"You Have To Bake The Cake Before You Can Frost It"

    “You Have To Bake The Cake Before You Can Frost It”

Notes from a vocal masterclass

with

David Phelps/Jeff Alani Stanfill

 

Good morning all you beautiful singers/teachers of singing! Do you remember the line from the Carpenters song “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down”? Well it’s Monday and it’s pouring here in the north east, and I’m not down by any means, but “Good Lawdy have mercy”, I think we’ve seen enough precipitation to get us threw a few months. Jeez!!

 

So I was sitting at my desk, planning and scheduling lessons, lining up studio space at the New York City location, when I decided to procrastinate for a few minutes and watch some YouTube video...always entertaining! A video popped up from the latest episode of American Idol with judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan. I don’t know if you guys are watching this re-installment of the Idol franchise but I have been delighted by the level of talent they have found, and most especially by the three celebrity judges. Each of them brings their own unique judging style, and so far, not an overzealous amount of “Oh my gosh you are amazing” or “You are going to be a star” which was so prominent in the last season of Idol.

 

What prompted me to write this article was when the youngest singer of the top 24 contestants sang a moving rendition of “Run To You”, a very difficult song made famous by the late Whitney Houston. In previous episodes this young singer had shown her rocker side with raw vocals, hair flips and lots of movement, which was quite different from this more toned down version she was presenting with the Whitney song. All three judges were very complimentary of the young singer, but Katy Perry’s comments really struck a chord with me. She praised her for taking a more laid back approach to the song and showing her real voice without all the bells and whistles, and stating that this really let America know who she was. Katy then said “You have to bake the cake before you can frost it”.  

 

That line took me right back to September 23rd, 2017, the day of the vocal masterclass I taught with internationally acclaimed gospel singer David Phelps. Towards the end of the class there was a question and answer section, and one of the participants asked David Phelps how he was able to produce his unique, sometimes breathy tone in many of his songs without damaging his voice? David replied that he had worked with voice teachers that encouraged him to develop his voice in a classical style because he had a natural facility for it, but he wanted to develop a sound, especially in the middle voice, that was more conversational and less classical sounding. He made it clear that the classical training gave him a solid foundation to build a more contemporary, commercial sound on, and without it, he would likely have damaged his voice. He said “You have to know the rules before you can break them”.

 

I love that line! To me it says everything about the necessity of building a solid vocal technique while you are developing your own vocal style. I truly believe every singer has a unique sound that can be enhanced with a solid, technical approach to their voice.

 

I think some singers are afraid of vocal training, especially if they have a really good natural sound. They may be worried that a vocal coach will make them sound like an opera singer or worse, a carbon copy of the teacher (I’ve had both!). But an experienced vocal coach will give the singer the tools that will allow the singer to:
A. Increase breath capacity and the ability to support the voice

B. Increase the range both on the top and the bottom of the voice

C. Smooth register transitions so there are no noticeable breaks

D. Develop a tone that is pleasing to the ear no matter what the     style

E. Be able to get out of vocal trouble when they are not able to see their coach

F. Sing with power and conviction without losing the voice

G. Sing for long periods of time without vocal fatigue

I.  Develop a voice that will last a lifetime

 

Everyday that I walk into one of my studios to teach singers from all walks of life, I realize how lucky I am to get to do this job. Singers are some of the most interesting people on the planet in my opinion. Every singer has an innate need to express themselves with this amazing instrument called the voice, and it’s a desire that is unbelievably strong in most vocalists. Personally I don’t know what I would do without my voice. Sure there are days when it doesn’t seem to want to do what I need it to do, but solid vocal technique has given me the ability to get my voice up and running well enough so that no one throws tomatoes at me, even on the worst days. My teachers, especially Maestro David L. Jones and the late Leona Mathews gave me the tools to develop a long lasting voice.

