Weekly Teaching Tip – Apr. 11, 2016
by Jay Lemon
Lots of my guys tend to lose their balance IMMEDIATELY when they start to “get into the song”…maybe from loudness of the band, excitement of live performance…or just losing their minds ‘cause now they’re “really singing”, which apparently doesn’t actually occur in my office. This is kinda universal in my world of ensemble (school rock/pop/country band) singing and gigs. Everything’s great UNTIL IT”S TIME TO REALLY SING (outside of my office).
Well…getting into a song is often mistaken for doing things way louder, wider and with great gobs of air. I think the unseasoned musicians tend to get super amped when mom and the family come out to see the shows…and they freak out about THE NOTE. So, the main theme here is to make sure that what they accomplish not really singing (in my office) stays with them when they panic.
I like to get them to associate “getting into it” with “staying in it”, meaning that when they “go for it”, “really sing” or “throw down” they are leaning into the vowel shapes and flow I’ve been pounding into them (as they are NOT really singing in my office)…staying in that balance and equating emotion and passion with the feeling of freedom. That’s what a fire drill is all about, ya know…what do you do when you catch on fire? Whatever you really practice doing. If you don’t fire drill, well…it’s the difference between “stop-drop-roll” and flapping wildly as you roast.
I always try to get a student to feel the ease of the big notes, and NOT to attach the words LOUD and POWERFUL together. As we know, these are words that can confuse us with certain sensations, and they definitely don’t mean the same thing. As they develop, they often do get louder and more intense…but that can’t be the exclusive goal when you “get into the song”. But it DOES become the issue when they panic…they want LOUD and INTENSE, so what should they practice? The RIGHT FEELINGS (vowels)…and bank on that when it’s scary. It’s about reaction vs. response. We react if we haven’t programmed a response. HELLO FROM THE OTHER SIIIIIIIIIDE (saaaaad in Texas) is less panic prone if the goal is UTHUH SUHD and NOT THE NOTE…if that’s deep enough in their practice, that’s where they go when it’s scary…and it works! If they learn to respond to panic with the appropriate FEELING of a vowel, the tone/pitch/intensity always follows…but response only happens if we program it in. I actually encounter them in the hall sometimes and make them do it right there on the fly. Sometimes it’s pretty funny, often successful…when it’s not tragic. There’s the tip…use embarrassment as a teaching tool. (not really)