Sunday, February 12, 2017

The singer neurosis

What is the singer neurosis?

If I truly knew the answer to that,  I would be living in a villa in the south of France!

I am not a medical doctor and the truth of neurosis is well above my pay grade,  however, as a teacher of voice and a singer, I am very aware of what I shall call "the singer neurosis".

here a definition of Neurosis from the dictionary:

1. a functional disorder in which feelings of anxiety, obsessional thoughts, compulsive acts, and physicalcomplaints without objective evidence of disease, in various degreesand patterns, dominate the personality.
2. a relatively mild personality disorder typified by excessive anxiety orindecision and a degree of social or interpersonal maladjustment.




Again,  I have no medical degree, but I do deal with the neurosis of the singer daily.

For those singers who truly have psychological issues larger than what a voice teacher can handle,  this is a disorder that needs medical attention.

HOWEVER,  a mild case of neurosis as a singer is not uncommon!

We hear, or have said at some point in our singer life, a we clutch our throats wrapped in a large scarf,  "there is something wrong with my voice!"  or  "Where has my voice gone?"  or  "I have phlegm, or dryness, or post nasal drop,  I cannot possibly sing!"

A friend and colleague who has often collaborated with me on the piano and conducted me,  told me the story of the singer walking onto stage with her pianist saying "darling, my voice is feeling a little fatigued, can we take the recital down a tone today?"  To which the pianist replied,  "Of course Diva,  your wish is my command."  (insert eye roll here)  and commenced to play the recital in the keys that were on the page.  She didn't know the difference, and of course, sang perfectly well.

Ah, the singer neurosis.

We have developed an over-ripe stereotype because of it.  We need to own it and discover WHY.

I am not making excuses for it at all,  nor am I simplifying real psychological issues,  but part of the issue is simply this:

As singers,  we have to discover how we embody INTANGIBLES.  This is where the basic neurosis can be linked.  Intangibles.

We do not have the luxury of looking into the mirror,  making an adjustment and continuing to dance.

We do not have the luxury of having our instrument on the outside,  so when things aren't working we can tighten or loosen a string,  use some rosin,  change a mouthpiece or reed,  or simply stand up and walk away until we are in a better head space!

We work in intangibles:  breath,  and vibration.  We work with a physical athleticism that is intrinsically impossible to see while working.  We cannot simply stand up and walk away or replace a string, or a reed or add some rosin.  We somehow have to take all those intangibles and discover how to make it tangible without getting so emotionally involved that we cannot function.

That's our job.

That's what we have to work out.

How do we discover this intangible/intangible and intertwine it with craft and mind and thought without it driving us insane?

I share with you how I speak about things:

The voice herself/himself (and I speak of the voice in 3rd person to not involve self ego/self sabotage) is FINE.  Where she/he chooses to RESIDE (your physicality) is not always optimal.

So what is our job?  Discover the FUNCTION of the physicality.  Allow for the tangibility of that physicality and why it works or what it needs to work optimally so the voice can move in, and feel like it can reside fully.

WHY isn't the voice working?  That's for YOU to discover and if the focus is physical first - your emotional energy doesn't have to get involved in the production.

The body is your instrument.  The sound and the resonance and the breath is shaped by how you use your body.  The focus then needs to be on discovering how to access that body,  intrinsically and extrinsically. 

I often ask singers,  not what they want to change or fix,  but rather,  what they love about their voice.  This is most often met with hesitation,  shyness,  and sometimes wariness and excuses.

Why?  Just like body image,  we often can great a litany of reasons and a list of things we dislike/want to change/don't understand,  but we are not often allowed to speak about what actually gives us joy when it feels good!

This does not give you license to be delusional!  However,  it does give you permission to slow down and discover when things are working,  what is actually happening!!

So,  don't blame your neurosis on "being a singer".  I don't buy it.

Yes,  the discovery of intangibles can be daunting.  Yes, it takes more work.  Yes, it takes time.  Yes, it takes commitment.

If you say you are a singer,  then I dare you to BE one.  Don't fall for the stereotype and let that define you.  Let YOU define you.  Dare yourself to discover your physical function and let the intangibles have a real place to reside and be discovered consistently.

Dare to fight the singer neurosis just by knowing what you are doing,  instead of making excuses for what you don't know, while pretending that you are.

SING because you MUST.





Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Artists 4 Artists Newsletter Released!

