolutely horrendous.

The question is, where are we going to end up in this world and in the music industry in particular? The young generation is getting used to off key, off tone and off tune singing and a "circus" performance. Would they know the difference if and when the "real deal" will take place? My hope and wish for the world and for the music industry for that matter, is that they would return to their true value, true standards and be true to their cause. Am I confident that it's going to happen? Unfortunately, not quite. I can only hope and pray that finally people will get fed up with all fake endeavors happening in our world on every level and needless to say, in the music industry, as the music industry is is a reflection of what is happening in the world. In my last blog about the Lady Gaga craze, it was really clearly underlined that the world has gone crazy and unfortunately, getting crazier and without any borders or boundaries and now already by the second. How scary is that?

So the question is, will our music in general and music industry for that matter in particular eventually reflect a better or more sane world or is it not even in the stars?

Please refer to the movie of the 90s "Mr. Holland's Opus"

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Today's Entertainment Biz... Lady Gaga Craze!!!
Everything in the Same Pot: Fruits, Vegetables, Herring and Jam?

As it appears to be, the latest craze in the entertainment business is "everybody's favourite" Lady Gaga's act...? Is it really though? It no doubts is for the young generation. Sometimes even too young. On July 12th I was cordially invited by one of my artist's mom to attend the newest Lady Gaga tour "The Monster Ball".

Let's first talk about the audience. Needless to say, there were a lot of under legal age kids, who I'm not sure should have necessarily had to hear it with their ears and see it with their eyes. The material of the show was quite explicit and definitely not for all ages. It was a lot of liberation presented by Lady Gaga on every level. You could not understand who was male and who was female in that show and who was seducing whom. She was reciting in between of her "escapades" how liberated she was, how free she was (I presume in her sexual preferences and what have you) and did invite the audience to feel free and also liberated and not to mention to feel free in their sexual choices to boot. Don't get me wrong, I'm also for freedom, but not without boundaries and borders. I'm definitely not underage, much more so overage for this type of show. In fact, the mother of my artist who was sitting right beside me, said with absolute certainty and passion that it is the first and last show of this kind that she would see on her life. Granted, we were pretty old for that and definitely from a different generation, but I'm actually in the music business, for at least the last 47 years of my life, therefore I thought I could stomach it all. Moreover, I was asking myself, was I actually in a singing concert or was I watching Cirque De Soleil in not exactly clear and best interpretation? Yes, there was some singing and it wasn't very bad at all to Lady Gaga's credit, who is no doubts extremely talented musically, vocally and performance wise, but for my taste, I would prefer her to stay straight, sing, dance and play piano (and not with her high heeled boots) and certainly not to perform any circus routines. If I want to go to the circus, then I will attend Cirque Du Soleil or even a Russian circus, which is also considered to be one of the best in the world.

She brought up on stage and to the young audience's undivided attention absolutely everything in her performance: From religion to explicit sex, from devils to angels, from monsters to fairies, from blood on her chest to the fire from her "lower body" and finally magically removed panties, which she was shaking in front of the audience and suggesting she was going to throw it onto somebody's face. Exciting? Extremely!!! Crazy? Evidently!!!

She had one good point there. She was raving for the freedom and free choices. She was exclaiming and calling on the young audience to give up their insecurities and fears. The problem was, in my opinion, that all of it was still coming down to sex and sexual preferences. Yes, I'm very liberal on that topic too, but definitely not to this extent. I don't like to take things out of proportion and on this note, I would have to admit that I'm probably the "old school". Our generation (the old school) had some morals and some class. 20-30 years ago, we thought that Madonna was over the top. In comparison, Madonna was definitely an "angel" and did not belong anywhere near the "Monster Ball", as, if she was, she would be booted out of the stage and thrown out of the music business with the point of no return. But those were the old sweet days. Today the question is, how far are we willing to go and if there is room to go any further. Maybe the predicted end of the world is not such a bad thing. At least the humanity will be able to start everything from scratch and extract the fire from the stones and not from their panties.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Vocally speaking: Why does it appear that people in a medical coma, at times, possess more "vital signs" than today's so-called performers?

