Archive for the ‘teaching’ Category

My news feed from one of the vocal technique blogs I follow, TenorTalkBlog.com by Gioacchino Li Vigni has been broken in my feed reader for the past couple of weeks, and today I finally tried to figure out why.  It turns out that Mr. Li Vigni has just launched a new website this month, JackLiVigni.com, and his Tenor Talk blog has moved to a new home on the website at http://jacklivigni.com/tenortalkblog/.  You can subscribe to the blog by email via the form on the bottom right corner of the blog or by entering this link into your feed reader: http://jacklivigni.com/feed/ .  The only thing is that I am not sure that all the informative video/audio clips got moved over from the old blog location to the new one.  I hope the webmaster can restore them because they were really useful for illustrating the discussion in the blog posts.

Ladies and basses/baritones, don’t be fooled – there is actually a lot of food for thought on the Tenor Talk blog for the rest of us regarding vocal technique.  Like any voice teacher, Mr. Li Vigni has his own way of explaining things, but he contributes a lot of knowledge and thoughtful discussion.  In addition, his new website also has a vocal technique discussion forum, and you can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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A while back, I mentioned that there was a call for input for an article about social media and the voice studio.  The article has just been published in the October issue of Classical Singer magazine (subscription required): Social Media and Texting in the Teaching Studio [UPDATE 10/19/2012: You can read Part 1 and Part 2 of the article for free at the Auditions Plus blog.]

Much of the article is about teachers trying to find the right professional and personal boundaries to set with their students on social media:

If I have a voice student send me a friend request, I usually accept. I do not send friend requests to students, however. If a student does not want to be Facebook friends with me, I completely respect (and appreciate) their need for privacy. Facebook, if used appropriately, can be a valuable and entertaining tool. It can, however, also be a negative experience when I see students posting pictures of all-night partying or using inappropriate language.

(Social media boundary-setting is an issue that educators in all fields are trying to come to grips with, not just music teachers.  There’s more food for thought on this subject in the presentation Teaching Today’s Student: Technology for the 21st-Century Music Educator by Dr. Philip Copeland, Director of Choral Activities & Associate Professor of Music at Samford University.)

One teacher addresses this quandary by maintaining separate personal and professional social media presences:

[A teacher] sought the advice from fellow voice teachers…“I am considering unfriending all of my teen students from my personal Facebook page due to the number of inappropriate posts, language, and photos that cross my newsfeed. I don’t stalk or post on high schoolers’ pages, but there are a lot of things I really don’t want to know about my teen students and their friends. There are obviously some mature teens who use FB responsibly, but I don’t want to tacitly support highly personal or irresponsible posts. Teens would still have access to my public posts and the studio business page, I just wouldn’t be able to see their pages.”

To [the teacher’s] surprise, everyone who responded was unanimously in favor. She was not alone in the idea of separating studio and personal FB pages. She created a separate page for her studio and unfriended her young singers on her personal page.

“I update the studio page daily,” she says. “I try to balance posts with student and faculty news, marketing for upcoming events and classes, community events and auditions, and a sprinkling of inspirational music quotes and funny music cartoons…I keep the business page professional and squeaky clean.”

Other teachers feel the need to set standards for etiquette and appropriateness in the use of texting:

It also becomes intrusive when a student texts me questions about repertoire ideas, class assignments, or vocal technique. I do not have time to give free, detailed advice about appoggio via a text. An e-mail would be better, but that is really what voice lessons are for. For those kinds of situations, I will ignore the text until I see the singer in person. Then I will have a brief and friendly discussion about texting versus e-mail.

The article also has anecdotes about some students’ lack of discretion on social media, and their naiveté about the consequences:

One night, as I was counting sheep and spending time on FB, I noticed that one of my voice students had checked herself, and several other singers, into a popular Las Vegas nightclub. It was about 2:00 on a Thursday morning. […] One student involved in this incident had a private voice lesson with me later that afternoon. She had no knowledge of the post. She arrived to her lesson several minutes late, looked quite haggard, and was full of excuses. I did not mention my knowledge of her source of pain, but I was definitely unforgiving in her poor performance during her lesson. It was evident that she had slept very little and had been talking in a loud, smoke-filled club. She practically broke down in tears as I refused to accept her lack of preparedness and poor vocal shape. Had I not known about her nocturnal activities, my firm and unyielding behavior would have been harsh. But I was disappointed at her lack of respect for me and her lesson. How can you have a productive lesson after hanging out at a noisy, smoky club all night?

Other students demonstrate greater awareness about the benefits and pitfalls of social media:

I enjoy having the freedom to openly communicate with my voice teacher through Facebook and texting. […] That being said, there still needs to be some sort of professional barrier between teacher and student, and on Facebook I’m not always posting the most appropriate things. I have to hold back sometimes on pictures I share and statuses I post because I don’t want someone I look up to to have a negative view of me. I think setting up a page for a studio would keep that teacher/student relationship intact while keeping easy communication open.

Related Posts:

[iPad users: You’ll need a different browser to view these resources – see note below!]

