How to learn and retain understanding

Starting out at IU has been really fun and challenging (in a good way). My intro to instrumental tech class, music ed colloquium class, piano lessons, and voice lessons are the parts I find the most engaging/interesting. When I practice and write notes in my music, I’m more conscious due to some of the discussions we’ve had in studio class/lessons regarding “support” vs. tension. I also think more about the IPA, tongue height, and divergent back vs. front more when I’m approaching a new song. 

I’ve also found it super helpful to record my lessons. Taking notes after the fact has helped an immense amount. It’s hard to process a lot of information within one hour, and being able to listen to chunks at a time has helped me grasp some concepts in a more efficient way.

Rah, note-taking! Sooo very useful, and valuable. You guys have a ton of info to process, coming at you from every direction. Any strategic choices you can make that help you to internalize/own any part of it sooner means you’re getting the biggest bang for your practice-buck. Being more painstaking with that now, when so much is new and disorienting, will get you over the hump sooner– and then, it won’t be so very critical to re-cap– because you’ll have a working glossary, and a reliable paradigm for what we’re after and how to get it.

Kudos to you, too, for emailing for another title to start working on. That lesson hour zooms by, and there’s always something we mean to do– and then don’t. Never fear! Email yr prof!

What are you working on in vocal ped these days?

We have been talking about resonance and formants, which has been pretty familiar but also explained a little differently. Some of the basics are the same, like what resonance is and what a formant is. She did talk a lot about interacting with different formant frequencies, even if you are singing at a different vowel’s formant. I thought that was interesting, because it is not something I really think about or know how to execute. We also talked about divergent front and divergent back shaping, but the terms used were convergent and divergent. This week we are each supposed to pick a video of a singer and discuss resonant strategies, breath management, and posture. I think this will be fun because it is a useful skill to work on for teaching voice lessons

The use of “convergent” is standard– except in my studio. I find it problematic, in that cues us to cinch at the lips, and generally, to reduce something– as opposed to “diverging back,” which cues us to expect stretch, a gesture of opening. A singer tends to cinch at the lips as a significant off-resonant bit of breath management– and what we see consistently is that we’re working to locate breath management that allows us to put the brakes on with nuance, and a minimum of compromise to the clarity of your diction. We only locate those best options when we need them– and the tight convergence at the downstream edge of your resonator damps and manages heavily. No need to find anything else.

As for further interactions– you may already be encountering the idea of Practical Vocal Acoustics. There are many numbers, and much science– but what are the first, primary sensations we encounter and can develop strategies for? Until the entry-level strategies are reliably understood, anything “further up the spectrum” is going to remain theoretical, and may amount to much data with no handy on-ramp.

One thing I’ve been particularly struggling with is overcoming my perfectionism when I go to practice. I am trying to remind myself that time spent practicing is a great opportunity for mistakes. I’ve been working on also hitting some higher notes in my rep. right now and I think something that is really crucial towards helping me is “mouth choreography” that we talk about sometimes in lessons. I find it really helpful to make sure everything feels right and is setting me up for success before I make any sound.

Go for it, go for it, go for it!! An important thing we can achieve with running “mouth choreo” is setting aside shapes that belong to speech– shapes that are designed to end resonance, rather than to sustain resonance. Singers want different shapes. These recruit commitment, engagement– antagonistic muscle groups that feel each other. The physical commitment to a shape allows resonance to establish and strengthen itself– and that resonance means it’s not a struggle to maintain the requisite shape!! But– because they are different, we have to learn them, and they feel awkward, unaccustomed, silly. Until you’ve just droned your way through your choreo day after day– and now they’re familiar, instead of freaky.

Another bonus from your brave practice: what actually happens when a note glitches, or doesn’t even come out…? … Nothing. No brimstone; no ranks of peers pointing and laughing. Go ahead, end with your mouth wide open, and failed phonation. Your “stage crew” learns “OK, not quite like that. Just a notch this way.” ‘s OK.