First lesson at uni

3 03 2011

First singing lesson that is, as classes haven’t gone back yet after the earthquake – which was terrifying and each aftershock leaves me full of adrenaline I can’t use!

However, singing lessons have started out at someone’s house (well mansion, as the lady who is letting us use her house is in fact a Lady with a capital ‘L’). I’m going to be learning from Dame MM who is one of NZ’s leading divas, but also seems to be very gracious and down to earth – which is a good start, as I had quite imagined myself quaking in my boots (strappy sandals) before her. I’m determined to take in everything I can, after all, how often will I get this chance?

I and another new voice student had our first lesson together, and we went back to basics, just trying to control our breath and make the right sound. So my exercises for this week are: (let me bore you, but I need to record them somewhere, and why not here!)

  • Hissing tssssssss out through my teeth slowly and controlled three times, ensuring proper release after each one.
  • All on one note – Ngee-eeh-ah-oh-oo
  • Ee up and Ahh down all on one breath: 1-5,5-1, 1-5, 5-1,1-9,9-1, 1-10 with a turn on the end and back down

Other things to remember: chest up, jaw relaxed and open, sniff in the breath through my nose so that the sound is already focused there. Ngee if I’m having trouble getting my sound right.

If it sounds like gobbledegook, don’t worry, I’m sure even musicians would have trouble understanding my shorthand, but I know what I mean which is most important. 🙂 Thanks to my excellent previous teacher I quickly understood all of what I needed to do, which gave me some confidence.

Next lesson is on Thursday next week. I’m picking up the other girl, as we will be sharing lessons for a while – which is fun, and slightly less stressful 🙂

Now, I should probably go eat something as I was too nervous this morning, plus my dearest one called me from Auckland panicking that he didn’t know where his passport was. And thus ensued the great passport hunt of 2011. Eventually successful 🙂







Welcome 2011

5 01 2011

Back for my first singing lesson of the year today – fortunately both my teacher and I remembered! I am going to miss my singing teacher – she was the one who got me to from the point of quiet mousey singer to someone who is now going to study singing, and in just three years 🙂 Check out her website for info on her teaching, and also upcoming performances.

Today we worked on a new piece: ‘There’s none to soothe’, a British folksong arranged by Benjamin Britten. As always, Britten does beautiful and simple arrangements which make a traditional and repetitive folk song into something very sweet, moving and interesting to listen to.

Here is the song, performed beautifully by Josephine Goddard:

The key for me in this song is keeping it all very connected and legato.

Then we worked a bit on a musical theatre piece, ‘I’m leaving you’ by Ira Gasman. Not very well known, and I can’t find video of someone singing it. The thing for me to think about is being  a bit more ‘speaky’ in my lower register and not being afraid to make my sound  a bit more ‘ugly’. Not ugly as in eww but as in getting a bit more emotion and guts into the sound, so it’s not just a pretty noise. I find it difficult!

In our lesson we talked about someone who was fabulous at bringing emotion, a natural speaking rhythm, and also a beautiful sound together in her performances, so I’m going to leave you with one of her songs. Here’s ‘Cry me a river’ by Barbra Streisand. *LOVE HER* And doesn’t she look gorgeous here??

Moving to Christchurch in February, to start school! Exciting times ahead!


Tip of the tongue…

24 03 2010

So I don’t forget what I did today – worked on my new song and focused on using the tip of the tongue for consonants. It’s amazing how much over-effort I use to make some sounds when I could just shift my tongue slightly.  Using the tip of your tongue helps you keep the same space at the back of your mouth to produce sound.

I was chatting with a friend from the show about how your body just sometimes seems to make all the wrong kinds of effort to help out when you hit a difficult note. (Quick! She’s coming up to a high A! Choke off her air! Tie her tongue in knots! TENSE THAT JAW!! Slouch dammit slouch!) That’s why you learn techniques, so you can gradually replace your body’s automatic reactions with things that make more sense. Sometimes you have to teach your body to do nothing extra at all, which seems completely contrary to all instinct.

