Thursday, May 9, 2013

How to Build & Maintain Skills

There is really only one way to master a skill:

1) figure out how to do something right, then
2) do it that way over and over again

One of the greatest struggles as a teacher is to help students understand that both steps are absolutely crucial.  When I have a student who spends a lot of time on #1 and not enough on #2, concepts are understood but are never made into a permanent part of technique.  On the flip side, those who do not spend enough time on #1 and a lot of time pounding their minds and voices into #2 usually make bad habits permanent.

And issue that has become prevalent to me as a teacher is how much I enjoy the time I spend on #1, and how little time I have to practice #2.

One recurring them in the book "Great Singers on Great Singing" by Jerome Hines (see here) was the practice of singers in the previous generation and beyond of vocalizing every day.  Domingo, Pavarotti, and hundreds of singers before speak of a daily routine along the lines of waking, getting ready, eating breakfast, then vocalizing for at least around an hour.  If the voice wasn't ready upon first vocalizing, the singer would wait a couple of hours, and try again.

It is suggested again in this interview of Pavarotti and Shirley Verrett which I watched recently:

Common practice today suggests a different habit.  Teachers and singers alike speak of only needing one good song or aria to warm up the voice.  Perhaps that is true for some singers, but I am realizing more and more each day, particularly as I get older, that the same cannot be said for me.  Maybe it's anatomical/physiological, which makes it all the more important that each singer spend time on how #1 works specifically for them.

As an experiment, some time ago I decided to use the commonly mentioned "Thirty Daily Exercises" by Concone on a daily basis (which can be found HERE on my website).  So far the results have been extremely encouraging.  Edges are smoothing out, I feel stronger, I am more able to sing through small illnesses, and most importantly I am developing even more confidence in my technique.

**I believe it is important to note that I would not suggest this practice for students and singers early in their development.  In my studio we use exercises and repertoire chosen to work on specific singing skill sets.  To leap into hour long daily vocalizing at that stage would reinforce under-developed, perhaps even damaging habits.  It is much more effective to focus on the exercises and repertoire needed to build the fundamentals, then once those have been grasped to vocalize them in every day.

I am curious to learn your experience in this area. What is your process to develop and maintain needed skills?  

Monday, August 2, 2010

Opera Singer by Cake

My Sister-In-Law Rachel sent this to me.  So much truth!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How to Not Choke

Here is a quick article on how to avoid choking under pressure.  It matches up nicely with a worksheet I give my students for performance preparation. 

Here is the article:  CLICK HERE

And here is the worksheet:  CLICK HERE

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I normally wouldn't do this, but I'm working on getting a MacBook Pro for work and school, and this seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up.  Through referrals and completing an offer you can get a "Free" MacBook Pro - it's really pretty easy and definitely works.

Just CLICK HERE and you can get one too!!


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Das Liebesverbot - Rough Debut

In a couple of months I will be performing the role of Luzio in USC's production of Das Liebesverbot, Wagner's second opera. This is, of course, part of the LA-wide Wagner festival that is taking place this year, climaxing with LA Opera's production of the entire Ring Cycle this Spring/Summer.

Wagner is famous for making great demands of his singers, so imagine that reputation applied to his work before he really knew what he wanted to do as a composer. Das Liebesverbot has been a real exercise in technique as I have tried to figure out the sheer physicality required to sing this role. And while at first that process was extremely frustrating, it is proving to be just the challenge my voice needed to kick itself into high gear.

Now several weeks into my preparation, I decided to look up Das Liebesverbot in my favorite book about Wagner, "Wagner Without Fear" by William Berger. I was particularly tickled by this entry:

"Wagner composed a second opera, Das Liebesverbot ("The Ban on Love"), based on Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, and prepared the Magdeburg theater for its premiere.  Everything went wrong.  A grand total of three people (all Jewish, incidentally) bought tickets for the performance.  Directly before the curtain was scheduled to rise, the husband of the prima donna thought this would be a good time to confront her with her extramarital activities, which included the opera's star tenor.  An actual fistfight broke out backstage.  The three people in the audience were informed that Das Liebesverbot was postponed.  It never saw the light of day in Wagner's lifetime, either [like his first opera Die Feen].  Few people have anything positive to say about this work, and while Die Feen contains some lovely music, Das Liebesverbot has been consigned to music schools, if anywhere."

Let me be the first to say that Das Liebesverbot is much better than it is given credit for.  It does have some lovely music, and though it is a beast of an opera to sing, I am sure the audience is going to find it quite thrilling.  That being said, it is certainly early Wagner, and he only went up from here.

For those interested in the book Wagner Without Fear, check it out below.  Definitely worth it!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Pacido Domingo's Incredible Pace

Placido Domingo's schedule would be out of control for most teenagers, let alone for almost any other 69 year old.  Check out this article in the LA Times (CLICK HERE).  I may have to adopt one of his quotes from this article as my new motto:  "When I rest, I rust!"

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I am very curious about how this pans out - a new website is out now called which broadcasts Operas, Jazz, and much more. For more on the website check out the LA Times article (CLICK HERE).

Here is one of the many videos I found there - I always get a kick out of the Pavarotti duets. What do you think?