Practicing vocal coaching/consulting/producing and whatever else connected to the music business for over 30 years in Toronto, I can testify that people have changed dramatically over last 3 generations. In my opinion, with technology progressing, the mental, physical and emotional state of human beings is dramatically regressing. Obviously there are quite a few factors related to why this is happening. One of them is that people are using technology instead of their brains, not along with the brains. It looks like their brain cells are dying one by one and they are unable to think straight, let alone make some viable decisions or, god forbid, try to put 2 plus 2 together without the computer or calculator. How scary is that?

Taking into account this phenomenon, they are evidently not as physical as well. They spend the majority of their day staring at the computer screen and trying to figure out their whole life via internet. Sometime ago, I asked one of my young male students if he had a girlfriend. He said, "Yeah, I have eight". "Eight?!" I exclaimed, "How so?". He said: "Virtual ones". I was shocked out of my wits. I said to myself, "We are raising the potential "invalids"". This young population is afraid of the real world. They're hiding behind the computer screen and not subjecting themselves to the real life or the real world for that matter.

This boy was 17 at the time. How is he going to deal with real relationships with his real girlfriends or with a real marriage down the road? Let's suppose that this young fellow would also like to become an artist. Everyboy knows that the best artists are those that are writing their own material and performing it. What would this boy (young man) have to write about? He never experienced real feelings, real pain, real passion and perhaps not even real sex! He's been living in an artificial world. In this instance then, what can he offer to society musically and otherwise? This question still remains unanswered.

My program is very intense and contains very tedious syllable-on-syllable instruction and, as Toronto Star newspaper once said, "It's not for the faint of heart". The young population today is simply not fit for that. We already established that they have nothing to offer emotionally, but they also, as it appears to be, have nothing to offer physically. Some of them come into my class literally in a "living coma". They hardly have vital signs. Probably even fewer than the people in the real coma.

Obviously the recession did not help either. Some of them are working to death and, often enough, more than one job. Quite often where there used to be ten people working on a project, now hardly two are embarking on the same deal. To their credit, some of them have mental desires to become an artist, but they cannot support it with their physical, mental and emotional state of being. Therefore, when I try to instill a vocal "chip" in them it's sometimes virtually impossible to do so, given the above description of their present demeanors. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and recently I produced a lead singer, from a soon-to-be-known rock band, who is one of them. This singer and his brothers still possess zest for life, passion and desires -which should be the "norm" for everyone's mid-twenties age. I have to say, it was very refreshing to work with them and record four fun oriented songs that are full of life, desires and love. Unfortunately, these days, this is an exception to the rule. For the last approximately two years my office employees and I have not been able to believe the deterioration and degradation of those young people whose hearts and souls, at least in theory, desire to become well known artists while, unfortunately, the ingredients for that were not present.

I'm certainly hoping for the best and also desire that those days full of vibrant, bright, intelligent and talented people will return in the not very distant future.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Weird vs. Different – Do you have to be a weirdo to make it?