The song went well today, so next week I will start learning a new song – I should point out, when I say ‘I’m starting a new song’ it doesn’t mean the old one is completely good to go. In fact, we are going to revisit one I learned months ago as well as get a new one, because the old one will benefit from the skills I picked up in the song I just did.

New song will (hopefully) be Porgi Amor from (you guessed it) The Marriage of Figaro. It’s all about *spinning* the high notes out beautifully. No doubt I will tell you how that goes soon!

Have a listen to Renee Fleming sing it. She truly has that effortlessly beautiful sound.

(singing starts about a minute in, but the intro is interesting too )

New songs for a new year

12 01 2010

Remember one of my wishes a couple of posts back? To do more singing in duets/trios? Well I walked into my lesson this week and the first thing I did was sing a duet with another student! WHEE! We may get to perform it later this year together.

The song is  ‘che soave zeffiretto’ from the Marriage of Figaro (Mozart! Yay! On a related note, how much am I looking forward to the Marriage of Figaro that the NBR are putting on? Lots, that’s how much.)

Here is Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Ileana Cotrubas singing it. I’m singing the countess part which Kiri sings here.

It’s very sweet and a lovely song to sing with someone else.

I also got another new Mozart song to learn, ‘S’altro che lagrime’. It is beautiful and seems quite easy, right up to the end. Here is American soprano Barbara Bonney singing it beautifully. Listen for the high A’s right at the end. Two long ones in a row. Ack.

Neat trick to work on getting the high notes without tensing up is to flop forwards, with bent knees and relaxed arms and head down around your knees.  It seems to trick all the usual muscles which attempt to get in the way (they think they’re helping, it’s very sweet) to relax. Then I can straighten up and make the same noise. Hopefully. Because singing all flopped over doesn’t look great in performance.

Sing low…

12 11 2009

…sweet chariot?  Heh.

I’ve been having trouble with all the low notes for this show, at some point I’m fairly sure I’m having to hit an F below middle C. That’s pretty low. I can hit the note but I was having trouble giving it any oomph, which it needs, even with a mic for anyone to hear it when you’re mixed with other voices. (How did I end up with these notes?? I’m a soprano goddamit!) Anyway, we figured out that I’m not used to using the thicker parts of my vocal chords. I’m fine  with my ‘thin folds’ – that quite controlled sound that you might also think of as ‘head voice’ but I’m not great at ‘chest voice’ and I have difficulty blending them in my middle range.

My teacher and I came up with the following solutions:

  • Glottal stop:Putting a glottal in at the start of my vowels for low notes helps me get the resistance I need.
  • Think like a bass: If I imagine I’m a guy about to sing “Old man river” apparently that’s enough of a mental trick to get my chords in the right place!
  • Relax the back of my tongue. For reasons known only to itself, it’s trying to help me too much. When I relax it I have more space and room to really let the sound bloom.

It was a really fun lesson. I’m not going to have to work on this stuff a whole lot, because there aren’t going to be many occasions when I need to sing this low, but it’s good to know how to do it.

We also looked at keeping some of that chest voice and blending –  trying to bring more ’tilt’ into the larynx as you move up your range. I’m not so awesome at it but I can do it. (You might also think of this as how to learn ‘belt’ – totally different sound for notes I would normally sing in full head voice.)

It’s awesome how many ways you can sing the same notes! And the way I sing them is different from the way someone else will! Humans make cool noises. 🙂

I also had two auditions this weekend just been. One for Die Fledermaus, and one for PLT’s Christmas show. I sang Voi che sapete for Fledermaus and it was fine. I really needed to be warmed up more though. I stayed in bed longer than I should have that morning. The Christmas show I ended up doing ‘Ding dong merrily on high’. That’s the one with the really long Glooooooria in it. The one that keeps going even when you think it has stopped! Got into the Christmas show, waiting to hear about Fledermaus. Aiming for chorus but with understudy hopes for a smaller role.

Rehearsal for our show tonight – we open next week yikes! Here’s a link to what it is in case you don’t already know:

In other news I can’t stop singing harmony lines. I’ve always liked singing along to things on the radio a third above as it’s the easy one. But now I want to sing all of the harmonies! All the time! Especially sevenths! I’ve gone harmonically crazy!