Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Child Stars via YouTube - A New Trend to Discovering New Talent?

A long time ago Citytv launched "Speaker's Corner". Anybody could stop by and verbally express their opinion about anything. Some people were actually singing, while hoping to get noticed and make it big in the music business. And YES...BINGO! The band "Barenaked Ladies" were noticed, picked up by music industry professionals and then the band made a very significant mark, becoming icons in the music industry to date. Sounds like a fairy tale, huh? But that happened and it's real. However, at that time it was quite sensational.

Today, we all own computers and we all can easily and quickly access YouTube. In a manner of speaking, it is a "Speaker's Corner", but in the convenience of our own home or at our desk at work. With that to be available, the well known manager, Scooter Braun was surfing the internet and YouTube in particular, when he discovered a young boy who is now the well known artist, Justin Bieber. The "Biebermania" took off and along this premise two young girls (Maria Lourdes Aragon of Winnepeg and  Heather Russell of Toronto, Canada) were recently discovered. Maria was discovered by Lady Gaga, who was fascinated by the little girl performing her song "Born This Way" and Heather, outright got a record deal with none other than the former American Idol judge, Simon Cowell. This modern technology already helped a great deal to launch the now huge teenage artist, Justin Bieber, and those two girls are definitely along their way to stardom as well.

In my opinion, it's absolutely amazing, as the music business for the last at least 20 years became nothing but a factory of artificially manufactured stars. Those so-called "stars" were mainly picked by their looks, ages, right connections, and the money put behind their careers. We all know that a lot of so-called "singing" could be fabricated in the high tech studios. And if the budget is adequate enough, the production will sound quite profound. Now we have the looks and good sounding studio recorded tracks and then what? Then, the majority of times we have an artist who cannot perform live or nevertheless resemble anything remotely close to what has been recorded. In their concerts, however, they have very knowledgeable sound engineers behind the stage, which are there on stand-by to pick up the sound which was originally recorded to substitute for the sound which is hardly coming out of the so-called manufactured "performer's" mouth. Then no wonder well known sources such as the Toronto Sun, start publishing articles about those fabricated performers, in this instance Taylor Swift, calling them outright and outloud "tone deaf":

"Thanks primarily to her stunningly tone-deaf Grammy performance, Swift ended up being the big story on Grammy night — but not in the way she had wished. Critical opinion of her three-song mini-set — which included a mercifully brief duet with Stevie Nicks on Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon — ranged from the somewhat diplomatic “painfully out of tune” to the slightly more pointed “off-key caterwauling.”-Darryl Sterdan

Justin Bieber, however, and the two new young female rising stars are truly and naturally talented. They were chosen for the right reasons and thus, hopefully down the road, they will not destroy our ears and turn us away from the concert arenas. However, being a vocal educator for over 3 decades, in my opinion the talent has to be supported with the proper knowledge, especially when it's concerning the human voice.

Stay tuned for the Part 2 for a blog: "Vocally Yours: What's Greater? Playing It By Ear Or Doing It By Design?"

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.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Voice Loss or Voice Limitations: How often does that happen? And the question is... why?

Being a Non-Surgical Voice Repair Specialist for over 35 years now, I have seen a lot of cases where the full or partial loss of voice took place. There were different people, just the ordinary want-to-be singers or speakers and some were definitely active professionals. There were different causes and different diagnoses, but what was in common was the misuse and overuse of the vocal anatomy in general. Mainly, that was happening due to the wrongful application of one's voice; speaking or singing. The conventional vocal coaching suggests to people who want to learn how to use their voices “correctly” to drop their jaws down, to bend their knees, and feel really grounded and use their vocal and other parts of their anatomy as much as possible. What do they accomplish by doing all of this? The limitation of the vocal range; used, abused and strained vocal cords; and the sound which is evidently crashing down and dying at the performer's feet. Not very pretty, huh?!

Moreover, I have met some skinny people who looked like they were 5-7 months pregnant, by sticking their stomach out, supposedly for the right breathing, they were simultaneously making their abdominal muscles weaker than they normally should be and thus acquired disproportionately looking big stomachs which made them look, minimum to say, pregnant. My term of comparison is that they looked like “pregnant ballerinas” to say the least.

Meanwhile, not on a music note (no pun intended), the whole fitness world is reciting about stronger and better looking abdominal muscles and definitely nice and flat tummies, which are very much in fashion at all times. Where, then, do the vocal coaches get an idea that they have to work against human anatomy and against any logic, drowning the voices down deep in the anatomy instead of helping their performers to release the pressure of the sound off of the anatomy and make it fly above and on top of the body, just like spirit (which in a matter of speaking, the voice is) will always fly away from the physical body and not along with it. Moreover, the voice is a unique instrument which every individual possesses. Once that voice is trapped inside of their anatomy, the whole so-called “performance” becomes very anatomic and not spiritual at all, not to mention that all human beings have the same anatomy, especially if they're the same gender, and the only difference then is the presence of gender specific organs. All the rest of the organs are absolutely the same for both genders. The voice flown off of the physical anatomy should be as unique as the finger prints of each and every individual. I know that any performers who I have produced over the years have had very unique tones and their voices could be recognized very easily, even if you don't know the song they might be singing.

“How would you achieve that?”, you may ask. I have an answer for you, as I have found the mechanism which will allow your voice to work at its fullest capacity possible, yet with no pain or strain on your vocal anatomy. By utilizing this mechanism, you will be able to restructure your voice from the vocal box to the set of your facial muscles which will represent a natural resonator, or amplifier in this case, and then put those facial muscles to work in full conjunction and coordination with your abdominal muscles for the greater support of the sound and, thus, then minimize and practically eliminate the use of your throat, larynx and vocal cords. 