How “different” or perhaps weird do you have to be to make it in the music business? And why do you have to be “different” or furthermore weird to attract the attention of the general public? I don’t know if I have the answer, but I do have a few ideas and thoughts. In my opinion, people in general are bored and they are constantly looking for something that is not as mundane as their regular lives. And there is nothing necessarily bad about that, as long as it is not being taken out of proportion. Yes, we all want to watch and hear something new and unique. And that’s fine. However, especially lately those new and unique ideas are being turned into very weird and ugly acts. The music videos are becoming more and more explicit and are reminding of XXX porn more so than any music. The content of the videos outside of the porn is reminding of some type of Halloween in the absolutely worst interpretation of that word. That is one side of it. Now let’s touch on a couple of other sides. I have a question – if Susan Boyle happened to be a young, beautiful girl singing the same way that she is singing now, would anybody pay attention to her or, moreover, sign her to a record deal? I highly doubt it, because ultimately she is nothing special. She sang with an okay voice a cover tune from a musical and everybody made a big deal out of it. Why you would ask? Because it is weird due to her age and the way she looks and that she even attempted to go on stage and participate in a competition. It is weird, all right, but people like shocking stories and they applauded this one not realizing that somebody young, beautiful and truly talented is still waiting for their chance to succeed in the music industry. And now let’s explore yet another side of this equation. The new and thriving singer KeSha. When I first listened to her “singing” and her, the least to say, atrocious lyrics, I couldn’t believe that Sony Music actually signed somebody like that. In her lyrics, she is reciting about not working, but partying, dancing, sleeping around randomly, being on drugs, etc. I have read the remarks and comments from what people are saying about her songs. And at first, being still quite naïve, I took their side with the passion criticizing this so-called artist and wondered who could sign someone like that, especially given that she is not even looking beautiful? And then I understood what was going on – especially when my associate from the music industry remarked, “That in her case she does not need to look good or sound good.” That puzzled me for a second and then I truly realized what he was saying. Like with Susan Boyle, a reverse psychology is being used. She is not young, not exactly pretty looking, and her singing is nothing special in a real sense. And yet they marketed her as if she is the best thing since sliced bread and made people excited to buy her records because she is an unusual sensation. Worse yet, they are doing a similar thing with KeSha and deriving their profits from the negative publicity. Any publicity is good and, unfortunately, the negative one is sometimes more effective than the positive one. Remember, people are looking for something different or perhaps … weird? How sad is that? Is there any normalcy left in our world?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Today's Music Industry Ingredients:
Drops Outs, Runaways, Drug Addicts?

If you look at the history of the music industry for the last three decades, we can notice that a lot of famous people are not with us today. A lot of them "went away" much before their time. Some of them died from drug overdoses, some of them died of AIDs, others shot themselves or committed suicide one way or another. Why is that happening you might ask? These artists seemed to have had it all - fame, success, wealth and everything else under the sun. But could they handle it? Evidentally not. The question is why. Yes, a lot of talent has been discovered by fluke and accidentally. Some of the talent was searched for and by different means: numerous contests, Canadian and American Idol competitions, Britain's Got Talent and what have you. And if you watch these aforementioned shows, you would see that it's not exactly about vocal talent. At least it wasn't always the case in recent years. It seems to be that the judges were almost looking for somebody who was, so to speak, "different". One of my students was auditioning during the first season of Canadian Idol in 2002 and was told that she was very talented, very beautiful and well trained vocally, but she was not even put through to the Television judges as she was asked to tell them something bad or strange about herself so that they could use it on the show. She returned back to me in tears and said, "Diana, I was raised in church, I did not do drugs, I didn't drop out of school and I didn't get pregnant as a teenager, and that was a problem." It's almost like "good girls didn't sell". Meanwhile, look at those artists who the music industry professionals thought were different or - more accurately - weird. A lot them came from broken homes, welfare, and drug rehab clinics to begin with. In other words, the "little treasures" were discovered out of the "garbage bin". Get excited now! They started there and they ended very soon after in the same place. What were the chances that they wouldn't? The majority of them were runaways and dropouts without a high school education or even a middle school education. Oh, but they had talent you may exclaim! Perhaps they did, but so what? They didn't have any other humane qualities and attributes, so the tragic end was ensured and inevitable from the very beginning. Meanwhile, there are other people that are also talented who could do very well in the music industry. Oh, but they are not different or weird enough. Therefore, they are never going to be given a chance! Go figure! Meanwhile, these "normal" artists could offer us some longevity of their careers and a good example of well brought up, well educated artists with class. But I guess it would be too mundane, too ordinary and not "exciting" enough for the music industry professionals and, unfortunately also, for the majority of the crowd who supposedly would be listening to the creations of these so called artists. Thus, they condition and create the "fans" who are entertained by something extraordinary weird, violent, obscene and perverse. If that's the case, why are we surprised that our teens are getting into sexual relationships and drugs from the age of 11. We are also surprised why the same kids are promoting violence and bullying at school. The answer is partially because they are listening to nonsense music sometimes with decibels which the average human ear cannot take. The kids are tempted to copy what they see and hear from the media. The question is - where do we have to go from here?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vocally Speaking - If you needed brain surgery, would you want an orthopaedic surgeon to perform it...?

