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PITCH AND OTHER ISSUES

Q. People tell me I have a tendency to sing sharp or flat, but I don't hear it myself. How can I correct this?

A. One reason you may be unaware is that your musical "ear" needs development. Very few people are truly "tone deaf," but many are "underdeveloped" (often because they were told at an early age that they were "tone deaf," instead of being taught). Ear training may be the answer for you. It is a sometimes tedious process, which must be practiced regularly over time to be effective. Music is a language and pitches are words. The relationship between the pitches is like grammar. However, it is a subtle language and ear training involves teaching the student to use intuition at times rather than just conceptual or analytical thinking.

Often, people have been traumatized by being told at some point or that they sing "off key." Ear training can help you communicate your musical ideas and to understand how to listen and contribute. It will make a huge difference in your writing as well. Don't give up too easily if it seems hard at first. The rewards are fantastic.

Another possible reason why you may be unaware of a pitch problem is that you are oblivious to the musical relationship of the song to the track, or band, because you are singing too hard and loud-making it impossible to listen. And if your music development is sound and good, then there could also be a problem with your breathing and placement.

Q. I have had a lot of classical training and now I am loving being the lead singer of a great band. I want to just let it rip up there, but something stops me every time and I can't get power on the high notes. What should I do?

A. Stop listening to your voice. Many of us have preconceived ideas about what "singing" is, and therefore attempt to censor any sound coming from inside of us that doesn't sound as "nice," "pleasant," or "correct" as we might have been taught. This is particularly true of high notes in the chest register. Listening to this within oneself is unpleasant, because it doesn't sound good because it sounds harsh. And certainly, in classical training, you were taught to switch registers for the high notes to avoid that harshness-which creates all kinds of hesitations and problems. To your audience, however, "belting" (as it's called) sounds emotional. If you listen too critically as you try to execute it, you will lose your momentum and cause a lack of coordination of the breath pressure that you need to accomplish it. If you're judging it, you can't be "in it." The result will be the use of your throat, a bad feeling, a bad sound, and a perpetual fear of ever attempting it again. The ideal is to pitch your speaking-to think of singing as pitched speaking, rather than a contrivance. There are additional pitfalls associated with words that begin with vowels and other issues that are also addressed in my DVD. Hope this helps. If not, give me a call.

Q. How do I know what my range is?

A. Range is often mistakenly thought of as a set of limitations, when actually it's about texture or timbre. A Gibson guitar and a Fender guitar can execute the same notes, but they sound different. The Gibson is a fatter, lower-sounding instrument, whereas the Fender has a more trebly, delicate tone. A baritone (male voice) or alto (female voice) can often sing as high as a tenor or soprano, but the sound of the note is darker and heavier. I like to think of range as defined by the center of the voice, or your comfort zone. If you are reaching up for a note, it's poor technique that is preventing you from achieving it, not range. On the other hand, when exercising or warming up the voice, the lower and higher voice should remain within their respective boundaries. Your range can often be determined by the sound of your speaking voice (although there are exceptions). If you have a low-pitched speaking voice, you are probably a baritone (male) or alto (female). It takes a professional to make this determination with certainty, but you will find that if you work your voice in the comfort zone, you will extend the parameters of your lowest and highest note automatically. It's best not to think of range as a set of rules which limit, but simply a starting point.

Q. People say I have a great voice and I will be famous someday, but I don't know what kind of music I should be singing.

A. If you love to sing, you should sing what you love to sing. Never try to define yourself by a genre, because you are already putting an expiration date on your talent if you do that. You should sing because you love to sing, and only for that reason. Being famous is a concept designed by the media that has nothing to do with happiness. The validation that you will receive from immense success is tenuous, and a lotto ticket at best. If you CAN choose something else, you should! But if you can't, please know that you must continue to do what you love, and do it to the best of your ability. Your individuality will define its own genre, so leave that judgment to those who are lucky enough to hear you, and just be yourself.

As a young singer, you probably had heroes and found a sense of accomplishment in being able to sound like them-but it's time to get in touch with YOUR instrument and all its possibilities, so that you can tap into the many colors and textures that are unique to you, without painting a veneer over your uniqueness because of a fear of not being successful.

If you keep pushing towards honesty in the delivery of the material that you choose, you will find yourself peeling an onion skin all the time-as soon as you think you've found who you are, there's always another layer. But unlike an onion, the more you peel away, the more substance and power you will find as you get closer to the heart of your talent and the unique soul that is yours alone. If you can express this in your singing, your audience will feel it-and this is perhaps the greatest kind of musical success.

Check out the next section.
THE ZEN OF SCREAMING

THE ZEN OF SCREAMING

"...the Bible for extreme vocals. Don't open your mouth 'til you've watched this DVD." Tom Beaujour, Editor, REVOLVER MAGAZINE > MORE INFO
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