Thursday, September 20, 2007

First voice lesson 9/19

This is going to be fun.

Last night was my first (ever) voice class. While I did sing in school choruses through 9th grade, I can't remember ever having any physical or technical instruction on how to produce music with the voice. Classes actually started last week, so I jumped right in without any introduction to speak of. While that has the advantage of leaving no time for worrying, I am glad I have some musical background, without which I would have been utterly lost.

We started with physical warm-ups:
* Roll head forward to strech neck, then to each side
* Drop head to chest and roll downward to hang at hips
* Roll back to standing

Breathing warm-ups:
* Pant like a dog
* Hiss out for 8 counts, quick inhale (relax to breath in) and repeat
* Same, for 12 counts

Vocal warm-ups:
* Sing zzzz in monotone for 8 counts, inhale, repeat
* Same for 12 counts
* Sing arpeggio with continuous zzzz, do - do sol mi do, where first do-do is an octave jump upward. Continuous meaning without discreet jumps to notes, just a continuous motion of tone toward and over them.
* Same exercise with either tongue-rolling trill or raspberry lip-blubber. (I can roll my tongue all day, but can't blubber worth a darn.)
* Same exercise using the words "I lo-ove to sing." Discussion of centripetal motion. Physical experience of same by swinging arms counterclockwise in large circle to facilitate octave leap. (An exercise involving randomly throwing a stability ball around the group was scrapped because we focused too much on the ball and not enough on what we were singing. Adults. Bah.) The goal was to make that octave leap in a smooth motion, no jerking from one note to the next.

We spent some time listening to recordings of vocalists that others had brought (evidently the assignment from last week.) I'm not a big vocal music fan, so it was very interesting to listen to singing as music, the same way I would study a cello recording. It was very exciting to start making connections about how tones become music. You'd think that is such a simple thing, but it's taken me a long time to be able to hear those nuances.

Next, singing last week's assigned piece, Amazing Grace. Important points:
* Open vowels, short consonants. Achieve this with very open mouth for vowels (exaggerate) and short closing for consonant. It felt a bit like chewing, and reminded me of one particular choir member in my last church who had a very lovely voice, but always looked like she was chewing the words. However, it was very effective. I found my throat opened considerably when I opened my mouth to sing those vowels, with a remarkable improvement in overall tone.
* Sing through the phrase, using the centripetal motion concept. Not blocky note-to-note movement. I can't tell you how exciting that was. This is exactly what I have been trying to achieve on the cello, with varying success. It was so cool to hear it happening without being buried in the technical "how." There's a lot to explore in the idea of making music "in the cracks" (i.e. between the notes, referring to the cracks between piano keys.)

Finally, we ran through the piece for next week, I'm Beginning to See the Light, circa 1944, by the committee of Harry James, Duke Ellington, Johnny Hodges and Don George. New topic entirely. No big vowels. Short notes with swing and lots of bending, overt and implied.

My morning practice today was very interesting. I worked on my Bach invention (piano) first, and had intermittent interest from John, Cricket, and my newest foster, Serengeti. But when I started singing every cat in the house was sitting at my feet, watching and listening. Now, I'm not going to speculate on why they are so drawn to me singing, but this is a great piece of music. It just makes me feel happy.

Two weeks until the next class, and I can hardly wait.


Guanaco said...

Welcome home gotta!

Piano, cello, and now singing. I love the image of the cats gathering around to watch you practice. I can just picture what's going on in their little brains...

Anonymous said...

You are home! Welcome back. I hope the last few days were good. I enjoyed the trip with you! May we have a video demo of the singing practise, please?! Not just the cats, mind. We need to see and hear,YOU! Seriously, it sounds great!

Gottagopractice said...

I'm thinking I may have to sneak in a few retrospective posts to cover the last few days of the trip.

Ehhhh... probably won't be any videos of me singing for some time to come. One must have *some* standards. <g>

Anonymous said...

Glad you're feeling happy. Voice lessons will surely shed all kinds of new light on cello-playing, not to mention being fun in themselves. You are the instrument now!