Let's suppose that a patient needs brain surgery and then finds out that the actual surgery will be performed by a Doctor of Orthopaedics! "How could that be?," you might exclaim!!! It's true - it is highly unlikely that it will happen in real life. However, in the recording studio there is person who is usually called the "Producer" assigned to be a "jack of all trades" and, so to speak, "brain surgery is included".

What do I mean by brain surgery is the actual narrow field of vocals? Primarily the producers are instrumentalists and majority of them are very good at their craft. But, very rarely, they are also the vocalists, least of all vocal mentors.

Quite often, the clients come to our studio with their own recordings and reveal that the producer was excellent in everything else... until it came to vocals.

Some of the producers, apparently, did not even care about the vocal performance and some of them were trying to give some irrelevant (and sometimes even quite deadly) instructions. One of my clients was advised to push his voice out of his throat as hard as he could and another was suggested to sing a Rock'n Roll song very 'airy'. Go figure! But since the term Vocal Producer is quite unknown and foreign, the "brain surgery" will be performed (i.e., the voice pushed to the max, the Melodine and AutoTune overused while being used for every syllable of the lyrics). However, the "patient" (Recording artist) might "die" in the process and/or kill his voice for good, not to mention ever accomplishing what he came for and paid a lot of money for.

This is one side of the coin, but what is the other? While auditioning future talents I came across some singers whose production was somewhat decent, but their own vocal performance wasn't acceptable.

Once I dared to suggest that they might need some adequate vocal training, they got somewhat upset and replied,"They will be looking for another more prominent producer." In other words, I suggested that they first would have to "undergo brain surgery performed by the neurologist" (qualified Master vocal instructor/mentor) in order for them to survive and move forward. Their reply was along the lines of - No, I will be looking for a "better orthopedic surgeon for my brain surgery. Given the above, many would wonder if THEY MIGHT TRULY NEED BRAIN SURGERY?!!!

Go figure.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Vocally Speaking – Performing “Naked” Less a $40 Million Stage…?

Over the years my clients and I have bought a lot of CD’s, especially in the past, and respectively attended a lot of live performances. Speaking of 40-50 years ago when artists literally recorded right off the floor, as technology was not as advanced as it is now, the live performances had a very close resemblance to what people heard on the records. As the technology was progressing and, at the same time, people’s talents for whichever reason were regressing, the gap between what was recorded using that modern technology (autotune, melodine and what have you) and the attendees at concerts were hearing was getting progressively bigger. In some cases you could hardly recognize some songs in the live interpretations of them. Some of the big artists were very lucky and had very big budgets which allowed them to dissect the song literally into syllables and then piece it together at the molecular level. However, when push came to shove and the album had to be performed live, some of them were lip synching while others were building $40 million stages using pyrotechnics and other special effects to hide their inadequacies. Sometimes attending the performances like this you could easily mistake them for the Cirque de Soleil, as there was everything going on but singing. Some of them you could mistake for exotic dancers. One of my associates once said, “If I want to see an exotic dancer, I will go to a strip club. But if I want to hear good singing, that should be more so for my ears than for my eyes.” In other words, we need to teach the world to sing!!! I have been watching some benefit concerts, which were actually not too beneficial to the actual artists, as we could see them in a “naked” state without the entourage, flashing lights, special effects and high tech sophisticated stages. Being somewhat overweight myself and definitely knowing how to dress to hide at least 10-20 pounds, I could only imagine how stressful and embarrassing it would be if I had to expose myself au natural in front of complete strangers. In a manner of speaking, the artists in this context were forced to do exactly that and all their imperfections and shortcomings in their vocal performances were very well noticed by the naked eye. Sometimes I wonder first of all how these very talented people – however, with no knowledge of professional vocal technique – made it as far as they did. I also wonder if the whole world has gone deaf. When they hear the big artist’s name they cheer anyways. My fear is that singing between the notes – ie. off key, off tone and off tune – will become our standards and nobody will know the difference between tone deaf singing and the real singing. How sad is that???

