Frequently Asked Questions About Voice

Q: When I was in school, my teacher told me I couldn't sing.  Is there any hope for me?
A: Actually, yes.  Many people have an experience in their life where someone they trusted said something negative about their voice, and the person stopped singing as a result.  However, I have personally witnessed every single person who has ever come to my studio improve, usually dramatically, within a short time.  It is important to not let someone else's opinion define you.  This is why I record people when I teach singing: that way you can hear yourself accurately, and you can also hear when you improve and you can learn quickly to associate the sound with the feeling. 

Q: I want to sing, but I can't match pitch.  Do I have a bad ear, or can I learn to sing somehow anyway?
A: I have never met anyone with a "bad ear."  Matching pitch is learned, and it can be learned by anyone.  When one of my students began with me, she could not match pitch.  Now she is performing in operas, and she recently accepted a full-ride scholarship to Chapman College as a voice major. 

Q: I had a voice teacher who was very strict, and I always felt a little afraid of her.  Are you like that too?
A: No, not really.  None of my students have ever been afraid of me: we have a lot of fun, while getting a lot done.   My view is that when you sing, you are sharing your soul, and so a teacher must be very careful with your soul.  I regard myself more like a mechanic: I can hear what is not working,  and help you fix it quickly.  

Q: My voice teacher told me I was a mezzo-soprano, and I have a hole in the middle of my voice.  It was never like this when I sang soprano in choir.  What's wrong?
A: You may be misclassified, or you may be pushing.  In either case, it is fixable.  I have had people with music degrees come to me singing in the wrong vocal category, and the results are the same: pain, vocal dysfunction, and possibly nodes or holes in the range (short list...) In any event, we always begin with breath, and with finding out what your voice likes to do.  People are misclassified vocally every day, sopranos are frequently told they are altos because real altos are so rare that any soprano who can sing middle C is roped into the alto section of a choir.  Sometimes a voice teacher may classify you based on your height or the length of your neck, or may only be taking your easy range into consideration rather than your vocal timbre, or may even classify you based on your speaking voice, which may not represent your singing voice, since many people speak in an uncomfortable, artificially lowered or raised vocal range. 

Q: Do you only teach opera?  I want to sing jazz/country/R&B/pop/folk music.
A: I teach a technique which will allow you to produce a healthy tone in any style you like.  In fact, a lot of the most famous singers in the world have studied operatic technique.  Pat Benatar, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill have all done so.

Q: When can my child start singing lessons?
A: As soon as she is old enough to keep a notebook about lessons and practice. Usually I start teaching whenever a child is ready, usually between the ages of six and fifteen. It is worth noting that every adolescent's voice will change as they enter adulthood and the way the voice behaves will change, usually considerably, at this time.  It is only after adolescence is completed that the breathiness common to the young teenager (the "mutational chink") can be fully addressed, but many young singers manage to do beautifully when they begin early, and transition smoothly through the vocal change of their early teen years. 

Q: I've been taking lessons for a long time, but I'm not getting cast in shows.  Can you help me?
A: Yes.  Most of these difficulties come from a few basic problems that can be remedied over time.  Come for a free first lesson and I'll show you how I can help you.

Q: I've got an audition coming up and I want to be ready.  Can you help me choose a song?
A: Of course.  I can help you choose repertoire that will help you sound and feel your best.

Q: I'm auditioning for a university and I don't know how to sing in a foreign language.  Can you help me?
A: Certainly!  I can help you learn to pronounce French, German and Italian, as well as Latin and Spanish if you need them.  If you want to sing a Celtic song, I can help you learn to sing in Gaelic, or with an accent that sounds authentic.  If you want a subtler change, I can help you ensure that you have no intrusive sounds, like an American R, or any vowel sounds common to a particular accent, affecting the piece. 

Q: I keep hearing about vocal support, but I don't really understand it. Can you help?
A: Vocal support is widely misunderstood. In many cases teachers will simply tell a student to "sing from the diaphragm" which means the student ends up pulling in on the bottom of the ribs and upper abdominal area. This doesn't help at all, of course, and it will cause vocal problems. This kind of "support" actually collapses the ribs and prevents sustaining a long phrase, and it also usually creates tremendous muscle tension in the neck, as the body tries to compensate for an inadequate breath stream. Although the diaphragm is vitally important in singing, it cannot be felt or perceived, and so it must be controlled by use of the abdominal muscles and the ribs. Once you are taught how to control your diaphragm in the proper indirect way, vocal support will become automatic for you. I can show you how to do this, usually very quickly.

Q: I've had voice lessons, but I'm always running out of breath.  Can I learn to sing longer phrases?
A: Yes, absolutely.  I can fix this fairly quickly and you won't need to worry about it anymore.

Q: I've had voice lessons but I get a sore throat whenever I sing.  Also, I clear my throat a lot when I sing.  Can you help?
A: Of course.  If you are singing with a good technique, your throat will not get sore.  Most likely this is a muscular issue and it will be easy to solve.