 

My mission in life began on April 16th, 1999 in the very last lesson I had with Leona Mathews. In that lesson she said to me “You are going to be a voice teacher. You must carry these things that I have taught you into the world. You must share this information with every singer you meet. The world needs good voice teacher and you are going to be one of them”.

 

I must admit that I wasn’t so sure about Leona’s prophecy regarding my future career as a voice teacher. At the time I was still busy trying to be a successful singer, and teaching voice was only something I gave a passing thought to. But after her death my life would change even more when I met my next voice teacher Maestro Jones. I was only a few lessons in with the maestro when he said to me “I bet you make a really good voice teacher!” I had not mentioned to David that Leona told me the exact same thing only a few months earlier but I knew at this point that God was speaking to me loud and clear!

 

I never regretted for even one single minute the decision to become a full time vocal coach. It is a job that gives me much joy and fulfilment, and every lesson with every singer is a new, challenging and rewarding experience.

 

By the way, today is World Voice Day! How appropriate for this post.

 

For lessons please contact me at jeff@voicesoaring.com

 

Keep singing and let your voice soar!


 

 

Jeffrey Stanfill
Why Do Some Singers Seem to Last Forever

Why Do Some Singers Seem to Last Forever?

A very good Monday morning to all of you gorgeous singers/teachers of singing. Can you guys believe how fast this summer has flown by? I'm not quite ready to face the idea of Fall yet, so I'm going to continue to bask in the beautiful sun whenever possible!

A Singer is Injured

Recently a very famous singer had to cancel the last few nights of her sold out world tour due to a vocal injury. As many of you may have already figured out, I am speaking of Adele. 
This is the second time she's had to cancel a portion of a tour due to an injury and it made headlines around the world. If you type in "Adele's vocal injury" on Google you will find no less than 328,000 search results, and in those results you find hundreds of vocal coaches speculating on why this happened, and how she could've had prevented the injury from happening in the first place. It seems every vocal coach has the "answer" to all vocal issues.

So I am NOT going to speculate on why Adele injured her voice. I have said it from the moment I heard the news that "this is between her, her vocal coach and her laryngologist Dr. Steven Zeitels". Dr. Zeitels by the way was my voice doctor when I was a student at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston eons ago, and I can tell you this guy is a genius. So our dear Adele is in good hands and I am sure she will be back in fighting shape in no time!

What I do want to discuss in this post is why some singers seem to last forever (I like to keep things on the positive side if you have not already figured that out).

Singers That Last Forever

Recently I read an interview with the great Franki Valli of the Four Seasons. Anyone who has ever heard or tried to sing any of the songs of the Four Seasons like "Sherri", "Walks Like A Man" or "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" knows how difficult these songs are. They sit at the very top of the male falsetto range, and and hardly ever come down from the stratosphere. Mr Valli at the time of this writing is 83 years old and is still touring constantly, singing all of those stratospheric hits nights after night, year after year. Some of the keys of the songs have been dropped a little, but even in a slightly lower key they are still very high. How does Mr Valli manage to keep singing these songs so beautifully (by all accounts) at the age of 83?

In an interview with The Telegraph last year, they asked Mr. Valli how he managed to keep his voice in such pristine shape so far into his career. He said:

"“I go through scales, maybe some Sinatra, some standards for 35 or 40 minutes, sometimes an hour. I take very long showers. You have to sing every day, a little bit, to keep the voice in shape. It’s like lifting weights.”
I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, I don’t play golf, I don’t play tennis, I don’t hike, I don’t ski. I like to sing. I’ve been doing it my whole life".

Dr. Evelyn Reynolds

I have mentioned my voice teacher Maestro David L. Jones on many occasions in these posts. The Maestro has been my primary voice teacher for 18 years. In that 18 years I am sure I have added a few decades onto the lifespan of my voice due to the wonderful concepts and vocal exercises of the Swedish/Italian school of singing. Maestro Jones has been working with his own wonderful vocal coach, Dr Evelyn Reynolds for decades. Dr. Reynolds recently turned 100 and is still singing beautifully.

