A gifted young opera singer, Nathan is a client of mine. Obviously, we are all extremely proud of Nathan! He is a recent winner of a prestigious singing competition and is making astounding progress in music school. Here is a wonderful video of him singing a classical song of English composer Benjamin Britten, The Salley Gardens.
First, it should be clarified that usually a classical singer in training is referred to as a “young opera singer.” The requirements of a good music school program always include learning and performing classical songs in addition to opera arias and roles and much more. So here we have a beautiful 20th century English song of the great British composer, Benjamin Britten, who lived from 1913 – 1976.
Before we dive into an appreciation for the work of this outstanding young opera singer, let’s first talk about YOU! The odds are pretty good that you are watching and listening to this video, feeling like you cannot relate. Or possibly you are feeling like you can never sing this well and so you begin asking yourself, “What’s the point?”
And it is easy to diagnose this emotionally draining sense of doubt as “imposter syndrome.” You’ve heard of this? And for many of us, it’s enough to cause a major upheaval, questioning whether you ought to quit doing something you love. So listen up! It is terribly important you understand the answer to this searching question is a resounding NO!
This life is too short to deny yourself one single moment of doing what you love. Please hear me on this: it is not healthy to live without that which gives you joy and a positive means of self-expression. And it is safe to assume that you are reading this because you have discovered that singing is one thing you truly love doing. Please know I am greatly in support of your continuing to sing. Any genre of singing is valuable, as long as it suits your voice and your particular personality, your temperament. So always remember: if you want to sing, I want to help! And this is true, whether your goal is to become a young opera singer or whether you want to sing better in any other style of music.
Singing Is Life-Affirming
Except if the purpose is doing harm, there is no style of singing that is “less than” or in any way not as vital to humanity. So instead of believing the falsehood of imposter syndrome, please stop and remind yourself that your desire to sing is a healthy, essential part of your life. For those of us who love singing and feel a undeniable deep connection to ourselves through singing, it is crucial that you have an outlet for your self-expression, including opportunities to sing. There are many choices for making this happen. With a some thought and a little perseverance, you can find ways to sing that are the most enjoyable and rewarding for you, suiting your individual needs and preferences. And you always have my expertise to rely upon, to help you learn to sing better!
How Nathan Became Such a Great Young Opera Singer
Back to the video above with our friend Nathan, let’s talk about what makes his singing so enjoyable to hear. First, we should mention that Nathan played instruments before he began to sing. He learned to read music as a young child. This enables his musical ear to be highly tuned, which is always a big plus for any musician. And singers need to have a well-developed musical ear. When you sing in tune, with a strong sense of good pitch, your communication with your audience will be infinitely greater. In fact your whole musical experience, and that of your audience, will be elevated in the most meaningful way. Singing in tune causes the words and the notes you sing to convey the ring of truth, as it reaches into your listeners. So becoming a good musician counts and it pays off big-time!
Singing with Clear Diction
Even when we sing in a language that is foreign to us and to our audience, we have the responsibility to articulate the words plainly. How much money have I spent, over the years, paying for diction coaching?! It is a necessary and fascinating part of a classical singer’s training. For example, when you sing songs of the great Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich, unless the Russian language is native to you, then you will need to work with a Russian diction coach. (I love singing in Russian, by the way. It is a wonderfully “sing-able” language!)
For a young opera singer who is an American, often singing in English means overcoming challenges of good clear diction. The problem is that we get too familiar, too sloppy with our pronunciation of English words, especially depending upon the particular region of the US in which we’ve grown up or spent most of our lives. In other words, regional accents can be tricky to overcome, so a singer is able to articulate English words plainly. Let’s face the fact that it really is better for everyone concerned if your audience understands the words you are singing.
