Margareta Svensson Riggs
You have to know where you are going in order to get there
Recently we taught a young girl who was going to audition for her school musical. Her dream had always been to be on stage, and to do musicals. When she took her initial and only so far lesson, she was already going to be in a school concert version of a different musical.
When we started, she was very much like everybody. She was musical, but she had almost no bottom (she sang without any chest voice to speak of,) and she flipped into falsetto at the first bridge. Of course, this is not the way anything can be presented.
Within the hour we had her with a nice bottom going into mix, full range. She was able to sing the concert version of the one song and would nail the audition of the other - if she only stuck with our training, and really practiced every day with her tape from our session.
But it is unrealistic to think that that is not a huge task. It’s a given that more lessons are needed to learn and maintain what we gave her in the first session. And that goes for everybody. What is important to remember though is, that since it worked great in that first session, it will continue to work great if the singer keeps it going.
In this instance the school music teachers, well-meaning, took over in the realm of the performance and the audition, and the family didn't understand the detriment of that.
Because though not meaning harm, harm was done, the school music teacher undid the most important part of what we did.
In the audition everyone was asked to “belt,” and the song's key was lowered so that they could all “belt” up to a high C (rather than the original D, that would have to be sung in mix.) But belting up to a high C means that everyone yelled a high C. This is a sure way to get hoarse. Not only that, you lose your top and your bottom, and the ability to mix.
The girl still had her confidence she got from our one session - which in and of itself was wonderful - and she did well in her audition even yelling chest. Both mother and daughter informed me, "even though she was hoarse, because she had been singing all day." Well, of course, because she'd been yelling chest. She didn’t get the part she wanted but still a big part and she was very happy with her accomplishment. She had had several call-backs and she had been told the girl who got the main part had more acting experience which had been a deciding factor. All in all a success and grounds for continuing growth.
After the audition and concert information - the girl was excited to let me know she was going to join the school choir, and it was very famous in their community for how well it did and even traveled abroad to sing in fine churches. And the choir director was well-known and well-respected her mother added.
Again I had to say – what do you want? Do you want to be a solo artist? Singing in a choir will disconnect your voice. You just had an experience when you only sang in chest and got hoarse and couldn't actually sing up to the D where we had you sing. And now you want to join a church choir that will guaranteed have you sing only in falsetto. Neither of these are conducive to being a solo artist, you are not going to be able to sing in mix. - But this was more information her mother and the girl couldn’t quite comprehend.
For them - the choir director was so well known, therefore for them it couldn’t be the wrong thing to do, and when it came to the school music teacher, they couldn’t understand that lowering the key was the wrong way to go. They trusted their fine community and its leaders in music.
This happens everywhere. And therefore your goals have to be crystal clear. You have to know where you are going in order to get there. And when you know, all your decisions have to be made with that goal in mind. That is regardless of age. Maybe someone is too young to quite know, maybe there are other factors to consider - you want to sing and the only outlets you have are those that will not be good for you vocally but they will give you great experience like for this girl. Therefore it is extra important to keep in mind. If you are older, you don't have time to waste. Decide and make a commitment - to yourself. Follow through. It is not magic, it is not luck. This situation is not unusual all the way up in college, which is hard for most to comprehend. But if you cannot sing without getting hoarse, if you cannot sing in your full range without cracks and breaks – BUT YOU GET IT like this girl did with us – stick with it. You will be ahead of everyone, and more importantly, it is the only way when it comes to singing.