I just found a collection of presentations on SlideShare by Dr. Philip Copeland (Director of Choral Activities & Associate Professor of Music at Samford University) and it is a real treasure trove.  The dude is one seriously wired choral conductor.  Have a look at some of his presentation titles:

Diction

Music history, style, literature

Conducting

Technology for choral conductors

Singer health

Did that whet your appetite?  View the full list of Dr. Copeland’s presentations here.  You can also follow him on Twitter at @philipco

[N.B. for iPad users: I suggest using Puffin Web Browser Free in landscape mode to view Dr. Copeland’s presentations on SlideShare.  The SlideShare website pretty much doesn’t work on Safari for iPad due to a combination of Flash and mobile website issues (as far as I can tell).  There are two third-party SlideShare apps for iPad, Slide by Slide and SlidePad, but neither one gives correct results when searching by username.  Alternatively, you can just view the presentations on your computer.]

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Credit: Pamela Elrod / Chorus America

This oldie-but-goodie has been bouncing around Twitter lately:

The Choral Warm-Ups of Robert Shaw (includes explanations and notated examples)

In addition to bookmarking it, I saved it as a PDF file using my computer’s print-to-file feature so I can import it into forScore and have it handy on my iPad even when I don’t have a data connection.

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Credit: HP

Going Digital for Musicians has a great post today on choosing hardware for your music reading needs.  It has a nice chart that compares the options, plus some discussion about which types of hardware work best in different rehearsal, performance, and teaching environments.

Read the full post: Selecting the Perfect Sheet Music Reading Computer, Part Three

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A while back, I was at a rehearsal of Aida, sitting around while the tenor was singing “Celeste Aida.”  Just for kicks, I fired up the free MeionSpector app on my iPad to watch the live spectrogram roll by as he sang.  When he hit the high B-flat at the end, I took the screenshot shown to the left.  I’m an engineer by training, so I love this kind of geeky stuff.

When I began studying solo classical voice, one of the most difficult concepts I had the most difficult wrapping my head around was “color” in the voice – referring, in this context, to the strong presence of certain overtones.  I didn’t understand the difference in sound between when those overtones were present and when they where absent.  I didn’t understand what overtones sounded like in other singers’ voice, and I definitely didn’t understand what they where supposed to sound like in my own voice.

I think that if I had had an app like this just to play around with, it would have given me a little bit of insight and helped me understand this concept a little faster.  In the screenshot above, the various fuzzy horizontal-ish black bands correspond to all the different frequencies that are present in the tenor’s voice when he’s singing high B-flat as the fundamental pitch.  The B-flat corresponds to a frequency of about 466 Hz (you can look up the frequency of a pitch with an app like Pitch Freq 2).  If you look for the approximate location of 466 Hz on the tick marks on the left edge of the image, there’s a lot of heavy black squiggle in that area, since it’s the fundamental.  The rest of the narrower horizontal black bands above it are the overtones, and they should appear in the locations determined by the overtone series.

Knowing this, I can use the app for real-time visualization of the overtones in my voice.  I can sing a note, see the overtones, and modify my vocal production until the upper bands disappear, leaving only the fundamental and resulting in what many teachers and singers refer to as a “white” sound, and then bring the overtones back again.  I can experiment with different things in vocal production and see how they strengthen or weaken the overtones, and which overtones are affected.  It’s certainly not a silver bullet for learning vocal technique, but it can be an interesting exploratory tool that might yield a few insights.  I wouldn’t view it as a precision instrument for scientific measurements either, as I don’t know the limitations of the app software or the iPad’s audio hardware for capturing everything in the singing human voice, but if you need something more scientific, there’s always VoceVista and the associated hardware.

MeionSpector is just one of several iOS apps that do this – search the App Store for “spectrogram” to find others.  For starters, SpectrumView is free and has an even nicer display than MeionSpector:

Voice Analyzer is geared towards singers and has a free Lite version and a Pro version:

Credit: Voice Analyzer Pro / Dexus

Visible Sound has a 3D display that I’m not sure is actually all that helpful for our purposes, but hey, it looks neat:

Credit: Visible Sound / Alexander Valys

If you don’t have a tablet, there are also options like VoceVista for Windows, which I believe has a free version available here (look for the “Download Voce Vista” link), Sing & See for Windows/Mac, Audacity which is free for Windows/Mac/Linux (see a YouTube video on Audacity spectrographs here), and others.  [UPDATE: Blog reader Katia H. reports: “I’ve used Praat [for Windows/Mac/Linux] in the past, which is super-geeky and about the worst interface I could imagine (I think it’s geared towards scientists who actually know what all the words mean), and it’s good to know there are simpler and prettier tools!”]

One other fun and educational thing you can do with this software is feed the voices of other singers into it.  Below is a screenshot of VoceVista being used to analyze the same B-flat in “Celeste Aida” sung by Domingo (top half) and Pavarotti (bottom half).  VoceVista’s website has a discussion of how to interpret the graph and use it to understand the difference between Domingo and Pavarotti’s resonance strategies.

Credit: VoceVista

Michelle Latour is soliciting input from voice teachers and students for an article for Classical Singer.  She wants to know how teachers use social media and the implications in their voice studio:

For voice teachers, how do you handle social media? Are you friends with your students on Facebook? Why/why not? […] How do you predominantly communicate with your students- text, phone or email? If you do text, do you have any parameters regarding texting?

For those of you currently studying voice, are you friends with your teachers on Facebook? Why/why not? Do you text your teachers? Do you even use email anymore? What are your thoughts about social media and your teachers?

To respond, you can leave a comment at the original blog post or email her directly.

Read the original post at the Auditions Plus blog.