In-Depth Post #5: This is It!
Since my last in-depth post (nearly a month ago), I’ve been busy at work singing. I met with Margo on the last weekend before spring break, and we shifted our focus away from breathing and proper support, because I was feeling more comfortable with it. My main goal of the session was to learn intonation and how to sound vowels the right way. First of all, we added a new spin to the second exercise I’ve been practicing for more than two months. Instead of singing “lo-la-lo-la-lo”, I am now singing “la-li-la-li-la”. This is because I was having trouble forming my “o” vowel, and sounding it too far back in my mouth. This would create less resonance, and also affect my tuning in a negative way. In contrast, my “a” vowel sounds much better, because I naturally form it further forward in my mouth. Margo repeatedly stressed to me that the tongue makes vowels, not my mouth, and I needed to keep my “o” vowel further forward in my mouth, around the roof area (hard palette). She asked me to experiment with forming my “o” sounds, suggesting that I find the position where I can resonate “a” well, and then keeping that same position for my “o” vowel. So far, it has been working very well for me in practice. Also, for the first exercise, we went back to sliding 5ths, and Margo suggested to me that I should focus more on my slide mid-range, and also that I need to keep my “a” vowel at the end of the phrase, rather than shifting my mouth position and relaxing. Finally, she asked me to also sing “ma-o” for the first exercise, so that I could practice keeping the same vowel shape from “a” to “o”. The last work we did was on “Silent Noon”. Similarly to the exercises, she really wanted me to articulate my vowels and every syllable. Then, by articulating and keeping a proper vowel position, I could resonate more. She also made a small (but important) change in the music: the “e” vowel. Since the composer of “Silent Noon”, Ralph Vaughan Williams, was an British composer, he would have intended all the “er” vowels to be pronounced as “e”. Therefore, “scatter” would become “scatteh”, “fingerpoints” would “fingehpoints”, and so on.
I asked Margo to send me a few practice studies that I could work on in my spare time over spring break, so she sent me a few exercises that I could use the “e” or “a” vowel instead of words. Below is a recording of the 2nd exercise, performed by me (with the accompaniment from a Youtube video).
At home, I’ve definitely seen and heard big improvement on m vowel shape, although “o” is still tricky to nail all the time. I am finding that the exercise where I create a resonant “a”vowel”, then keep that mouth position while switching to “o”, is very helpful.
I am also starting to prepare for my presentation at in-depth night! I recorded the first version of “Silent Noon” a few months ago, and recorded another version today that is below. I plan to make one more “in-progress” recording before I formally record the piece. I actually recorded an instrumental accompaniment version with myself at the piano so I wouldn’t have to play as I sing. For the real recording, I plan on asking my sister to accompany me. Listening to this recording, I’ve definitely improved my intonation in some places, but I still need to work on consistently resonating every vowel. Also, my breath support is faltering in some very long phrases.
Below are my responses to Ms. Mulder’s questions:
- Margo allows me to choose my own music, which I usually don’t do for piano, This helps me pay close attention to the details of the music (range, ‘busy-ness’ of notes, etc.), and helps me choose a piece I’m more passionate about. Also she asks me to record myself singing as much as possible, so I can give myself feedback. Finally, she suggests that I practice in front of a mirror, I can look closely at my singing form.
- First of all, I have been practicing my exercises for more than two months, which helps me hammer in any new concepts Margo has taught me. Also, she encourages me to record our full lessons, so I can listen after and take notes, and then apply it to my singing.
- At the end of of our last lesson, Margo gave me (upon my request) a set of etudes that I can learn at my own pace, so I can accelerate my learning providing that I have enough time. Also, the more I practice and repeat my exercises, the more that my progress can increase.
- We have now developed a very clear routine as to what occurs in our meetings. First, Margo asks me if I have any questions, and then answers them. Next, we work on a few or all of my exercises. Then, I sing a section of “Silent Noon” and she gives me feedback and we work on the piece.
- Margo is giving me very honest feedback, and gives me clear instructions that let me know exactly how I should practice at home. Next, I’m asking very advanced questions about difficult singing concepts, which helps her give me detailed answers and improves my own singing. Finally our communication outside of meetings is very quick and clear.
- We are definitely learning a lot about each other’s learning and teaching habits. For example, we both know that we are very efficient at completing tasks, and don’t like to chat too much during lessons. We are also learning about one another’s personalities. I know that Margo is very extroverted and confident, and she has learned that I am dedicated and passionate about learning.
Aprilmayjune, HERE WE GO!!
Am I afraid of high notes? Of course I am afraid. What sane man is not?