Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dances with Coaches part 1

This weeks "Basics of Singing"clip #7 is about the "trill" or the rolled "R". This simple exercise isn't easy for everybody, but it's the fastest route to increasing head resonance. In fact it's been a common exercise covered by every single coach I have ever worked with as a singer.
Lois Pearson, who was an excellent first voice coach to have, taught me the basics of breathing and how to vocalize safely after I lost my voice touring my rock n roll band as a teenager. Although we sang Frank Sinatra songs in class which was awkward for me at the time, her knowledge of how to coach breathing technique is something I still use in my work today.
The trill was part of how she started me vocalizing without pushing and squeezing on my chords to produce sound. Loy Coutts with whom I studied voice for stage used the Linkletter approach which also utilized the trill to bring the skull resonance into focus.
Jose Hernandez, (who now coaching the Canadian Opera Company), was coaching singers I respected like Jane Siberry and I could hear the changes in their sound, so while I was performing regularly with my band on Queen Street I would visit his studio and learn the deeper and more powerful breathing techniques of Classical singers. Jose's work with me helped broaden my range and allowed for a kind of comfort and ease, he used the trill along with other exercises to create a more resonant sound.
It was when I joined the Nylons that my need for a coach became essential. Producer arranger Peter Mann helped me focus my Baritone voice but the arrangements also asked me to reach up (dependably!) into falsetto and occasionally down into the bass range, (something I never really mastered truth be told). Bill Vincent had been helping Nylons frontman Marc Conners achieve a vocal freedom and precision that I was very impressed by. Bill was a taskmaster who demanded a rigorous attention to detail and a deep focus. Under his tutelage I gained a freedom and ease that allowed me access to ALL of my range night after night as we toured and played concerts around the world. His extensive warm-up exercises set my technique for life…..and relied heavily on the trill!
When I worked with Seth Riggs while in California, (he basically checked the technique I had learned with Bill), his "speech level singing" approach used "less energy for larger results", perfect for his high level clients whose demanding schedules ask them to be in good shape vocally at all times. And trilling was one of the arsenal of techniques Seth used with Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson.

Next week: Dances With Coaches part two: Choosing A Coach

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