Vocal Prosperity and Parental Management - When the Push Comes to Shove Part II – Then What…?

As I mentioned in my previous blog, Vocal Prosperity and Parental Management - When the Push Comes to Shove - Hats Off!?, I taught quite a few children as well as adults, especially in previous years. Once case specifically stuck in my mind. In 2000, I got a phone call from a parent who had an eight year old child who was actually already, according to the father, a child sensation in the singing and performing world. He even had a manager and was just about to break through to the music industry at large. After I agreed to the evaluation and assessment appointment (Introductory Session), I could see that the little boy looked like a young Michael Jackson and actually even sounded somewhat like him, with the exception that he was already experiencing some vocal problems. He was naturally talented but definitely “played it by ear”. I decided to take the case upon myself and our journey began. The father was not only a guardian but also played the role of the manager and later even a producer. It was quite fascinating to see how the father was progressing. It was also fascinating to see that the boy was growing and gradually becoming a teenager, with all the consequences attached to that transformation. Once I first spotted it (they were coming and going to their lessons for several years in between their recording sessions in LA and elsewhere), I asked the father when the development would finally stop (as the boy was quite ready to sing professionally) and they would finally obtain the record deal? The answer was always, “He’s not ready yet” or “They want to exploit my son.” Meanwhile, he had multiple offers on the table from various record companies that were ready to sign this child – soon to be a teenager – sensation. That puzzled me a little. Why wouldn’t he choose at least one offer out of least dozens and finally get on with it. I guess I was asking way too many questions and between the ages of 11 and nearly 14, they disappeared for almost three years from my view. I was almost certain that they ended up somewhere in the States and a new sensation Michael Jackson alike was just about to break through at any given time. I hadn’t heard a thing until I got the next call from the Father/Manager of my student. He said that they were ready to come back, as the boy was experiencing vocal range problems, as now he was nearly 14 years old. I said, “Of course, bring him over and let’s evaluate it.” When the door opened up in my studio I saw an over 6 feet tall fellow which was nothing that reminded me of the little boy I once taught. He said Hi to me with a bass voice and I understood that everything from this point on would be really different. First of all I learned from the Father/Manager that he never took any offers from the Record Companies and decided to produce his son himself “indie style”. He was traveling with him all over North America and recording different songs which started to sound, instead of better, actually worse, as the boy’s voice had deepened completely and never could reach his fascinating high notes, which he had been able to reach in the past. Moreover, I have learned that they had been studying with different vocal coaches here and there who no doubt mixed up my student to the bone. He got confused and then depressed, as he understood that something had drastically changed, but he did not know how to deal with it. The worst part was that he, in his mind, was still a child sensation, ie. did not go to school, used tutors, slept until 4pm as he was going to bed at 5am. In other words he was living the lifestyle of a star, but unfortunately never became one. To watch all of this was extremely disheartening, but in my opinion the problem was not with my student, but with his guardian/manager, who also very much so enjoyed the process of traveling and recording with his son. And before he knew it, they both had “missed the boat” and their “train was definitely gone”. Sad but true. I saw and met the parents who had the best interest at heart for their children, but at the same time they were a little bit too selfish and too self absorbed and some of them nearly ruined not only their children’s careers, but also their children’s lives.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Vocal Prosperity and Parental Management - When the Push Comes to Shove - Hats Off!?