However, if the voice was already damaged, to do just that might not be enough. Therefore, simultaneously with the proper instruction, I would administer natural herbs and remedies which will greatly aid to one's voice. Needless to say, those remedies will be obsolete unless the voice is released from the vocal box and the singer operates through the different channels and in the new found way.
This is also applicable for singers like Justin Bieber who, evidently, are going through puberty now and whose voices are drastically changing to become lower and manlier. In this instance, I could with absolute certainty say that using my revolutionary approach to voice mechanics, the puberty would not matter and male singers like Justin would be able to continue to enjoy their performances and go through puberty rather smoothly and without dramatic changes. In my opinion, Justin needs to learn the above addressed application of his voice and since his anatomy seems to be somewhat strained, which is natural for any singer when they're experiencing difficulties to push stronger, his vocal box has also to be carefully nurtured and thus simultaneously to be healed while he will be trying to reach the new heights.

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.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Music Producers (Part 1): Who are they... Jack-offs of all musical trades?

I've been in the music business, here in Canada, for over 30 years. I ran my professional vocal school, which is now a division of 4 A.M. Talent Development & Artist Management Group Inc., as well as, our own independent label, Royans Universe Records for over 27 years. 

Over all this time, I've been vocally training people (estimated over 18,000 students) and also recording a lot of demos (first tapes and then CDs).  From time to time I was attempting to do the full productions with some of my prominent and talented clients, where I had to engage the services of a Music Producer, while myself, I was trying to play the role of Vocal Producer. "Vocal Producer?!!!" You may exclaim, "What's that?".

For years, I was trying to answer this question to the best of my abilities and especially to convince and persuade those music producers who I have been (or potentially would be) working with. Some of them had no concept of it, outright; others had difficulties understanding my role; and some of them pretended that they understood, but only for the sake of gaining my well paying clients for themselves. However, when I was attempting a session abroad recently with some so-called "music producers" who were immediately getting into competition with me and screaming that they know all about the vocals, as well as everything else and then were trying to eliminate me out of my session, in spite of all the terms that were negotiated and pre-paid much in advance by my client for services to be provided by both the music producer and myself.

Needless to say, by my experience, not too many music producers know much about vocal production. To the credit of some of them, at best they know what they want to hear, but most of the time they don't have the slightest idea of how to arrive to the point of their own satisfaction and a resemblance of some "professional standards" through natural performance (i.e., without the excessive use of any studio gadgets). It is presumed that in general, the producer is the "Jack of all trades" -vocals included.

Let's, for a minute, imagine that somebody just had a car accident and was admitted to the emergency room, where it was detected that the patient had a neurological trauma, gynecological trauma, and orthopedic challenges. What would be your guess as to who would operate on this patient? Would it be a) a general practitioner or b) three different specialists who are specializing in each of their particular fields? My wild guess would be that it probably would be a neurologist working on the head trauma, a gynecologist working on the female organs trauma, and lastly, it would be a doctor of orthopedics fixing the limbs. Logical, isn't it? However, this type of logic evidently does not apply to the music producers as such. They think and "play" the specialists of every aspect of the studio performance, when in reality they are just "general practitioners" who know hardly enough, in detail that is, to get by and produce (at best) a mediocre performance, especially vocally.

A lot of them, to cover their inadequacy, are trying to use the technology in excess (jacking off with autotune and melodyne), as well as putting lots of "sauce and cheese" (a colloquial studio expression for when someone is trying to cover up a singer's imperfections with lots of effects, double tracking, excessive reverb, loud backing vocals and what have you). To take it even further, some of them are denying the vocal performance as a class. They're trying to convey the message that the hit song and the perfect instrumental production, with the faked autotuned and melodyned (full of sauce and cheese) vocal tracks), will do a perfect job, for today's evidently "deaf" (and not very alert, to put it mildly) society.

I have noticed that people are getting more "deaf" by the minute, as apparently off key, out of tune, out of tone and (mainly) off time, is a "fresh and young vibe", according to one so-called "prominent" producer that I recently worked with. How so, I was trying to intervene, at least remotely in the session with my poor client who was completely confused and did not know anymore what was right and what was wrong. Every time I was trying to advise my client on how to make her performance at least remotely resemble something what was once called "pitch" in music, the producer was screaming into the intercom "brilliant!" and "wicked!", confusing my client to the tee. The client definitely knew better. She has recorded at least 4 demo songs with me and now was thoroughly messed up and did not know who to listen to or believe, as the producer was posing for the "Be All & End All" Jack of all trades (and, apparently, a big specialist in vocals ... go figure!!!)

When I inquired as to why he was misleading the client, his response was that he didn't want to frustrate my client and tried to keep everything positive, however, to my standards completely and utterly sung wrong, out of pitch, time, and character.

At the end of the project, he advised my client that everything he recorded with "my help" (what little he let me do) was unacceptable since the tracks I was actually able to intervene in were actually sounding quite in tune and somewhat in time. That remote resemblance of what music standards once were was a little bit too overwhelming for the "prominent" know-it-all producer...

Unfortunately, this experience isn't exclusive to today's music industry, as it began long ago in my home land. For years I have been desperately trying to prove the need of a Vocal Producer/Mentor in the studio for the greater and up-to-standards vocal production. When this particular producer was approached by my manager with the proposition of working with my clients as Music Producer, with my participation as Vocal Producer in the studio, he agreed on every level that my services were needed and expressed excitement after thoroughly examining my website and articles, which I have been writing for a number of years for many reputable publications. I thought, "Bingo! I have finally found an open minded producer who is welcoming my services for the sake of a quality vocal production that is deserving of obtaining a major record deal for my client". Little did I know ....

What are your experiences in working with music producers? Please feel free to leave your comments below (if you have any) and stay tuned for Part 2 ... if you will...