Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Technology and teaching singing | Vol. 1

Hello singers,

Nowadays we use a lot of technology when we perform as singers both on stage and studio. Microphone for example is so common that we often forget that without it we couldn't have certain kind of music. There would be no Madonna, Lara Fabian or Björk in the way we know them. In my next performance with my new band Boy With Strings I'm gonna sing everything through a voice pedal, Voicelive2, which gives me a nice sound with compressor, eq, reverb, delays and what's really cool, harmonies! Everything is also played through a computer and software, Ableton Live, in which we loop, effect and manipulate our playing in many ways. Modern technology gives us so many new possibilities, doesn't it?!

So, how much technology do we use when teaching singing? Not so much typically. Lately, I've tried using different software in my teaching. There is not many programs actually developed for voice teachers so we need to find creative ways to use those created for doing something else.  I'll share some things I've found useful. In order not to make it boring, I'll share one or two tips at a time. Also, I'd love to hear about your ways of using technology in teaching!


Recording voice lessons is nothing new anymore. But not everyone has their own recorder, or they forget to bring it, and I myself find it a bit too complicated to record, compress and then send sound files to every individual singer. My solution is DropBox and an iPhone app DropVox. In DropBox I make a folder for every individual singer which I then share with only them. In DropVox I can simply choose that folder in the beginning of a lesson, press record and stop it when the lesson's done. What I found great is that the sound file is compressed automatically to m4a format so it saves space. Also, you can start recording the next lesson when it's still uploading the previous one. I love the simplicity of DropVox and how it takes no time to set up so it doesn't waste any time on the lesson.

Let me know if you have other software you love to use for recording.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Shapes for the visual singers

Essential for successful learning is the teacher's ability to adjust the pedagogy to the person being taught. This isn't anything new. People are different and prefer different ways of learning and different ways of interacting.

Before I encountered CVT - which thankfully acknowledges individual differences as a core part of the pedagogy - I have done a great deal of studying on personal development. There are several different methods and models for altering pedagogy according to learning styles, as well as critic to the whole idea of it. But there is perhaps no need to necessarily believe in or practice any specific theory or model at all, as long as you keep your eyes open to the fact that people work differently and that different problems may need different solutions. It only takes some sober thinking to realise that if you are trying to teach or learn something and it's not working, it's crucial to try something else!

In vocal training, some singers learn well by copying sound examples, which is one good reason for the common myth that some people seem "gifted" with a good singing voice. They have simply done a lot of copying! Music sung by people in their environment or perhaps played on the radio. Auditive singers are also the reason to why an important part of being an Authorized CVT-teacher is to be able to demonstrate all sounds.

But then again, the sound example may help the auditive singer a bit, but perhaps not give the whole solution. Or another singer might need something completely different. Maybe they will find anatomical explanations helpful or maybe they find their way through a metaphorical inner visualisation.
Some will want to have hands on and feel what they are doing while others will want to see illustrations and diagrams of what to do. To be able to teach the singer what they want, it's crucial to be able to meet these needs. And if one trick doesn't work, it's time to pick up the next.

In my teaching I often find great use of shapes. Showing a shape representing the sound can help many singers (obviously not all), to actually produce the sound. For some, that may be about inner visualisation and for some about anatomy. Surprisingly, the fictive shapes that happen to be most efficient in visualizing sound, are quite similar to what is actually going on anatomically!

Mostly I show the shapes with my hands or sometimes I draw them on the board. But today I have tried to illustrate some of the shapes I often use in print. If you find them useful please let us know! Feel welcome to share too (- and we are happy for a link back here if so). Perhaps you have other shapes or tricks that work well for you, please share!

- Annika 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Gender roles and boundaries in singing

Hello singers!

I got inspired to think and write shortly about this subject after I played some of my new songs to a colleague and friend of mine. She pointed out that the songs had a kind of musical feel to them, maybe because of how I sang. It was an interesting point and also got me to think why does it jump out when a guy sings like that. I think that many female pop singers sing in a musical-like way. Especially many of those who are often held the best like Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Lara Fabian, Beyonce, Christina Aguilera and so on. But if a guy sings like that it's often described as too soft and sweet or sugary, isn't it? Of course there are exceptions like Michael Jackson, Darren Hayes of Savage Garden, Freddie Mercury and more recently Adam Lambert. Maybe it's always so that if you jump out a bit more you also need to prove yourself more.

Do you agree and do you think that there are similar boundaries for female singers?