If you subscribe to my Artists 4 Artists Newsletter,  it was released at midnight last night and should be in your inbox somewhere!

If you don't subscribe,  and still want to take a look at the many resources in it,  the link below will take you there!

http://eepurl.com/cvjAr5


This newsletter,  although heavily NYC-based,  has many other cities/areas with resources as well as ONLINE WORLDWIDE resources.

From coaches in opera and music theatre,  to classes for performance,  to skin care and makeup artistry,  to fitness,  to photographers,  to finance specialists for artists,  to composers,  to social media and website design and MUCH more - I hope there is something you can find that you might need now, or tuck away for when you may need it!

The newsletter is a labor of love for me and a chance to give back a little to my community of artists.

Hope you enjoy reading through and if you are interested in subscribing to this particular newsletter you can sign up here:

http://eepurl.com/cbxMVj


Here's to the artists that support other artists!  Our community is STRONG!


Saturday, January 14, 2017

I just don't know what to do with you...

It's Saturday!

"I just don't know what to do with you..."

Ever heard that before?

I could have had that on every t-shirt as I was actively auditioning and learning how to manage the mine-field.

My answer of course was: "HIRE ME DAMMIT!"

However,  alas,  not so much...

Why?

Why was I told they didn't know what to do with me?

Why was I told how talented,  how musical,  how beautiful my voice was,  how skilled I was,  and then .... crickets?

It's about that damn audition room again.  It's about being an artist,  and having to negotiate that audition room.

We do too much.  Yes, we do.

We see the same people getting called back or hired.  What are they doing they we are not?

They aren't.  They aren't doing so much.

Too simple?  Perhaps,  but consider this.

Auditions are an opportunity to be hired.  Too much information in a short time,  even if the person on the other side of the table has imagination and knowledge,  is just too much information.  No time to sift through all that of that - so - NEXT!

So,  now the question is:  what do YOU do with you?

Quit trying so hard.

The perkiness,  the eager to please,  the desperation...way too much.

Quit trying so hard to look or seem indifferent.

The playing around with "I'm not impressed" doesn't work either.

What do you want to show them in the room?

Don't answer so quickly.  See?  That's part of the problem.  You have TONS to show them and that's why they don't know what to do with you,  if YOU don't decide precisely WHAT you will show.

You do not reveal everything.  You do not reveal most things.  You invite them to see one,  maybe two things during that audition/interview that intrigues them enough to call you back:  where you show them a little bit more.

Always leave them wanting more.

Do not leave them confused.

Often, as artists, because our internal lives and therefore our craft process is very complex,  we don't realize how to simplify.  It seems ridiculous to us.  It doesn't seem as if it's enough to be that simplistic in the room.

Really?  That's IT?!  That's ALL I have to do?

Yes, darling,  pick ONE thing to reveal in the room the first time.  Don't angst.  Just focus and do it.

When I began to figure that out and actually do it,  they finally knew what to do with me!

AND I wasn't exhausted after the audition like I had been.  I actually had enough energy to stay present in the room,  do my work,  simplify and leave and have energy to pick up the rest of my day instead of blinding wander back into the street and figure out how I could catch a nap.

Start exploring how you simplify for the audition.  What do you want to reveal?
Start with 3 or 4 things.
Then decide out of those 3 or 4 things what are uniquely you.  Narrow the choices to 1 or 2.

How will you execute those choices?

How will you stay present as you walk into the room with those choices?

How will you breathe in those choices as you prepare to sing?

It feels too simple doesn't it?

But it's not,  yet it is precisely right.

Not too much,  not too little,  but just right.

If you've done the work - if you can rely on your craft,  on your skill,  on your technique in all areas of your work:  voice,  acting,  presentation,  professionalism  - then there is nothing to hide or nothing to hide behind.

This gives you many choices that you can enjoy deciding from.  It isn't about throwing out ideas;  it's about deciding what to reveal today.  You may choose differently tomorrow depending on the call,  the opportunity,  the song choice and your energy!

These are not tricks.  These are decisions.  Decisions can be made because you are committed to craft.  Craft allows you to access more of what YOU will offer.

Offer what you have in small doses.  Give them something they will know what to do with,  instead of throwing the bag on the table and looking up and expecting them to choose.

The rest will follow.

All of your artistic "burn"  will find a place to unfold when you have an opportunity work a callback and then book the role and embody that!

Let's turn "I just don't know what to do with you"  into  "I know JUST what I can do with you"!






Saturday, January 7, 2017

but can you belt that?