Irish Poet William Yeats (1865 – 1939)
When composer Benjamin Britten wrote this song, he was inspired by the this great poem of William Yeats. It is a beautiful song with a tuneful melody that is easy to learn. Here is the poem, the words for this lovely song:
Down by the Salley Gardens
Discover Your Personal Interpretation
If you were singing this song, which words of the poem would you especially want to communicate to your audience? How would you be expressive with these words, when you would sing this song?
Nathan has beautiful English diction, doesn’t he?! Still there is room for some fine-tuning, which was pointed out in the lesson we recently had. When a singer immerses himself or herself in the articulation of the words, and in the meaning of each word which he or she is singing, incredibly great things begin to happen with the whole vocal technique. There are technical explanations for this. But what really matters here is working to achieve good diction in your singing can result in an instantly more beautiful quality in the vocal sound, more easily projected power, and then suddenly your self-confidence becomes greater. You begin to believe more in your ability to sing better!
Your Body Alignment is EVERYTHING!
Another excellent thing Nathan has going for him is strong body alignment, with his spine lengthening up and the head on top of the spine. In other posts on this blog, we discuss how crucial it is to know about Alexander Technique. If you practice yoga, you can reap similar benefits. Most forms of yoga can help your singing enormously.
When your head is positioned fluidly on top of the spine, it will automatically be situated a little bit up and a little bit back. Then you will find that every aspect of your vocal technique falls into place more easily.
Your spine should not be stiff or inflexible, as if you are a soldier standing at attention. This is about fluid upward motion of the spine, lengthening up, so the entire body is responsive to the muscle coordination necessary for you best singing.
Remember, it is not the muscles in the throat, not the muscles in the jaw, and not the muscles of the neck that give power to your singing. We learn to take the pressure of those areas by using the muscles in the abdomen, the pelvic wall, and actually down into the muscles of the buttocks, legs, and feet.
Please do not assume that you are not able to find and use this muscular coordination. The reason we emphasize good body alignment is to make the rest of the technique easier.
Range and Sound Quality
We can hear that Nathan’s vocal timbre, the quality of his voice, is that of a baritone. He has a true, natural vocal color and sound quality of a genuine baritone. Beautiful to hear! And Nathan has a warm, engaging personality that shines through when he sings.
The range of your voice is only one factor in determining your voice part. Keep in mind that your singing voice continues to mature and develop until you are about 35 years old or more. When a teacher hears your voice, that teacher discovers which part of your vocal range has the most beauty for the longest time without becoming tired.
Then the teacher considers the color and timbre of your vocal quality. Your age is also a factor in determining the appropriate vocal part for your individual voice. Also, do keep in mind that your voice is as unique as your fingerprint. Each human being’s voice needs and deserves carefully tailored, individual, personal attention, to receive the best singing instruction. In singing, there is no “one size fits all.”
Online Voice Lessons: Life-Changing Benefits
Do you need to sing as well as Nathan in order to learn how to sing better and to experience great results? –Absolutely not! It is also not necessary for you to have any experience with classical music, before singing lessons can offer you life-changing benefits. All that is required for learning to sing better is your desire to sing better — period.
Come As You Are
Possibly you are a choir singer or would like to join a choir. Maybe you sing for the joy of it, as a hobby. Or perhaps you are a pop singer, who would like to consider becoming a better singer, so you can have some professional gigs. Are you a jazz singer? Or possibly you are a musical theatre singer. Everyone is welcome here!
The lessons I give are available for singers of all styles of music, at every level of capability. I offer lessons on demand. This means no appointment is necessary. Send me a video or an audio file of your singing. I will listen very carefully. And then I will respond with a full lesson, complete instructions for taking your singing to the next level.
It should be clarified here that you are not obligated to have a voice evaluation or a vocal range test. These are available at your request and at anytime.
Don’t delay! Email me now for a free voice evaluation and to schedule your singing lessons online!
This post features the marvelous work of my client, young opera singer, baritone Nathan, which we are all learning from together, as we watch and listen to his excellent performance in this video.
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