A few years ago Dr. Reynolds sang on one of Jones' masterclasses, and to this day those who attended that class will tell you that Dr. Reynolds voice sounded as young and fresh as someone in their 30's. Obviously being a vocal coach who teaches healthy vocal concepts has been a big contributing factor to Dr. Reynolds vocal longevity, but I think simply singing on daily basis is the key to her being able maintain a healthy voice.

There are many more examples of singers who have lasted five, six decades or more such as the great Tony Bennett, who at the age of 91 is still recording and giving concerts.

I think the simple lesson her is to "use it or lose it". The human voice is a miraculous piece of machinery capable of making more varied sounds than any other non-computerized instrument in the world. It is designed to last and serve us until our final breath. The voice needs to be nurtured through hydration, nutrition, rest and plenty of daily exercise.

Final Thoughts

Sing often and sing well. Study with a voice teacher who can give you the tools to keep your voice healthy for a lifetime.

If you don't have a coach and you are in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, I offer voice lessons to singers of all genres and ages 11 to 100! If you are not in the NY/NJ area I offer lessons online via Skype to singers throughout the world.

If you are looking for some fantastic vocal exercises, check out my instructional DVD/CD called "Let Your Voice Soar". We are currently offering the digital download (only) for 15% off from my website www.voicesoaring.com by adding "voicesoaring" in the checkout code.

Until next time, "Keep singing, and let your voice soar!"

 

Let your voice soar!

Jeff Alani Stanfill - Voice Teacher & Vocal Coach for Pop, Rock, and Broadway singers. Voice Lessons in West Orange, New York, & Online.

VOICESOARING.COM

Jeffrey Stanfill
Adele and the Stigma of Vocal Injury

Adele and the Stigma of Vocal Injury

Good morning all you beautiful singers/teachers of singing! It is going to be another hot summer day here in the northeast, and that's just how summer is supposed to be! I love it. Summer is my favorite time of year. You can have all the winters you want, but please don't take my summer away!

We started the summer off right by traveling to Puerto Rico a couple of weeks ago for a much needed 7 day/7 night vacation. I tell you those beaches, the palm trees, the food, the music and the lovely people of that gorgeous island are something I will remember, especially on cold days that will inevitably return later on this year. Puerto Rico is a magical place to be. I know there are many political problems and financial problems there, but for the most part the people of the island seem happy. Must be the weather!

Ok, I've talked enough about the weather and our P.R. trip. It's time to get to the business of singing.

I have resisted talking about Adele and her recent vocal injury mostly because it is a topic that seemingly every vocal coach has covered or commented on in a FaceBook post, a blog or even a youtube video. As a huge Adele fan I found most of the comments were less than kind, some downright mean and others seemingly from self-righteous sounding vocal pedagogues claiming he or she had the answers to all of Adele's problems. Dr Gupta writes about this in the article I am sharing here.

Personally I applaud Adele for being so open about her vocal challenges and not trying to hide it or cover it up. What happened to this great artist could happen to any professional singer who is out on the road night after night, sleeping in hotel rooms that thousands of other people have slept in, flying on planes that circulate dirty, filthy air, eating food from restaurants that may or may not be sanitary, doing interview after interview in every town they perform in, and trying desperately to maintain a level of singing that sounds exactly like the recording of the artist's latest or past hits.

I found this article by noted laryngologist Dr. Renee Gupta and wanted to share it as it truly shines a light on the stigma of vocal injury.

http://www.ohniww.org/adele-voice-injury-canceled-concerts/

 

Adele and the Stigma of Vocal Injury | Los Angeles ENT Doctors ENT Specialists Top Surgeons

When I heard about Adele cancelling the last two performances of her tour, I felt profound sadness for her. I know how hard she has worked to endure injury,…

OHNIWW.ORG

Jeffrey Stanfill