Happy New Year!

Here comes the audition season in full swing!

So - how's your terminology?

This is why I ask:  there is a great deal of terminology in craft, and singing is no different.  We toss around words like "belt",  "mix",  "placement",  and hear "breathe low",  "project" and on and on.

Do you REALLY know what these mean?  Or are they just getting in your way.

First thing,  you have to know your instrument.  Your physical instrument.  Where are the damn parts?  What do they actually do?  How are interconnected?  How athletic do you have to be to access what you need?

Second thing,  you have to figure out how to translate what you are being told.  Many of the words we use, or the words we hear,  are not literal,  but as singers, many of us translate literally.  At least I am guilty of that.  It got me into lots of trouble.

Then I studied anatomy and acoustics and said "DUH".

I am not saying you have to do that - but I am saying that if you say you are a singer, you better know some stuff,  not just toss around the words.

So many of the terms we use as ass-backwards anyway.  Just like stage direction.  Until you really understood "down stage right"  you went the wrong way and had to think about it!

The "terms" are thrown around by singers, teachers, coaches, casting directors, directors - everybody in the industry.  You are not going to tell me that they all have the same definitions.  They don't.  After 30 years in this business, THEY DO NOT.

So,  what's a singer to do?

You MUST find the reality of your instrument.  What happens physically?  How do I translate that?  How do I access that?

You ask questions:  of your teacher  (you DO have a voice teacher, yes?),  and then translate with your coaches and then further translate when you are in the audition room and a casting director, or music director, or director asks for something and you have to be present enough to figure out what they are asking and then what they are REALLY asking.

You have a set of vocal cords.  One larynx.  Resonators that are shaped by YOUR body structure and soft tissue.  Breath.  Physicality.

You don't have a bunch of "different" voices to "put it into".  YOU HAVE ONE VOICE.  You have numerous registers,  but ONE VOICE.  Until you fully discover how to access this,  you can be frustrated when you are asked to sing in different styles.

Style informs tone.  Your voice FIRST.  Wrap the style around that.  Don't think you have to change your voice to access a style!

Learning to find this authenticity gives you authority in your audition and in your performance.

So,  I dare you to toss out terminology that is getting in your way;  embrace terminology that allows you to access YOU fully and consistently;  Develop the physical awareness of HOW you sing;  Explore what defines a style as opposed to "putting it into an xyz voice" to sing a style.  The stylistic definition will then give you permission to still sound like YOU!

When you are given an adjustment or asked for something in the room,  be present enough to figure out what you are REALLY being asked to do.

Industry/Casting are not pedagogues.  We cannot expect them to have the detailed knowledge of how a voice functions or how it develops or how it works.  So guess what?  YOU have to have it.  You have to know how to translate casting language,  which often uses the same words pedagogy does,  into the language YOU understand to access the end result they are looking for.

An ongoing issue is being asked  "can you belt that?"

What do they really mean?  Really belt?

Not necessarily.  If you try to do what they SAID,  you will often be met with "no, that's not what I wanted."

So, guess what? YOU have to figure out how to translate what is being asked.

Often times,  "belt" is associated with a vocal INTENSITY.  If the voice is lacking energy/intensity/vibrancy,  casting or a coach will say "you gotta belt that more".  They don't know what they are asking, but they know it if they hear it.

YOU have to translate that,  figure out how to discover that intensity and vibrancy,  and adjust to show them you can translate it.

And on and on it goes...

Make a list of those "terms" or those "adjustments" you are told or being asked for;  then see if you can explain them out loud or in writing for yourself.  If you can't, take them to your teacher and riddle it out together.

You aren't in this alone!  We all want you to succeed!  Casting wants YOU to be the person they can hire - they really do.

If you aren't prepared,  if you can't translate,  if you haven't found your authenticity yet,  you need to keep discovering that.  You must learn to KNOW YOU; to DO YOU;  to BE YOU in the audition room and in the coaching studio and in the voice studio.

Learn to listen;  learn to translate;  learn to stay present;  learn to see exactly where you are, and
what you need to do in access everything you are growing into.

Your voice and where it resides is all about YOU.  It's not about mimicking a voice;  it's not about putting it into a voice;  It's about finding YOUR voice and how your voice can begin to inhabit the styles you wish to sing in.

Do you and keep committing to that while you study and discover,  while you audition and discover,  while you perform and discover.  Don't dial it in - stay present and engaged!