Over the years, besides adults I have taught a lot of children. Some of them were learning how to sing for fun, but the majority of them were addressed by me to the junior instructors, who were also trained and guided by me. Those children who were coming with very determined parents who sounded very serious are usually enrolled in my course provided that the child was showing a great interest and had at least a remote talent to be able to succeed down the road in the music business. However, it was not always a straightforward endeavour. My memory still possesses a case where the whole family walked into my studio in Toronto and the child (approximately 12 years of age) and both the mother and father were wearing cowboy hats. I found it was a little unusual and unique. I saw people wearing these types of hats in Calgary, Texas and Nashville, but definitely not in Toronto. In my brief interview with them, the father revealed that his daughter had been taking lessons all over the place and he was quite disappointed because she was not achieving any results. He, meanwhile, seemed to be quite serious in playing his role as his daughter's manager. Obviously they were talking about the country music, which explained the cowboy hats in Toronto. So he sounded as if he had it all under control and that the only problem was his daughter's proper vocal development. I said, "Great" and I started the Introductory Session for my Vocal Science method. I could see that the mother of the child was impressed immensely - meanwhile, the father (the manager) first looked puzzled, then extremely amazed and then literally scared, especially by the time I was completing the session with very obvious, even videotaped before and after instruction results. That puzzled me a little. Why would he be looking so scared I was wondering? I finally completed the session and the mother of the child jumped up off of the couch and with absolute amusement offered me her Gold credit card. She said that she had been sitting in on a lot of her daughter's vocal lessons, but she had never seen anything like this. The father (still in the hat) also jumped up off of the couch, trying desperately to prevent his wife from paying for the course. Both his wife and the daughter were really surprised at his reaction. His words were, "Let's go home and talk about it." His head was down and he was avoiding the eye contact with me. They finally left and did not register for the course. They left me extremely puzzled as everybody liked it and admitted throughout the session that it was different than anywhere else. I asked myself for some time why did that happen. And one day after a couple of similar precedents, I found an answer. The father of that child clearly understood that I meant business, that his daughter would finally learn how to sing, which would mean that it would soon be time for him to take the hat off and become a real manager. Was he ready for it? Evidently not. He obviously liked the process and it was easier to play the role of the manager and feel good about it. When the push came to shove, there was not a real deal present. He called me over a decade's period of time asking for a lesson or two and revealing that his daughter was still studying and trying some recording. Obviously he liked the process of "getting there" and the child never became a child star as it was intended, as by now she would be a full grown woman and no doubt still singing nowhere. Go figure!!!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Vocally Speaking - Pushing the Carriage Before the Horse?

Over 35 years of teaching and especially over the 26 years over running my professional vocal school, it never ceases to amaze me why people would embark on spending money to equip their rehearsal spaces with expensive PA systems, microphones, keyboards and what have you much before they know how to sing or sometimes even play. Moreover, the so called singers are going to expensive recording studios and paying for their vocal recordings which take hours upon hours as they the crafty engineers are trying to autotune it or melodyne it to death. I just received a client who was definitely at the end of her rope and already literally losing her high range and basically killing her vocal anatomy with every note that she was trying to embark on. Interestingly enough, she was referred to me by a reputable recording studio. Her sensible engineer probably felt that if she continues any longer she will run of her steam completely and he will run out of the technology means trying to save the project. In fact, the prospective student was very alert and smart and, prior to coming in to my studio, she was talking to my assistant in the reception area and revealed in that converation that she was fully aware that she did not quite know what she was doing in the studio and that something was definitely very wrong with her throat and her voice. Meanwhile, as the money was spent in that studio, she could not afford to start her voice repair course momentarily and postponed it for two months forward. Go figure!!! No doubt she will continue recording, drowning her voice deeper and deeper into her vocal box and will come back with an even more severe vocal problem two months down the road. How does it makes sense? The answer: BEATS ME!!!